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SH*T MY UNCLE SAYS: Trump’s Swamp Things

Friday, December 2nd, 2016


Illustration by JAMES EDMISTON

Theodore-RooseveltBY WILLIAM C. HENRY In the final days of the election, Trump promised to “drain the swamp” of corruption and self-dealing that is our nation’s capital. No more lobbyists. No more career politicians. No more corporate vultures. No more bribes disguised as campaign contributions. No more globalist middle class job exporters. Can’t argue with that — Lord knows the DC swamp is filled to the brim with snakes and vermin and leeches and covered in pond scum. So, now that the bulk of Trump’s cabinet nominees have been announced, let’s see if he kept his word:

swamp_thing_by_adam_brown-d63oqvnStephen K. Bannon, Chief Strategist: It’s impossible to know why even a bottom feeder like Trump would appoint a known radical Alt-Right asshole-magnet, Nazi-coddler, racist-enabler, bigot herder, misogynistic anti-Semite and unabashed white supremacist slob like Stephen K. Bannon to be his Chief Strategist. The only knowable reason I can come up with is that Trump recognized beforehand that such an appointment wouldn’t have to face approval by the Senate (his position as Trump’s “personal propagandist” isn’t classified as that of a Cabinet member) and decided, “The hell with ‘em, I simply adore what he stands for.” Alone, the fact that a dirtbag like Bannon will enjoy the same access to Trump as that of his Chief of Staff, Reince Priebus, should tell you just about all you need to know about the illegitimate POTUS-elect.

swampthingpostbigDonald F. McGahn, White House Counsel: McGahn will serve as the President’s personal lawyer and one of his most intimate policy shapers. The scary thing here is that McGahn’s top priority throughout most of his bottom-feeding life as a lawyer (including a disastrous stint as Chairman of the Federal Election Commission) has been to “further” DEREGULATE campaign spending. Yes, folks, you read that correctly: he wants to FURTHER “deregulate” campaign spending oversight to the point of NONE AT ALL! And in so far as the only way campaign financing can possibly be FURTHER deregulated is to hold open auctions of the candidates with total control of their actions while in office being awarded to the highest bidder, we should be afraid, folks, we should be VERY afraid! I mean, why would Trump appoint a man to a position of closest advisement whose views on money in politics represent EVERYTHING OTHER THAN what he himself CLAIMS to represent?!

marks-creature-from-the-black-lagoon-david-shumateTom Price, Secretary of Health and Human Services: It’s one thing to appoint a doctor to head up the Department of Health and Human Services; it’s another thing entirely to have the appointee turn out to be a real-life threat to the intelligence, health and safety of the elderly, the infirmed, the lower and middle classes, women, infants and children! A little background: For the dozen years he has been in national politics Price has vehemently opposed/voted against any and all funding for, a) National Public Radio, b) the Affordable Care Act — and to this day wants to see coverage for pre-existing conditions ABOLISHED, c) the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010, d) taxpayer financing of presidential election campaigns, e) the Federal Housing Authority’s refinancing program, and f) coverage for abortions regardless of necessity by ANY insurance plan — government sponsored OR private (he is rated 0 by Planned Parenthood), and that’s just the beginning.

bd22df3f826409de4b810f5914065089Jeff Sessions, Attorney General: The Alabama Slammer Jammer, Sessions liked to lock ‘em up and throw away the key as Alabama Federal prosecutor. Probably no coincidence that the overwhelming majority of “‘em” were black. Given to calling black colleagues ‘Boy’, Sessions once joked that “I used to think the Ku Klux Klan was OK, then I learned that they smoke pot.” Both of which got him denied a federal judgeship appointment from the Reagan administration (he framed and imprisoned the two African American men that testified against him before Congress in retaliation)  and he’s been putting the Jim back in Crow in his little corner of the Senate ever since.  No wonder neo-Nazi-in-chic-clothing Richard Spencer and his Alt-Right goon squad sieg heiled Sessions’s appointment as Attorney General. According to The Intercept, Sessions “opposed the Violence Against Women Act, the repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’ and the expansion of anti-hate legislation to include sexual orientation. He fought the removal of the Confederate flag from public buildings, immigration reform, and criminal justice reform.” He was really pissed when SCOTUS ruled that exterminating the “retarded” is unconstitutional. Did I mention that Sessions has spent fully the past 30 years opposing civil right laws of ANY kind and that he’ll now be in charge of ENFORCING them?! Then there’s the miles-long legislative streak of black voter suppression. He’s adept in the dark arts of George Wallace-style Dixiecrat thuggery.

mr-nicolo_swamp-monster_10181-1200x675-b-p-009356Michael Flynn, National Security Advisor: Up until recently Flynn was widely respected amongst the grandees of the security state, but went off the deep end after being fired from the Obama administration for undisclosed reasons and has been waging jihad against Obama and Hillary Clinton ever since. An avid consumer of fake news and peddler of ludicrous partisan conspiracy theories, Flynn recently tweeted that “Fear of Muslims is RATIONAL” along with a video claiming that “Islam … wants 80 percent of humanity enslaved or exterminated,”  and a link to an article from a fake news site claiming that the NYPD was about to arrest Hillary Clinton for “sex crimes with minors,” among other charges. Also, he seems a little too smitten with Putin. I’m leery — if not downright scared to death — of anyone who thinks ANY form of “cozying up” to or with a piece of lying, sociopathic, narcissistic, excremental totalitarianism like Putin is a good idea.

