Friday, September 11, 2015

Feel The Ground Shakin'? That Ain't Frackin', It's A Mascara (Makeup)-Post

Well, here's the promised mascara-post to the blog because Time Warner went dark for several hours yesterday. But enought, whining about life & hard times.because Gonzo Matt goes bipartisan with his snark today, sparing neither Dumbo nor Donkey. If this is (fair & balanced) savagery, so be it.

[x RS]
Casting "Clown Car '16, The Movie"
By Gonzo Matt (Taibbi)

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Start with the title: "Clown Car!" may sound like the movie someone will inevitably make about the 2016 presidential campaign, but how about evoking those great Seventies wacky-journey films like "Death Race 2000," "Vanishing Point," or "Smokey and the Bandit"?

When I raised the question on Twitter, suggestions included "All the President's Wanna-Bes," "Every Which Way But Left," "Cannonball Rug," "A Kochwork Orange," and the subtly appropriate "Hair."

All excellent ideas, and we may have to put the movie name to a separate vote. Right now, though, the more pressing question is this: If someone did make a movie about the 2016 presidential race, who would play the candidates? Wouldn't that be the most thrilling casting job ever?

There was a fiery debate on social media about all of the roles. In the end, though, this is something that has to go to a vote. What we need in this country, after all, is more democracy.

For the time being, we'll just ask people to vote in the comments section below, or tweet responses to me at @mtaibbi.

Without further ado:

Donald Trump (as himself)
Gary Busey
Alec Baldwin
Will Ferrell
Gerard Depardieu
Gary Oldman
Val Kilmer
Gene Hackman

The biggest debate is obviously going to be about who gets to play the leading man in the film. Trump probably ought to be the only "as himself" role in the cast. Figuratively speaking, it fits the narrative of the campaign to have him as the only Real Person, surrounded by a bunch of actors.

But there's also something to be said for the idea that Trump lacks the self-awareness to sell the humor of his role. Acting-wise the role clearly should belong to one of Hollywood's interpersonal train-wreck actors, someone you can imagine waking up in bed with a farm animal and a bottle of Southern Comfort.

The first name you think of there is probably Gary Busey, although someone like Gerard Depardieu also makes sense. Alec Baldwin fits from the abject-assholedom angle. And I'm sympathetic to the argument for Will Ferrell as Trump; you could take a Ferrell-as-Trump movie to many interesting places. But is he too PG for the part?

Kevin James
John Goodman
Delaney Williams
Jeff Garlin
Steve Schirripa
Meat Loaf
Oliver Platt
Jon Favreau

The Christie role is probably a two-man race, between "Mall Cop" thespian Kevin James and Jeff Garlin of "Curb Your Enthusiasm" fame. But there was a lot of sentiment online for casting the affable Delaney Williams, last seen playing the porn-connoisseur homicide sergeant Jay Landsman in "The Wire." Meat Loaf is an intriguing idea, especially if "Cannonball Rug" or whatever the film ends up being called has a musical component – we could have Christie singing his excuse for Bridgegate.

French Stewart
Bill Murray
Danny Trejo
Angelica Huston
"Grandpa" Al Lewis
Maxwell Emmet "Pat" Buttram

French Stewart's qualifications here seem impeccable, right down to the distractingly squinty eyes. But Bill Murray would bring out the ham in Ted Cruz (think the "It just doesn't matter" speech, only delivered to Tea Partiers on the night before the UN invasion of Galveston).

But this could also be a breakout role for Danny Trejo, who'd bring grit and street cred to the part – French Stewart isn't leaping through a methane explosion onto a moving Harley to shoot Mitch McConnell with a 12-gauge. Angelica Huston, meanwhile, is also an inspired idea for the role, among other things because it would infuriate Cruz. Curiously, a lot of readers nominated dead actors to play Cruz, including Al Lewis of "The Munsters" and Pat Buttram, last seen playing bug-eyed Mr. Haney on "Green Acres."

Kristin Wiig
Peri Gilpin
Meg Ryan
David Bowie
Andy Dick
Christine Baranski

There was overwhelming support for Wiig as Fiorina online, although a few people felt she wasn't loathsome enough. I like the choices of David Bowie and the underrated Christine Baranski, who could simply reprise the role of her sneering party-crashing aristocrat Connie Chasseur from "The Ref."

