Robert Reich: “Saving Capitalism, for the Many, not the Few”

Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich takes his book on tour in the Netflix film “Saving Capitalism: For the Many, not the Few” (Knopf), directed by Jacob Kornbluth and Sari Gilman.

My first reaction on finding this on “My List” was to recall that night in December 1972, in a Newark, NJ row house, when I spied on “The People’s Party of New Jersey”.  Why do we have to have capitalism, the young woman leading he session whined.  The group threatened revolutionary action.

Reich’s main argument seems to be to stop crony capitalism.  People leave Congress or public service and become lobbyists for trade groups, with the connections to keep campaign contributions coming to politicians.  I’ve received the fringe of this activity in my own blogger journalism and refused to have anything to do with it.  (I’ve gotten emails asking for money for Roy Moore, claiming he was framed by the media.)

The film discusses the significance of the Citizen’s United case, as well as court opinions that corporations are people and have the same free speech rights to advance their interests for their shareholders.

Reich also points out that the legislation that “the people” usually want passes in Congress only about 30% of the time. The recent paralysis in Congress on “replacing Obamacare” seems like case in point.

In the early part of the film, Reich explains how total wealth in the US has increased, while median wages have stagnated.  He disputes the Reagan-like ideology of the “free market” on its own, saying that government regulations set up a playing field and make capitalism possible. (That’s like Nancy Pelosi’s saying “Democrats are capitalists”.)   The rich get to manipulate the rules, though lobbyists, to increase the leverage of their capital over others. You get Piketty’s “rentier” culture.

Fareed Zakaria has pointed out that the US is a world leader on the “inequality index” at 0.81.

The debate on network neutrality may be relevant, as under Trump. Ajit Pai seemed determined to let telecom companies “monetize” their businesses fully, although litigation will probably slow down the works possible effects for individual speakers and small businesses.

Name:  “Saving Capitalism”
Director, writer:  Jacob Kornbluth, Sari Gilman
Released:  2017
Format:  1.85:1
When and how viewed:  Netflix instant play 2017/12/12
Length:  73
Rating:  PG-13
Companies:  Netflix
Link:  NYTimes

(Posted: Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2017 at 12:45 PM EST)

“Voyeur”: More about the journalist Gay Talese than the “voyeur” of the Manor House Motel

The docudrama “Voyeur”, directed by Myles Kerry and Josh Koury, is more about journalism (and the values of writers) than about voyeurism.

Gay Talese (who has a traditional family of his own), now 85, introduces himself in his upper East Side brownstone basement, where he shows his physical files and artefacts from four decades of professional journalism and book authorship.  Unlike me, he writes other people’s stories.  I wish I had the time to do the same.

One of his most controversial books is the 2016 biography, “The Voyeur’s Motel”, about Gerald Foos, who bought a motel in Aurora CO (it may have been inconveniently near the site of the Holmes shooting) in the late 1960s, and constructed a clandestine viewing space to watch his guests having sex. He admits he was brought up in a Puritanical family and had developed a fascination with “watching” for its own sake.  It might be comparable to watch one man slowly do another on a gay disco floor today.

Talese would, at some point, visit the motel and climb into the attic to see it for himself.  Later he would write a big article for New Yorker magazine, which would become expanded into his book. At one point a fact checker from the magazine calls around (including Foos) to verify the story.  That is what you can expect if you have an assignment with a big publication. But the fact that Foos did not own the Manor House Motel the whole time even though he still ran it did not come up until discovered by the Washington Post just before the book’s publication.  That almost deep-sixed the book, and led Talese temporarily to want to disown it.  It is available from The Grove Press (of course!)  Talese would calm down when interviewed by Seth Meyers.

Talese has questioned whether Kevin Spacey should lose everything over a brief indiscretion three decades ago.   Indeed, the sexual harassment (and sometimes underage sex) scandals can lead to witch hunts, against straight men and gay men alike.

Talese makes some other points, about his being well-dressed (and having his clothes tailored, which I don’t), as well as the seriousness of professional journalism.  Imagine the scrutiny I would get if I got an assignment to investigate and report on the EMP issue “professionally”, which I have reported about here.  I think I could get a shot at it.  I welcome Talese to take it on.

The voyeurism issue reminds me of the “no spectators” idea of the film “Rebirth” (July 2016).

