Top Ten Science Fiction Movies. Can't Do It.

This is going to be a bit like stream of consciousness to the reader. My apologies in advance for this if you find it impossible to follow.
I clicked a Youtube video link not realizing I was going on a journey that would take all day.


This kind of slapstick comes across as too funny. Too funny as in 90 minutes of this would kill me with stupid. I might watch it. I might not. I can't say. It is billed as featuring 40 previous iconic “Star Trek” actors so I might have to see it. But then that is what the filmmakers are counting on when they make these kinds of movies.

While I'm sitting there contemplating whether to hazard my diminishing quantities of brain cells watching so much stupid at one time (like a Marx Brothers film) the dreaded Youtube autoplay kicked in. First it was this short.



Camera motion, blood effects. Chopping one's own arm off. Yeah, I can see walking out of all of these (I haven't watched any American Horror Story. It's just not my style. I am surprised the wife hasn't wanted to watch it) which is why I haven't seen some of them. Infrasound would explain a lot of things about certain horror films and my reactions to them.

Crap. Autoplay kicked in again while contemplating Tree of Life (Should I, shouldn't I? Have I already? Is this me thinking?) What the hell will be next is anybody's guess.



I've seen all but three of these (those three are now in my Netflix queue)  Two or three of them are on my "must see" list when someone asks me what to watch next (hint; I have a soft spot for Bruce DernRoy Scheider and Sam Rockwell) For the inquiring minds, Heavy Metal was a movie about an adult comic book which apparently nobody ever admits to reading, not about the rock music which may or may not have been either inspired by or the inspiration for the magazine.  The artwork in the movie is drawn directly from the various illustration styles in the magazine. Yes, I will admit to reading a few copies in my youth. Regrettably I don't own any of them anymore.

Had Pitch Black made it on their list, it would have been four movies. I am once again victimized by autoplay.



Not sure all of these films are worth watching, much less being best films you should watch but haven't. Foreign language films are not for everyone, so I don't generally recommend them to people I know who won't be up for reading subtitles, even if I might watch them myself.

I would personally recommend A Boy and His DogThis is where the list starts to go sideways for me. This and the list that follows this one. It starts with the still image that introduces the list.

Don't get me wrong, I think 2001 is a fine film. I think you should watch that and 2010 back to back. But 2001 is a snooze-fest. It is glacially slow as a movie.  I don't think a lot of people watch that movie over and over. They remember watching it as a child, but haven't tried to watch it recently. I have, several times.  Like the 60's it was created in, it takes the right kinds of drugs to appreciate this film properly.

Don't get me wrong, I love Stanley Kubrick.  He has three films at least that I would put in the category of Best Science Fiction Films. Not just 2001 but also A Clockwork Orange and Doctor Strangelove.  Most film critics will speak highly of Stanley Kubrick and his films. He is an auteur, his films bear the indelible mark of his authorship.  But few of his films are light or fun to watch.  You don't just pop in A Clockwork Orange for a bit of light afternoon entertainment.

If they can recommend Strange Days without a caution (and I wouldn't do that. Be prepared for murder and rape scenes conducted in the first person) then A Clockwork Orange is a walk in the park to watch.



No top ten list of Science Fiction is complete without Metropolis and Forbidden Planet.  You cannot be a science fiction film fanatic without having seen those two films and recommending those two films. They can't be on a list of films you haven't seen; and if they are, your fan credentials will be subject to revocation.

Metropolis is arguably the mother of all modern Science Fiction, a film that has been revisited and reimagined in nearly every tale of dystopia, every film that questions who we really are, any film that posits the difference between man and machine.  In the same vein Forbidden Planet is the forebear of Star Trek, Star Wars, etc.  Those two films have to be on the top ten list or the list is invalid, in my opinion.

Especially any list that credits The Empire Strikes Back as the best science fiction film of all time. I doubt very much that anyone who wasn't raised on Star Wars will think that Empire Strikes Back (much less any other Star Wars film aside from the original) should be on the list, much less topping it.  Well, perhaps the original Star Wars; not the now-titled Episode 4, but the film which aired back in 1977, the film that may single-handedly require my maintenance of a functioning laserdisc player in my home.  You remember, the movie where Han is the only person to fire a blaster in the famous bar scene? That film goes on a top ten list, if I could ever settle for ten.

I'm lying by the way. I won't maintain the laserdisc player just for Star Wars. I will do it for the making of disc for The Abyss, for Tron, for the pressing of Highlander 2 Renegade cut and the copy of 1776 with the bits Jack Warner personally cut out of the film spliced back in and the splice marks still visible. I can link the version of 1776 that says "director's cut" but there isn't any way to watch the version I like other than on laserdisc. Same for the making of the Abyss which goes into the ordeal of constructing a set inside of and then flooding an abandoned nuclear reactor vessel so that real underwater shots could be pulled off with that deep water feel. The Abyss (special edition only) is one of the many, many films I would have to include in any list of Science Fiction films worth compiling.