slimy-clipart-1Betsy DeVos, Secretary of Education: If Betsy has her way, you can expect to see a charter school opening near you. And, trust me, that’s a prospect you might want to do a great deal of researching about before joining any “pro-charter” marches in your area. Believe me, there ARE two sides to this argument and there definitely have been and continue to be instances where bad inevitabilities are far outweighing great expectations. Your sons’ and/or daughters,’ grandsons’ and/or granddaughters’ futures could very well be formed — or ruined — by the time it’s too late to remedy the outcome of the much vaunted Charter “revolution” in education. Did I mention that she also has a long history of supporting anti-gay causes?!

swamp_monster_beauty_bustSteven Terner Mnuchin, Secretary of Treasury: All you need to know is that this hedge fund hog began his career at Goldman Sachs, became a partner, started his own billion dollar hedge fund, bought a bank of his own in a sweetheart deal with the government, moved to Hollywood and made another bundle bankrolling hit movies like Mad Max: Fury Road. Oh, BTW, he’s also vowed to deregulate Wall Street! What a shockeroo! During the Great Recession, Mnuchin was America’s Forecloser-in-Chief, his OneWest bank was singlehandedly responsible for an astonishing 36,000 foreclosures which accounted for nearly 40 percent of all reverse mortgage foreclosures after the housing collapse — all the while pocketing more than a BILLION DOLLARS worth of FDIC payments from the federal government. The elderly were singled out for especially cruel and heartless treatment — OneWest foreclosed on a 90-year-old over 27 cents!

file_748742_creature4Wilbur Ross, Secretary of Commerce: Savior of the long suffering  jobless Rust Belt whites that swept Trump into office on a wave of blind anger? Naw, he’s actually just another multi-billionaire Wall Street insider, big-time Trump campaign donor and longtime crony, who helped him resurrect Trump’s casino company after it went bankrupt in the early 1990s. A pitiless vulture capitalist of uncommon ruthlessness, Ross made his billions fucking the working man. Hard. For more on that, let’s quote at length from the Philadelphia Daily News’ Will Bunch:

[Wilbur Ross is] the billionaire former owner of Upshur County’s Sago Mine, which collapsed in 2006 — killing 12 miners — after a mounting list of safety violations was ignored at what union leaders say was a dangerous, exploitative “doghole mine.” Ross did ultimately pay out $2 million to the families of the 12 men and a 13th survivor, but relatives say it was too little, too late. “It’s easy to throw a couple million afterward instead of spending a few million ahead of time to save men’s lives in the first place,” Kevin Sharp, one of those family members, told ABC News.

Ross, the so-called “king of bankruptcy” who looks for bargain-basement for companies to strip and sell for a handsome profit, had only bought Sago’s prior owner after a bankruptcy judge had agreed to squash its union benefits. Two years after the collapse, Ross’s firm closed Sago and his International Coal Group eventually sold out, for a healthy profit, to new owners who’ve laid off many of the remaining miners.

Now, as Commerce Secretary, Ross will be President-elect Trump’s point man for using his Midas touch to revitalize the economy and, allegedly, make America great again for coal miners, steelworkers, and other struggling Rust Belt and rural blue-collar voters who formed the backbone of The Donald’s winning coalition. I write “allegedly” since there’s no actual evidence that Ross or Trump’s recent pick to run the Treasury Department — hedge-funder and former “foreclosure machine” chief Steve Mnuchin — know anything about actually creating stable, well-paying jobs with good benefits.

What do these billionaires of Trump’s swamp-definitely-not-drained Cabinet like Ross and Mnuchin know how to do? Squeeze millions from struggling industries and their workers. Stomp all over pension plans for aging workers. Move jobs overseas if there’s an extra dollar or two to be made. Foreclose on mortgage holders at the drop of a hat, or on the basis of a dumb mistake — especially if the homeowner is black or Latino. Devastate unions that might fight for living wages or affordable health plans

So, let’s not kid ourselves, the swamp has not been drained. Quite the contrary, swollen and muddy from the shitstorm of Trump’s victory, it’s overtopping the levee, and the president-elect has invited the alligators into the house.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Fed up early stage septuagenarian who has actually been most of there and done most of that. Born and raised in the picturesque Pocono Mountains. Quite well educated. Very lucky to have been born into a well-schooled and somewhat prosperous family. Long divorced. One beautiful, brilliant daughter. Two far above average grandsons. Semi-retired (how does anyone manage to do it completely these days?) and fully-tired of bullshit. Uncle of the Editor-In-Chief.

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Thursday, December 1st, 2016


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The Death Of Journalism In Post-Factual America

Thursday, December 1st, 2016

trump-vs-media “NBC Poll” from a pro-Trump fake news site called The Real Strategy

NEIL GABLER: Just as Trump has shredded our values, our nation and our democracy, he has shredded the media. In this, as in his politics, he is only the latest avatar of a process that began long before his candidacy. Just as the sainted Ronald Reagan created an unbridgeable chasm between rich and poor that the Republicans would later exploit against Democrats, conservatives delegitimized mainstream journalism so that they could fill the vacuum.

Retiring conservative talk show host Charlie Sykes complained that after years of bashing from the right wing, the mainstream media no longer could perform their function as reporters, observers, fact dispensers, and even truth tellers, and he said we needed them. Like Goebbels before them, conservatives understood that they had to create their own facts, their own truths, their own reality. They have done so, and in so doing effectively destroyed the very idea of objectivity. Trump can lie constantly only because white America has accepted an Orwellian sense of truth — the truth pulled inside out.

