It's simply unbelievable. Barack Obama (who, whatever your politics, was a substantial public figure with actual accomplishments) gives his first post-presidential speech and the only thing - the only thing- that matters as far as the headline goes is - you guessed it:
Obama Steps Back Into Public Life, Trying to Avoid One Word: Trump
What the hell is wrong with the media? There really is one and only one person that matters as far as they're concerned, and there has been for over a year and a half. The amount of free unasked for publicity that fellow gets staggers the imagination.
And as always, it doesn't matter at all what is written. What matters is that this one single individual crowds out everyone and everything else. It's utterly amazing, mass hypnosis on a global scale. And dangerous beyond calculation.
And then unicorns will fly out of his pants and give us all a million dollars
So the word is that Trump will introduce his "tax reform" plan so that he can say he has something on the table for his 100 days of executive order photo-ops. It looks as though they're going to call for huge tax cuts. Surprise.
Last April, lunching amid construction debris at his new hotel five blocks from the White House, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump told the Washington Post he would get rid of the national debt “over a period of eight years.” It may have been the boldest promise he’s ever made, considering the U.S. hasn’t been debt-free since 1835. The debt at the time was more than $19 trillion, and rising.
Trump predicted he could turn back the tide even though he thought the country was headed for a “very massive recession.”
His great TV performance as President has turned the economy around, we know that. We're in great shape. But business needs to be unshackled from all its taxes and regulations so he's going to get that done. And then the national debt will start to shrink because of all the coal and steel jobs he's bringing back from China. Also, oil and Mexicans and something something.
[I]t’s not just Democratic spin to say that a remarkable political transformation is happening in Georgia’s 6th District: an affluent, highly educated suburb of Atlanta. Nearly overnight, progressive organizing has become the center of social life for thousands of previously disengaged people in the area. Whether or not the movement is enough to swing this election, Republicans may never again be able to win local offices here without a fight. And the intense activity in the 6th District is a sign of how the anti-Trump resistance is building a new, locally rooted progressive infrastructure nationwide.
Meanwhile, a tightly networked progressive movement has sprung up in the district with little help from national Democrats. Last year Elizabeth Murphy, a 35-year-old mother of three, wanted to get involved in politics to help stop Trump but said it was hard to figure out how. Progressive groups, she said, were “nonexistent here in Cobb County. There was no infrastructure.” That all changed once Trump was elected, horrifying many 6th District women. “Since Nov. 9, the fire and the energy has come into this area like I’ve never seen before,” Murphy said. Before the election, a typical Democratic Party meeting would draw 25 or 30 people. “They now have 400 to 500 people attending in one county. It’s incredible.” (Ossoff ultimately won 41 percent in the parts of Cobb that fall in the district, 8 points higher than the Democrat did this past fall and 1 point better than Clinton’s total.)
As Ossoff readily acknowledges, women are leading the progressive renaissance that made his near-victory possible. “This is a story about women in this community,” he said in his election night speech. “Those strong and determined women who have picked us all up, who are carrying us forward, who are going to carry us to victory tonight or in June.” Women lead the local Indivisible chapter. In March, two women formed a women’s group, called Pave It Blue, devoted to running progressive candidates in local races—contests where, in the past, Republicans often ran unopposed. A private, invite-only Facebook group called Liberal Moms of Roswell and Cobb, or LMRC, has swelled to 1,700 members. You see LMRC magnets on cars and minivans all over town, and its members have developed a ritual: When they come across an LMRC decal on a parked car, they turn it upside-down, so when the driver returns, she’ll know a friend was there.
A first-time candidate and LMRC member named Christine Triebsch ran for the state Senate seat vacated by one of the Republican candidates in Tuesday’s congressional election. Like Ossoff, she came in first and will proceed to a runoff.
This surge of progressive activity marks a social sea change in an area when many Democrats said they once kept their political sympathies quiet, assuming they were alone among their conservative neighbors. “I felt like I was a closeted Democrat,” said Rebecca Sandberg, 43, who I met on Monday as she stood with a cluster of other women holding Ossoff signs near a busy intersection. “The label ‘liberal’ always seemed like a bad thing. And now I’m realizing, the more we have this community, that it’s actually a good thing. Being surrounded by all of these ladies in this area—and men, too—has really empowered me to be more involved.” She’d joined Pave It Blue and become a precinct captain for the Ossoff campaign.
These newly minted progressive activists are drawing on the organizing skills they’ve learned in the PTA and the ties they’ve forged to each other as parents. I was introduced to Saravanan by Tricia Madden, 39, who helped coordinate LMRC volunteers for Ossoff; they knew each other because their kids went to preschool together. “The woman that’s in charge of the school auction and the PTA knows the room mom, [who] is also the woman that’s in charge of the homeowners association,” said Madden. “Those are also the people who are going to volunteer. This is years and years of built-up relationships. You can’t replicate that.”
I don't know where these mostly middle aged and older women fit in the ideological mosaic of the Democratic party. I'm sure we'll find out and it will likely be cause for much handwringing and disagreement. This is, after all, the Democratic party. But whether or not all these women pass the progressive litmus tests, there is no denying that this is authentic grassroots organizing. And it has sprung out of a very large faction of the public for whom this last election was an affront to their very beings.
That pig in the White House is so insulting to millions of women that they simply can't live with themselves if they don't do something to fight back. This movement isn't sexy but then doing the grunt work to get things done rarely is. These people are serious and they aren't waiting to be led by anyone.
Over the weekend the New York Times published a major story about FBI Director James Comey’s decision, in the final 10 days of the election campaign, to announce the investigation of some Hillary Clinton emails found on the laptop of her aide Huma Abedin. It’s an interesting story as far as it goes, suggesting that Comey and others in the FBI were sure that Clinton would be elected and therefore they needed to appease congressional Republicans by proving their willingness to keep after her once she took office. Evidently they were surprised to find out that rules against the Department of Justice or the FBI interfering in the period leading up to the election existed because such interference might actually affect the outcome.
I don’t want to get into the tiresome debate about whether or not the Comey letter was decisive. It was, as even Trump’s own analysts agree. Sure, Clinton might have run populist ads in the Rust Belt or spent her final days in Wisconsin, and it might have changed history. And certainly Comey could have followed the rules and kept his mouth shut. There have been millions of words written about both of those counterfactuals but very little, so far, about the mainstream media’s contribution to the unexpected election outcome.
With the benefit of hindsight it’s clear that the endless hand-wringing over Clinton’s emails was overblown, especially since we now know that the entire U.S. intelligence apparatus was on high alert over potential collusion between a foreign government and the Trump campaign. But like Comey, the editors of the New York Times apparently also believed that Clinton couldn’t lose. And that led to this collaboration between the FBI and the New York Times that changed the world:
It's a fairly open-and-shut case. But the media's election post-mortems have mostly ignored it because it implicates the media's judgement. pic.twitter.com/cBLifP9WLu
The media and the FBI are clearly not going to admit their complicity in the events that led to Trump’s upset victory so that’s a judgment that will have to be left to the historians. But it does raise the question of how these relationships will be handled going forward.
