Noodling about Batman Versus Superman (2016)

 

Okay, here is what I liked about Batman v Superman. I am going to talk about things I liked, and things I would have done differently.

It took two viewings for me to “get” this film. The theatrical release was a mess. When I saw the extended version later, in a home viewing, then the point was more clear to me.

First of all, This was a Batman Film. In the first viewing, I was rolling my eyes at the Batman origin story… AGAIN.

BUT … it sets up a thread in this film, which holds the whole film together, and it’s necessary.

Bruce Wayne as a small person, his family goes into a dark place and encounters a Monster. The Monster takes Bruce’s parents away.

This is a part they never actually put in the movie – they sort of expected us to carry it in from previous Batman Films.

Bruce feels small. He feels powerless. In that time of feeling small and powerless, He gets *angry*. He will muscle up and attack the monster that made him feel that way. That’s how he copes with that feeling.

Cut to Metropolis. During the Zod v Superman battle that ruined the city. Bruce Wayne is in the middle of it. He’s a man of action and he actions…. and it’s not that helpful. His business and people are mangled and he can’t stop it or even ameliorate it much at all.

Bruce feels small. He feels powerless. This makes him crazy.

Cut to a few years later. Bruce Wayne is still doing the Batman thing, but this point is subtle. He’s lost his mojo. he’s getting more violent. He’s tracking down a mysterious plot. But his heart isn’t in that. He’s chasing kryptonite. He’s focused on a goal. Muscling up and beating up Superman. Not for anything Superman DID, but because Superman is so much bigger than he is. Bruce must overcome that. That’s how he copes with being scared.

As we go along through this thread, we see things that Bruce notes, but that he doesn’t process. He’s so focused on beating Superman, he’s telling himself that Superman is a threat. But he’s seeing Superman flail with the big blue boy scout thing. But he’s not really processing this yet.

Superman, trying to be a big blue boy scout, looks at Batman. A man who dresses up like a bat and beats the crap out of people before they’ve been found guilty of a crime. He approaches this as Clark Kent and gets told no by Perry White who dresses him down for trying to be a social activist.

So, as Clark Kent, he pokes into it anyway. And as Superman, the Big Blue Boy Scout, he approaches Batman and says “This is not right. Stop it.”

Of course, that just fits right into Bruce Wayne’s form of crazy.

-*-

There’s another thread in here, that I sort of liked, but I would have changed some.

Their Lex Luthor in this film is having a parallel reaction to Bruce Wayne, but it much sicker. This version of Lex Luther is one part Mark Zuckerberg and one part The Joker.

He has a hard on against God. He’s as mad as hell. He was abused and God never helped him. So when Superman and Zod show up and express such terrible power, unknowingly Superman volunteered for the role of God in this lunatic’s revenge Fantasy.

I’d have changed this, some. Some writings of Luthor (I am thinking Mainly of Elliot S Maggins) Paint Luthor as a sort of semi-anti-hero. He’s just too smart for the world. His mad schemes are not aimed at hurting people, he just finds the bounds of normal behavior too restrictive. He transgresses these because he finds normal rules too small to worry about. Things like traffic rules, the FAA or rules against building Godzilla size robots.

This version of Luthor attacks Superman not out of any direct malice, but because Superman is an interesting and difficult problem. Beating Superman is the last mountain to climb.

Other writings (John Byrne) have Luthor as a power-mad sociopath. He fights Superman because Superman is the only power he can’t control. He resents Superman because Superman can tell him “No” and make it stick. And there’s nothing a power mad sociopath hates worse than that. He’s killed everyone who’s opposed him before and now, come hell or high water, Superman’s next.

This is a much darker, and more evil form of Lex Luthor, but more suited to being the villain.

Anyway – in this version, Luthor is a psychopath who’s trying to murder God. he, too, is after the kryptonite.

This is the dark plot Bruce Wayne is stumbling over and not really seeing well, because his heart isn’t in it.

He’s still pulling at threads and gathering clues, because that’s what Bruce Wayne DOES, but he’s not seeing the big picture.

-*-

This Culminates in Luthor playing the Hostage game to force Superman to fight Batman.

This part is very important, too. The fight is big and epic.  In the end Batman wins.

At the very bottom of the fight, when all looks lost for Superman – He yells “You’re letting kill then Martha!” and this short circuits Bruce. “Who told you to say that!?” he rages.

Then Lois rescues Superman (Nice subversion, there) and tells Bruce “Martha’s his Mother.”

Bruce is rocked.

This part is terribly difficult to cram into one scene in a movie and that’s why most people missed it.

In that Moment, Bruce realizes where he is, and where he’s standing.

He has become the monster he was fighting all along. He’s the big scary thing in the dark, hurting someone powerless and fixing to take their mom away.

At this moment, he loses his focus on beating Superman – this obsession that’s been blinding him for the whole movie. He gets his Batman mojo back.

That’s Batman’s arc. That’s his travel though the movie.

-*-

A short aside here. I would not have used Doomsday as the Big Monster. The whole battle with him was … Big, Epic and Destructive, but in a narrative sense it was anti-climactic. It was included in the movie to ramp up the Fan-Boy Kewl factor.

Instead, I’d have used Metallo.

I’d have had two Metallos. John Corbin the canonical Metallo was a criminal. Professor Vale used him as the basis for Metallo, a full-body cyborg, powered by Kryptonite.

I’d have added a second Metallo. A solider, maimed in Battle who is a patriot. Or maybe, to close the circle, one of the guys wiped out in Smallville in Man of Steel.

I’d have had these two guys created by the US Government in an attempt to counter Superman.