There are a lot of good films included in their list, but I disagree with most of the films in the top five. I like them but they are all modern films. Derivative works of derivative works, unless you are talking about the Matrix or the Terminator (Not Terminator II. It's good and a decent rewatch, just not as good as the first movie which it is derived from) both of which should be way up the list, higher than the Matrix actually appears.

Ten through six are all good solid films. I need to rewatch the War of The Worlds. I haven't seen it since the 70's on broadcast TV.  I have the box set of all the original Planet of the Apes films. They all rewatch well aside from the last one.

Children of Men was a heart-wrenching film to watch, but I have little doubt it will survive as a cautionary tale of meddling with mother nature. The original version of The Day the Earth Stood Still was almost unique in its time period with the portrayal of aliens as not being hellbent on destroying us (a fact that the equally good but not as memorable remake decided to change) which lends it the credibility to withstand time. Children of Men is actually one among many films which portray humans as our own worst enemy.

Jurassic Park is showing signs of age, despite their insistence that it isn't. Maybe it is the weight of the miserable sequels that colors my impression of it. Can't tell yet. But Aliens? Really, Aliens but not Alien? I agree the sequels that follow are best forgotten, but how do you watch Aliens without first watching Alien? Can't be done.

Which is the problem with derivative works and especially sequels.  Without context the film is divorced from most of its meaning and has to survive on its own merit alone.  This is why The Empire Strikes Back will not be remembered as the best science fiction film ever. Because without the first film (1977 Star Wars) you don't know who the Empire is. Why the villain being Luke's dad is a problem. Who the hell Luke is in the first place.

If we're just going to recommend sequels, movies that you have to have watched the previous versions to be able to appreciate, I'd like to put in a shameless plug for Terminator Genisys (deja vu if you've read my last post carefully) As I've noted when recommending previously, the first 10 to 20 minutes of the film (after the first time jump) is a shot for shot tribute to the original film. It is the most beautifully made and scripted film that I've seen for awhile now, and it builds on established previous entries into the film canon, builds on them then knocks them all down, in ways that the viewer will not see coming. If you want to watch a good sequel, this is one for you to enjoy.

If I was going to make a list of ten films you probably haven't seen recently (if ever) but speak highly of, 2001 is going to be top of that list. In fact, most of the Top 10 list that WatchMojo put together are films that I guarantee the compilers have not rewatched recently.

If you surf over to the WatchMojo website you will notice that they do an awful lot of top ten lists.  Way, way more of them than is healthy, quite frankly. In fact, I can't even find the films-by-decade lists that are mentioned in the Top Ten list just to see if the films I think are relevant are on those lists. I think that creating these endless list films that they produce keeps them from taking the time to enjoy the life that they rate in top ten increments several times a day.

I appear to have stumbled upon the kind of site that internet surfers loathe.  The dreaded clickbait. The site that sucks up all your life and time, without giving you much in return. This explains why their films list is mostly modern films, or films recently remade with modern versions, like War of the Worlds and The Day the Earth Stood Still. Not an in depth analysis of any real kind at all. And I've written how much on this subject now? Several pages, at least.

So what about a real Top Ten List? The ten best SF (Science Fiction) films ever made? I don't think I can create a list of only 10 of them. I tried to create one of those kinds of lists ages ago on Flixster. I soon found out that limiting the list to ten films requires that I eliminate films that are essential to understanding the artform.  Films like Metropolis and Forbidden Planet.

The profile link for my list says I have 15 films on it. I can't see them because their website enters an error when I go to click on my own created content.  The web 2.0, more broken than the web 1.0 and now featuring more advertising. Luckily I copied a version of it off and posted it to this blog. I have no idea if it is the last one or not, but here is at least one of my lists.

Avatar should be in the top five. We can start with that. A lot of people love to hate on Avatar, but it is the film that inspired the resurgence of 3D and it wasn't the 3D in the film that was remarkable. It is the fact that you cannot tell the animation from the real images in the film that makes it so remarkable. That you can have such a realistically animated film and not cross the uncanny valley in the process.  It is an amazing film, soon to be a series of 4 films.

Top Ten worthy films produced since Avatar? I can offer a few.

Ex Machina. Highly rated and very watchable, it explores the boundaries of what is or isn't human better than any film I've seen on the subject.  A film worth mentioning that is also in the vein of Ex Machina is Transcendence, one of those poorly received for no good reason films, consequently not a film that would make a top ten list.

Because commercial success figures into the calculation of what is or isn't good, what is or isn't preserved, what is or isn't watchable by people who pick up the material to watch later.  It was highly rated and it made a lot of money, it is also still a valuable experience to have, even though I don't know who Luke is (figuratively, from the future) if you want to make lists that don't make you sound like an idiot, you have to take all of those metrics into account. And since future prediction is something we humans suck at, most of our lists will be utterly worthless.

