Friday, March 2, 2018

5 Things on a Friday: Return to Chaos

Happy Founder’s Day!

For whatever reason, Google News dropped a bunch of links from The Atlantic into my feed this week.  I liked all of them, so maybe I need to subscribe.
Let’s get it on!
So as not to bury the lede, Ta-Nehisi Coates is writing the new Captain America for Marvel Comics.  This article was an op-ed where Coates talks about taking the job and finding his voice within the character.
Captain America, the embodiment of a kind of Lincolnesque optimism, poses a direct question for me: Why would anyone believe in The Dream? What is exciting here is not some didactic act of putting my words in Captain America’s head, but attempting to put Captain America’s words in my head. What is exciting is the possibility of exploration, of avoiding the repetition of a voice I’ve tired of.
I’ll admit that I was skeptical.  But Coates’ thoughts here are fascinating.  
The book debuts on July 4th.
Cultural critics have had a lot to say about how Black Panther’s Erik Killmonger is a sympathetic villain, and how black viewers can identify with his point of view. He’s a casual murderer with a lengthy kill list literally carved into his own body, but Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) isn’t just fighting for personal reasons. He’s avenging his father and his lost childhood, but he identifies with other black people who’ve grown up in poverty, and he wants to use Wakanda’s advanced technology to liberate people of color who’ve been oppressed by Western imperialism. His goals have real political weight, and they’re more interesting than those of a lot of superhero-movie villains, who are often motivated more by that generic, vague standby sentiment, “I am evil and I want to destroy the world.”
There have been media takes discussing how Black Panther protagonist T’Challa sends a bleak message to black viewers by killing his rival. The message, some critics say, is that black liberation is only a dream, and only obedient, peaceful folks can expect tolerance and survival. In this reading of the film, that makes T’Challa the enemy.
Yeah, I don’t know.  I mean, sure, I see the point they’re trying to make and agree with Boseman that T’Challa was “born with a vibranium spoon in his mouth.”  
But also, “when you play the Game of Thrones, you win or you die.”  We don’t dumb that down because this is a movie about black people.  
Killmonger is espousing the same kind of ethnic nationalism that we saw from the Red Skull in Captain America: The First Avenger, and he wants to achieve his goals in much the same way.  Maybe Killmonger’s motives are more comprehensible, but that doesn’t change the fact that the guy wants global race-based jihad.
The movie comes down in favor of a more inclusive approach because of course it does.  How could it not?  This is 2018.
The article is a transcribed interview, so the piece below is quoting Lawrence talking about the film.
The dancing, to be honest, was actually the hardest part of the whole film. And I've never done a foreign accent before. There were a lot of daunting aspects to this movie. The nude scenes, I have to say, I wouldn't have been able to do it for my first time if it wasn't Francis [Lawrence], who is a dear friend. And everybody was so professional and so nice and the camera guys… most of the crew are from “Hunger Games,” so I've known them forever. The worst part was actually just the night before; I didn't sleep at all. Then actually doing it was kind of like, “Oh, that wasn't that scary.”
It was empowering for me, personally, I feel like I didn't even really realize ─ until I had finished that scene ─ how much just fear and insecurity and a complex of being judged had been following me for so many years. And when I finished it, I felt freed of all of those and I actually ended up thanking Francis [Lawrence], which might sound crazy.
I honestly don’t get all these hang-ups about nudity.  I was in the locker room at the gym just this past Tuesday, and dudes were talking about how all the old guys just “walk around naked like it’s no big deal.”  And how weird that is.
So I grabbed my towel and walked straight past them, naked as the day I was born.
Seriously, though, are we not all the same?  I mean, really.  You’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all.  Granted, they come in different shapes and sizes, but still.  
Maybe my perspective is a little screwed from having competed in six-inch lycra banana-hammocks for all those years; I don’t know.  But I don’t get the hang-ups, for real.  What is it that folks are gonna see, exactly?
[T]he 80% share that his administration appears to want from us is well beyond skin—it is flesh, bone and some internal organs. In the case of the potentially $30 billion Gateway Program, it is a project killer. And this is one project that must not be killed, because it preserves and ultimately expands a rail connection that facilitates 200,000 daily trips between New Jersey and Manhattan and 75% of travel between New York City and Washington, D.C. Our region, which provides 10% of the nation’s GDP, and the Northeast, which accounts for 20%, depend on this crucial rail link. The two century-old rail tunnels under the Hudson River are steadily corroding from Superstorm Sandy’s saltwater inundation and must be closed to be properly repaired. The new tunnel has to be in place before that happens in an unplanned fashion, because the loss of either tunnel would reduce capacity to six trains an hour from 24.
Was talking with my buddy Brian about this just this past weekend.  It seems likely that we’re gonna wait until the extant tunnel actually collapses and then panic.  
Because of course we are.
I’ll point out again, as I did to my buddy, that this tunnel is an arch-example interstate commerce--it goes under the Hudson, which is the physical border between New York and New Jersey--and that makes it a Federal issue under the interstate Commerce Clause.  Moreover, as the article notes, it serves an enormous segment of the nation’s domestic GDP.  So really, the entire nation has a stake in its proper function.
I get that no one cares, and that no one wants to pay for anything, but those are still the facts of the case.
[T]he month of February has destroyed any illusion that the White House was getting on track. The president, and the presidency, are as far off the rails as ever. The story that exemplifies this, strangely enough, is steel tariffs.
Wednesday evening, The Washington Post reported that the administration would impose new tariffs on imported steel and aluminum, with the announcement coming as soon as Thursday. The news didn’t just take media organizations, business, and interest groups by surprise: It also came as a shock to many in the White House. Post reporter Damian Paletta says tariff backers kept the news completely under wraps, even omitting it from a high-level trade meeting on Wednesday. That’s impressive information-management for a White House that leaks nearly everything, but it’s also no way to run any kind of organization.
10% tariffs on aluminum and 25% tariffs on steel!  Because, I guess Trump is concerned that we might not have skyrocketing inflation by the midterms, so he wants to double-down on making everything more expensive?
No seriously, I have no idea why anyone would think this was a good idea.
Also, from the article:
“It takes so long to go to court, to get the due process procedures,” Trump said. “Take the guns first, go through due process second.”
Wait, what?  I don’t much support gun rights, but that shit is madness.

The Washington Post points out:
It doesn’t seem like an exaggeration to say that some Republican members of Congress would have called for Barack Obama’s impeachment if he had ever called for taking people’s guns away without due process. It’s certainly a more extreme statement than Obama’s 2008 claim that people in rural areas weren’t voting for him because they “cling” to guns and religion. Even a decade later, Obama hasn’t lived that down. Republicans routinely cite it in their stump speeches.
For the record, Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) was the only member of Congress with the stones to call the president out for his statement.  The rest of them seem to have lost their balls.
What a world!
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Are you entertained?
Readership is WAY down since I stopped advertising this column on Facebook, which has the upside of allowing me to be more opinionated and self-indulgent.  I’ve no idea how that’s going to play out long-term, but for now, I’m having more fun with it.  Does that count for anything?

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