Wikipedia picture of Coors Field, the “homerama” baseball stadium at one mile elevation.

Name: Voyeur
Director, writer:  Myles Kerry, Josh Koury, Gay Talese
Released:  2017
Format:  1.85:1
When and how viewed:  Netflix instant play
Length:  95
Rating: NA
Companies:  Netflix, Brooklyn Underground Films
Link:  Atlantic

(Posted: Sunday, December 10, 2017 at 1 PM EST)

Mason Bates’s KC Jukebox presents four minamalist multi-media works by Cooper, Andres, Balter and Clyne

Friday night December 8, 2017 The Kennedy Center put on a program called “Ear/Eye” in what it calls Mason Bates’s KC Jukebox, the renovated Terrace Theater.   Well, it’s Mason, not Norman (so Freddie Highmore wasn’t there) and the KC stands for Kennedy Center, not Kansas City, although that would make sense.  Actually. Mason Bates is a composer from Richmond,  a little older than The Good Doctor.

Christopher Rountree conducted all four pieces.

The first work was “Ripple the Sky” by Jacob Cooper (USA), 16 min, for “processed string octet with voice and video projection”. The Mivos Quarter, along with Isabel Hagen (viola), Jeanann Dara (viola), Pala Garcia (violin) and John Popham (cello) and Thomas McCargar with a wordless voice, performed. The octet was set up in a row on the front of the stage (it could be rolled off), and it tended to hide the video.

But the video was interesting. It showed a man mostly alone in a desert (with some stripmines) on what looked like an alien planet.  Cooper, in introducing the work with a video, mentioned the importance of Robert Schumann with his miniature pieces and personal life issues.

The remaining works were for smaller ensembles with percussion.

The second work was “Checkered Shade” (14 min) by Timo Andres (USA). The performers were Laura Kaufman, violin; Kathy Mulcahy, clarinet; Elise Blake, violin; Sean Neidlinger, cello; Lisa Emenheiser, piano; Bill Richards, percussion. The screen showed evolving geometric designs, seeming to be built on fractals (I thought of mathematicians like Jack Andraka and AOPS’s Deven Ware).  Well, all living things are built on fractals. The piece seemed to comprise two movements:  a slightly Prokofiev-like first section, and a slower chorale, with a theme (starting with a rising fourth interval) that sounded familiar.  But yet like all the pieces on this program, the music seems to move in chunks rather than real development. The chorale seemed to form a ground bass for a passacagla-like presentation. The ending is on a fortissimo note that dies away (rather like Berg’s Chamber Concerto).

The third work was “Codex Seraphinianus” by Marcos Balter (Brazil), “11 Short Movements with projected images of Italian drawings”.  The musical aphorisms were chatty and dissonant, more radical than the first two works.  The pictures depicted bizarre concoctions of life forms, like a man covered with green grass rather than body hair. Laura Kaufman played flute, Charlie Young the saxophone (like Bill Clinton), Tiffery Richardson the viola, and Tia Wortham the bassoon.

The fourth was “Steelworks” by Anna Clyne (UK), were the screen showed images (four at a time) of a steelworks in Brooklyn from the 1920s. Kaufman played the flute and piccolo, Kathy Mulcahy the bass clarinet, and Bill Richards the marimba.   I was reminded a bit of Mosolov’s “Iron Foundry”, as this work seemed to bring back the reality of proletarian life in manufacturing.

All four works expressed a certain minimalism in content, along with deftness in creating multiple media experiences (similar to ones I have seen at the Poisson Rouge in NYC, and even the 930 Club in DC (right next to Town Danceboutique). Composers today seem attracted to this sort of content in securing commissions.  The old idea of large post-romantic exposition and development seems to have been forgotten, maybe out of economic necessity.

(Posted: Saturday, December 9, 2017 at 1 PM EST)

“Darkest Hour”: How Winston Churchill saved Britain in 1940 after becoming Prime Minister

Darkest Hour” is a dark biographical drama showing a feisty Winston Churchill (Gary Oldman) turning the tide of British attitude toward the Nazi invasion of Europe in May 1940 shortly after he becomes Prime Minister, taking over when Neville Chamberlain resigns.  The climax of the film artistically parallels “The King’s Speech” (2010), when Churchill denounces a proposed partial surrender to Mussolini and vows to fight.   The film is written by Anthony McCarten, based on his book “Darkest Hour: How Churchill Brought England Back from the Brink” (2017, Harper).