Take, for instance, Gravity. This is a fine film. Highly rated. Made lots of money. Probably won't be remembered (my apologies to Sandra Bullock) because it deals with current technology and doesn't do that really well, even though the cinematography is excellent an the acting is nearly faultless.

In the same vein the mainstays of current cinema, the sequel, the franchise, none of those films survive without the other films in the series, like the Saturday morning serials of old.  Consequently no Star Wars, no Star Trek, no Mad Max, no Alien will go down in history as worthy of mention, unless the first in the series merits it, or there is established a place for serial media (like television) to be consumed in the order it was produced.  This gives it context, gives it meaning it doesn't contain by itself.

That is why Alien appears at number five in my old list, and Aliens at number 10, and those are the only sequelized films on the list. Because films that are part of another genre, that can't hold their own alone, will not be remembered. This means most of the comic book movies will also not be on any lists, if we can call those Science Fiction and not Fantasy. That is an open question, so don't dismiss it.  If we're talking fantasy films, that is a whole other ball of wax.

Blade Runner would also have to be on the list. It is iconic. Worth mentioning is Dark City a twisted little film with the same feel and a completely different storyline. Both of those border on fantasy, so I could see how they would be excluded from a hard SF list.  That is, if anyone actually knew what hard SF was, could meet others who thought they knew and that group could then agree on what the term meant.  I consider that likely to be a fantasy in and of itself.

As I go down that old list, I can discard several films as being temporarily relevant. Films like Serenity. I still love it, but I am reconciled with the show never returning now. I keep hoping the Firefly online game will release, but I'm beginning to suspect that is also not going to happen.

Vanilla Sky and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind really are hard to rewatch. The Truman Show is still watchable, but really not surprising in the current age of reality TV. You can easily see someone pretending not to be on camera, deluding themselves into thinking the illusion is real. Sadly, it is all too believable now. Truman not knowing he was on camera? That is hard to believe.

I think A.I. should still be on the list, but it may fall off soon. We are just now getting to the point where robots are real things, much less making them capable of passing for human. The singularity that futurists are still fascinated with is portrayed loosely in that film, making it still relevant. Once the robots are among us, there is no telling what will happen next.

The last film that I've seen that should probably be included in any top 10 list is The Martian. Worlds better than Red Planet or Mission to Mars (Hollywood is so incestuous) both of which I paid money to see (Red Planet is good fun, just not good science fiction) The Martian holds up to the most intense scrutiny of scientists (other than the storm at the beginning) making it the most solidly science based fiction film since 2001.

Worthy of mention is Interstellar. Almost a time travel story (almost!) it mixes science and fantasy and comes up with a decent little film exploring the near future and what we might be facing soon if we aren't careful.

Which brings me to the last great film that Robin Williams was in before he died, the movie The Final Cut; the story of a man afraid to live his own life, so instead spends his time authoring the stories of other people's lives.

The actual current list? I'm still working on that.

After Legion is Irrelevant

Top of my feed this morning Breakfast Topic: What comes after Legion?

I honestly find myself wondering how World of Warcraft could possibly top Legion. I mean, where do we go from here? A full-scale invasion of the Burning Legion a scant sixteen or so years after the last one. Considering it took them ten thousand years to return after their first attempt, it feels like the intervals are getting shorter 
Because they are. 
So I’m wondering what happens this time. If we beat back the Legion, it’ll have to be a pretty decisive win, wouldn’t it? Not just shutting down the portal they’re using to invade, we’ll also have to eradicate every last trace of them: every cultist and every demon that’s currently on Azeroth. That’s a mammoth undertaking. But if we don’t do it, when will the next invasion come? 
So what do we do after we accomplish it? Is it finally time for us to go to Argus? Take the fight to the Legion’s doorstep? 
I find myself wondering how many worlds are left out there. Are there allies for us to find? Is there a grateful cosmos waiting to be delivered from the Legion or are we one of a few ragtag holdouts, enduring in spite of the Fallen Titan and his army of annihilation? What else is there for us to do once we stop the Legion this time? 
What do you all think? What’s next, after Legion?
There are so many problems with this question, it pretty much requires that I wax literal in my attempt to unpack it.  Oh, you'd like me to do that? Here goes.

A quote from Terminator Genisys
Time doesn't exist in the sense that Matthew Rossi at Blizzardwatch suggests, especially in fantasy worlds. Time isn't a set interval marching in unmalleable increments down to the end of time.  Time is more gas than fluid or concrete. It can be compressed or expanded to fill whatever boundaries we place on it.

But we can set that aside because we aren't talking about reality, but rather fantasy.  It has already been established that the Legion lives outside of time and space. They don't see time as temporal creatures (like humans) see time.  Consequently the interval can be ten thousand years or next week, it is the same difference to them.

Blizzard can literally have every expansion after this one be The Burning Legion Returns and it can be factually defended from within established World of Warcraft canon.

