Monday, February 27, 2012

'The Artist:' Yet Another Reason The Oscars Can't Be Taken Seriously

By Manifesto Joe

Over the past year, I've actually seen five of the nine films that were nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards. In the 1980s I was a devoted film buff and even aspired to be a critic, but in recent years I've lost interest, in large part because the Hollywood product has become such recycled pablum.

But again, over the past year, I've gotten out to the local cinemas a bit more. There are no "art houses" close to where I live, so for economic reasons I've mostly had to settle for the commercial Hollywood product with the discounts that area theaters provide.

I thought The Artist was a fun and entertaining novelty film, and Uggie the Dog's performance made me want to adopt a Jack Russell terrier.

But, Best Picture? Come off it. This is A Star Is Born with a happy ending tacked on. I regarded The Help and The Descendants as better films, and considered Midnight in Paris and Hugo to be at least as good, perhaps better.

What one tends to see on Oscar night is essentially a popularity contest held among the Academy's voters. Trendiness counts, and if a film such as The Artist offers something that people haven't seen in a while (black-and-white cinematography, a silent movie with titles), it has a leg up on its rivals.

Let's consider, briefly, a history of how much "Oscar" has meant over the years. Citizen Kane is at the top of many critics' all-time-great lists, and it didn't win Best Picture of 1941, though it was nominated.

What were some of the winning "Best Pictures?" Let's see -- we have Love Story (1970), which nobody wants to see anymore, and then the "immortal" tearjerker Terms of Endearment (1983). The latter's victory at the Oscars was when I really stopped taking the Academy Awards very seriously. What those two movies had in common was that audiences hadn't seen old-time tearjerkers in a long while, so those who hadn't grown up watching the old Douglas Sirk melodramas from the 1950s on little black-and-white TVs were often seeing something brand-new to them.

"Best actors?" I don't remember the last time I saw F. Murray Abraham, and Roberto Benigni's career certainly hasn't gone anywhere in recent years.

Somewhat in contrast, Val Kilmer doesn't look like he used to, but he's still getting parts. I thought one of the biggest ripoffs in Oscar history was that he wasn't even nominated for Best Actor for his work in The Doors (1991), in which he seemed to have disinterred the dude from that Paris grave for his performance as Jim Morrison. But Val has a rep for being difficult and isn't popular in Hollywood. (Director John Frankenheimer, before his death, was quoted as saying that one of the things he would never again do in his life was work with Val Kilmer. He had directed Kilmer and Marlon Brando in a very forgettable version of The Island of Dr. Moreau.)

Bottom line -- it's just a popularity contest among U.S. film industry insiders. I can't afford the gasoline and ticket prices to be a "movie snob" anymore, but Oscar night usually makes me wish I could be one again.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Cletis Stump's GOP Laws Of Power

Cletis Stump is a good buddy who's got a fine blog going (See Joe's Hot Links, The Book of Cletis). Here's a recent post:

The GOP Laws of Power

~ The 1st GOP Law of Power: "The reduction of government services will be met with an
equivalent increase of corporate control."

~ The 2nd Law GOP of Power: "Always praise Jesus as your lord and savior when cameras are
rolling, otherwise kneel before Mammon."

~ The 3d GOP Law of Power: "When beating the war drum, stress the desire to aid those
yearning to be free; never mention their oil."

~ The 4th GOP Law of Power: "Stress patriotism and at all times brand those who oppose our
wars of imperialism as socialist agitators"

~ The 5th GOP Law of Power: "Never credit President Obama; deflect the praise when it is
brought forth and quickly reference his Muslim father."

~ The 6th GOP Law of Power: "In an election year, back off of any aspect of our agenda the
electorate has questioned and change the subject."

~ The 7th GOP Law of Power: "When caught in a lie and all attempts to ignore the public outcry
have failed, speak only to Fox News."

~ The 8t GOP Law of Power: "As the economy improves, and unemployment declines, feign
outrage over social issues & re engage the culture wars."