The Batman and Lex Luthor arcs are about power and response to power.

So having the US Government create Kryptonite powered cyborgs to try and counter Superman and other Kryptonians makes sense and also adds motivation and goals to them.

But visually, they’d have been too close to Ultron… which would have made it a fight.

I enjoyed Ben Affleck as Batman and I’d cheerfully go watch another Batman film with him in it.

-*-

Superman’s arc in B v S

Okay, this arc brings up one of the serious problems with this movie. A lot of critical parts in this movie weren’t in this movie, or they were happening in the background of the movie.

For the whole Movie, Superman is playing Checkers while Lex Luthor is playing Chess. It’s kind of a stereotype of the Superman is a big dumb brick.

A lot of people had trouble with this groove. In older comics, Superman always wins and he always gets a good result. You never see a car bomb in Metropolis killing piles of people and then Superman finds who did it and brings them to justice. That’s Batman. Superman finds the Car bomb and hurls it into space before it can hurt anyone.

That’s not this movie. That annoys some people, and I get that. Maybe I am weird. I can see that Zach Snyder’s game-world is running by different rules. In Snyders world, sometimes, there’s a “good shoot”. A bad guy will hurt someone and killing him is the only way to prevent this. In Snyder’s game world, it is regrettable, even tragic, but it’s not the end of the world.

Superman enters this movie in a stereotypical rescue of Lois Lane. Lois Lane has taken an extreme risk to interview a brutal African Warlord.

This goes south and there’s a lot of violence.

WHY it goes south is not clearly explained in the theatrical release – that leaves Lois’ arc muddled, muted and unclear.

In the Blu-Ray release, it’s slightly more clear.

There are two factions present when Lois and James Olsen arrive to interview.

Side note. In both releases it’s not made clear who the guy with Lois is. Snyder had him being a CIA officer posing as Lois’ photographer, James Olsen, and he gets killed as soon as things begin to go south. More of the Gritty world view. Again, some folks find this distasteful, and I would not gainsay them.

I am not here to argue with people who don’t like Snyder’s outlook or his story-telling choices. I am just noodling about the movie we got.

So there are actually two factions present when Lois and Olsen arrive to interview the African Warlord, but this is not clear to Lois, or the audience.

One faction is the Warlord’s guys. The other faction are mercenaries who have joined in the Warlord’s fight.

It looks like a CIA Dirty war.

But the reason things go south is that the mercs turn on their African comrades, and massacre them, in such a way as to frame Superman.

They come from the world of CIA dirty wars, but they are actually working for Lex Luthor.

This becomes a public scandal and people are divided. Did Superman massacre the Warlord and his troops?

After Lois comes close to dying and gets rescued, She starts pulling on threads of this incident. she Starts pulling on threads of Luthor’s schemes. It’s watching over her shoulder that we begin to see more of Luthor’s plot.

So Luther’s plot to gather Kryptonite and find a way to destroy Superman forms the narrative Spine of the Movie – Batman’s arc happens in relation to this plot. So Does Supermans.

As we go through the movie, Superman is trying to be the Big Blue Boy Scout. He rescues people. He helps out. And the world isn’t having it. Although his actions are pretty classic Superman (Rescuing cosmonauts from an exploding launch vehicle, and rescuing people from a fire) The world is reacting too hard. He finds himself being an angel or the devil and this bothers him badly. He’s fundamentally a humble person so being regarded in such an extreme fashion is not something he’s really good at coping with.

This culminates in the Congressional scene. The Congress wants to hold an inquiry about the African Incident. Superman shows up. He wants to be the boy scout and that means showing up, respecting the process and testifying under oath.

But Luthor car bombs the congressional session, killing a pile of people.

This really counter sinks the point. Superman is trying to be the Big Blue Boy Scout and it’s NOT working out.

Lois is pretty sure this is Luthor’s doing. Bruce Wayne is really conflicted. He knows something is hinky here, he just can’t put his finger on it. He’s getting ever closer to unravelling Luthor’s plot, even though his heart isn’t in it.

So Superman flies to a remote place and has a crisis of conscience. He tried to do the right thing. He tried to be the Big Blue Boy Scout and a pile of people got killed. He blames himself and worse, he can’t figure out what he’s doing wrong so everything keeps sucking.

That’s when we see Johnathan Kent. This is a great scene.

Johnathan tells Clark a story. When Johnathan was young, he saved his farm. He thought he was a hero. He was lauded. But his attempted heroics had an unintended side effect. Johnathan recounts bitterly that at the moment he thought he was a hero and was being lauded, someone else was getting hurt.

Being a hero was worse than useless.

But then Johnathan met Martha, and he says “The world began to make sense again”

And Clark has an epiphany.

Being a Big Blue Boy Scout wasn’t working, because even though he is a fundamentally humble person, some ego slipped in. He was “I am the boyscout”

That contained enough being about himself, that contained the barest hint of “Look at ME, I am the BOY SCOUT” to sabotage him.

But if he frames himself differently. “I am just the guy who loves Lois.” then he can put aside the self-image that’s been clouding his true self. By not taking the Big Blue Boy Scout as seriously, he can re-connect with his true self.

He gets his Superman Mojo back.

We don’t get to see this play out. We don’t see him get to inject a sense of humor and of not really taking the image of Superman all that seriously, because that arc gets truncated into the hostage scene/Batman fight/Doomsday fight.

But I think that after this epiphany, This Superman would have started to look much more like Chris Reeves Superman, because Clark has learned a big lesson there.

We sort of see this when Clark grabs the Kryptonite Spear and charges Doomsday with it. He’s fighting to defend Lois. He’s doing this to make a better world for Lois. That clarifies what he’s doing.