We have no idea where the FBI investigation of the Russian hacking of the campaign and its possible connections to Trump is going. We will have to wait and see. But we can judge the relationship between Trump and the press right now — and it’s not what it appears to be.
According to the Washington Post, Trump sees the presidency as a performance and he spends most of his time watching himself on TV and checking his reviews:
For Trump — a reality TV star who parlayed his blustery-yet-knowing on-air persona into a winning political brand — television is often the guiding force of his day, both weapon and scalpel, megaphone and news feed. And the president’s obsession with the tube — as a governing tool, a metric for staff evaluation, and a two-way conduit with lawmakers and aides — has upended the traditional rhythms of the White House, influencing many spheres, including policy, his burgeoning relationship with Congress, and whether he taps out a late-night or early-morning tweet.
We knew that he watched TV obsessively during the campaign. But one might have expected that he would be too busy with the actual job of being president to keep it up once he was in the White House. He not only watches it in the early morning and all evening late into the night, but he checks in periodically during the day, sometime interrupting meetings to focus on what’s being said about him. And from the description of his habits, it’s not a matter of trying to manipulate the politics of the day or strategically influence other political players through the media. He’s just judging the public performances of his staff and seeing how he is personally being portrayed. That’s all he cares about
No I have, it’s interesting, I have, seem to get very high ratings. I definitely. You know, Chris Wallace had 9.2 million people, it’s the highest in the history of the show. I have all the ratings for all those morning shows. When I go, they go double, triple. Chris Wallace, look back during the Army-Navy football game, I did his show that morning … It had 9.2 million people. It’s the highest they’ve ever had. On any, on air, (CBS “Face the Nation” host John) Dickerson had 5.2 million people. It’s the highest for “Face the Nation” or as I call it, “Deface the Nation.” It’s the highest for “Deface the Nation” since the World Trade Center. Since the World Trade Center came down. It’s a tremendous advantage.
The president of the United States actually compared his TV ratings to 9/11.
The image we have of Trump and the media is of an abusive relationship in which Trump continuously insults the press but they are forced to endure his scorn and disrespect because it is their job to cover him. But it’s really more like a phony wrestling match or a reality TV contest.
Politico also featured an article this weekend about Trump’s press operation and the media, and in this telling the relationship is not so much hostile as simply chaotic. This is mostly because nobody on Trump’s team knows what they’re doing and the entire administration is hard-wired to lie about everything, even if they are doing it simply for the fun of it, which they admit they do. It’s a profile of an organization that is dysfunctional on every level. And this is supposed to be the one area in which Trump is an expert.
A couple of major polls came out this weekend showing that Trump’s first hundred days have been disastrous. His base is still with him, but he’s lost independents and even many Republicans seem shaky. There was one decision that a solid majority supported: the Syrian airstrikes. That is very bad news. Trump reads polls as obsessively as he watches himself on TV, and he undoubtedly noticed that people liked him dropping bombs. For that we can thank the media as well. They were very excited about his “presidential” decision and conveyed that to their audience.
We’ve seen that reality show before too. It led us into the Iraq war, and the mainstream media has never fully accounted for themselves for their role in that disaster either. It’s not a good sign.
Let's just say that even if Hannity has never once come on inappropriately to any women in the workplace, the place was obviously such a disgusting environment that he had to have seen it and condoned it. This kind of behavior is not only noticed by everyone, the boys in these workplaces talk about it amongst themselves. He knew.
But there's another Fox News sexist who seems to have escaped scrutiny and it's weird because he's at the center of it --- and has shown his colors on the air over and over again. Think Progress has the story:
It all started with Steve Doocy.
On July 6, 2016, former Fox News host Gretchen Carlson sued Roger Ailes, alleging she was sexually harassed. The suit prompted an investigation of Ailes, his eventual firing, and a $20 million settlement for Carlson.
The investigation of Ailes, and the public standard it set for Fox News, set the precedent for the ouster of Bill O’Reilly last week, following numerous allegations of sexual harassment.
But Carlson’s problems with Ailes began when she complained to him about the conduct of Steve Doocy, her co-host on Fox & Friends.
According to Carlson’s complaint, Doocy “engaged in a pattern and practice of severe and pervasive sexual harassment of Carlson.”
Doocy was not named as a defendant. But Carlson claimed Doocy created a “hostile work environment” by treating her in a “sexist and condescending way,” regarding her as a “blond female prop.”
When Carlson complained to Ailes about Doocy’s conduct, he told her that she needed to “get along with the boys.” Things went downhill from there.
Ten months later, Ailes and O’Reilly are gone. But Steve Doocy is still on the air every weekday starting at 6AM, his conduct largely absent from discussions of sexual harassment at Fox News.
About a month after Carlson filed her lawsuit, a former staffer for Fox & Friends told Politico that “[e]veryone on staff knew about or saw Doocy make inappropriate comments, but most people just rolled their eyes at it.”
Some inappropriate and sexist treatment of Carlson by Doocy and co-host Brian Kilmeade made it on air. It was captured in devastating fashion by Bloomberg News.
There is no indication that they have any intention of doing something about Doocy. But there's good reason for that. While he is the single most brain dead member of any Fox show --- and that is quite a feat --- he has one very important fan:
Doocy sticks out as an especially strident supporter of Donald Trump in a network full of strident supporters of Donald Trump.
One thing that didn’t faze Doocy was the tape of Trump on Access Hollywood bragging about sexual assault. Doocy described the entire incident as a “covert attempt to derail the Trump train.”
Since becoming President, Trump has rewarded Doocy and his co-hosts with extensive access, including a recent interview in the Oval Office.
We're going to get paid for it one way or the other,” Sessions said of the wall. “I know there's $4 billion a year in excess payments, according to the Department of the Treasury's own inspector general several years ago, that are going to payments to people — tax credits that they shouldn't get. Now, these are mostly Mexicans. And those kind of things add up — $4 billion a year for 10 years is $40 billion.
"There are a lot of ways we can find money to help pay for this.”
Presumably the report that Sessions was citing was a July 2011 report by the Treasury inspector general for tax administration that said individuals who are not authorized to work in the U.S. have been paid $4.2 billion in refundable tax credits. But it did not mention Mexicans or any other nationalities.
I guess he thinks there are a ton of kitchen workers and nannies filing federal income tax returns and getting billions of dollars in credits. And the federal government will claw back all that money when they are rousted out of their homes and sent back to Mexico. That way all those evil "illegals" will pay for that wall themselves. Bwaaaahahahahaha!
But guess what? Those people also pay taxes and a lot more than what they're getting back in credits to society at large. But hey, whatever. As long as we "get 'em out!, amirite?
Sessions is a malevolent horror. I think people are understimating the threat of him at the helm of the Justice Department.
TRUMP: I have great relationships with Congress. I think we're doing very well and I think we have a great foundation for future things. We're going to be applying — I shouldn't tell you this, but we're going to be announcing, probably on Wednesday, tax reform. ... We've worked on it long and hard. And you gotta understand, I've only been here now 93 days, 92 days. President Obama took 17 months to do "Obamacare." I've been here 92 days, but I've only been working on the health care, you know, I had to get like a little bit of grounding, right? Health care started after 30 day(s), so I've been working on health care for 60 days. ... we're very close. And it's a great plan ... we have to get it approved.