So what comes after the current expansion is pretty much irrelevant, from a story perspective. It's already been established we can travel to parallel universes and port to any world within the current universe of Azeroth. The Burning Legion can be there, mucking up the world. Or not be there, if the developers decide not to include them. Mists of Pandaria added the only part of Warcraft III that I felt was left out of World of Warcraft,  so I can't suggest any new content just right off the top of my head.

The real question is, will the next expansion be something the player base will want to play? That is quite literally the multi-million dollar, multi-million playerbase debate.

Since I've still not bought Legion (#noflynobuy) I think they've already gone there. They've been headed that way for quite some time. The first hint of their direction was in Mists of Pandaria. In MOP  flight was an endgame-only perk. You had to be at top level in the game to be able to fly. Contrary to what the naysayers insist, this was a retrenchment from both Cataclysm and Wrath of the Lich King, where flight was incorporated from the beginning of the expansion, and a return to the old ways of Burning Crusade. With Warlords of Draenor the world of the original game, where no flight was possible, was reintroduced.

This is, to put it bluntly, going backwards.

I get it, the new owners (Activision) have a gameplan that requires Blizzard to milk every dollar out of the playerbase that they can get their hands on, while simultaneously devoting as little programming time to the game as they can get away with. This means simplifying the game in ways that are less noticeable if the players cannot simply fly over obstacles.

Here is an example.  The world of Outland is physically bigger than the old world of Draenor. I have proven this to myself by flying across regions of the game map in both areas. This fact is the reverse of established game lore, that Outland is smaller than Draenor because of the destruction wrought by the Burning Legion. The world can be smaller because in Draenor you were expected to fight across the ground for every inch of territory you wanted to traverse. Constraining the players in this way allows the developers and programmers to skip creating the larger worlds that Warcraft is known for, making it possible for them to economize on programming time.

The Broken Isles of Legion are demonstrably smaller than every single expansion that has come before in World of Warcraft. Why are we limited to just the Broken Isles? Why isn't the invasion everywhere on Azeroth simultaneously? This is the Burning Legion, they have uncounted demons at their beck and call.  They could easily be in every city on Azeroth simultaneously.

But that would be one whole hell of a lot of programming.  It would equal the amount of programming that went into creating the first game.

Which is my overarching point here. The Legion expansion is the smallest addition to the game that has ever been introduced, and it comes at the cost of a complete reworking and simplification of every system in the game outside of redrawing maps for the game itself.  It is a lot easier to program simplified playstyles and constrain players to small sections of ground-based maps than it is to create new worlds with new areas to explore, complex and challenging playstyles to master.

Playstyles that include flight.

But it isn't just flight.  I was disgusted at the garrison copout in the last expansion. Sending followers out to play the game you couldn't take time to play.  Building ships that you never sailed on.  The one thing that might have saved Warlords of Draenor for me would have been allowing me to build ships I could sail where I wanted to go. But that too would have required an exponential investment in programming time, something Activision doesn't want to spend money on.

So it comes down to this for me. Until and unless they revise their development strategies, I can't see them doing anything I will want to play.  I could be wrong, but I'm betting I'm not. Waiting and seeing is something I do well. 

A Gratuitous Plug

I should have posted this last week. Hell, I should have posted several things over the last months. I swear, I'm working on a few things. I'll get them out soon. In the meantime, a gratuitous plug for The Late Show, the revival of Mirror, Mirror Stephen Colbert and The Word;






For those of you wondering why Colbert changed his show so much, this weeks show goes into why that is.





Imagine that.  Not being able to use your own name and your own material because your former employer claims to have the rights to your face.  Sad, really.

Libertarian Hostility for Hillary Clinton

Yesterday a friend of mine published this video from Reason on Facebook. It struck a cord with me. A negative cord.  Did I laugh? I'll let you be the judge of the humor content;



This was my initial response.
Yes, let's piss on the one good thing that is occurring in this election. Surely that won't piss off the other 80% of the population.
 "Nice shooting, Tex."
What the video represents is precisely the kind of miscue that first started alienating me from the LP and libertarians. They just can't see the kinds of emotions their attempts at humor generate.  That their principled stands generate.  They are, as most of us are, their own worst enemy.

What this reminds me of is the LP precinct meeting I attended immediately following the attacks on 9-11.  I'm going somewhere with this.  Let me take you there.

Try if you can to imagine that time, even if you were there.  Shell shocked.  In denial that we could be targeted by a foreign group, in the heart of one of the greatest cities on Earth.  The entire world in mourning over the senseless loss of life and destruction.  The first rumors of retaliation were circulating, and a meeting was convened at the precinct level of the Libertarian party with the specific purpose of passing a resolution condemning retaliation and war.

Now try to imagine me in this situation. It's hard. I know.  I've been told enough times. Here I am, a guy who roundly condemned Bush I for being a warmonger. It was how I became a libertarian. Hung images up in my cubicle at work that made my employers livid.  I was a radical advocate for staying the hell out of the Middle East, slipping flyers into free magazines and newspapers in the area condemning the First Gulf War. Celebrated joyously when the conflict was over in weeks.