~ The 9th GOP Law of Power: "When holding a minority of Senate seats, embrace the filibuster
and pass no legislation favorable to the President."

~ The 10th GOP Law of Power: "When President Obama shows grace and courage and refuses
to engage in Brinkmanship, double down."

Friday, February 24, 2012

I'm Sad To Say Obama Is Pandering On Corporate Tax Cut

By Manifesto Joe

The fundamental dishonesty of the Mainstream Media business press tends to come out at times like this, as President Obama is proposing a cut in the U.S. corporate tax rate, down from the stated "35%" down to 28%. Unfortunately, this is when the fundamental dishonesty of many politicians comes out as well.

The MSM business press, while widely reporting that the current U.S. corporate tax rate of 35% is among the highest in the developed world, fails to report that two-thirds of American corporations aren't even paying it -- or anything at all, effectively. They acknowledge that many corporations, because of loopholes, don't pay an effective rate that high. They fail to report how prevalent, and how widespread, that failure to pay is. It's so bad that two-thirds of them basically pay NOTHING.

Don't believe it? Here's a link.

I can provide many others. Suffice it to say that two-thirds of U.S. corporations, according to numerous studies, have been shown to dodge federal income taxes to such an extent that their effective rate is little or nothing.

What Obama proposes, as I understand it, is to cut the nominal rate from 35% to 28%, with the trade-off of closing a lot of the loopholes that have permitted corporate giants in America to get by year after year paying virtually nothing. Sounds like a reasonable trade-off. I'm a political realist. So, on the surface, it sounds quite pragmatic.

But Obama's plan, again, as I understand it, would introduce a new set of loopholes into the mix, after closing some of them. While additional loopholes, for "green technology" companies and such, may seem like a good idea, it's an idea best left for a time when our federal government can actually AFFORD such breaks.

Granted, one of the nastiest pieces of Republican demagoguery is blaming the current accumulation of national debt on Obama. During Reagan's presidency, the national debt TRIPLED, from about $1 trillion to about $3 trillion. During the absurd "presidency" of Il Doofus, the national debt doubled from about $5 trillion to about $10 trillion while this imbecile was busy doing something that was tantamount to -- well, if FDR had decided to invade Argentina after the Pearl Harbor attack. That's about what the Iraq invasion amounted to, in hindsight.

But now is not the time to introduce any new proposals for loopholes. After 20 or so Republican debates, some of us have a general idea of how batshit crazy most of their "hopefuls" are.

(At the most recent debate, Ron Paul was asked to describe himself in one word. His choice: "Consistent." Yeah. Consistently insane.)

Some of us are looking desperately to the president for leadership. I like the man, but I've been disappointed. I hope to see MORE of the best stuff from him.

Contrary to what Darth Cheney once said, deficits DO matter. America can't afford to run up too much more. As nice as breaks for "green" companies would be, we've come to a time in which all and everyone must ante up.

I understand that Obama is running for re-election, and that he must "dance with them what brung him," as the saying goes in Texas. But now is the time to see statesmanship from him, not pandering. Everyone must share the sacrifice. And that means everyone. Close the loopholes for all, and please, please, don't introduce any new ones.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Jesse Fuller, One-Man Band

I hadn't put a music video up for a while, and this is one I'd been thinking about. Enjoy the great Jesse Fuller!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Rick Perry 'Rearmed, Reloaded' -- Let's Not Forget Retarded

By Manifesto Joe

Forgive me for not resisting the urge to get a few more boot kicks in on a fool who got up on the national stage and made Texans look like buffoons in the bargain. Not that we already didn't look like that to a great extent -- but El Pendejo made it a lot worse.

The reason for my compulsion is that he's back home, and now we have to put up with his moronic ass as governor for nearly three more years.

He's not even ruling out getting his ass kicked again on the national stage. Here's a link to that story. After Reagan and Bush 43, I hadn't thought it was possible for anyone to be too stupid to be the Republican presidential nominee. El Pendejo, and Michele Bachmann as well, seem to have found where the bottom was.