Kirk Cameron
Steve Carrell
Judge Reinhold
Paul Reubens

There was some sentiment to have Santorum played by Michael Ontkean, the Canadian actor who resembles Santorum and is best known for his deft performance as Ned Braden in the Oscar-snubbed minor league hockey epic "Slap Shot." But someone from a civilized place like Vancouver might not be able to grasp the darkness of Rick Santorum.

A Canadian might try to play Santorum's fundamentalist Christian persona as a passive, beatific dreamer, where what you really need here is a secret BDSM freak who gets aroused looking at Know Your Bible illustrations of the crucifixion. Kirk Cameron to me is the obvious choice, although the "Foxcatcher" version of Steve Carrell is pretty close to being who Rick Santorum really is, right down to his inexplicable belief in his ability to win any contest that exists outside his own mind.

Kevin Spacey
Jon Hamm
Stephen Root
Tom Hanks

Spacey, whose voice is very close to Huckabee's, is an obvious choice, particularly if Huckabee turns out to have a diabolical plan for winning this thing in the end (he gets up and walks into the presidential limo as we notice our coffee cups were made by Kobayashi porcelain). With Hanks, you worry he might take it seriously and screw up the whole movie.

Aziz Ansari
Dev Patel
The corpse of Bob Denver
Jack McBrayer

The funniest suggestion I received for the role of Jindal was the empty chair from Clint Eastwood's infamous convention speech. In my mind, if Bob Denver was alive, he'd be a lock.

Daniel von Bargen
James Caan
Victor Garber
Stephen Tobolowsky + wig

I realize von Bargen is dead, but the man who nailed the role of lunkheaded Mr. Kruger on "Seinfeld" would have been perfect for the role of Pataki ("My fellow Americans, our budget this year just passed into the red… or the black… whatever the bad one is"). Excellent instincts by @cptyesterday, who ably picked out the wonderfully nondescript veteran Canadian character actor Victor Garber, but also wondered "if he'd settle for such a small part."

Chris Parnell
Vincent Kartheiser
Steve Carrell
John Cusack
Michael Sheen

Parnell was the overwhelming choice for this role on Twitter, although in Hollywood they always give the evil-douchebag role to a Brit, so that makes me think Michael Sheen.

Ed Begley Jr.
Jason Siegel
Ed Helms
Beau Bridges
Jeffrey Tambor
Chevy Chase
Jane Lynch

Jeb is a tough one. Beau Bridges would bring that less-heralded-brother angst to the role, and he fits facially too. Begley Jr. is the right height, and would also do a great job cowering and peeing himself in Trump's presence. Tambor has the vast experience playing the sad-sack second banana. Both Lynch and another popular choice, Jamie Lee Curtis, are too manly for the role.

John Leguizamo
Danny Pino
Oscar Isaac
Fred Armisen
Santiago Cabrera

I'm torn here between Fred Armisen, who'd bring a goofy nuance to Rubio, and John Leguizamo, who could really sink his teeth into the psycho-moonbat angle. Pino and Cabrera are closer looks-wise. Isaac would be more appropriate if Rubio was a true contender.

Justin Timberlake
Neil Patrick Harris
Ryan Phillipe
The kid from Billy Madison
Vincent Cassel
Anthony Geary
Barry Williams
Hugh Laurie
Michael Cera

Justin Timberlake was born to play Rand Paul. I feel like he was training for it when he nailed the role of dry-humping substitute teacher Scott Delacorte in the underrated Cameron Diaz epic Bad Teacher. That said, Neil Patrick Harris is a strong contender, among other things because of his experience playing the cool-headed fascist psychic Carl Jenkins in Starship Troopers. Nobody is going to argue with the kid from Billy Madison as a choice, however, and strong arguments could be made for Barry "Greg Brady" Williams, Ryan Phillipe or even poor Vincent Cassel (I'd like to cast as many French people as possible in this movie, because it would annoy the citizens of both countries).