And I know that this resolution proposed by my peers in the Libertarian party was completely the wrong move.  I know it, in my gut.  It is going to alienate people who rightly think we have to strike back at whoever attacked us. It ignored the real possibility of continued violence on the part of the group that we had just started hearing about, Al Qaeda and their leader Osama Bin Laden. It was the wrong thing, politically, morally, strategically.

So I went to the meeting specifically to scuttle the motion, prodded by a few members who agreed with me that sometimes it is best to let sleeping dogs lie. We were on a surge in popularity in Texas at the time, needing to get recognizable percentages of votes to stay on the ballot, and negative press about the pacifist Libertarian party was not going to play well in gun-toting Texas.

I had been looking into how to postpone a motion and had stumbled across the idea (or it had been whispered to me, I can't remember) of motion to table.  So I made that motion and it was promptly seconded by my allies and the purpose of the meeting was defeated.  Some of my more pacifist friends were livid with anger.  Why?  Why would you do that?

I tried to explain to them that the trends that had been set in motion were bigger than a personal stand against war and violence.  That standing in the way of the juggernaut that was about to be unleashed was suicidal at best. In the end, several of them never forgave me for that sneaky tactic, and that is understandable. The discomfort I felt after that event lead me to study Robert's Rules and in so doing I realized that I had broken the tabling rule as it is currently spelled out.  But we got what we wanted and the Texas LP was one of the few branches of the LP that didn't denounce the retaliation that occurred in Afghanistan.

I questioned my own wisdom when Bush II decided to go to war in Iraq on what I just as firmly believed was a contrivance, a method to establish a firm beachhead in the Middle East from which to advance throughout the area, subjecting it to American rule through proxies.  And for awhile it looked like he might actually succeed in that operation.  Until the resistance started, and the costs mounted and the housing bubble collapsed in 2007.

The financial bubble bursting is what made it possible to hope again, politically. Which is a weird way to look at it, but it was the culmination of nearly 30 years of Reaganomics and it was bound to happen eventually given that trickle-down economics just doesn't work.

So it wasn't just coincidence that Obama's campaign tag was "Hope & Change" and I really wished him luck on that course. In hindsight it looks like he's been a very good  president, possibly the best one to serve in my lifetime.  But now his 8 years are at an end, and we need to decide where to go next.

Which brings us to that video, and my sense of where we are now.

There is a wisdom in large groups. Large groups of people will generally come to a better estimate of value, quantity, etc. than any one member of the group can achieve.  We have known Hillary Clinton for a very long time. I hated on her along with most of my fellow Texans through her husband's entire presidency.  Still cringe remembering how I had to explain sex to my children because of something the president was caught doing.  Was outraged by the parsing of is in lawyer speak like so many others.

But Hillary Clinton happened to be right.  Which is also weird to admit now. Right on a number of things. We rejected her as not having enough experience in 2008, and she wisely went back to the drawing board, was appointed Secretary of State and managed to do a passing good job at a very difficult task. Perhaps one of the most difficult times to be a Secretary of State for the United States.

And now she is the presumptive nominee of the Democratic party, a feat that no woman in history has achieved.  She has proven herself to be a consummate politician, outmaneuvering many of her peers so that she was the presumed candidate for the Democrats long before she even officially threw her hat into the ring.
But another way to look at the primary is that Clinton employed a less masculine strategy to win. She won the Democratic primary by spending years slowly, assiduously, building relationships with the entire Democratic Party. She relied on a more traditionally female approach to leadership: creating coalitions, finding common ground, and winning over allies. Today, 208 members of Congress have endorsed Clinton; only eight have endorsed Sanders.  Ezra Klein on Vox.com
The fact that a woman has finally run the gauntlet and will likely receive her parties nomination is well worth celebrating; and if she wins, it is more likely to be because she is perceived to be a better leader by the average person, than it is that she's a woman.

Deriding her because of the imperfections (near fatal flaws, worst case) of the government she will take control of is not only unfair or unjust, but puts the lie forward as the truth; that we cannot change government with her in charge.   If that is true then nobody in that chair or in any chair in government can make changes to government by their participation, and that is obviously false on its face.

h/t to On Point
The bully pulpit has limited power. There are a whole host of ways to make changes in government without taking control of the presidency. Ways that are better, more reliable and possibly welcomed by her government if she is elected.  What she will bring with her is the most progressive slate of Democrats to be seen since at least LBJ's time in office, and if we support them we may actually see the change that Obama promised eight years ago.

I'm not supporting Hillary Clinton because she is a woman.  I'm not supporting her because I think she will win. This is the first time in my life where I actually think one of the candidates for the two major parties is a decent choice before they were elected to office. Weirdly that happens to be Hillary Clinton. No one is more surprised by this than I am.

Berning it All Down?