-*-

Batman’s Dream

Right in the Middle of the film Batman has a nightmare. An apocalyptic dream. He lives in a mad max wasteland. He leads a resistance. His resistance cell gets attacked by flying men. They are defeated and captured.

As a prisoner, Bruce is Confronted by a very angry Superman. Superman seems to be what Bruce is resisting.

As the dream ends, we see The Flash appear in a burst of light. “Bruce! Protect Lois! Lois is the key!” he shouts.

Now, I got what was going on there, because I am steeped in the mythology of Superman and the DC world.

But again, important parts of the Movie are not IN the movie! And this sequence really depends on future movies in the DCEU working out according to the plan in place when they filmed B-v-S

This is an image of an alternate future. In that world, Superman signed on with Darkseid to conquer Earth. Batman and others resisted, but it was pretty hopeless.

Flash’s warning indicates that at some point they lose Lois Lane. Without Lois as a moral and emotional North Star, Superman loses his way.

-*-

Wonder Woman

While investigating Luthor’s scheme Bruce Wayne goes to Lex’s event. I don’t recall why Clark Kent went there.

While trying to sneak around and do sneaky investigative stuff, Bruce runs across a mysterious, beautiful woman in red.

They interact.

It turns out that Bruce has stumbled into another Luthor scheme/Chess-match in progress. It doesn’t seem to relate directly to his anti-Superman campaign directly.

By pulling the thread on this, Bruce discovers that there are meta-humans running loose, and for some reason, Lex Luthor has been gathering evidence on them and has given them code names and branding symbols.

This and Bruce’s Dream foreshadows The Justice League.

-*-

This adds to the clutter of the movie and adds to making the through lines unclear.

Joss Whedon complained about this when making Avengers 2. He was given so many key holes and required scenes foreshadowing or hinting at subsequent movies, that it actually interfered with his ability to tell the story.

I think foreshadowing the Justice League movies, adding in Wonder Woman and having the Climactic Battle be with Doomsday were all pre-mandated by Warner Bros and I think this added up to making a weaker movie.

I enjoyed Wonder Woman’s role in B-v-S, but she wasn’t given enough time or enough to do in the story, so she looks tacked on.

-*-

Doomsday

The scene where Luthor creates Doomsday looks like a mix of the director being forced to A) Find a reason for Doomsday to exist and B) add more foreshadowing about the upcoming JL Arc.

Up until this point, we see Luthor as a chess player. He’s three steps ahead of everyone else and accurately predicts reactions and steers events.

This depicts a very smart guy who enjoys control and predictability. So interacting with a Mother Box, and randomly playing with Kryptonian cloning technology seems… out of character.

I have never liked Doomsday.

In early writings, he was a generic Hulk stand in. The Brickiest brick that could ever be.

Later on, they added things trying to make the character more scary, competent and more filled with story.

All of this, I found to be dumb. A Waste of Time.

“The Death of Superman” was a big event for DC and they reefed on it hard. It created a lot of buzz and talk.

I think it had a similarly destructive effect on the DC universes as STII had on Star Trek.

After the Success of The Wrath of Khan (TWOK) Now Paramount demands that every Star Trek Film be the same Star Trek Film. The Enterprise encounters an over-the-top master villain who will destroy innocent folks. Although all looks bleak, the Enterprise crew rallies, and in a climactic battle The Captain Punches the Big Bad in the Mouth.

Although Nemesis subverted this. Data Sacrificed himself to explode the Big Bads super weapon in his face.

I always found Darksied to be…. Well, mediocre at best.

Although I expect that Kirby’s original story elling was better. And some writers have done interesting things with Darkseid. In many other cases, he’s Psychedelic Space Satan and has little depth.

He has the raw power to go toe-to-toe with Superman, and that’s a thing.

But sometimes that robs Darkseid of the depths of other characters. Like the telling of Lex Luthor that has Lex Luthor trying to defeat Superman, just because that’s the biggest challenge around.

Or Batman being driven to defeat Superman, because of his own broken methods of dealing with trauma and fear.

These are good stories.

The best stories involving Darkseid come when he’s not Space Satan, but when his motivations become, for lack of a better term, human.

Darkseid’s world “Apokalips” is best when it’s not “Generic Space Hell” but when it shows maybe a side with more depth to it.

The canonical Darkseid story is that, for whatever reason, he sets his sights on Earth. Earth is just one of many worlds he’s conquered. All others have fallen hopelessly. But on Earth, costumed heroes, lead by Superman, rise and confront Darkseid.

It seems as though the current arc of the DCEU is adding Mother Boxes on Earth, sort of like the Infinity Stones in the Marvel CU, to prefigure and foreshadow the confrontation with Darkseid.

The Timmverse Animated DC Universe had numerous conflicts with Darkseid and it did Okay with them. It said interesting things about the characters using the fight against Darkseid as the backdrop.

But there’s other things in Play in the DCEU that I think could make for much better stories. I’ll discuss them next time in my review of Suicide Squad.

-*-

One more note about B-v-S

Zack Snyder likes to do Scene pastiches. He likes to borrow scenes from comics and recreate them in his movies.

This served him well with “Watchmen”. “Watchmen” was almost a direct transliteration of the graphic novel onto the big screen. As a fan of the Graphic Novel, I enjoyed the movie. Even though Snyder twisted up the ending some, and I get why, I liked Watchmen.

This urge did not serve him well in B-v-S. He borrowed a LOT from DC comics, especially Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns.

But the effect was to make a sort of Frankenstein effect, where the movie seems, in some ways, like a quilt of scenes from various comics, stitched together and not all fitting together well.