AP: Is it this deal that's between the Tuesday Group and the Freedom Caucus? Is that the deal you're looking at?
TRUMP: So the Republican Party has various groups, all great people. They're great people. But some are moderate, some are very conservative. The Democrats don't seem to have that nearly as much. You know the Democrats have, they don't have that. The Republicans do have that. And I think it's fine. But you know there's a pretty vast area in there. And I have a great relationship with all of 'em. Now, we have government not closing. I think we'll be in great shape on that, it's going very well. Obviously that takes precedent.
AP: That takes precedent over health care? For next week?
TRUMP: Yeah, sure. Next week. Because the 100 days is just an artificial barrier. The press keeps talking about the 100 days. But we've done a lot. You have a list of things. I don't have to read it.
That was some awesome gibberish. He's just stringing random words together at this point.
Here's a link to his speech at Gettysburg last October 22nd called "The 100 Day Plan to Make America Great Again for Everyone:"
What follows is my 100-day action plan to Make America Great Again. It is a contract between Donald J. Trump and the American voter – and begins with restoring honesty, accountability and change to Washington,
Yeah, he's never been great at fulfilling contracts, has he?
Emmanuel Macron took the top spot in first round of French presidential voting Sunday.
Voters in France Sunday were of a mood to turn out mainstream politicians, CNN reports:
Voters in France have comprehensively snubbed the country's political establishment, sending far-right populist Marine Le Pen and political novice Emmanuel Macron through to the second round of the country's presidential election, early results indicate.
With 96% of polling stations declared, newcomer Macron was leading the field with 23.7%. National Front leader Le Pen was close behind on 21.8%.
The result upended traditional French politics: Neither candidate hails from the establishment parties that have dominated the country for decades.
It was as if Ross Perot defeated incumbent president George H.W. Bush and Democratic challenger Bill Clinton in 1992, said French political scientist Olivier Duhamel.
The results Sunday night for once vindicated pollsters who correctly predicted this outcome. France now heads into "uncharted territory,"
... because whoever wins on May 7 cannot count on the backing of France's political mainstream parties. Even under a constitution that concentrates power in the president's hands, both Macron and Le Pen will need legislators in parliament to pass laws and implement much of their programs.
Those hoping to see extremist Le Pen defeated still have their chance. She is the underdog in the runoff. Defeated conservative candidate François Fillon who drew 20 percent of the vote called on his supporters to rally behind Macron the centrist and against Le Pen:
"Extremism can only bring unhappiness and division to France," defeated conservative candidate Francois Fillon said. "As such, there is no other choice than to vote against the extreme right."
The selection of Le Pen and Macron presents voters with the starkest possible choice between two diametrically opposed visions of the EU's future and France's place in it. It sets up a battle between Macron's optimistic vision of a tolerant France and a united Europe with open borders against Le Pen's darker, inward-looking "French-first" platform that calls for closed borders, tougher security, less immigration and dropping the shared euro currency to return to the French franc.
More than a belief in the power of positive thinking or the casual audacity of a tireless salesman, Trump has perfected a narrative style in which he doesn’t merely obscure reality—he tries to change it with pronouncements that act like blaring, garish roadside billboards. Unrelenting in telling his own story, he has defined himself as a success no matter what—by talking the loudest and the longest, and by insisting on having the first word and also the last. And it’s worked. Again and again, throughout his adult life, Trump in essence has managed to succeed without actually succeeding.
This, not his much-crowed-about deal-making prowess, is Trump’s most singular skill, I’ve heard in more than a dozen recent interviews.
“He’s not successful at what he claims to be successful at,” said Tim O’Brien, the author of TrumpNation: The Art of Being the Donald. “He is, however, arguably the most successful self-promoter in United States business and political history. And that’s a form of success.”
“He knows of no other way,” former New York Daily News scribe George Rush said, “and that is to spin until he’s woven some gossamer fabric out of”—he searched for the right word—“garbage.”
Even his admirers, who dispute the notion that Trump has not accomplished important things in this first stage of his first term, grant that his ultimate success will depend in no small measure on his ability to convince people that he has succeeded. “I think by the power of persuasion he’s going to end up getting things done,” said Sam Nunberg, a political adviser early in his campaign who credits Trump with the appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court and a flurry of executive orders that have undone or loosened Barack Obama-implemented policies and regulations. “He certainly could sell ice to an Eskimo—and I mean that as a compliment. He’s the spinner of all spinners.”
And he’s only upped the ante over the last month.
“I don’t lose,” he told the Financial Times.
“It’s been very much misreported that we failed with health care,” he said in the Fox Business interview. “We haven’t failed. We’re negotiating …”
“We will be stronger and bigger and better as a nation than ever before,” he assured parents and their children by way of introducing them to the White House for the Easter Egg Roll. “We’re right on track. You see what’s happening.”
But what’s happening, many think, is that he’s failing, and that his transparent strategy to distract from his manifest lack of preparation is being exposed on this blinding-bright, highest-stakes stage. This is, after all, the hardest job Trump has ever had, and even he occasionally has alluded to that. “Nobody knew that health care could be so complicated,” he memorably said back in February as his reform efforts floundered.
In one significant way, though, Trump’s never had it easier. Attention is his oxygen, and always has been, and for most of his professional existence, especially before the hit debut of The Apprentice in 2004, he had to work for it. Now he doesn’t. He’s the president, which he views (not wrongly) as a kind of proof in and of itself of success. “I can’t be doing so badly,” he explained to a reporter from Time, “because I’m president, and you’re not.” And when he asserts his versions of reality, they come, unlike in the past, with an immense governmental apparatus to back them up and the inherent authority of the office he inhabits. Trump no longer can be ignored. He has to be listened to.
“He creates his own reality,” said Barbara Res, a Trump Organization vice president in the 1980s and ‘90s. “He created the reality that he was this big, successful businessman, and now he’s creating the reality that he’s a big, accomplished president.”
“He’s gotten away with this game his whole life,” Florida-based Republican strategist Rick Wilson said.
It worked for him as a businessman, and it worked for him as a presidential candidate—and if it doesn’t work for him in the long run as president as well, it will be a first.
I find this fascinating. He is the living embodiment of "you can believe me or you can believe your eyes" and it actually works for him. This particular form of shameless dishonesty, extreme braggodoccio, self-promotion and spin is very difficult to keep up over a whole lifetime, I think. But he's done it. Spinning failure as success is his real talent.
And what it says about him is that he has a high tolerance for the stress that comes with worrying about being "found out" and it may even be the fuel that keeps him going. He can never relax, admit to fatigue or fear or defeat. He's always dancing as fast as he can.
He's 70 years old now. The stakes are so much higher than ever before and his enemies are legion. He's never had to dance this fast before.
But he's trying:
New polls out today are very good considering that much of the media is FAKE and almost always negative. Would still beat Hillary in .....