The film is directed by Joe Wright and is much less layered than his 2007 masterpiece “Atonement”. But there are some surreal scenes, such as a shot of dwarves with Hitler masks, and the scene were Churchill rides the subway (on the way to the final speech at Wesminster) and people stand up and make room for him.  I had a bizarre experience like that earlier this year, although without the conversations.  There are also some mass scenes of the “manners” in British Parliament.

The film also recounts, from some distance, the history of Dunkirk (July 24, 2007), as Churchill gets into the existential areas of personal sacrifice. (“Atonement” also had a sequence at Dunkirk).

Kristin Scott Thomas plays his wife Clementine, who in an opening scene calls him rude.

I saw a “sneak” at Angelika Mosaic on Pearl Harbor Day.

The film should not be confused with Chris Gorak’s 2011 sci-fi film “The Darkest Hour” shot in Moscow and showing an EMP-like attack from Plasma-like aliens (Summit Entertainment) that eat our energy, again a warning about attacks on western lifestyles.

Name:  “Darkest Hour”
Director, writer:  Joe Wright, Anthony McCarten
Released:  2017
Format:  1.85:1
When and how viewed:  Angelika Mosaic, 2017/12/7
Length:  124
Rating:  PG-13
Companies:  Focus Features, Perfect World, Working Title
Link:  official

(Posted: Thursday, December 7, 2017 at 11:45 PM EST)

Pamela Geller’s book “Fatwa” published by Milo

Most trade publishers declined to offer Pamela Geller’s brazen book, “Fatwa: Hunted in America”, and I rather agree, there may have been an element of fear in their declinations. So Milo Yiannopoulos made his little publishing company called “Dangerous Books” (founded after his own fallout with Simon and Schuster over the bad “rumors” about his own supposed advocacies last February) a multiple author one, and took up the project himself, publishing (Miami) her 251-page epistle, which includes endnotes but no index.

The book is not particularly polished and tends to be a bit repetitious, sometimes screed-like; Milo’s own writing skills seem superior to Pamela’s.  But she hits hard the point of drowning free speech with tribalism and intimidation, and the book needs attention.  The book includes a foreword by Geert Wilders, “the Dutch Donald Trump”, who, like Geller, was banned (in his case temporarily) from entering the UK purely out of fear that his presence would agitate violence.  Wilders writes quite succinctly that the Left has turned its head on its traditional causes (especially gay rights) to defend Muslims as a minority.

Pamela Geller is probably best known for her May 2015 “draw the prophet” contest, which was attempted at the Curtis Culwell Center in Garland, Texas.  Having lived in Dallas myself from 1979-1988, I am familiar with the area, on the northeast side of the city, just north of I-635, to the east of the wealthier Richardson and Plano suburbs along 175.  Two extremists attempted to attack the gathering and were shot by security and police, and later killed by a swat team.  Geller only briefly mentions the 2010 “Everybody draw Muhammad Day” organized by Molly Norris, which resulted in her disappearance into hiding in something like a witness-protection program (CNN).  The Norris narrative really would justify the title of the book (as well as reminding me of the 2006 Lifetime movie “Family in Hiding”).  Of course, Norris followed on the Jyllands-Posten Cartoon Controversy in Denmark .  That would culminate in the terror attack and assassinations at Charlie Heebdo in January 2015 in Paris (and generate the documentary film “Je Suis Charlie”).   The book includes an inset of colored photos, including a copyrighted image of Bosch Fawstin’s winning cartoon in the “AFDI Muhammed Art Exhibit and Cartoon Contest”.  The Danish controversy has inspired other books, such as Flemming Rose (now at Cato), “The Tyranny of Silence“, which examine the problem of religious combativeness to silence speech. Let us also remember Bruce Bawer’s earlier “While Europe Slept“, which had covered the assassination in Amsterdam of filmmaker Theo Van Gogh for the short film “Submission“.