This, combined with elements inferred but not seen, things that happen but are not clear and really muddled editing made B-v-S not a terribly successful movie, IMHO.

Man of Steel was more clear.

One thing the next movie needs to do it allow Clark Kent’s sense of humor to come out.

People complained about the dark gritty tone of Snyder’s movies here and in some ways they are correct. They take themselves very seriously and the characters are not having a very good time.

A story happens when a Character has a very bad time. But sometimes showing a character enjoying himself, especially when he is being true to his higher self, that can be a thing.

Sometimes Snyder slips that in. he really does. But not brightly enough to overcome the dark and sonorous tone his movies often labor under.

Coming up, we’ll have Wonder Woman, with a different Director and we’ll see if she can add some joy to the tone of the DCEU.  I really look forward to that.

 

Nawar-al-Awlawi

Check out this little girl.  Isn’t she cute?

nawar-al-aklawi

About 5 days into Donald Trump’s regime, Navy Seals shot her. In the neck.  It took her two hours to bleed out and die.

She is Nawar Al-Awlaki.  She is Abdulrahman Al Awlaki’s little sister. She was in the compound when Navy Seals attacked.  The people in that compound had no real ability to attack the USA.  A couple of terror attack attempts have originated in Yemen.  Our defensive measures succeeded and they never got close.

Apparently, this raid was on Obama’s desk and he declined it since the intel didn’t support it. Trump sent them in.

It got a Navy Seal killed, too.  His name is Chief Petty Officer William “Ryan” Owens.

Sauce:
http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/31/politics/yemen-raid-daughter-al-qaeda-leader/

The raid was botched
http://original.antiwar.com/william_astore/2017/02/12/lessons-and-propaganda-from-the-botched-raid-on-yemen/

So Trump had Special Forces go kill a bunch of people and get killed or injured.  To make himself look tough.

This is what drives me absolutely ape-shit.  Politicians order these things with an eye towards how it will make them look.  They’re no-shit killing no-shit real human beings to affect how people see them.

That’s fucking depraved.  And Americans either stand by, or make excuses for it.

16683985_10154997564588838_8198922917967268370_n

Let’s go back over this. Killing human beings, or placing them in danger of being killed to score political points is MURDER  MUR-FUCKING-DER..

This raid killed some Al-Qaeda guys, and I have no beef with killing Al-Qaeda guys.  Fuck Them. They, however, are upfront and in your face about killing people to get their way.  They openly say they are going to murder their way to their goals and more unjust and murdery it is, the better they like it.

But, by any sane standards of ethics, it is ONLY okay to ONLY kill Al-Qaeda guys.  Killing people standing next to Al-Qaeda guys for standing next to Al-Qaeda guys is NOT okay.

That’s ethics.  The utilitarian point is this.  Middle-Eastern people have been saying for more than 50 years that Americans do not give a shit about their lives, or their well-being.  All the talk of ethics, and how the Nazis were bad for doing Nazi shit, that apparently only counts for White People.  For Non-White people across the sea, there are no rules and their lives seem to have no value.

This has been a fucking Al-Qaeda talking point since at least 1996.

And here’s Trump making it true.  He is SELLING Al-Qaeda’s pitch to their audience! He’s justifying Al-Qaeda’s bullshit.

American Presidents pretend, really hard and say right to your face they are not mass murderers. And they are LYING.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mass_murder

With that raid, Donald J. Trump joined the ranks of mass murderers in the world. Fuck Him.  In the nose.

That’s the downside to this Flaming Clown Show of an administration. Innocent people died. More are going to.  If Trump stacks up enough of them, he’s going to drive more Al-Qaeda recruitment and donations. And that means more deaths and violence.

The question that’s up in the air is… how many?  Will it be you or me?

Stay safe please. Hopefully someday we can tell young people how we survived all this.

Spencer-skuffel

170120231359-richard-spencer-punch-exlarge-169

Okay – this is going to get ugly, but it can’t be helped.

Richard Spencer is a White Identitarian. by his own account. He thinks the races should be segregated. He advocated for “peaceful ethnic cleansing”

Now I am going to drop into history and I am going to use some ugly words here. But why these words are ugly is telling. This may offend you. I feel being honest about bad things is better than hiding from there.

Spanish for “Black” is “Negro” – I think in Spanish, you’d use a long “e”. N-eh-gro.

The Spanish were among the first to import African slaves to the Americas, so their word “Negro” become the one used to describe these African people.

Over time, in American usage, the term gained a hard “e”. N-ee-gro.

It also spawned the term “Nigger” a description of black people that’s a corrupted form of the Spanish word.

This label was used to create emotional distance. People who engaged in slavery invented racism in order to tell themselves that their victims weren’t really human. So they called Africans and people of African descent “niggers” to de-humanize them. To emotionally place black people in a box where the racist didn’t have to feel empathy for them.

This happens all over human history. It’s one of the saddest things we do. This ability to withdraw empathy from people lays near the heart of every atrocity and crime in history.

Over time, black people wound up adopting the word.

But, among black people, it’s pretty easy to see “nigger” is used to replace “fellow” “That fellow went over there.” “There’s my fine fellow!” “What is that fellow thinking?” and so on.

However, in the mouth of a white person… it’s a reference not to “Fellows” or whatever hip hop song. It’s a reference to that history of dehumanization.

Up until the 1950s, occasionally black people were lynched. Think of the sort of thinking that goes into that! The people who did those lynchings had, like the slavers before them, completely divorced themselves from the humanity of their victim. They turned their empathy off.

The word “nigger” in a white mouth is that dehumanization. That’s what it means.