With Trump’s election, I think that the ideal of an objective, truthful journalism is dead, never to be revived. Like Nixon and Sarah Palin before him, Trump ran against the media, boomeranging off the public’s contempt for the press. He ran against what he regarded as media elitism and bias, and he ran on the idea that the press disdained working-class white America. Among the many now-widening divides in the country, this is a big one, the divide between the media and working-class whites, because it creates a Wild West of information – a media ecology in which nothing can be believed except what you already believe.

With the mainstream media so delegitimized — a delegitimization for which they bear a good deal of blame, not having had the courage to take on lies and expose false equivalencies — they have very little role to play going forward in our politics. I suspect most of them will surrender to Trumpism — if they were able to normalize Trump as a candidate, they will no doubt normalize him as president. Cable news may even welcome him as a continuous entertainment and ratings booster. And in any case, like Reagan, he is bulletproof. The media cannot touch him, even if they wanted to. Presumably, there will be some courageous guerillas in the mainstream press, a kind of Resistance, who will try to fact-check him. But there will be few of them, and they will be whistling in the wind. Trump, like all dictators, is his own truth. MORE

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AFTER BERN: Q&A With Senator Bernie Sanders

Tuesday, November 29th, 2016


EDITOR’S NOTE: A shorter version of this interview appeared in the Sunday November 27th edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer

BY JONATHAN VALANIA FOR THE INQUIRER In the fullness of time, future historians may well declare Senator Bernie Sanders the biggest winner of the 2016 election, arguing that although he lost the battle for the Democratic nomination he won the war of ideas. Meanwhile, his one-time nemesis Hillary Clinton will almost certainly lose the Electoral College on December 19th despite winning the popular vote by a margin of 2.2 million and counting, effectively ending her political career and putting a period at the end of the Clinton dynasty. Likewise, a Trump presidency may well prove to be a ‘careful what you wish for’ proposition for both the nation and Trump himself, given the manifold legal jeopardies his sprawling global financial holdings will inevitably present when they come in conflict with the national interest. This is already happening.

As the smoke clears on the 2016 election, Sanders emerges with an approval rating 10 points above both Clinton and Trump, full on rock star status with Millennials who will be the largest voting block for the forseeable future, and appears poised to remake the Democratic party in his own image as an authentic, unapologetic populist who has declared war on the billionaire class on behalf of the vanishing middle class. All of which would have been unthinkable a year and a half ago when the wizened, wild-haired 75-year-old democratic socialist from Vermont declared his candidacy and was met with derisive laughter by the political commentariat.

Mocked by the right, undermined at every turn by his own party’s grandees and largely ignored by the press, Sanders refused corporate donors and super PAC dark money and instead campaigned tirelessly on a shoestring budget made up of bundled $27 donations, relentlessly railing against evils of ever-escalating income inequality, and went on to win 22 states and 13 million votes. All of which is told in granular detail and vintage Brooklandic patois in Our Revolution, Sander’s 450-page recap of his cinderella story candidacy and the resulting political revolution that almost was, and his detailed issues-oriented roadmap for Democrats to find their way back into the hearts of white working class voters. We caught up with Senator Sanders last week in the midst of a whirlwind book tour that stopped at the Free Library last night to get his post-mortem on the 2016 election and his progressive vision for the way forward.

What is your takeaway from the election? I told you so?

The Democrats don’t control the Senate, they don’t control the House, they don’t control some three quarters of the governor’s chairs in the country, and they lost some nine hundred legislative seats in state houses in the last year. It’s time, I think, to take a very hard look at what the Democratic party now stands for, what they’re projecting to the American people, and, in my view, it is time for very, very profound changes to the Democratic party. We need to make it clear what side the Democratic Party is on. It has got to be on the side of working people. It has got to be on the side of young people. It has got to be prepared to take on a billionaire class, and Wall Street, and insurance companies, and drug companies, and the fossil fuel industry. It has got to be prepared to have a new vision for where this country, the wealthiest country in the history of the world, can go. That is what the Democratic Party is going to stand for, and when it does that, I think working people, who have deserted the Democratic Party in droves, whether it’s whites, blacks, Latinos, Asian-Americans or whatnot, are going to come back and know that this is their party where they can feel comfortable and represents their dreams.

What are your thoughts of the role that the FBI and the Russian government played, if any, in the election of Donald Trump? 

I think what Comey and the FBI did was one-hundred percent inappropriate and I think it had an impact. How big an impact? Well, again, nobody knows the answer. It could certainly had an impact on Clinton’s campaign.

Given that Trump’s margin of victory in the key swing-states that won him the Electoral College was razor thin, what message, if any, do you have for the so called “Bernie or Bust” voters who refused on principle to vote for Hillary?

I have no idea how many “Bernie or Bust” voters there were but I do know we brought millions of people into the political process, and I suspect the overwhelming majority of them voted for Secretary Clinton. I think the real issue is to ask why almost half of all the American people aren’t voting, a lot of young people aren’t voting, which is historically the case, a lot of working class people and a lot of low-income people not voting. Why? Why are other countries getting voter turnouts of sixty-five, seventy percent, and we get fifty-four percent? Ideally, if we had a sixty percent voter turnout, Hillary Clinton would have won by a landslide, and the question is: why was that not the case?

True or false: Given that Trump will likely be afforded the opportunity to load the Supreme Court with hard right wing justices in the mold of Scalia, Alito, and Thomas, a truly progressive American agenda has no hope of gaining traction at the federal level for at least a generation, if ever.