U.S. Rep. Mark DeSaulnier’s town hall was winding down, and as usual his audience had gotten its money’s worth.
And not just because it was free.
DeSaulnier, D-Concord, treated the audience during a recent event at Stanley Middle School in Lafayette to the full dinner show: a fast-paced PowerPoint presentation; a civics lesson (want to know why the Congressional districts are numbered the way they are?); a dose of history (do you know which president was the first to issue his inaugural address from the West Terrace of the Capitol)?
Many familiar topics were touched upon, both in DeSaulnier’s talk and the Q&A that followed. Yes, more than a few dealt with the Trump in the room. Then came the final question card of the night, from a young girl, and it was a show-stopper.
“Eden wanted to have her question asked by staff because it’s past her bedtime,” explained a member of DeSaulnier’s staff, who then read the question:
“My name is Eden, and I’m 11 years old. My mom is worried about my future with President Trump. On election night, my mom cried. Kids at my school are worrying about being deported. I’ve read and heard awful things about him. Should I be worried about my future? As a kid, what can I do about it?”
“From the mouths of babes,” DeSaulnier said, apparently affected by the question. And who wouldn’t be? The toxic national discourse is dispiriting enough for adults. To hear that it is trickling down to affect 11-year-olds?
“It’s interesting,” he would say a few days later. “The night before in Richmond, something similar happened. Both instances were a little out of body for me. I sort of responded to the way people were responding to me.”
Back to Eden’s question: “I think you should be concerned,” DeSaulnier said. “This is dangerous stuff. I’ve said a few times, the most dangerous person in America isn’t a terrorist, it’s the person who’s president of the United States. So Eden, you’ve got to read, you have to be thoughtful, and you have to be engaged.”
It was as if DeSaulnier knew exactly whom he was talking to. Eden, bright-eyed and engaging, has accompanied her mother, Alissa Levy, to the polls every election day since she can remember. “Since I was a baby,” she said a week after DeSaulnier’s town hall. “I’ve done everything in politics with my mom.”
Back to the Q&A:
“So the Greeks’ (description of) the word ‘idiot,'” DeSaulnier said, warming to the subject. “If you were qualified to vote in the Athenian democracy, you were called an idiot if you didn’t participate. The Greeks are sending us a message.”
Eden participated in Trump protests at her school shortly after the election and marched for climate change awareness. But she’s not only a political activist. She also has volunteered at her temple, recently picking fruit for the homeless.
DeSaulnier: “If we don’t participate for ourselves, but more importantly if we don’t participate for Eden and for future generations … People died for this,” he said, his voice catching. “People have come from all over the world — I’m getting a little emotional — for this. American democracy is not some trite thing. It’s the epitome of human evolution in my view.
“How we govern each other and how we respect one another, that’s what this is about. It’s not about vilifying people because they don’t look like you. It’s about engaging and empathy and understanding you’re going to have differences of opinion, but that’s OK. That’s what democracy is all about. So to Eden, what I’d say is, do what the founders of this country wanted you to do. Do what your grandparents, your great-grandparents did when they went to the other side of the world and died and put their lives on the line. American democracy is worth fighting for. So we should all do that. And Eden, if we all do that … ”
Even if DeSaulnier had been able to finish the sentence, he wouldn’t have been heard above the applause.
The wingnuts are up in arms because he said the president is more dangerous than a terrorist. Of course he is. A narcissistic, domineering, corrupt, bigoted, imbecile is running the world's only superpower. He's the most dangerous man on earth.
The bad news for him and the even worse newsfor us
There are a couple of polls out today to measure the first hundred days. It's not good news for the Donald. As with the Gallup poll from a couple of days ago, they show that he's the least successful president at the hundred day mark of any president since they've been measuring. And he comes up short by a huge margin. It would appear that showing yourself to be an ignorant, cretinous, corrupt, flim-flam man isn't all that impressive.
Here are a few results from the NBC/WSJ poll about his personal characteristics:
The new NBC/WSJ poll also shows an erosion in some of Trump's top perceived qualities, with 50 percent of respondents giving Trump high marks for being firm and decisive in his decision-making - down from the 57 percent who gave him high marks here in February.
Another 39 percent of Americans give him high marks for changing business as usual in Washington - down from 45 percent two months ago.
Thirty-nine percent give him high marks for being effective and getting things done - down from 46 percent who said this back in February.
And only 25 percent give him high marks for being honest and trustworthy - down from 34 percent.
Meanwhile, his standing is mostly unchanged when it comes to his perceived weaknesses: Just 27 percent give him high marks for being knowledgeable and experienced enough to handle the presidency, and only 21 percent give him high marks for having the right temperament.
Unfortunately, the one thing he got high marks for is the one thing the president and his cabinet full of Generals can unilaterally put to good use once they see it's all he's got:
The best news for President Trump in the poll is on the issue of Syria.
Sixty-two percent of Americans say they support the Trump administration's recent military action in response to the Syrian government's chemical-weapon attack against its own people.
By party, 88 percent of Republicans, 43 percent of Democrats and 58 percent of independents back that recent military action.
And 50 percent of all Americans say they approve of Trump's handling of Syria - 10 points higher than his overall approval rating.
This suggests that the "rally" effect will work for Trump. That is very, very, very bad news.
I want to give the news media a big shout-out for their help in that. Their delirious coverage of the "beautiful" Syrian strikes and declarations that "Donald Trump became president tonight" undoubtedly jacked those numbers up for Trump. So, once again, we can see the contours of how a half-wit GOP president, elected under dubious circumstances, may rise above it: war, aided and abetted by the media which gets big, big ratings for war porn and where major careers are made. It's not like it hasn't worked before.
Not that we didn't know that. But I had a rather wan hope that something had been learned over the past 15 years. But no.
Let's check in with the most important people in the world, shall we?
You know who they are ...
“Nothing has changed,” said Rob Hughes, a registered Democrat and retired businessman from Bulger, Pa., who I met on my cross-country trip, told me last week. “Well, that’s probably not entirely true. I think I like him more now that he is the president.”
As I went back to the people on US 30 to ask them how they feel about the man they voted for, Hughes’ sentiment rang true.
Trump’s supporters are unfazed that a new health-care law is not in place (yet), thrilled with the appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, weary of the constant accusations of his ties to Russia, supportive of his strike against Syria for using chemical weapons against its people and dismayed that House Republicans and Democrats are unwilling to compromise. To them, the president remains disruptive, unconventional, defiant and willing to change his mind — appealing attributes to his supporters, but not so to the press.
When I first met Hughes, 71, he was sitting with Mary Ellen Estel and James King in the back of DJ’s Quick Stop, a deli, dry goods, and gun and tackle shop that beckons Lincoln Highway travelers with a sign — “Got Far Wood” — poking good-natured fun at the local pronunciation of “fire.”
Hughes and Estel were staunch Trump supporters last fall; King was not. The three have met every morning for 25 years, setting up a card table and some folding chairs, while drinking Folgers coffee from white Styrofoam cups and discussing community concerns, fishing and politics.
When I called him recently, Hughes picked up his phone from the gun range. “I could not be more optimistic about the future than I am right now,” he told me. “Honestly, I am still on cloud nine that he won and is our president.”