And you can find examples all over the human experience.

Nazis and Jews. Hutus and Tutsis. Revolutionaries and Reactionaries.

All of these rest on labels. a way to mentally make your victim not really human.

This is how soldiers could dig a mass grave and machine gun women and children into it. They didn’t think of those women and children as really human.

Regarding Native Americans in Sand Creek massacre, Chivington said “Nits make lice.”  He compared human beings to vermin.

Okay – so this – this tendency to dehumanize people. To withdraw compassion and empathy. This is why the word “nigger” is absolutely offensive. By keeping it offensive we remind ourselves that such brutality, that this kind of induced sociopathy – it’s a monster that lives inside us. All of us. It’s part of the Human Condition.

So Richard Spencer says he doesn’t think blacks are inferior, and he doesn’t hate them. He says he just likes white people more and would like to see a “European Ethno-state” achieved by “Peaceful Ethnic Cleansing”

But what Spencer wants to do, is, he wants to emphasize that white people and black people are materially different kinds of human being. (Factually false)

He wants to establish very carefully, definitely and clearly an “Us” (White people) and a “Them” (Black people, or Latino people, or whatever)

This separation of “us” and “them” is the first step on a road that leads to “nits make lice”

He thinks somehow, you could divide humans into different teams, and yet somehow, against dozens and dozens of examples throughout history – that these teams could separate peacefully.

Now people are forever talking about “us” and “them” and will talk your ear clean off about how “we” are all just wonderful innocent and the war is self-defense. They’ll talk about how “they” are hateful, violent, threatening and an imminent danger to everyone innocent.

And this idiot Spencer wants MORE of that shit?

Okay – but this all gives Spencer the benefit of the doubt. It assumes he is what he portrays, a peaceful White Seperatist.

But what does a more cynical outlook look like?

What happens if Spencer is not portraying himself accurately?

Then he becomes not a useful idiot of Nazis, but someone who is trying to smuggle as much white supremacy as he can in through the loophole of freedom of speech. He is working hard to make himself sound like a reasonable proponent of an unusual, radical but entirely innocent and non-violent idea.

But why divide into teams? Why divide into Us and Them? Why demand to be allowed to do this label setting that is a first step and cover for emotionally dehumanizing people?

I honestly do not believe that Spencer is the innocent and rational person he claims to be.

Currently, Spencer is only talk. Hot air. His ideas should be confronted with reason. Facts. Evidence.

Like, what does Spencer plan to do with the last 5 black people who refuse to leave White-Topia because they own houses and do not wish to give them up?  Would he harrass and stalk them and call that free speech?

Mocking (also free speech) derision (free speech) and ridicule are all strong options as well.

Spencer has the right to advocate for his weird little ethno-utopia. And I have an equal right to call him a morally retarded fuck stick for it.

But watch out for this bullshit. Seriously keep an eye out.

Because some assholes –

They want to be seen as rational, reasonable and only using their free speech rights, until they outnumber you. Until they catch you alone with 5 to 1 odds.

Until they don’t have to pander to a wider public audience. They don’t have keep up that persona of being reasonable.

When they feel there will be no repercussions, then you see what they’re really made of.

I strongly suspect Spencer is like that. If there is a God and he is kind, we will never find out.

Until then, yeah our antifa friend there was outside the lines of acceptable behavior.

But I will be pointing and laughing at Spencer. I am under a self-imposed principle not to initiate violence. That doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy an asshole’s misfortune.

Ukraine Redux

Okay, look, the basics of the Ukraine crisis are this

If you look back in history, Ukraine is like East Poland. It’s a flat zone without much in the way of natural defenses – which makes it a target for conquest and for big armies moving through.

Ukraine has a hard time keeping itself in one piece. and at different times the area we now call Ukraine has been both unified and separate kingdoms.

It’s notable that Ukraine shares borders with Poland, Germany, and Russia.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Ukraine

Okay, so Ukraine was captured by the Soviet Union right after WWI.

In the 1920s there was an event called the “Holodomor” –  The Soviets starved an insane number of Ukrainians to death.

Then they resettled the area with Russian speaking folks.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holodomor

So you had Ukrainian-speaking Ukrainians in the west and Russian-speaking Ukrainians in the east.

Then WWII started up.

When Hitler invaded in 1941, Some of the western Ukrainian-speaking Ukrainians jumped up and joined with the Nazis. They saw the Nazis as an alternative to the communists (Who’d just murdered a crazy number of Ukrainians.) One of those guys was Banderas.

Now the Nazis weren’t nice to anyone, but they weren’t as big a pack of assholes to the Ukranian anti-soviet resistance.

But the Russians came back through and crushed all opposition. The Russians were not especially happy with the Ukrainians who sided with the Nazis.

Over the next 40 years, Ukraine was smashed flat (culturally) and became a solid piece of the Soviet Union. The eastern part of Ukraine was built up into an industrial, economic powerhouse. Of course, Russian speaking folks were treated better. There was always an underlying Russian favoring bias in the Soviet Union.

Then when the Soviet Union fell, Ukraine became a separate nation.

Now American Neocons never got over the cold war. They always viewed the world like a giant game of Risk. If the Soviet Union fell apart, if the various nations went their separate ways – that was time to really cinch down the win in The Big Game of Risk.

So despite George HW Bush promising Gorbachev that NATO would not move one inch east – the west’s influence pushed east.

Ukraine had problems. They tried to run a modern, European-style welfare state on top of an outdated industrial base. So the government’s income never matched its outgo.

So they made this up by borrowing.

But if you borrow too much, eventually people are going to measure your debt versus your income. And if those numbers don’t match up well, they won’t lend you money so much anymore.