False. I don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow, let alone twenty years from now. What I believe, is that at the end of the day, the American people are sick and tired of income and wealth inequality, sick and tired of a broken healthcare system, want to have us deal with climate change, want young people to be able to go to public colleges and universities tuition free; that’s what the American people want. That’s not what the plutocrats want, but our job is to mobilize the American peoples so the government starts representing them and not just the one-percent.

What blame, if any, are you willing to shoulder for your own defeat?

When I began the campaign we were considered to be a fringe candidacy, not getting much media coverage, nobody took me seriously. By the time we ended, we won 13.4 million votes, twenty-two states, and, in every instance, the significant majority of young people in this country. So, you can always look back on hindsight and say “well, we made this mistake. We should have done that, we should have done that,” but, at the end of the day, I think most people would agree with me and say that given where we came from, as an unknown senator from my tiny state with no money and no political organization taking on the entire Democratic establishment and the most powerful political organization in the country, which is the Clinton organization, we did pretty well.

OK now that we have a President Trump, now what do we do?  

I think we do a number of things. Ultimately, what is most important is to educate and organize, and that is to bring the majority of our country together in opposition to what I expect will be positions from President Trump which do not reflect what the majority of people in this country want. As a progressive, what I can tell you, with full confidence, is that the views that I have spouted, whether it is raising the minimum wage to a living wage, whether it’s pay equity for women, whether it’s rebuilding our infrastructure and creating millions of decent paying jobs, whether it is immigration reform, criminal justice reform, dealing with climate change, those are visions that the vast majority of American people believe in, and if Trump chooses to come down, as I expect he will, on the side of Wall Street, corporate America, and the billionaire class we will vigorously oppose him and we will organize an opposition to him.

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NPR 4 THE DEAF: We Hear It Even When U Can’t

Monday, November 28th, 2016


FRESH AIR: Carrie Fisher was an insecure 19-year-old when she appeared as Princess Leia in the first Star Wars movie, a role that would come to define her career. She tells Fresh Air’s Terry Gross that despite becoming romantically involved with her older, married co-star, Harrison Ford, she often felt isolated on set. “I didn’t have anyone to confide in,” she says. “I had no friends, and I couldn’t talk about [the affair with Ford] because he was married.” Instead, Fisher began recording her thoughts and experiences in a journal. After the film wrapped, she put the diary away and forgot about it. Decades later, the diary resurfaced during a remodeling project. Now Fisher has turned that diary into a memoir called The Princess Diarist. The book revisits the making of the first Star Wars film, and includes excerpts from the journal she wrote at the time. The actress says she was determined to share her26025989 experiences with others, even if parts of the journal feel very personal.”I think I do overshare,” Fisher says. “It’s my way of trying to understand myself. … It creates community when you talk about private things.” On telling Harrison Ford she was going to go public with the affair: “I said, ‘I found the journals that I kept during the first movie and I’m probably going to publish them.’ And he just sort of raised his finger and said, ‘Lawyer!’ And then I said, ‘No, I won’t write anything that you don’t want. I mean, I’ll show it to you before and you can take anything out that you want taken out. I don’t want to make you uncomfortable,’ which I, of course, have. Unduly uncomfortable…I sent it to him … [and] I never heard back, so I can’t imagine that he was comfortable with everything that was in it. But it’s not like it’s negative about him — it’s just a personal story that’s been a secret for a long time.” MORE


“Folsom Prison Blues” by JON LANGFORD

FRESH AIR: Today, we take a look back at the Man in Black, who spoke with Terry Gross in 1997.Cash began recording albums and performing in the 1950s. His long romance with wife June Carter Cash, celebrated in the 2005 biopic Walk the Line, spanned five decades — from their early touring days to their rise as one of America’s most popular country-music couples. Cash recorded over 1,500 songs in his career, including such classic hits as “I Walk the Line,” “Ring of Fire” and “A Boy Named Sue.” He played several of his most popular songs, including “Folsom Prison Blues,” at that maximum security facility in 1968. The album based on that performance hit the top slot on the country-music charts and revitalized Cash’s career.In the 1990s, Cash worked with rock producer Rick Rubin. The two collaborated on several critically acclaimed Grammy-winning albums — two of which have been released since Cash’s death in 2003. MORE

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WES ANDERSON: H&M Christmas Ad

Monday, November 28th, 2016

NME: Anderson has directed this year’s Christmas advert from clothing retailers H&M. The short film, titled Come Together, stars Adrien Brody (who previously teamed up with Anderson for The Darjeeling Limited, The Grand Budapest Hotel and Fantastic Mr. Fox) and sees the actor playing a train driver delayed by snow and preparing a festive surprise for his travellers. “This story may resonate more than ever at a time in the world where we could all do with giving a stranger a hug,” Brody says of the clip. MORE

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Monday, November 28th, 2016

3360508_origPhoto by DOUG SEYMOUR

Closer to dream merchants than a band, NINETEEN THIRTEEN is comprised of ex-Violent Femmes drummer Victor DeLorenzo and classically trained cellist Janet Schiff, aided by a revolving cast of esteemed studio session players. Named after the year Schiff’s beloved cello was milled in Transylvania more than a century ago, NINETEEN THIRTEEN traffics in a kind of jazzy, retro-futuristic ambient noir of their own devising, mapping out a twilit sonic space where Brian Eno’s Music For Airports lays down with Miles Davis’ Kind Of Blue. Think neon signs blinking ominously behind a semi-opaque curtain of music-for-time-travelmanhole steam. The crisp slap of wingtips on wet sidewalks. The dull hum of underground trains and sirens in the distance. Everyone wears famous blue raincoats and fedoras. Everyone smokes. Everybody knows the war is over, everybody knows the good guys lost.