Zach Galifanakis
Eddie Izzard
Carol Channing
Steve Buscemi
Ricky Gervais
Justin Bieber

Eddie Izzard could do a fabulously campy Graham – his impersonation of Church of Englanders singing, "Oh God, what on earth is my hairdo all about?" sounds uncannily like a Graham stump speech. Galifanakis could probably play Graham in his sleep, but the Judd Apatow factor in this movie is dangerously high as it is.

Don Cheadle
Robert Guillaume
Dennis Haysbert
Yasiin Bey (formerly known as Mos Def)
Tim Meadows
Cuba Gooding Jr.

Gooding Jr. has already played Carson, but I don't know… I'd almost rather have Gooding run for president and have Carson star in the movie. If we can't do that, I like Dennis Haysbert of Heat, 24, and Allstate commercial fame. It's a different kind of role for Haysbert. He's got the wizened eyes and the deep voice, but he'd have to work at that just-struck-by-a-frying-pan look that voters in Iowa love so much. The former Mos Def is also a great choice because he's probably smoked just enough weed to make sense of Carson's candidacy.

Glenn Close
Jon Bon Jovi
Chris Cooper
Kevin Costner
Christopher McDonald

Glenn Close, reprising the asset-hoovering Captain Monica Rawling character from The Shield, is a strong choice for Kasich, although the Twitter user who suggested the violently yellow-haired veteran character actor McDonald of Happy Gilmore and Spy Kids 2 fame was definitely on to something. Costner, who dialed his screen presence almost all the way down to zero for another Ohio-themed role in the wretched Draft Day, might also be a low-energy fit at this stage of his career.

Josh Brolin
Tommy Lee Jones
Harry Hamlin
Gary Cole
Tyler Perry

Harry Hamlin is an interesting choice because as @ruckcohlchez pointed out, Perry probably got the idea for the smart glasses by watching Hamlin wear glasses on Mad Men. Cole could do it – Gary Cole could probably play anyone from Patty Hearst to Patrice Lumumba – and casting Tyler Perry to play Rick Perry would be a nice running homage to Dennis Miller in a Republican-themed movie. But in the end, it has to be Josh Brolin as Perry, doesn't it? Between the resemblance and Brolin's demonstrated skill at playing dazed, mentally absent politicians, his feels like a drop-the-mic audition.

John C. Reilly
Ed Hermann
Martin Clunes
Elias Koteas

As @writer614 pointed out, it doesn't matter who plays Gilmore, because "he doesn't have any lines anyway." Moreover you could cast anyone in the role – Peter Dinklage, Pete Postlethwaite, Forest Whitaker, Rooney Mara, anyone – because nobody knows what Gilmore looks like. If we must make a serious choice, I like the perpetually confounded Clunes of Doc Martin fame, although as an American and a veteran of many toxic-dumb-person roles, Reilly would have more of an instinct here.

MITT ROMNEY (when he enters the race)
Bruce Campbell
Michael Shannon
Fred Willard
Fred Ward

It will be an injustice if the great Bruce Campbell doesn't get to play Mitt Romney at some point in his life.

Robert Redford
Rebecca De Mornay
Helen Mirren
Meryl Streep
Amy Poehler
Emma Thompson

I think Robert Redford would make a great Hillary – just imagine it for a minute – but there are a lot of people who wouldn't see the humor there. The studio heads will want Mirren or Streep if they can't convince Emma Thompson to do it again (did she have a sequel deal for Primary Colors?). Rebecca De Mornay would be interesting if she souped up her Mrs. Mott/evil nanny role from The Hand that Rocks the Cradle.

Bruce Dern
Christopher Lloyd
Larry David
James Adomian
Austin Pendleton

Sanders is going to be an interesting and controversial casting decision. Adomanian has of course already played Bernie, but it's hard not to imagine Larry David or especially Christopher Lloyd in the role. Veteran character actor Austin Pendleton did a great impersonation of a lefty politician in Searching for Bobby Fischer, although the actual role was an aging chessmaster obsessed with taking a pawn in a penny-ante tournament that matters only to other chess players.

Two final notes. One, I left out a few of the ancillary Dems, like O'Malley and Chafee, because, well, who cares?