In the early 2000s, Ukraine suffered badly from this and struggled with too much debt and not being able to properly modernize.

And then the West, especially the Neocons wanted to flip Ukraine from one team to the other team.

So in 2004, there was the “Orange Revolution”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orange_Revolution

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2004/nov/26/ukraine.usa

https://www.theguardian.com/media/2004/nov/27/pressandpublishing.comment
This was a mess and the result was sort of ambiguous.

Russia tussled with Ukraine and imposed sanctions and other measures to try and force Ukraine to, if not stay a loyal puppet, at least to not become a client state to the west.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/economics/11827542/Ukraine-debt-crisis-Russia-refuses-to-accept-terms-as-Kiev-finally-secures-debt-write-off-deal-with-creditors.html

But in 2014 it started up again
http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-26079957

(This article has a good timeline as well)

So when there was a coup and “Protestors” overthrew the Ukrainian government – there was a problem.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Right_Sector

The problem was that not only were the protestors and some of the militants aligned with fuckin NAZIs, but they were keenly aware of ethnicity.

They were Pro-Ukrainian Speaking Ukrainians (From west Ukraine) at the EXPENSE of Russian Speaking Ukrainians (from east Ukraine)

So when the new government started promulgating rules banning Russian…

https://www.rt.com/news/minority-language-law-ukraine-035/

The Russian Speaking folks felt that the Kiev Government was not only illegitimate but actively hostile to them.

So they declined to submit to the Kiev government and decided to go their own way.

Now in Crimea, their response to this was to hold a plebiscite and leave Ukraine in favor of re-joining Russia. Crimea was part of Russia until 1956 when a drunken Kruschov handed it over to Ukraine.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crimean_status_referendum,_2014

Not only were a huge majority of people in Crimea Russian speaking people of Russian Descent, but Crimea holds important Russian naval bases. So Russian Sailors and their dependents make up a lot of the population the of the area.

Now the Kiev gov’t was NOT HAPPY about Crimea leaving. But it was all peaceful and largely the desire of the Crimea people.

But when the large Eastern cities and provinces started to peel off, Kiev had a serious problem.

Although outdated. the eastern Ukrainian cities were industrial and heavily populated. They are a MAJOR source of tax revenue for the Kiev government.

If these eastern areas leave, then the Kiev government loses a LOT of money

and STILL has to pay off the Debts racked up by previous spendthrift Ukranian governments!

So Ukraine sent their army to stop the eastern cities from leaving.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_in_Donbass

But that gives Putin a problem.

Russians in Russia are aware of their cousins and family members over in eastern Ukraine. They want them to be protected.

Putin tried to get word to the Kiev government that he was paying attention to how Russian speakers were treated in Ukraine.

But Kiev is panicking about provinces and cities peeling away.

So Putin has to take steps to protect Russian-speaking Ukrainians of Russian descent, or he’ll be seen as weak to threats right on his border. And Russians along that border who’s cousins are being abused will be pissed.

But wars are F-ing Expensive! No one knows what the west would do if the Russians rolled Armored divisions into Ukraine and hit a reset button that way.

So Putin split the difference. He set it up so deniable Russian Soldiers could go “Volunteer” with the eastern Ukrainian rebels.

This has caused this Ukrainian Civil War to drag on, be horribly expensive and cost a lot of lives.

Of course, if they asked me, I’d say to allow a sort of cultural federalism, to not fuck with Russian-speaking Ukrainians about speaking Russian.

I’d also work for a sort of economic open borders policy, so Russia and Germany can move goods and services back and forth, with Ukraine taking a light touch each way.

If Russia and Germany and Poland become strong trading partners, then they get richer. If they get richer all the rest of us do, too by second, third, fourth and so on order effects.

Happy humans are just better for everyone.

This sort of policy would cause Neocons to shit themselves and say silly things, which is another benefit of that policy.

Now, let’s be clear here. Putin is NOT a nice man.

Ask the Chechnyans
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_Chechen_War

Or people who live in Apartment Buildings in Moscow
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1999_Russian_apartment_bombings

And let me be clear THERE – I strongly suspect a Russian faction of those bombings, using them as an excuse to form a more centralized and powerful government.

But if you look at Ukraine and Syria

What you see is a Dictator on a Budget. You see a strong man with a limited bank acccount. He is using force in an extremely thrifty, careful and parsimonious way.

This isn’t surprising when you considered that Russia has a GDP comparable to Italy.

They really can’t AFFORD a big conventional forces confrontation with a competitor power.

BUT Also remember

All the powers in WWI thought the war would be a done deal in a few months, and made their plans based on this assumption. They were broke early on in the war (Everyone fighting was) and they borrowed themselves almost into penury to keep the fight going.

The economic instabilities of the 1920s and 1930s in Europe can, in some measure, be traced back to the U.K. admantly refusing to admit just how bad they’d broken their bank fighting WWI, and so monkeying with the British Pound to keep it’s per-unit purchasing power up.

If modern powers are calulating fighting a war with similarly stupid unrealistic assumptions – then once it goes, the powers fighting will have no choice but to fake it until they collapse or win.

This image of Russia as a newly aggressive threat in the world really is not consistent with the facts and Russia’s actions. They’re not good guys, but they’re not rolling 50,000 tanks, either.

The Ukraine problem has a lot of East v West stupidity behind it and could be resolved if people agreed to live with each others differences, and if we could get Neocons who think they’re playing Risk away from the levers of power.
The American Media loves White Hats and Black Hats and has volunteered Russia to be the Black Hats, so they only tell the parts of the Ukraine story that support the image of Russia as black hats.