So this article penned by Glenn Greenwald is making the rounds of Facebook today, and I personally am a bit more annoyed than I probably should be at the continued whining of Sanders supporters at the announcement of Hillary Clinton's presumptive nomination by the Democratic party;
LAST NIGHT, the Associated Press — on a day when nobody voted — surprised everyone by abruptly declaring the Democratic Party primary over and Hillary Clinton the victor. The decree, issued the night before the California primary in which polls show Clinton and Bernie Sanders in a very close race, was based on the media organization’s survey of “superdelegates”: the Democratic Party’s 720 insiders, corporate donors, and officials whose votes for the presidential nominee count the same as the actually elected delegates.
It probably bears noting that these same super-delegates, which the democratically demanding Sanders supporters deride when lined up for Hillary, are the very same votes that Sanders will need to win the nomination since Hillary now has a commanding lead in numbers of votes and numbers of delegates.

But that isn't the part that really annoys me.

No, the part that annoys me is that Greenwald is printing an outright fabrication in that article. Yes, it is true that the AP story which he cites claims that the survey was only of super-delegates, but it was no secret that Hillary Clinton was going to cross the threshold of delegates on the seventh or before, and that the announcement would probably be made before California went to vote.

Don't believe me?

Here is the podcast I heard it on first; (stream link)
Weekly Roundup: Thursday, June 2
A week of defense for Donald Trump, and Hillary Clinton goes on the attack in a big foreign policy speech. This episode: host/reporter Sam Sanders, White House correspondent Tamara Keith, digital political reporter Danielle Kurtzleben, and political editor Domenico Montanaro. More coverage at nprpolitics.org. 
(This is a download link The embed link is http not https. NPR please fix this!)
Please note the date of the podcast (June 2nd) and that the hosts of the podcast note that Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands voted before the four states whose primaries ran on Tuesday, and that the projected announcement date of crossing that threshold was on the seventh.

Which puts the lie to Greenwald's assertion that "nobody voted".  There were people voting, they just weren't voting in the officially recognized states of the United States. A minor oversight, I'm sure.  Except he's a journalist, and I'm just a blogger with access to the internet.  One would hope that a journalist would have a firmer grasp on the truth, especially Glenn Greenwald after all the times he's gone to bat for it.

But NPR isn't the only source that understood the impending threshold that would be crossed on the 7th. Fivethirtyeight was predicting the seventh as the latest date that the threshold would be crossed as far back as May 24th!
Does this mean that the major news outlets will declare Clinton the nominee at exactly 8 p.m. on June 7? Not necessarily. There aren’t likely to be exit polls in New Jersey, and the news outlets will probably wait for returns — exit polls are expensive — from the state to determine whether Clinton has clinched. Still, it’ll probably be pretty clear after some votes are counted that Clinton has hit the minimum delegate threshold to win the nomination.
It turned out that the number of delegates required to be declared the presumptive nominee was crossed early, as it was always possible could happen.  Nothing about this is unforeseen, or a surprise, except to the politically inexperienced who don't understand how this game is played.  That group certainly doesn't include Glenn Greenwald or Bernie Sanders.

It is time and past time for Bernie Sanders to put a lid on the ridiculous accusations leveled at the party that he is purportedly running as a candidate in, and to start making the kinds of noises one makes when one wants to make a civilized exit from a political race. It is time and past time for the media to stop inventing reasons to dump on Hillary Clinton.

The voices of support for her are few and far between at this point, and the brave few who dare to speak out are routinely targeted as paid shills for her.  As if she hasn't earned some legitimate supporters of her own just through her own hard work in office and in the Democratic party itself;
In this telling, in order to do something as hard as becoming the first female presidential nominee of a major political party, she had to do something extraordinarily difficult: She had to build a coalition, supported by a web of relationships, that dwarfed in both breadth and depth anything a non-incumbent had created before. It was a plan that played to her strengths, as opposed to her (entirely male) challengers' strengths. And she did it.
She is the presumptive nominee of the party.  Her landslide victory in California proves that she has the backing of the Democratic party across the nation. It is time to put this race to bed and get on with the convention shenanigans.

Journalism? General Education, That is the Problem

A comment on Robert Reich's status went a bit long;
Trump is a manifestation of poor education in the US exacting its price on the US and the world.  The chickens have come home to roost. The wide-spread, wrong-headed notion that a strong leader is the way to get the change you want in a complex system, has manifested in the personages of Trump and Sanders, the demagogic "outsiders" who are believed by the uninformed to be capable of effecting change on a system by themselves.

While Sanders elected alone would fail just as Obama failed to live up to the dreams of the people who voted for him in 2008, Trump is quite capable of wrecking the system all by himself if he is elected. 

It is much easier to destroy than it is to create. 

At this point in this one election all that is left is to hope for is that the Democrats can pull out a win.  It would be nice to think that they could gain a sweeping victory that would bring in enough progressives to alter the system in a positive way.  Hand the Republicans such a crushing defeat that they are forced to re-invent themselves into a opposition party that doesn't deny science and embrace religion as its starting point.  The Bernie or busters are going to make that possibility as remote as they can, unfortunately.