Secondly, I have a strong belief that Chow Yun-Fat should be in every movie. Since he doesn't really fit as any of the candidates, I'm open to write-in suggestions for his part in the film. Could he be Frank Luntz? Anderson Cooper? Huma Abedin? Nate Silver? All ideas are welcome. Ω

[As Rolling Stone’s chief political reporter, Matt Taibbi's predecessors include the likes of Hunter S. Thompson and P.J. O'Rourke. Most recently, he has written The Divide (2014). Taibbi received a BA (journalism) from Bard College.]

Copyright © 2015 Rolling Stone

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Mea Culpa For The USA (And This Blog)

Mea culpa to the hordes of followers of this blog for the Blackout of 09/10/2015. This blogger gave up after several houjrs of no signal from Time Warner Cable. In any event, this post is appropriate on 9/11/2015. This blogger remembers where he was on the morning of 9/11/2001: his 8:00 AM U.S. history students were exiting the classroom when a faculty colleague came to the door and asked, "Have you heard?" And by the time the following class had entered the clsssroom, it was known that both towers of the World Trade Center had been hit by airliners. This blogger had a flashback to November 22, 1963, when he heard the President John F. Kennedy had been shot. This blogger was an infant on December 7, 1941, so the news of the Pearl Harbor attack was not similarly burned in his memory. If this is (fair & balanced) realpolitik, so be it.

PS: A makeup post for yesterday's blackout will follow later today.

[x The Nation]
14 Years After 9/11, The War On Terror Is Accomplishing Everything Bin Laden Hoped It Would
By Tom Engelhardt

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Fourteen years later and do you even believe it? Did we actually live it? Are we still living it? And how improbable is that?

Fourteen years of wars, interventions, assassinations, torture, kidnappings, black sites, the growth of the American national security state to monumental proportions, and the spread of Islamic extremism across much of the Greater Middle East and Africa. Fourteen years of astronomical expense, bombing campaigns galore, and a military-first foreign policy of repeated defeats, disappointments, and disasters. Fourteen years of a culture of fear in America, of endless alarms and warnings, as well as dire predictions of terrorist attacks. Fourteen years of the burial of American democracy (or rather its recreation as a billionaire’s playground and a source of spectacle and entertainment but not governance). Fourteen years of the spread of secrecy, the classification of every document in sight, the fierce prosecution of whistleblowers, and a faith-based urge to keep Americans “secure” by leaving them in the dark about what their government is doing. Fourteen years of the demobilization of the citizenry. Fourteen years of the rise of the warrior corporation, the transformation of war and intelligence gathering into profit-making activities, and the flocking of countless private contractors to the Pentagon, the NSA, the CIA, and too many other parts of the national security state to keep track of. Fourteen years of our wars coming home in the form of PTSD, the militarization of the police, and the spread of war-zone technology like drones and stingrays to the “homeland.” Fourteen years of that un-American word “homeland.” Fourteen years of the expansion of surveillance of every kind and of the development of a global surveillance system whose reach—from foreign leaders to tribal groups in the backlands of the planet—would have stunned those running the totalitarian states of the twentieth century. Fourteen years of the financial starvation of America’s infrastructure and still not a single mile of high-speed rail built anywhere in the country. Fourteen years in which to launch Afghan War 2.0, Iraq Wars 2.0 and 3.0, and Syria War 1.0. Fourteen years, that is, of the improbable made probable.

Fourteen years later, thanks a heap, Osama bin Laden. With a small number of supporters, $400,000-$500,000, and 19 suicidal hijackers, most of them Saudis, you pulled off a geopolitical magic trick of the first order. Think of it as wizardry from the theater of darkness. In the process, you did “change everything” or at least enough of everything to matter. Or rather, you goaded us into doing what you had neither the resources nor the ability to do. So let’s give credit where it’s due. Psychologically speaking, the 9/11 attacks represented precision targeting of a kind American leaders would only dream of in the years to follow. I have no idea how, but you clearly understood us so much better than we understood you or, for that matter, ourselves. You knew just which buttons of ours to push so that we would essentially carry out the rest of your plan for you. While you sat back and waited in Abbottabad, we followed the blueprints for your dreams and desires as if you had planned it and, in the process, made the world a significantly different (and significantly grimmer) place.

Fourteen years later, we don’t even grasp what we did.