Geller does cover in detail the radical Islamist idea that non-Muslims cannot be allowed to draw the Prophet (as Muslims cannot) and points out that no other major religion enforces this kind of idea.  The Mormon church did not react violently to the popular Broadway musical “The Book of Mormon”.  Judeo-Chrisitianity has never embraced such demands even though the Old Testament is filled with concerns over “idol worship” which seemed quite important to me as a child.  Geller sometimes tries to have it both ways, seeming to imply that she sees all Islam as a political entity (seeking political control “for its own sake” of the world, like fascism and communism) rather than just a religious movement. In other places she faults moderate Muslims who simply practice a “personal” faith as not calling out the extremists in the faith (and evangelical Christianity has its own share of violent extremists – in the US sometimes connected to White supremacists, as we all learned from Charlottesville).

But it is the free speech idea toward the end of the book that hits the hardest.  Her writing comes to a head at the top of p. 126 when she (in a section about the cartoon ads), writes, “We cannot submit to the assassin’s veto”.  Indeed. If a person gives in to that, he is nothing (other than someone else’s pawn or prole) and becomes personally dishonored.  But then what about his family?  This is “alternative morality”, like “alternative facts”?  A lot of people don’t get the fracture in our culture over individualism v. tribal loyalty.

Later she will describe the DDOS attack on her own original blog (“Atlas Shrugs”) so severe that her hosting provider dropped her. She reinvented her web presence with the “Pam Geller Report” (link in table below).  Geller accuses big tech companies of colluding to protect themselves from radical vetoes by taking down hate speech – and indeed we saw this with the way Daily Stormer (however extreme in the white supremacy area) got knocked off the web by private companies, as did some Airbnb accounts, after the Charlottesville riots – but this had little or nothing to do with Islam.  She then presents her lawsuit attacking Section 230 of the 1996 Telecommunications Act (the so-called “Communications Decency Act”, the censorship portions of which were struck down by the Supreme Court in 1997). She complains that Section 230 allows big private tech companies to censor (anti-Islamist) content out of fear and intimidation. But in a broader view, Section 230 is part of the legal landscape that allows user generated content on the Internet to flourish because by and large, hosting companies and service providers are protected from most downstream liability for what users do. (The Backpage (sex trafficking) controversy and proposed legislation could present a serious challenge to 230’s effectiveness, but the whole idea of “knowingly”, as with child pornography, would seem to be a critical concept).   Section 230 does allow service providers some discretion in monitoring content to comply with their own terms of service.

Geller is right, however, that the Left as a whole is becoming strident in shutting down speech that the Left believes “legitimizes” certain groups, like neo-Nazis, on the theory that even “meta-speech” from those not directly affected becomes viewed as a kind of incitement (related to what I have called “The Privilege of Being Listened to” elsewhere).  I am concerned myself about this idea.  Could “community engagement” be required to accompany the speech?

Geller covers a lot of other issues, including the banning of “all political ads” by transit systems supposedly because of protests of hers.  That’s true:  I can’t buy an ad for “Do Ask Do Tell” on the DC Metro because it would be viewed as “political advocacy”.  She covers her battles in San Francisco and New York.  San Francisco is particularly in a bind as a “ gay” city.  She points out that in Iran, homosexuals are required to go trans and have sexual reassignment surgery (I had never heard that before).  She is critical of some well-known organizations (CAIR, Council on American-Islamic Relations, not to be confused with the Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights Coalition) and the Southern Poverty Law Center. . She describes her opposition to the Park51 Islamic Center near the World Trade Center site in New York.  She claims that stores enforce Halal standards for meat against non-Muslims.

She also promotes her American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI)   At the end of the book, she makes a plea to join her cause collectively. She ends with “I am one person. So are you. Together we are an army”.

Wiki picture of Chris Culwell Center in Garland, Texas.

Author: Pamela Geller
Title, Subtitle: “Fatwa: Hunted in America”
publication date 2017
ISBN 978-1947979000
Publication: Dangerous Books (Miami), 251 pages, endnotes, hardcover, 11 Chapters, color photos, Foreword by Geert Wilders
Link: Author

(Posted: Wednesday, December 6 at 2 PM EST)

“Marshall”: courtroom drama from early in Thurgood Marshall’s career

Marshall”, directed by Reginald Hudlin, centers itself on courtroom drama for its own sake, a presentation technique for many social and political issues in independent film (as I recall from one particular meeting with an actor in Boston in 2002).