The Bernie or busters are not interested in reforming the system any more than the Tea Party Trump supporters are.  They want to re-invent it, which is just one step more than simply destroying it.  They tell themselves they'll be happy with a Trump presidency because at least the status quo will end.  Both the Trump supporters and the Bernie or busters don't really understand the kind of misery bringing down the US system will create.  I'm becoming afraid we might just find out how deep that well of misery is.

The fix for this is so much more than just reporting.  Just being able to predict what the population will go for in an election. That is not even scratching the surface of the problem. First you have to educate the voting public on just how blind this faith in a strong leader is.  The journalists who inform us on politics cannot be held responsible for the failure of the education system in the US to actually educate the population to the dangers of dictatorship.  As college educated people they of course discarded the idea that the average American would fall prey to a demagogue like Trump.  It's obvious he's lying and has no clue what he's talking about.  Why would anyone take this orange hate-monkey seriously?

...Unless of course you believe that a strong leader is what we need, in spite of the obvious fact that a system as complex as the US government cannot possibly be run by one person. Then all bets are off and the people who want a guy who pretends to have all the answers have control of the mechanisms of statecraft through the selection of the next head of state.

We've been so busy propping up dictators in other countries that we've forgotten we might be subject to one ourselves.  That fate is now just the flip of a coin away. 

US Politics Fix; Starting the Process

From Robert Reich's Facebook Feed
This will probably turn into a page of its own at some point, a book-length outline of the problems and processes that have to be reformed, and the obstacles in the way of average Americans retaking control of their government from the political bosses, corporate sponsors, and wealthy contributors who currently control it.

We have to start somewhere, so let's start at the beginning.

A bright, fresh-faced teenager sees the problems in the world, the calcified systems in the US that seem incapable of dealing with these problems and asks himself/herself
"how do I get involved in this? How do I change this?" 
The answer to that question is related to current events, and the image at right.

In the midst of a sideshow barker taking over the Republican primary process on the one hand, and a proud Socialist trying to pull the Democratic primary onto liberal ground it hasn't seen since the 1970's, I find myself without a group I feel can align with once again.

I left the Libertarian Party due to their inability to separate their ideological dedication to anarchism from the goal of actually winning the democratic election process.

Now I'm wondering just what the rest of the American populace is smoking, not just the libertarians, because it must be some good shit for everyone to be so clueless all of a sudden.

I really can't make heads or tails of the purpose of all of this noise. I'm once again reminded of the Babylon 5 episode with Drazi killing Drazi over what color sashes they randomly select.  What I can say for certain is that Americans in general are dissatisfied with the political process as we've come to know it.  I can say that because the only reason that two outsiders could dominate the early potential candidate fields in polling is because Americans don't like either of the two parties.

So what about third parties? is the question now being asked.  That would be backtracking for me.  I'm a veteran of the failed political process that is third party attempts at wresting control from the two major factions. For more than a decade I worked in the trenches, canvassing, promoting, representing the Libertarian Party in Texas in the best light that I could generate for it. I was never very important to the party (as I'm sure local activists will be quick to point out) but it was important to me, until it wasn't anymore.

It wasn't anymore because it became clear to me that;
  1.  The majority of the U.S. population was never going to embrace anarchism and/or smaller government than currently exists and 
  2. Majority is what determines the leaders in a democratic process.  Finally 
  3. I was no longer personally convinced that the U.S. actually suffers from too much government. 
What the U.S. suffers from is ineffective and inefficient governance. Looking at the circus acts currently playing, one might well wonder if that wasn't the purpose from the beginning.  Harry Browne said government doesn't work long before Ronald Reagan said it.  Both of them are incorrect, because government works in other nations. It is just that the US government seems doomed to drown in a puddle of its own inefficiencies unless something fundamental to the process is changed.

There have always been third parties. There are several third parties right now. The system is rigged to only allow two parties to have any real power. Has been rigged since the Republicans rose to national prominence with the dissolution of the Whigs in 1854 over the question of slavery. This is the point that seems to be glossed over. It isn't that I don't care about third party politics. The system itself isn't setup to recognize minority parties in any real way.  It has been codified and calcified over the course of 200 years to the point where, in certain states, it is all but illegal to be a member of any party aside from the Democrats and Republicans.  Third parties, minority parties, minority factions cannot alter the system because it is insulated from their efforts by layers of interference.

And still the question appears "how can anyone vote Democratic or Republican?" The answer is demonstrable; we vote for them because one of the two of them will win. One of the two of them will win because in the vast majority of races throughout history the political system in the US has been controlled by one of two dominant parties in the US.

Whoever the Libertarians nominate (or the Greens nominate) will lose again as they have in every previous election. They will lose because they aren't Republicans or Democrats; which the rules at the national level and at the state level virtually guarantee will win all electoral races especially the president.