There are two extant recordings, an LP called Music For Time Travel, released late last summer, and an EP called The Dream, released earlier this month, that comes billed as a tribute to Eno. Music For Time Travel is a series of prismatic snippets that vibe like soundtracks for imaginary films about secret wars and spies in skinny suits and vampires with diamonds on the souls of their shoes. If you listen closely, you can almost hear the black turtlenecks and Ray Bans in the warm thrum of upright bass, the pristine shuffle of snare, and the lowing moan of the cello. The highlight is a mesmerizing version of Gershwin’s aria “Summertime,” featuring the Valkyrie-like vocals of Monia and the dancing skeleton bass of legendary sideman Rob Wasserman (Lou Reed, Van Morrison, Elvis Costello), who, sad to say, passed away back in June.

Good as Music For Time Travel is, The Dream is a giant step forward. The music not only vividly evokes distinctive moods, but sustains them long after lesser combo’s would have abandoned ship.img-5012_orig“Arco Pizzicato” — built upon a slap-back echo drumbeat, a shivering cello, and dark washes of keyboard that recede into the infinite — clocks in at nine minutes-plus. Likewise, the album closing “#1913 Dream” — a ghostly lullaby of sprawling pneumatic drones prodded along by a gorgeously muted pinging — also clocks in at nine minutes plus but never ceases to enchant the ear. The spectral murk of “Walk Light” sounds like a marching band playing the halftime festivities of doomsday. The otherwordly “A Dream You Can’t Remember” straddles the fulcrum of the sinister and the sublime, with DeLorenzo’s son Malachi vamping ominously on bass. Highly recommended, The Dream is bewitching beginning to end. – JONATHAN VALANIA

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CINEMA: Sadchester

Saturday, November 26th, 2016



THE NEW YORKER: Not that Kenneth Lonergan, who wrote and directed the movie, is deliberately making things hard for us to grasp. Rather, he proceeds on the assumption that things are hard, some irreparably so, and that it’s the job of a film not to smooth them over. That is why “Manchester by the Sea” becomes a litany of human error, with the tragic parts nicked and grazed by semi-comedy. We get minor misunderstandings, as when Joe’s best friend, the robust and reliable George (C. J. Wilson), has to shout to his wife across a crowded wake. We get dreadful mistimings, worthy of a farce, as when medics try and fail to fold the wheels of a gurney so that it can be loaded into an ambulance. Worst of all, we get stupid little mistakes, near-nothings, with consequences so vast that they reduce a life to ashes.

The town of the title is deftly sketched, both in its colors—you can’t always tell where the gray of the ocean ends and the winter air begins—and in the smallness of its scale. Everybody seems to know of one another. “That’s the Lee Chandler?” and “The very one,” people say, when Lee returns to sort out Joe’s affairs, and the lawyer who reads the will, in his office, wears a sweater and no tie. To Lee’s alarm, he is named as the legal guardian of Patrick (Lucas Hedges), Joe’s son, who is sixteen, and has absolutely no wish to move to Boston. “All my friends are here, I’ve got two girlfriends, I’m in a band,” he says to Lee. “You’re a janitor in Quincy.” Patrick thinks of moving in with his mother (Gretchen Mol), not far away, but she has the glassy brittleness of an ex-drunk, and one lunch with her and her pious new husband (Matthew Broderick) is enough to scotch that plan.

Much of the story, then, involves Lee keeping company with Patrick—driving him around, to school or to band practice, and watching him tack back and forth between girls. Many scenes are funnier than you’d expect (“This could be good for both of us,” Patrick says, trying to set Lee up with one of the girls’ mothers), and Hedges is convincing as the kid, who seems to be handling grief suspiciously well. Indeed, his only false note is a crying jag, as the sneers and grins of his natural cockiness yield to implausible sobs. If you feel ashamed to be laughing, then Lonergan has got you exactly where he wants you—stirred and confounded, casting around for breaks in the cloud of sadness. Hollywood likes to insist that by meeting one special person, be it lover, alien, or friend, you can heal and be healed in turn. Lonergan tends to the wounds that never close, and although “Manchester by the Sea” concludes in peace, it’s the peace of compromise and exhaustion, as if family existence were a type of civil war. MORE

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The Only Fidel Castro Obit You Will Ever Need

Saturday, November 26th, 2016

Artwork by THE IRON LION

MIAMI HERALD: On Dec. 2, 1956, Castro, Guevara and 80 followers reached the shore of Cuba’s Oriente province in a battered American cabin cruiser, the Granma, wretchedly seasick after a seven-day voyage. The men leaped into hip-deep mud and struggled through a mangrove swamp to reach land. Most were killed or captured in the first hours.

Only 16 made it safely to the 4,500-foot ridges of the Sierra Maestra. There they began a guerrilla campaign to oust Batista, who was backed by a 40,000-strong security force equipped with tanks, artillery and U.S.-supplied warplanes. Castro’s force, however, slowly began to grow. He recruited peasants as guerrilla fighters and organized intellectuals and middle-class followers into an urban underground railroad of funds and supplies.