Why is that? Hughes cites Trump’s unconventional approach to politics, his dismissal of political games and his willingness to compromise to get things done: “I am thrilled he has an open dialogue with China, not just on foreign affairs but on trade issues as well, and I am very pleased about how he responded to the atrocities in Syria.”
Estel, 77, who had just finished mowing 10 acres of farmland when we spoke last week, is also “very pleased” with President Trump so far: “I am very concerned about the fragile state of the world right now, but that was not of his doing. That has been decades in the making.”
King didn’t like Trump back in November and still doesn’t, but that doesn’t stop the three friends from meeting every morning to solve the world’s problems.
“It’s the best free therapy in the world,” said Estel.
Both voted for Barack Obama in the two previous presidential elections, and both were unsatisfied with his performance. The final blow was the effect of ObamaCare on their family.
She is a home-care nurse. He’s a mechanic. The parents of two boys, they were waiting in front of the 540 Martial Arts studio on West Main Street in Van Wert, Ohio, last fall when I first interviewed them — and they were packing the boys into the car after class, again, when I called them last week.
“It turns out Megan decided to vote for Trump a couple of days before the election,” said her husband.
About their decisions, neither could be happier.
“He is doing exactly what we wanted and expected him to do,” said A.J. “Yes, there have been setbacks, but anyone intelligent would understand that was to be expected. He is not a politician, and I had no expectation of him to be anything but non-conventional.”
It would appear that it doesn't really matter what he does, they will love him anyway. But everyone says that if we were all nicer to them they wouldn't think this way. That's what I keep hearing anyway.
As we await the returns of the French elections in which a far right neo-fascist Marine LePen is actually a serious threat let's consider that Trump pretty much endorsed her because she's been "the strongest" on "the border", which means she, like him, is a Muslim bashing bigot.
Anyway, as we contemplate them meaning of all that, I thought I'd share this article from the New York Times last week about one of Trump's close associates. You know Trump is a moron who understands nothing a believes anyone who treats him like he is a genius, right?
George Guido Lombardi spotted President Trump’s young son Barron alone on a couch playing a video game in the gaping and gilded living room of Mar-a-Lago, his father’s private oceanfront club in Palm Beach.
“What are you playing?” Mr. Lombardi asked as a Secret Service agent watched under dripping chandeliers and medieval Flemish tapestries. Barron, engrossed in his phone, answered politely. But as Mr. Lombardi pressed on about spring break plans, the 11-year-old made it clear that he was not terribly interested in talking to his father’s longtime Trump Tower neighbor.
The same cannot be said, however, of the populist, anti-establishment leaders in Europe, who seem to have identified the Italian as a potential access point to the Trump administration.
With a deep suspicion of Islam, open borders and the European Union, Mr. Lombardi, 66, considers himself a bridge to Mr. Trump for his old friends and ideological allies in Europe, including Marine Le Pen of France, Geert Wilders of the Netherlands, Prime Minister Viktor Orban of Hungary and Beppe Grillo, the co-founder of Italy’s insurgent Five Star Movement — “the Trump of Italy,” as Mr. Lombardi calls him.
“I’m American to the extent I’m here 40 years,” he said in Italian-accented English. “But at the same time I understand Europe a lot and I understand what’s going on.”
What’s going on, he says, is that Mr. Trump has given hope to politicians trying to harness populist forces, often with the social media tools that Mr. Lombardi himself has used in his capacity as the administrator of Bikers for Trump and about 500 other pro-Trump Facebook groups.
But Mr. Lombardi’s apparent prominence shows that something else is going on. The election of Mr. Trump, a master self-promoter, has imbued members of his social circle with the perception of juice that comes with proximity to power.
Mr. Lombardi, a chief executive of plausible-sounding foundations (North Atlantic League) and practiced photo bomber of officials and second-string celebrities (Frank Stallone, Kenny G), is not letting the opportunity go to waste. He is now busy explaining the evils of Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany to international reporters, speaking on a panel in the Italian Parliament (“Trump has said on more than one occasion that he’d like to meet Putin”) and causing a global stir by escorting Ms. Le Pen to a Trump Tower cafe.
“It was kind of innocent,” Mr. Lombardi said of Ms. Le Pen’s January visit, as he sat next to a whirring Boca Freeze soft ice cream machine in the Mar-a-Lago beach house as Secret Service agents lounged outside, looking out over the Atlantic.
Ms. Le Pen, in America at his invitation, he said, had suggested a coffee in the lobby of Mr. Trump’s building, where he conceded, “there was always a remote possibility” of seeing the then president-elect. “I said, ‘Listen, Marine, you know there is all the media there,’” Mr. Lombardi recalled, saying Ms. Le Pen insisted no one would recognize her. “And sure enough: Bang.” (A spokesman for Ms. Le Pen did not return a call for comment.)
Born in Geneva, Mr. Lombardi has also introduced himself as Count de Canevaro and wears a gold ring bearing his family’s coat of arms. In the library at Mar-a-Lago he walked from a painting of Mr. Trump in tennis whites to a 1750 oil painting of Benedetto Saluzzo Della Manta, who he claimed came from the same region as a distant ancestor.
He moved as a child to Rome, where he said the riots of 1968 and the rampant communism of his university classmates prompted his departure to America. He arrived in his 20s, bummed around, married, had children, started a jewelry business, broke into real estate, divorced and met Gianna Lahainer at a National Italian American Foundation event.
Ms. Lahainer, a former office worker from Trieste who had married the real estate mogul Frank Lahainer, was already a friend and neighbor of Mr. Trump, having bought one of the first condos in Trump Tower. When Mr. Trump first considered buying Mar-a-Lago in 1985, she warned him about the noise pollution from plane traffic over the estate, prompting him to renegotiate the price.
Mr. Lahainer died in 1995 and in 2000, his widow, then 65, married Mr. Lombardi. The couple delighted in telling how she put her late husband on ice at a funeral home because she did not want to miss the social season. “Why should I wait?” she once told the Palm Beach chronicler Ronald Kessler.
Mr. Lombardi said that in reality his wife could not immediately procure permits to send her husband’s body back to his Italian birthplace, but the story amounted to “good advertising.”
While his second wife introduced him to Mr. Trump’s Mar-a-Lago circle, Mr. Lombardi acted as an unofficial (“always unofficial”) representative in the United States of Italy’s anti-immigrant Northern League, often called The Lega in Italy. He said he first met Ms. Le Pen in the early 1990s in Brussels through a friend in the European Parliament.
“I told her right away, ‘Marine, dump your dad. He is just a dead weight. And anyway you have to make a choice. You are either with the Jews or you are with the Muslims. You can’t be with both.’”
The two stayed in touch, and Mr. Lombardi took credit for arranging a meeting between her and the Israeli ambassador to the United Nations, Ron Prosor, in 2011. (The Israeli ambassador later claimed the meeting was an accident.)
Mr. Lombardi expresses fondness for the Jewish people, “our curly friends,” he said referring to the orthodox party that had rented Mar-a-Lago out that afternoon. The specter of the Nazis fuels his preferred, and somewhat tortured, historical parallel.