The real story is much more nuanced, complex and needs solutions that don’t buy into old story lines as part of their premises.

Abdulrahman al-Awlaki

This is the last time I am going to post this. Obama leaves office in 5 days.

The picture is Abdulrahman al-Awlaki

abdulrahman-al-awlaki

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abdulrahman_al-Awlaki

 

They’ve updated the story since I last checked.

“Two U.S. officials speaking on condition of anonymity stated that the target of the October 14, 2011 airstrike was Ibrahim al-Banna, an Egyptian believed to be a senior operative in Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.”

Obama and his administration were never held to account for this killing and most people don’t even know what happened.

Abdulrahman was never charged with a crime, never tried for a crime, never found guilty in any court of law. The killing was completely outside the law.

And no one called Obama out on it.

Targeted Killings

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Targeted_killing

These are bad ideas. They will come back to haunt us. Obama could have put this outside the reason of the US president and never did.

So. If you are of a mind to, remember Abdulrahman al-Awlaki

Like Move and Waco

Another step in the wrong direction.

Move
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MOVE#1985_bombing

Branch Davidian Massacre
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waco_siege

 

quote-the-nationalist-not-only-does-not-disapprove-of-atrocities-committed-by-his-own-side-george-orwell-22-12-36

 

Reposted for Evidence

THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 223, May 11, 2003

Why I Took Down “Old Glory”
by Jay P Hailey

http://www.ncc-1776.org/tle2003/libe223-20030511-03.html
I used to love my flag. I used to love the little 3 X 4″ ones they’d hand out every 4th of July. I’d take them home and plant or post them all over my house.

I had Stars and Stripes pins. I went and bought a lapel pin after 9/11. A friend chided me gently about jumping on the bandwagon and I said, “You know I’ve been a flag waver all along. I’ll have these things up and displayed even after it’s no longer cool.”

My friend nodded. He’d seen my collection.

I can read history. I know of some of the terrible crimes that have been committed under that flag. (Ask any Native American). But to me this flag represented a promise. a Promise that if we kept liberty in mind and kept taking steps in that direction, maybe one day it would really stand for the principles of that vague promise.

Everyone equal under the law, everyone has the same rights, by their very nature. I own myself. You own yourself and there would be lines a just government just wouldn’t cross.

The Reagan Administration worried me, using the flag more for PR and symbolism that substance. Nice photo ops of the great leader while the promises went unfulfilled.

Then the Flag Burning amendment came up. I never spoke at any great length with anyone on a “pro” side of that. The couple of people I approached became very emotional and angry, difficult to speak with.

One patch of dirt calling itself Freedonia is pretty much the same as another patch of dirt calling itself Anvilania. The difference is in the principles.

People seemed will to throw away principles in favor of an incoherent shriek that our patch of dirt is better “just ’cause!”

My faith was restored (a little) when the Flag Burning Amendment died, and had its little corpse dragged around to make political hay. Just another PR stunt. Nothing to see here.

Then Sept 11 happened. We were all new Yorkers that day, and we were all Americans. The individuals doing what they felt right lifted my spirits like I can’t express to you. The immediate aftermath independent of the government was one of this country’s shining moments. This is when we saw some of what people were made of.

There was some backlash against Muslims and Arab Americans. My True Love went up to the Muslim-American Center here in town and placed her delicate body between it and any possible threat, and she wasn’t alone when she did it.

Repeated calls went out that can be summarized “Hey, don’t be an idiot, don’t take it out on our Muslim and Arab neighbors.”

I was on cloud nine. “This is who we are!” I thought.

Then the Patriot act passed and I thought “Uh oh!” and hoped it was just another PR stunt. It’s not.

Then came the war in Afghanistan. 3000 Afghanis dead and counting (Plus over 200 of our brothers and sisters in uniform, and counting). W made all sort of promises with my tax money, and then didn’t live up to any of them. (Instead all of our tax dollars go to buy 36 Virginia Class attack subs that have no purpose in the world of today, or tax cuts to corporations that contribute millions to the re-election campaign.)

Then we hear of Americans being taken prisoner and hauled off without the benefit of counsel or due process.

Then the war in Iraq. We all new it was coming the moment the President sighed like a little boy forced to apologize and marched into the U.N and said “My way or the highway!”

I remember the goofy rationalizations and lies, and an unstoppable momentum towards attacking a country that posed us no threat at all.

Now there are 2500 Iraqi people dead (probably a lot more) and counting. Another 200 American Service people dead, and counting.

People are still cheering. If the aftermath of 9/11 is the best of our country, the war in Iraq is our dark side. The news says a lot of people support the war. The permanent, floating “War Against Whatever It Is, This Week”. Some people “Support Our Troops”, which I take to mean like rooting for the home team in the big game.

Except this ain’t the super bowl. 400+ of our people would are gone and so are tens of thousands of people in Afghanistan and Iraq. Those aren’t touchdowns. Those are dead human beings.

I support our troops. Let’s bring them home, feed them cookies and buy them drinks! Sending them out to die for the cause of Halliburton’s bottom line is not supporting them by any definition I can call sane.

Any of the promises or principles that I used to feel were attach to that red, white and blue rag have been obliterated. It’s just the gang colors of the meanest batch of monkeys on some random patch of dirt.

I had to take it down. I looked at Stars and Stripes but instead I saw Swastikas, Hammers-and-Sickles, red flags, Jolly Rogers and maybe a crusader’s cross or two.

I hear Fox News, CNN and MSNBC giving Bush blowjobs right out of the Gobbels manual for fascist propaganda, always with that rag fluttering nearby.

It’s not a promise any more. It’s a lie and a direct threat of violence.