He's back in Austin, ready to do battle in state politics yet again. Isn't it enough of an embarrassment that this dorkus malorkus is now our state's longest-serving governor?

He's not exactly coming back to paradise. A lot of us back here did nothing short of marvel at his talk of the Texas Miracle, and such. Things may be miraculous where he lives, with rent at $9,900 a month. Most of us are trying to figure out how we're going to pay for our next car repair.

El Pendejo did a lot of talking about job creation in Texas, and depicted the state as a capitalist paradise. I suppose that if you're an affluent capitalist, you can carve a certain paradise out of this. You don't have to drive on the rubble that passes for streets, or hear gunshots in your neighborhood, or live next door to people who rely on food stamps to eat and can't afford medical insurance for their children.

Perry represents the class of people who have basically told corporations coast-to-coast that the Texas workforce is a great big whore with legs spread wide. As blogger Robert Ruiz of San Antonio put it in a column:

Essentially our politicians are pimping us out to the lowest bidder. In 2010 Texas tied Mississippi for having more workers earning minimum wage or less than any other state in the country. Some 9.5% of Texas workers earned minimum wage or less compared to a national average of 6%.

Here's a link to a post by Ruiz, who also has much to say about poverty nationally.

People like El Pendejo seem to do an awful lot of talking about "freedom." For the kinds of people he and his spouse have over to dinner, that means the "freedom" of the 1% to fuck over all the rest of us.

But, they have an appalling number of wage-earning slobs fooled. Once, when I was reluctantly in a Wal-Mart, waiting to be checked out, my wife and I were talking to someone, and our checker managed to hear that I work as an editor for an MSM outlet.

I heard him say, "Oh, you mean those biased liberals who suppress dissenting opinions ...?"

I decided that, under the circumstances, it wouldn't be a good idea for me to remark snidely about the general political acumen of Wal-Mart associates. I did mention to him, passing through, that I figured he was probably underpaid. "I can always go somewhere else," was his reply.

My first thought was, why the fuck don't you do just that? What I recall saying was something like, "Yeah, and be a wage slave for somebody else." Yep, he's free alright -- to be a slave who can "choose" masters.

That is a popular opinion in Texas, and seems to be why politicians like El Pendejo just keep getting elected. The people getting screwed seem to want it deeper. For the next three years, they're likely to get it.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Just When It Looked Like Slick Willard Had It Sewn Up ...

By Manifesto Joe

... Sanitarium makes it a race again!

If I had $10,000 handy to bet, the way Slick Willard apparently has, I would still bet on him. I would do so because I think he's where the most of the really big money of the Republican Party is, and will stay.

Boss Hogg still has his pockets of support -- including the very deep pockets of one of the richest players in Vegas, or anywhere in the world, multibillionaire Sheldon Adelson. That will keep him in the campaign for at least a while.

Ron Paul? Fageddaboudit. As one pundit once put it, he reminds too many people of that mentally ill uncle that every family has. He will keep the support of his loyal ideologues, but they won't exceed 10-15% in that many states.

Sanitarium seems to have emerged as a surprisingly strong second-place contender, which shows two things -- how full of surprises the Republicans are this time, and how astonishingly weak their field is. If anybody had told me six months ago that Sanitarium would still even be in this thing now, I'd have thought they were ready to be committed to one (a sanitarium).

My $10,000 wager, as of now, would be on a Slick Willard/Sanitarium ticket. Wall Street is still the Republican Party's 800-pound gorilla, and I think the "smart money" believes that Slick Willard has the best chance to win in November. Sanitarium would be a good No. 2 to reassure and co-opt Tea Party types, fundamentalists, Catholic Falangists and other far-right creatures.

Boss Hogg might have had a good shot at the No. 2 spot earlier, but he's pissed off too many people. Word is among Washington insiders, even "conservatives," that anyone who knows Gingrich very well generally detests him. That's not the type who makes a good, loyal veep.

But, we've seen plenty of twists and turns in this Rethuglican contest, so stay tuned. There may be a few more coming.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.