He envisions the Russian leader, Vladimir V. Putin, as the champion of the spiritual descendants of World War II resistance fighters. “Le Pen, Geert, Lega, Grillo, all the resistance is fighting the Nazi Islamists,” he said. “Of course, Ms. Merkel — You are Jewish, aren’t you? Come on! She’s the one who brought in all these Muslims more than anybody else. Why? Because they never lost their bad habits.”
Despite his increased visibility on Italian television, Mr. Lombardi cuts a low profile in Italy. But he said Mr. Trump has leaned on his Italian expertise, inquiring once about Silvio Berlusconi, the former prime minister, because, Mr. Lombardi said, Mr. Trump was intrigued by a “billionaire who became a politician.” Mr. Lombardi said on a panel in the Italian Parliament last year that Mr. Trump invited Mr. Berlusconi to America last Christmas, but received no reply.
When it came to Italy, though, Mr. Trump’s interest centered on showing the innocence of Amanda Knox, an American college student accused of murder in Perugia. Mr. Trump often spoke out and posted on Twitter in support of Ms. Knox, and asked Mr. Lombardi to look into her case during a trip to Italy. Now, Mr. Lombardi said, the president is “very upset” with the ingratitude of Ms. Knox, who supported Hillary Clinton.
Mr. Lombardi wanted to be of service to Mr. Trump again when he ran for president. The day after Mr. Trump declared his candidacy, Mr. Lombardi asked his neighbor if he really intended to run and then offered to organize support for him on social media.
Mr. Trump assented and Mr. Lombardi, who had no professional social media experience, began setting up a network of Facebook groups to organize support for Mr. Trump and antagonism toward Mrs. Clinton. He said he received many appeals to be an administrator of Facebook groups.
Congressional investigators are examining whether Mr. Trump’s supporters coordinated with Russians to promote stories that helped Mr. Trump. Mr. Lombardi said he had no relationship with Russia and dismissed any suggestion that his groups passed around stories pushed by Moscow-affiliated news media outlets or web robots. “I’m not a troll,” he said.
Instead, Mr. Lombardi expressed pride in his social media work. As Barron, shadowed by the Secret Service agent, kicked a soccer ball with a couple of children on a nearby lawn, Mr. Lombardi scrolled through hundreds of Facebook groups on his phone, including an icon that read, in Italian, “Friends of Putin’s Russia.” (“They ask me if I wanted to be an administrator,” he explained.) Then Mr. Lombardi dragged the screen to an icon he particularly liked.
“People Front for the Liberation of Europe. This one I created it. That’s my group. Sounds like me, no?” he said, listing the European anti-establishment leaders the group promoted. “All my friends.”
Lombardi, who describes himself as a real estate investor with rightward political leanings, said that throughout the presidential campaign he fielded calls from representatives of a veritable Who’s Who of the European Right, including French far-right leader Marine Le Pen — who was spotted in Trump Tower Thursday — Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, members of Austria’s Freedom Party, as well as the center-right French Républicains party who all wanted to meet with Trump.
“I’m in contact with just about everybody,” Lombardi, who is in his early sixties and emigrated to the United States from Italy in the 1970s, said in a telephone interview from New York. “When there is a high-level request, I pass it on. It may be to Eric [Trump], it may be to someone else. It may be to Donald himself. It depends on who, and what, it is.”
The National Front’s representative in the United States confirmed knowing and having spoken to Lombardi. “He is a go-between,” said Denis Franceskin. “He is part of the [Trump] network,” he said, adding: “Not the only one.”
It's certainly possible that this guy is just another blowhard hanger-on who happens to live in Trump Tower and spends time at Mar-a-lago. Maybe it's harmless that our president spends time with someone like this.
Maybe it isn't.
Lombardi and LePen at Trump Tower during the transition
A Comprehensive List Of Obama’s Worst Executive Orders
JUNE 15, 2012 BY LAURIE ROTH
There have been over 900 Executive Orders put forth from Obama, and he is not even through his first term yet. He is creating a martial law ‘Disney Land’ of control covering everything imaginable. Some of the executive orders he has signed recently have been exposed thanks to ‘Friends of Conservative Action Alerts.’ They have compiled a choice list of ‘Emergency Powers, Martial law executive orders’: Get your headache medication out while you still can without a prescription.
* Executive Order 10990 allows the Government to take over all modes of transportation and control of highways and seaports.
* Executive Order 10995 allows the government to seize and control the communication media.
* Executive Order 10997 allows the government to take over all electrical power, gas, petroleum, fuels, and minerals.
* Executive Order 11000 allows the government to mobilize civilians into work brigades under government supervision.
* Executive Order 11001 allows the government to take over all health education and welfare functions.
* Executive Order 11002 designates the Postmaster General to operate a national registration of all persons.
* Executive Order 11003 allows the government to take over all airports and aircraft, including commercial aircraft.
* Executive Order 11004 allows the Housing and Finance Authority to relocate and establish new locations for populations.
* Executive Order 11005 allows the government to take over railroads, inland waterways, and public storage facilities.
* Executive Order 11049 assigns emergency preparedness function to federal departments and agencies, consolidating 21 operative Executive Orders issues over a fifteen-year period.
* Executive Order 11051 specifies the responsibility of the Office of Emergency Planning and gives authorization to put all Executive Orders into effect in times of increased international tensions and economic or financial crisis.
* Executive Order 11310 grants authority to the Department of Justice to enforce the plans set out in Executive Orders, to institute Industrial support, to establish judicial and legislative liaison, to control all aliens, to operate penal and correctional institutions, and to advise and assist the President.
* Executive Order 11921 allows the Federal Emergency Preparedness Agency to develop plans to establish control over the mechanisms of production and distribution of energy sources, wages, salaries, credit, and the flow of money in U.S. financial institutions in any undefined national emergency. It also provides that when the president declares a state of emergency, Congress cannot review the action for six months.
It would appear that Obama is planning for the total control and takeover of America via Martial Law. Food, energy, transportation, work, banking, and health. He has it covered.
While Obama is busy pulling executive orders out of the sky to control everything inside our country, he has been issuing executive orders to force us to submit to international regulations instead of our Constitution.
It wasn't just random wingnuts either:
Is this email accurate in stating that Obama signed the below mentioned executive order that gives the right and power to the president to impose a government takeover in a time of relative peace?
WARNING FROM TEXAS CONGRESSWOMAN KAY GRANGER…
An Executive Order You Should Know About
With all that is going in Washington these days some things don’t make the news the way they should. Fourteen days ago President Obama issued an Executive Order that you should know about.
This order gives an unprecedented level of authority to the President and the federal government to take over all the fundamental parts of our economy – in the name of national security – in times of national emergency.
The email claims that Obama has issued 900 executive orders but lists orders that previous presidents signed. The email also inaccurately describes those orders.
Another viral email cuts and pastes a constituent newsletter from Republican Rep. Kay Granger of Texas. She falsely claimed that an Obama executive order created martial law. Granger has since retracted her statements and removed the newsletter from her website.