His recruiting was aided immeasurably by his skills at propaganda and psychological warfare. Castro’s greatest ploy was luring a New York Times correspondent named Herbert Matthews to his mountain camp. Though the rebels had barely 20 bedraggled men, Castro marched the same group past Matthews several times and also staged the arrival of “messengers” reporting the movement of other (nonexistent) units. Matthews, convinced Castro controlled a huge army, wrote: “From the look of things, General Batista cannot possibly hope to suppress the Castro revolt.” A wave of favorable coverage followed in the foreign press, and with it, international support.

During the war, Castro’s already profound anti-U.S. feelings deepened when he saw American-supplied bombers used against his positions. “The Americans will pay dearly,” he wrote to Celia Sánchez at the time. “When this war is over, a much longer and bigger war will begin for me: the war I will make against them. I realize that this will be my true destiny.” MORE

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THE GODFATHER OF GRUNGE: Q&A With Butch Vig, Garbage Drummer/Producer Extraordinaire

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2016

butch-vig-by-autumn-dewildePhoto by AUTUMN DEWILDE

EDITOR’S NOTE: A considerably shorter version of this interview appeared in the November 10th edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Enjoy.

meAVATAR2BY JONATHAN VALANIA FOR THE INQUIRER The Smart Studios Story documents the rise and fall of the legendary recording studio founded by acclaimed producer Butch Vig and his partner Steve Marker, where they recorded Smashing Pumpkins, Garbage, Death Cab For Cutie and, most importantly, Nirvana’s Nevermind. The film tracks the evolution of Smart Studios from its humble DIY beginnings as a glorified punk rock treehouse with free beer to the center of the alt-rock universe in the 90s only to close in 2010 as the age of the big, expensive analog studios gave way to digital home recording. In the interim, Vig has produced albums by the Foo Fighters, Goo Goo Dolls and Against Me! and reactivated Garbage, which went on hiatus in 2005. Recently, The Smart Studios Story has embarked on a screening tour around the country, which stopped in Philadelphia at PhilaMOCA earlier this month. In advance of the Philly screening, we spoke with Butch Vig from his home in Los Angeles where he was gearing up for a tour in support of Garbage’s surprisingly vital sixth album, Strange Little Birds.

PHAWKER: One of your earliest musical endeavors was contributing a track to the slumber_party_massacresoundtrack of Hollywood slasher pic Slumber Party Massacre? Is this true? How did it happen?

BUTCH VIG: That’s true. Long story short, I was in film school and a bunch of my fellow students moved out to Hollywood. One became David Lynch’s cinematographer, and another is Jerry Bruckheimer’s editor. Another friend from Wisconsin was working on Slumber Party Massacre. It’s just in the scene where somebody is walking down the beach with a boom-box and gets an axe in the back, but we were thrilled to be a part of it.

PHAWKER: Judging by the documentary, the Midwest indie-rock scene seemed more about D.I.Y than adhering to some specific punk-rock orthodoxy. Is that true?

BUTCH VIG: Yeah it is. We were never elitist about any kind of music that we worked with or anything. One of the reasons we did so many hardcore punk bands is there was a thriving scene at the time. As soon as you get a couple bands coming into Smart they would just tell their friends. We never advertised and it was all word of mouth. Anyone who wanted to book time there could. It was good learning ground for me because I learned how to record everything, even though I didn’t really know what I was doing. You had to figure it out by the seat of your pants.

PHAWKER: Cheap beer seemed to have played a central role in these proceedings as it seemed to do with many aspects of life in the Midwest, can you speak to that a little bit?

BUTCH VIG: Growing up in Wisconsin that’s part of the M.O, that’s what people do. They go the_smashing_pumpkins-gish-frontal1to the local tavern on the corner. There was a local tavern right across from the studio called The Friendly, which was not always that friendly actually, because there were a lot of blue-collar rednecks there. There was a point when we had a coke machine in the studio upstairs, and it had eight or ten slots, and we had Coke in only one and the rest had cheap beer that we put in there. We made it free, we put duct tape in so if you put fifty cents in or whatever it would drop right back down so the beer would drop down and you could take the money out of the coin return and put the money back in.

PHAWKER: In Billy Corgan, leader of the Smashing Pumpkins, you found a kindred spirit who was willing to meticulously craft an album even if that meant spending days getting a drum sound right or a guitar tone right or recording 45 takes of a vocal.

BUTCH VIG: I found a kindred spirit in Billy in the sense that he wanted to make an amazing sounding record. Now it’s so easy to make things sound perfect, to tighten things up and edit, drums or guitars or whatever and fix vocals, back then you had to play it. As good as they were, we recorded a lot and we did a lot of takes. Making Gish was the first time I ever had a proper budget. Before then I’d done hundreds of records in a couple days. I think we had about 30 days to record and mix Gish, and to me, that was like Steely Dan time.

PHAWKER: Is it true that you were only able to convince Kurt Cobain to double track his vocals by telling him that John Lennon used to do that?

BUTCH VIG: That’s true, because he just felt like it was fake, and as much as I knew, I told the band that, that I wanted to double some things, I wanted to go back and overdub some things, because we need to make this sound on a record, when someone wakes up in the morning and this is playing on their little alarm clock radio, we need to make the record sound as intense there as if you were standing in front of the band playing live in a room.

PHAWKER: In the wake of the overwhelming success of Nevermind and perhaps nirvana_nevermind_responding to the holier than thou underground types that were complaining that the album’s production values represent some kind of sellout of punk rock purity, Cobain told writer Michael Azerrad “looking back on the production of Nevermind, I’m embarrassed by it now. It’s closer to a Motley Crue record than it is a punk rock record.” How did you respond to reading that that?