Running for President as a third party is a waste of time, worse it is a waste of resources which could be used to fund campaigns to change rules so that candidates who aren't part of a party structure can compete. What we get from that investment of time and money is the exact same argument over and over again. Why are you voting for Democrats and Republicans?

First admit that there is a problem and that problem is the electoral rules themselves. Then fix that problem before doing anything else.

Go read Ballot Access News, edited by the magnificent Richard Winger. Top of the page today is a notification that a majority of seats in a particular state are unopposed. Tomorrow it will be a different state. Unopposed means the incumbent will be re-elected. It means no change. It means that the system will remain unaltered.  Why are the seats being handed to the incumbent?  Because ballot access is gated by a huge hurdle in nearly every state.  If the hurdle (be it signatures or party requirements) is topped, the next legislature will simply raise the bar for the next election.

The never asked question is why do Americans insist that voting by itself constitutes meaningful involvement in government? Voting is actually the very least we should be doing if we hope to ever live up to the promise of self-government. Why is the least we can possibly do that constitutes doing something considered active involvement in the political system?

If you concede that voting is not enough, and you should, then the question becomes how to make effective change in our government without reinventing it? The answer to that question is to co-opt an existing party and make it do what we want it to do.

This really isn't news.  The religious right took over the Libertarian Party with Ron Paul as their nominee in 1980, and then shifted their support to Reagan and their membership to the Republican Party when Reagan invited them to move in and take over the GOP.  The religious right have been the motivating force behind party politics ever since, and were effective at getting their way politically until the election of Barak Obama in 2008.

Even the current President has been forced to cater to the whims of the religious right, modifying many of his programs specifically to accommodate demands made by them.

This lays bare the how of how to change politics for all to see.  Simply have enough agreement among the population who vote to effect change at the city, state, and national level.  But that agreement is the hard part, the part that requires attention long before you go into booth and cast your ballot.

Political veterans will tell you, it takes work. Years of work.  Which is how we got where we are today, people who went into politics with a clear vision of what they wanted to achieve have been co-opted and subverted by the process of hammering out agreement after agreement in decades of struggle with people who think differently.

Eventually you end up voting for a candidate that you really don't agree with on any specific issue, but remains the best choice given the compromises required, hopefully not loosing sight of your overall goal in the process.  Not being able to see the forest because of all the trees.

Hillary Clinton is probably going to be that candidate for me. If you read back over this blog you'll discover that I first abandoned the Libertarian Party to support Barak Obama so that he would be President instead of Hillary.  In 2016 I would vote for Hillary Clinton with almost no reservations.

I will be voting for whoever the Democratic party nominates in this election. I will be voting for the Democrat, because the Republican party has apparently gone over to the magical thinkers, and I don't believe in magic.  The entirety of the Republican Party has been dispatched on a fool's errand by the Tea Party's co-option. Until they can figure out who they are and what they stand for, I don't have the time of day for the party as a whole.  If they were to nominate someone like Governor Kasich I might have to revise my opinion of them, but I don't see much chance of that, of Republicans being willing to compromise enough to embrace a man who supports the ACA.

I vote down ballot based on candidate qualities alone, discarding anyone who pretends at being the better conservative. These candidates generally win in Texas (because conservative=correct in the mind of the average Texas voter) outside of Austin, but you can't fix any stupid aside from your own. In Austin the down ballot offices (state senate and legislature) are held by Democratic incumbents, usually running opposed only by independent candidates. The independents almost always get my vote, because I want to see change and you won't get change from an incumbent.

But I'm still talking about voting, the last thing on the list.

The only way to change the system is to infiltrate the two parties and alter them from the inside, thereby altering the system they control. It has to start with ending gerrymandering and real campaign finance reform.  Opening up ballot access and ending party control of the ballots in every state in the nation. Not doing this will simply kick the can forward again. That is the forest that we must keep in sight, the big picture. Gerrymandering must be ended across the entire nation. Districts must be drawn blindly with no consideration of the political, racial or social strata that the people in the districts represent. Campaign finance must be addressed, or the corruption of our electoral process by the wealthy will continue in spite of any other change we might put in place.

Changing any of these fundamental corruptions of the system will take a long, hard effort. It will
require canvasing of your local precincts to get a feel for who supports or doesn't support these changes. It will take joining the local precinct and becoming involved, and bringing enough people along with you to alter the votes at the precinct level. It will take making sure that county gatherings and state conventions also support these measures.

The harm of Gerrymandering Austin
Faction is why these rules, this corruption, has taken hold.  Madison was correct when he cited faction as one of the biggest threats to the Republic.  The Democrats are a faction. The Republicans are a faction. Third parties are all factions.  Faction leads generally sane people to do insane things like drawing districts to favor your party (gerrymandering) allowing contributions that favor your party over your opponent (campaign finance) never taking into account that the practices you use to force the system to cater to your faction can be used to exclude your faction when power is finally wrested from you.

...and it will be.