It’s true that President Obama is increasingly using his executive powers in the face of staunch Republican opposition in Congress. He’s changed federal policies on immigration and welfare and appointed officials without congressional approval. But Obama’s executive actions have nothing to do with martial law.
Executive orders originated under George Washington, and their use stems from interpretations of Article II of the Constitution — which created the executive branch — and from presidential precedent.
Obama has not issued 900 executive orders. He has signed slightly fewer orders than President George W. Bush during this point in his first term, according to the University of California, Santa Barbara, which tracks executive orders. Obama has issued 139 executive orders as of Sept. 25. (The U.C. website listed 138 orders on Sept. 25, the same day Obama signed order 139). Bush issued 160 executive orders through Sept. 20, 2004, a comparable amount of time.
The viral email that claims Obama has signed 900 executive orders lists 13 orders as evidence, all of which previous presidents signed in the 1960s and 1970s.
Presidents number their executive orders consecutively. The first executive order that President Obama signed was EO-13489, which dealt with presidential records. Obama’s predecessors signed any executive order with a number lower than 13489...
As for the congresswoman's claims?
Granger, the Texas congresswoman, made false claims about an executive order that Obama actually signed in March. Writing in a constituent newsletter, Granger claimed that Obama’s “National Defense Resources Preparedness” order amounted to martial law, adding that it was “unprecedented” and “above the law” and lacked congressional oversight.
The order was none of those things — and Granger said as much in a subsequent statement. Since the Korean War, Congress has granted the president the authority to ensure that national resources — such as the food supply and various industries — will be available to meet national security needs in times of war and other emergencies. That power is granted under the Defense Production Act, a law that dates to 1950 and must be reauthorized by Congress every few years. (The act expires in 2014.)
Like presidents before him, Obama issued an order updating the resources covered under that act, which allows presidents to delegate authority to various federal departments and agencies. For example, Obama’s order authorizes the secretaries of Defense and the Interior “to encourage the exploration, development, and mining of strategic and critical materials and other materials.”
If you wonder how the Russians figured out that Americans were gullible enough to fall for blatant propaganda, this is it. All they had to do was follow how the American right wing has worked for decades to see that a good many of them had been primed for decades to believe any bullshit they saw about people they hate.
This view from NASA's Cassini spacecraft shows planet Earth as a point of light between the icy rings of Saturn. Close-up shows Earth and its moon. Image: NASA.
While web surfing last night, I came cross this riff George Carlin used to do about Man's arrogance that he thinks he can control nature. Way over ninety percent of species that have ever lived are gone, he says. That's what nature does. Let them go with dignity. There's nothing wrong with the planet, Carlin says. It's been here four and half billion years. "The planet has been through a lot worse than us ... The planet will shake us off like a bad case of fleas." And yet.
We are are a part of nature. It affects us in ways we don't really understand. Even big game trophy hunters — bless their hearts — feel some connection to it. That's what we do when we're not working pointless jobs, paying bills, and sitting in front of glowing boxes watching other humans on reality shows behave like idiots so we can feel less like idiots ourselves. Brought to you by the Discover card, like Yosemite and Yellowstone if Wall Street gets its way.
And what have we discovered?
For one, Wall Street will have to find a new place from which to rule the planet. Soon enough it will be under water.
A pot-smoking lineman I know once declared it his aspiration one day to live "above the flush line." Up above the waste being generated by the rest of humanity. Those presently living above the flush line now soon will have to make room for Wall Streeters and the rest our coastal cousins. The flush line will be moving higher along with the coastlines.
A study release this last week in Nature Climate Change examines how rising sea levels will force coastal residents to relocate inland by 2100:
The study is the first attempt to model the destination of millions of potentially displaced migrants from heavily populated coastal communities.
"We typically think about sea level rise as a coastal issue, but if people are forced to move because their houses become inundated, the migration could affect many landlocked communities as well," said the study's lead author, Mathew Hauer, who completed his doctoral degree in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences department of geography.
While sea-level rise assessments are numerous and may help plan for the development of critical infrastructure, few research studies have grappled with where displaced people and families will go. No previous studies model how migration caused by sea-level rise will affect population other than in the directly affected coastal areas.
Image: Matthew Hauer, Nature Climate Change. Tick marks show the number of migrants (inflows and outflows) in thousands. States are ordered clockwise by the size of inflows. The top ten outflow states are colored; all other states are in grey.
While sailing in the Svalbard archipelago in the summer of 2014, Nicklen came upon large polar bear cubs that had starved to death. Then:
“All of a sudden a blizzard came up, a massive storm — 80 knots of wind — so we had to go and hide,” Nicklen recalls. For protection, the best choice was to sail behind Nordaustlandet, a large, ice-covered island in the Svalbard archipelago. “And the temperature, even though we’re 600 miles from the North Pole, was 62 degrees Fahrenheit. And you’ve got all the waterfalls pouring off the Nordaustlandet ice cap.”
Nicklen snapped a photo — and, on this balmy day in the Arctic, captured a potent picture of climate change: A wall of ice in a steel-colored sea, with water pouring from the top of it.
“You go from the dead bears to this, and then look at the science — you come to understand that if we wait for the streets of New York or Miami to be flooded from rising sea levels, then we’ll be 200 years too late,” he says.
The Slims River, an area I've hiked in the Yukon, changed course in just four days last year from increased melting of the Kaskawulsh glacier. Waters that used to drain through Kluane Lake north into the Yukon River now travel south to the Gulf of Alaska. Communities along the lake suddenly find waters receding and fish stocks in jeopardy.
Sea level rise might catch up to plate tectonics. Mount Everest grows at the rate of about 4 millimeters per year. But that elevation is measured above mean sea level. Sea level is rising (currently) about 3.2 millimeters per year. If that increases much, Everest could start getting shorter.
Come on you world, won’t you give a damn?
Turn on some lights and see this garbage can
Time is the essence if we plan to stay
Death is in stride when filth is the pride of our home
-from “Powerful People” by Gino Vanelli
So, do you do anything special for Earth Day? It almost seems counter-productive to have a once-a-year Earth “day”, because when you stop to think about it for about, oh, 5 seconds, shouldn’t every day be “earth day”? It sort of devalues the importance of taking care of our planet (since we appear to have only been issued the one, far back as I can remember). At any rate, in honor of Earth Day, I’ve cobbled together my picks for the Top 10 “eco-flicks”. Per usual, my list is alphabetical; no ranking order. And, as long as you don’t print out a hardcopy, this week’s post is 100% biodegradable (it’s a com-post!).
Chasing Ice - Jeff Orlowski’s film is glacially paced; meaning: these days, “glacial pacing” ain’t what it used to be. Glaciers are moving along (”retreating”, technically) at a pretty good clip. This does not portend well for the planet. To put it in a less flowery way…we’re fucked. After all, according to renowned nature photographer (and subject of Orlowski’s film) James Balog, “The story…is in the ice.” Balog’s fascinating journey began in 2005, while he was on an assignment in the Arctic for National Geographic to document the effect of climate change. Up until that fateful trip, he candidly admits he “…didn’t think humans were capable” of affecting weather patterns in such a profound manner. His epiphany gave birth to a multi-year project utilizing specially modified time-lapse cameras to capture irrefutable proof that affective global warming had transcended academic speculation. The resulting images are beautiful and mesmerizing, yet troubling. Orlowski’s film itself mirrors the dichotomy, being in equal parts cautionary eco-doc and art installation. The images handily trump the squawking that emits from bloviating global climate deniers in the opening montage, and proves a picture is worth 1000 words.