BUTCH VIG: I remember reading it at the time and it bummed me out because when we finished the record, the band was over the moon with how it sounded. They worked really hard to get that record super tight but what happened was when you sold fifteen million records you cannot maintain your punk credibility and say “Man, I’m so glad we sold fifteen million records.” You have to walk away from it. He had to diss it, in a way, for himself and how he was perceived by the public. I wish he was around today because I have a feeling he would have gone back to love it.

PHAWKER: The Nevermind sessions at Smart started in April of 1990. It was just supposed to be a little indie record for Sub Pop. After a number of the tracks were recorded, the sessions stopped when Cobain blew his voice out on “Lithium.” The plan was that they were going to come back and finish the record there but instead they sort of used those tracks as a bargaining chip to get a major label deal — and at that point “Smells like Teen Spirit” was not even written. So if he hadn’t blown his voice, the album probably would have been finished at Smart, without “Smells like Teen Spirit,” and would have become just another hip little indie record on Sub Pop instead of the generation-defining zeitgeist-embodying blockbuster we all know and love?

BUTCH VIG: Correct.

PHAWKER: So, moving forward, you form Garbage with Smart Studios co-owner Steve Marker, which was a big break from the punk sound of the music you had become famous for producing.

BUTCH VIG: Well, by the time I started Garbage, and by the time anybody heard of Nirvana or Smashing Pumpkins, I had done, I swear to god, strange_little_birdsa thousand punk rock records, and I was getting tired of just guitar, bass, and drums, especially after Nevermind took off. I started getting calls, people thought I had some magic formula and if I could just plug that into, whoever it was, whether it was a singer/songwriter or a blues artist or a hair metal band, I knew how to change them into an alternative grunge band and I wasn’t interested in doing that.

PHAWKER: After a lengthy hiatus, Garbage is about to embark on a tour in support of a new and intriguing record called Strange Little Birds.

BUTCH VIG: Yeah, it’s gotten a lot of great press despite being such a dark album, it’s definitely the darkest album that we’ve made. I think there’s something about it that has resonated with people. Part of it is that we took some of the rock and roll out of it, the album is much more sort of cinematic and atmospheric, and I think the music works, arrangement wise, really well with Shirley singing and her lyrics. She has sung some of the most powerful performances she’s yet recorded on Strange Little Birds. I think you can hear that, there’s an immediacy and an emotional vulnerability to the performances out there that we would have fussed over more in the past in Garbage, but at this point in smart-studios-tourour career we’re trying to leave things alone and be a little more spontaneous with them and I think that translated a lot to the vibe on the record.

PHAWKER: Smart Studio closes in 2010 because…?

BUTCH VIG: The music business has changed and so has recording technology, the D.I.Y. attitude has taken on a whole new meaning because someone can record on their laptop in their bedroom, so why pay $100 dollars to go in the studio when they can keep that money in their pocket. The studio got used less and less, and we couldn’t get anybody. We were literally offering 100$ dollars a day to come in and track, just pay for the assistant engineer and you can use the studio and it just wasn’t getting used. Between insurance and keeping overhead and heating and bills and all that kind of stuff, we couldn’t let it sit there with closed doors, so we finally decided to pull the plug and sell it.

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WORTH REPEATING: Why The Electoral College Should Deny Donald Trump The Presidency

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2016



THE ATLANTIC: Were the electors to meet on December 19 and decide that Donald Trump is unfit to be president, all hell would break loose. Trump’s supporters, and even some who opposed him, would say the election had been stolen. Their worst fears about America’s “rigged” system of government would be confirmed. The president who the electors chose—even if it were Hillary Clinton, who beat Trump by over a million votes—would lack legitimacy in the eyes of much of the public. It’s unclear whether such a president could effectively govern. Violence might break out. Moreover, once the precedent was set, future electors would become more likely to act independently again. The process of choosing them would grow fraught. America’s entire system of presidential elections would grow unstable.

It’s a terrifying prospect. The prospect of a Trump presidency, however, is terrifying too, terrifying in unprecedented ways. Which is why, for the first time in modern American history, there’s a plausible case for urging the electors to vote their consciences. The case is not overwhelming. But it’s not absurd. It all depends on how dangerous you think President Trump would be. Could the danger posed by electing Trump exceed the enormous danger posed by stopping him? It could, for four reasons.

The first is climate change. Trump has repeatedly called it a “hoax.” He’s vowed to “cancel” America’s obligations under the climate agreement signed last year in Paris, which might lead other nations to do the same, and to undo the restrictions on emissions from coal-fired power plants instituted by the Obama administration. According to a study by Lux Research, America’s annual carbon emissions, which would have dropped under a Clinton presidency, will rise sharply under Trump. And if emissions don’t drop, an article this spring in the journal Nature predicts that 13 million Americans who live in coastal areas could find their communities uninhabitable over the next century. Half of Florida’s population would be at risk.