Then, the film is also a partial biography of Thurgood Marshall (Chadwick Boseman), who would become the first African-American justice of the Supreme Court in 1967.

This film focuses on a critical case early in Marshall’s career, as he established a reputation helping young black men otherwise wrongfully convicted. After moving to New York in 1940, he takes a case in Bridgeport, CT, where a young black chauffeur Joseph Spell (Sterling K. Brown) is accused of raping his boss’s wife (Eleanor Strubing, played by Kate Hudson) and throwing her off a bridge.  As the defense starts to unravel in typical courtroom fashion, Thurman concludes that the sex was consensual and could have resulted in a mixed-race baby, and that Eleanor was trying to hide this from her autocratic husband.

Marshall teams up with a former insurance lawyer Sam Friedman (Josh Gad), who has to deal with his own stereotypes of the day as a Jew.

The film contains a backdrop of FDR’s radio broadcasts of the early days of World War II, when the country had to come together, despite its racially segregated military (which Truman would fix in 1948).

The conclusion also does some interesting stuff with the problem of plea bargaining for an innocent but prejudice-baited client.

The film was actually shot around Buffalo, NY.

The original premier by Open Road films was canceled because of coincidence with the Las Vegas shootings (story).

Wikipedia picture of Bridgeport bridge in 1850.

Wikipedia picture of Buffalo, WWII era.

Name:  “Marshall
Director, writer:  Reginald Hudlin
Released:  2017/10
Format:  2.20:1
When and how viewed:  Regal Potomac Yards, 2017/12/3, evening, small audience
Length:  118
Rating:  R
Companies:  Open Road
Link:  official

(Posted: Sunday, December 3, 2017. At 11 PM EST)

“After Louie”: An older gay man and former “ACT UP” activist remains sanctimonius about his wisdom around younger men he is attracted to


After Louie” is a meta-drama about AIDS history, on how younger men perceive it today, and how younger men react when older gay men who survived (like me) get sanctimonious with them.  The film is directed by Vincent Gagliostro, a former ACT UP activist, and

There’s a fairly intricate backstory and setup.  Sam, now about 55 and pretty nimble (even if sometimes “The Cigarette Smoking Man”) and apparently living in Bed-Stey as a hipster painter, has taken on a film project about a friend, William Wilson, who had died some time back. Wilson had in turn told the story of another Act-Up activist, Louie.  A drag queen Rhona (Justin Bond) recalls the memorial service as a summer Christmas party, with no eulogies.

But Sam’s life takes a turn when he meets the still-young 29-year-old Braeden Devries (Zachary Booth), tall, thin, muscular  and articulate (that is, a bit Milo-like), another artist, whose personal charisma dominates the film. Sam is attracted only to younger men, and leaves a $500 tip in Braeden’s shoe the first night, making Braeden “the accidental hooker”. But Braeden already has a boyfriend of contemporary age, a hairy chested shorter man Lukas (co-writer Anthony Johnston), with whom he shared a basement Brooklyn flat.   A plot complication will be that Lukas is HIV-positive with undetectable viral load because of successful modern protease inhibitors.  But he doesn’t tell Sam  — they use condoms, but Sam is actually the aggressor.  There are lines about the pleasure inherent in the implicit shame of being the “bottom man”.  You could certainly get into the issue of health care coverage for both PrEP and protease, which might be at risk with the Obamacare repeal issue now.

There is a bizarre sequence two-thirds through the film where Sam finger-paints Braeden, especially his chest which fortunately had evolved as naturally hairless, however cis Braeden seems otherwise.  All of this sets up a climatic scene in Sam’s studio where he tries to set up a kind of art-show and party.  There’s also a curious bathtub scene at a party with Braeden and Lukas.

The film was screened by Reel Affirmations on World AIDS Day at the HRC Center December 1, 2017, with Rayceen Pendarvis hosting.

The film could be appreciated in relation to “How to Survive a Plague” (2012) by David France.

Name:  “After Louie”
Director, writer:  Vincent Gagliostro, Anthony Johnston
Released:  2017/12
Format:  2.35:1
When and how viewed:  HRC Auditorium, 2017/12/1, full attendance
Length:  100
Rating:  NA
Companies:  (individually produced, no distributor named yet)
Link:  official

(Posted: Saturday, December 2, 2017 at 7:30 PM EST)