Recently I began to purchase Gadsdens. The yellow flag with the rattlesnake and the legend “Don’t Tread on Me”.

I can believe in that. Leave me alone. I don’t want to play “Justify the Nazi” any more. I don’t want to pay for his war machines and his jackbooted thugs. I certainly don’t want them pointed at me.

America once might have been the land of the free, but now it’s the land of the free ride for rich oil barons and corrupt energy executives paid for with the fruits of my labor. This monster is paid for in the blood of people who I’ve never met and who now want to kill me.

So I took down the symbol of the Texas Reich, the symbol of the largest, richest and one of the more brutal Evil Empires in all history. I would no sooner fly the swastika in my home or office.

They took a symbol I loved and believed in and destroyed it.

Goddamn them. Goddamn the Bush administration and their corporate cronies and all their power hungry thugs who don’t understand that it’s just another set of gang colors unless it means something.

I am going to get used to saying it. I bet I’ll be saying it more and more over the next several years.

“If you keep doing what you’re doing, You’ll keep getting what you’re getting.”

Okay. You look at some Scandals, like Flint Michigan, or other things and we run into a serious problem.

For my example, I am going to use the Ford Motor Company Pinto disaster of the 1970s

http://auto.howstuffworks.com/1971-1980-ford-pinto12.htm

The punchline of the scandal was that it became clear early on that Ford Pintos had a design flaw in early models that made the fuel tank likely to rupture in a rear-end collision. Ford knew about this, but elected not to enact a fix for this because they estimated that fixing the problem would cost them $137 million while paying off lawsuits would cost them $37 million.

Stuff like this happens all the time.

Here is my premise.

Humans are tribal. We tend to identify with members of our tribe first and outsiders second.

So when the officials of Ford Motor Company were exposed to the facts of the Pinto problem, they had a complete failure of empathy for the people who’d be hurt.

I think they identified more with the abstract entity of Ford Motor Company, than they did with the injured people and survivors of people who died because of the Pinto problem.

Similarly official with the Flint Michigan Government identified more with their Abstract entity, acting to protect it from embarrassment rather than empathizing with children and other people injured by lead in the water.

So – what is this about us, that we’d put Ford Motor Company or the Flint City Government ahead of real, no shit human beings?

I think it’s a matter of misplaced empathy. I think these people subconsciously relate to the Ford Motor Company or the Government of Flint, as though these entities are people,  as if these entities are people with much higher social status in their group.

I don’t think the form of a corporation is to blame. I don’t think the form of a city government is to blame, in this case.

I think what we’re seeing is a case where human emotional and social reactions honed by millions of years of evolution is a poor fit for relating to problems between Ford Motor Company and other people.

Note, that the people who made this decision at Ford worked at Ford every day. They went to Ford and did Ford things with Ford people for Ford reasons.

They knew someone was going to be injured, but they didn’t know who. They didn’t know this person, they had no interaction. So for the Ford Executives, Ford as an entity was much more present, real and an active part of their lives, while possible accident victims were more abstract and notional.

-*-

I have been hearing about a book called “Thinking, Fast and Slow”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thinking,_Fast_and_Slow

I am digging into it, slowly.

I think that the people who make decisions like the ones I am looking at above are reacting, subconsciously to their Organization like a person. They’ve unwittingly engaged their sympathy and empathy with their group, and withdrawn it from other people who are being actually harmed.

I think that if people were properly educated, they could overcome this system 1 rooted loyalty to their group with a better, but slower system 2 loyalty to a system of ethics that outlawed abstract groups hurting real human beings.

But it seems like no one was aware of this effect and no one knew how it could have such negative consequences.

We’re seeing a lot of this. From Flint, MI to the US Federal Government

http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/06/obamas-whistleblowers-stuxnet-leaks-drones

to the Pentagon

http://fortune.com/2016/03/10/the-f-35-is-still-a-mess/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moral_injury

The V.A.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Veterans_Health_Administration_scandal_of_2014
And the Dakota Access Pipeline

What to Know About the Dakota Access Pipeline Protests

-*-
It’s clear that people in organizations all over the world, need the tools (Identifying system 1 and system 2 thinking) and the awareness (To be aware of misplaced empathy and disregarding people who really SHOULD receive empathy) to be able to more effectively choose to do the right thing.

We see time and again, in scandals, usually the breaking of the scandal is an ugly surprise. For many people involved in such a scandal, That’s a scandal at all is a surprise. Then they quickly begin to cover up the bad decisions that have resulted in a serious problem.

Obviously, these people have had a point in time, somewhat earlier – where they came upon a decision to be made. Many seem not to have recognized the gravity of the decision facing them.

When encountering such a decision, these people were unarmed. They did not have the tools, or the awareness to understand that, yes, if you chose to hurt human beings, it DOES suck. The decision came and caught them unaware and defeated their ethical code before there was much of a fight.

We need to arm people against these bad decisions.

And, if people elect to place the well-being of an abstract entity over the well being of human beings – there needs to be a lot of transparency and strong feedback.

But also note. How often do people in a government or a corporation start keeping secrets? How often to they take actions to keep facts, choices, events and actions out of sight of people outside the organization?

Human tribalism is interacting with these large organizations in an extremely negative way.

I’d like to see this addressed. I like to see us try and move away from this tribal impulse, even if it means making a sustained and conscious effort not to do this sort of thing.

Where I hang out, sometimes, they have a saying. “If you keep doing what you’re doing, You’ll keep getting what you’re getting.”

I think that slogan is a great summation of politics at the end of 2016 and beginning of 2017.

We keep doing the same things and getting the same things as a result.