Emerald Forest - Although it may give an initial impression as a heavy-handed (if well-intentioned) “save the rainforest” polemic, John Boorman’s underrated 1985 adventure (a cross between The Searchers and Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan) goes much deeper. Powers Boothe portrays an American construction engineer working on a dam project in Brazil. One day, while his wife and young son are visiting him at his job site on the edge of the rainforest, the boy is abducted and adopted by an indigenous tribe who call themselves “The Invisible People”, touching off an obsessive decade-long search by the father. By the time he is finally (and serendipitously) reunited with his barely recognizable, now-teenaged son (Charley Boorman), the challenge becomes a matter of how he and his heartbroken wife (Meg Foster) are going to coax the reluctant young man back into “civilization”. Tautly directed, lushly photographed and well-acted.
Godzilla Vs. Hedorah - Yeah, I know what you’re thinking: there’s no accounting for some people’s tastes. But who ever said an environmental “message” movie couldn’t also provide us with some mindless, guilty fun? Let’s have a little action. Knock over a few buildings. Wreak havoc. Crash a wild party on the rim of a volcano with some Japanese flower children. Besides, Godzilla is on our side for a change. Watch him valiantly battle Hedora, a sludge-oozing toxic avenger out to make mankind collectively suck on his grody tailpipe. And you haven’t lived until you’ve heard “Save the Earth”-my vote for “best worst” song ever from a film (much less a monster movie!)
An Inconvenient Truth- I re-watched this on cable recently; I hadn’t seen it since it opened in 2006, and it struck me how it now plays less like a warning bell and more like the nightly news. It’s the end of the world as we know it. Apocalyptic sci-fi is now scientific fact. Former VP/Nobel winner Al Gore is a Power Point-packing Rod Serling, submitting a gallery of nightmare nature scenarios for our disapproval. I’m tempted to say that Gore and director Davis Guggenheim’s chilling look at the results of unchecked global warming only reveals the tip of the proverbial iceberg…but it’s melting too fast.
Koyaanisqatsi- In 1982, this innovative, genre-defying film quietly made its way around the art houses; it’s now a cult favorite. Directed by activist/ex-Christian monk Godfrey Reggio, with beautiful cinematography by Ron Fricke (who later directed Chronos, Baraka, and Samsara) and music by Philip Glass (who also scored Reggio’s sequels), it was considered a transcendent experience by some; New Age hokum by others (count me as a fan). The title (from ancient Hopi) translates as “life out of balance” The narrative-free imagery, running the gamut from natural vistas to scenes of First World urban decay, is open for interpretation. Reggio followed up in 1988 with Powaqqatsi (“parasitic way of life”), focusing on the First World’s drain on Third World resources, then book-ended his trilogy with Naqoyqatsi (“life as war”) in 2002. Do yourself a favor-clear a weekend!
Manufactured Landscapes -A unique eco-documentary from Jennifer Baichwal about photographer Edward Burtynsky, who is an “earth diarist” of sorts. While his photographs are striking, they don’t paint a pretty picture of our fragile planet. Burtynsky’s eye discerns a terrible beauty in the wake of the profound and irreversible human imprint incurred by accelerated modernization. As captured by Burtynsky’s camera, strip-mined vistas recall the stark desolation of NASA photos sent from the Martian surface; mountains of “e-waste” dumped in a vast Chinese landfill take on an almost gothic, cyber-punk dreamscape. The photographs play like a scroll through Google Earth images, as reinterpreted by Jackson Pollock. This one is a real eye-opener.
Princess Mononoke - Anime master Hayao Miyazaki and his cohorts at Studio Ghibli have raised the bar on the art form over the past several decades (that’s why I was sad when Miazaki-san announced his retirement from directing). This 1997 Ghibli production is one of their most visually resplendent offerings. Perhaps not as “kid-friendly” as per usual, but most of the patented Miyazaki themes are present: humanism, white magic, beneficent forest gods, female empowerment, and pacifist angst in a ubiquitously violent world. The lovely score is by frequent Miyazaki collaborator Joe Hisaishi. For another Miyazaki film with an environmental message, check out Nausicaa Valley of the Wind.
Queen Of The Sun - I never thought that a documentary about honeybees would make me both laugh and cry-but Taggart Siegel’s 2010 film managed to do just that. Appearing at first glance to be a distressing, hand-wringing examination of Colony Collapse Syndrome, a phenomenon that has puzzled and dismayed beekeepers and scientists alike with its accelerated frequency of occurrences over the past few decades, the film becomes a sometimes joyous, sometimes humbling meditation on how essential these seemingly insignificant yet complex social creatures are to the planet’s life cycle. We bipeds might harbor a pretty high opinion of our own place on the evolutionary ladder, but Siegel lays out a convincing case which proves that these “lowly” insects are, in fact, the boss of us.
Silent Running - In space, no one can hear you trimming the verge! Bruce Dern is an agrarian antihero in this 1972 sci-fi adventure, directed by legendary special effects wizard Douglas Trumbull. Produced around the time that “ecology” was a buzzword, its message may seem a little heavy-handed today, but the film remains a cult favorite to SF fans. Dern is the resident gardener on a commercial space freighter that houses several bio-domes, each one dedicated to preserving a species of vegetation (in this bleak future, the Earth has become barren of organic growth). While it’s just a 9 to 5 drudge to his blue collar shipmates, Dern’s character views his cultivating duties as a sacred mission. When the interests of commerce demand that the crew jettison the domes to make room for a more lucrative cargo, Dern goes off his nut, eventually ending up by his lonesome with two salvaged bio-domes and a trio of droids (named Huey, Dewey and Louie) who play Man Friday to his Robinson Crusoe. Joan Baez contributes two songs on the soundtrack.
Soylent Green - Based on a Harry Harrison novel, Richard Fleischer’s 1973 film is set in 2022, when traditional culinary fare is but a dim memory, due to overpopulation and environmental depletion. Only the wealthy can afford the odd tomato or stalk of celery; most of the U.S. population lives on processed “Soylent Corporation” product. The government encourages the sick and the elderly to politely move out of the way by providing handy suicide assistance centers (considering the current state of our Social Security system, that doesn’t sound like much of a stretch anymore, does it?). Oh-there is some ham being served up onscreen, courtesy of Charlton Heston’s scenery-chewing turn as a NYC cop, investigating the murder of a Soylent Corporation executive. Edward G. Robinson nearly steals the film; his moving death scene has the added poignancy of preceding his passing (from cancer) by less than two weeks after the production wrapped.
…and singing us out, Gino Vanelli (try to get past the skintight elephant bells, chest hair and disco moves, and focus on the lyrics…