The second reason to think that allowing a Trump presidency might be more dangerous than overturning it is the threat of nuclear war. At several points over the last 70 years, presidents have faced decisions that could have trigged nuclear catastrophe. Harry Truman considered dropping atomic bombs on North Korea in 1950. John F. Kennedy famously said during the Cuban missile crisis that the chances of war with the Soviet Union were “between 1 in 3 and even.” According to Israeli historian Dmitry Adamsky, the Reagan administration’s 1983 war game, Able Archer, which the Soviets misinterpreted as preparation for an American attack, “almost became a prelude to a preventative nuclear strike.” As Jeffrey Goldberg has noted, North Korea—the most bellicose and erratic regime on earth–may have nuclear missiles that can reach the US mainland by the end of Trump’s second term. Which increases the chances that he could face his own moment of nuclear reckoning. In August, MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough reported that, during a private meeting with a “foreign policy expert,” Trump had asked the expert “three times, in an hour briefing, ‘Why can’t we use nuclear weapons?’” In March, Trump asked Chris Matthews, “Somebody hits us within ISIS — you wouldn’t fight back with a nuke?” Trump has also repeatedly declared his desire to be “unpredictable” when it comes to the use of nuclear weapons.

The president can launch nuclear weapons within minutes, on his own authority. In the words of former National Security Agency Director Michael Hayden, “The system is designed for speed and decisiveness. It’s not designed to debate the decision.” Trump is famous for his impulsivity (his self-destructive late night tweets almost cost him the presidential race), his policy ignorance (he twice during the campaign seemed unaware that the US has nuclear weapons on air, land and sea) and his dismissive attitude toward experts (in November he boasted that, “I know more about ISIS than the generals do.”) Which is why 50 former Republican national security officials warned in August that he “would be the most reckless president in American history.” MORE

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Tuesday, November 22nd, 2016

Check out all the kittens available for adoption during the Whiskers R We Thanksgiving Catacopia Adoption Drive, but watch out for Carl — he will claw your sofa and he voted for Jill Stein. Butternut will gaslight you, Pearl is a ghost with unfinished business, and Cassandra will fart and you’ll get the blame. So, typical cat stuff. MORE

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MEDIA: The Fake News Industrial Complex And The Confederacy Of Dunces That Is Making It Rich

Monday, November 21st, 2016



WASHINGTON POST: At a time of continuing discussion over the role that hyperpartisan websites, fake news and social media play in the divided America of 2016, LibertyWritersNews illustrates how websites can use Facebook to tap into a surging ideology, quickly go from nothing to influencing millions of people and make big profits in the process. Six months ago, Wade and his business partner, Ben Goldman, were unemployed restaurant workers. Now they’re at the helm of a website that gained 300,000 Facebook followers in October alone and say they are making so much money that they feel uncomfortable talking about it because they don’t want people to start asking for loans.

Instead, Wade hums a hip-hop song and starts a new post as readers keep reading, sharing and sending in personal messages. One comes from a woman who frequently contacts his page. “YOU ARE THE ONLY ONE I TRUST TO REPORT THE TRUTH,” is one of the things she has written, and Wade doesn’t need to look at her Facebook profile to have a clear sense of who she is. White. Working class. Midwestern. “And the economy screwed her.”

He writes another headline, “THE TRUTH IS OUT! The Media Doesn’t Want You To See What Hillary Did After Losing… .”idiocracy3

“Nothing in this article is anti-media, but I’ve used this headline a thousand times,” he says. “Violence and chaos and aggressive wording is what people are attracted to.”
Wade, left, and Goldman have little else in their apartment aside from their laptops. (Stuart Palley for The Washington Post)

“Our audience does not trust the mainstream media,” Goldman, 26, says a little later as Wade keeps typing. “It’s definitely easier to hook them with that.”

“There’s not a ton of thought put into it,” Wade says. “Other than it frames the story so it gets a click.”

“True,” Goldman says.

“We’re the new yellow journalists,” Wade will say after a day and night when the number of people following LibertyWritersNews on Facebook will swell by more than 20,000. “We’re the people on the side of the street yelling that the world is about to end.” […]

Goldman sits on the couch, logs onto an advertiser’s website and looks up how much money they’ve nonetheless made.

“Super great election sales,” he says. “There were some days where we were getting $13, $14 per 1,000 views.” Between June and August, they say, when they had fewer than 150,000 Facebook followers, they made between $10,000 and $40,000 every month running advertisements that, among other things, promised acne solutions, Viagra alternatives, ways to remove lip lines, cracked feet, “deep fat,” and “the 13 sexiest and most naked celebrity selfies.” Then the political drama deepened, and their audience expanded fivefold, and now Goldman sometimes thinks that what he made in the last six months would have taken him 20 years waiting tables at his old job. MORE


NEW YORK TIMES: Facebook, in Cross Hairs After Election, Is Said to Question Its Influence

BUZZFEED: Renegade Facebook Employees Form Task Force To Battle Fake News

BUZZFEED: How The 2016 Election Blew Up In Facebook’s Facespectrum-of-debate1-chomsky

NEW YORK TIMES: How Fake News Goes Viral

BUZZFEED: This Analysis Shows How Fake Election News Stories Outperformed Real News On Facebook

ENDGADGET: Clickbait, Fake News And The Power Of Feeling

RELATED: Earlier this month, BuzzFeed News’ Craig Silverman analyzed engagement (likes, comments, shares, etc.) across Facebook and identified the most popular real and fake articles across three distinct periods: February to April, May to July and August to Election Day. With this analysis, Silverman was able to show that the 20 most popular fake posts were “engaged with” (Facebook’s term for likes, shares and so on) 8.71 million times in the lead up to the election, compared to just 2.97 million times in February to April. Mainstream news showed the opposite pattern: Starting at 12.4 million, and falling to 7.37 million in the final period — 1.34 million less than the fake news. The overall number of engagements is fairly steady, too, suggesting that, at least to some extent, Facebook users were sharing fake news instead of real stories. MORE

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Via BuzzFeed

Cost of the War in Iraq
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