Fourteen years later, the improbability of it all still staggers the imagination, starting with those vast shards of the World Trade Center in downtown Manhattan, the real-world equivalent of the Statue of Liberty sticking out of the sand in the original Planet of the Apes. With lower Manhattan still burning and the air acrid with destruction, they seemed like evidence of a culture that had undergone its own apocalyptic moment and come out the other side unrecognizably transformed. To believe the coverage of the time, Americans had experienced Pearl Harbor and Hiroshima combined. We were planet Earth’s ultimate victims and downtown New York was “Ground Zero,” a phrase previously reserved for places where nuclear explosions had occurred. We were instantly the world’s greatest victim and greatest survivor, and it was taken for granted that the world’s most fulfilling sense of revenge would be ours. 9/11 came to be seen as an assault on everything innocent and good and triumphant about us, the ultimate they-hate-our-freedoms moment and, Osama, it worked. You spooked this country into 14 years of giving any dumb or horrifying act or idea or law or intrusion into our lives or curtailment of our rights a get-out-of-jail-free pass. You loosed not just your dogs of war, but ours, which was exactly what you needed to bring chaos to the Muslim world.

Fourteen years later, let me remind you of just how totally improbable 9/11 was and how ragingly clueless we all were on that day. George W. Bush (and cohorts) couldn’t even take it in when, on August 6, 2001, the president was given a daily intelligence briefing titled “Bin Laden determined to strike in U.S.” The NSA, the CIA, and the FBI, which had many of the pieces of the bin Laden puzzle in their hands, still couldn’t imagine it. And believe me, even when it was happening, I could hardly grasp it. I was doing exercises in my bedroom with the TV going when I first heard the news of a plane hitting the World Trade Center and saw the initial shots of a smoking tower. And I remember my immediate thought: just like the B-25 that almost took out the Empire State Building back in 1945. Terrorists bringing down the World Trade Center? Please. Al-Qaeda? You must be kidding. Later, when two planes had struck in New York and another had taken out part of the Pentagon, and it was obvious that it wasn’t an accident, I had an even more ludicrous thought. It occurred to me that the unexpected vulnerability of Americans living in a land largely protected from the chaos so much of the world experiences might open us up to the pain of others in a new way. Dream on. All it opened us up to was bringing pain to others.

Fourteen years later, don’t you still find it improbable that George W. Bush and company used those murderous acts and the nearly 3,000 resulting deaths as an excuse to try to make the world theirs? It took them no time at all to decide to launch a “Global War on Terror” in up to 60 countries. It took them next to no time to begin dreaming of the establishment of a future Pax Americana in the Middle East, followed by the sort of global imperium that had previously been conjured up only by cackling bad guys in James Bond films. Don’t you find it strange, looking back, just how quickly 9/11 set their brains aflame? Don’t you find it curious that the Bush administration’s top officials were quite so infatuated by the US military? Doesn’t it still strike you as odd that they had such blind faith in that military’s supposedly limitless powers to do essentially anything and be “the greatest force for human liberation the world has ever known”? Don’t you still find it eerie that, amid the wreckage of the Pentagon, the initial orders our secretary of defense gave his aides were to come up with plans for striking Iraq, even though he was already convinced that Al Qaeda had launched the attack? (“‘Go massive,’ an aide’s notes quote him as saying. ‘Sweep it all up. Things related and not.’”) Don’t you think “and not” sums up the era to come? Don’t you find it curious that, in the rubble of those towers, plans not just to pay Osama bin Laden back, but to turn Afghanistan, Iraq, and possibly Iran—“Everyone wants to go to Baghdad. Real men want to go to Tehran”—into American protectorates were already being imagined?

Fourteen years later, how probable was it that the country then universally considered the planet’s “sole superpower,” openly challenged only by tiny numbers of jihadist extremists, with a military better funded than the next 10 to 13 forces combined (most of whom were allies anyway), and whose technological skills were, as they say, to die for would win no wars, defeat no enemies, and successfully complete no occupations? What were the odds? If, on September 12, 2001, someone had given you half-reasonable odds on a US military winning streak in the Greater Middle East, don’t tell me you wouldn’t have slapped some money on the table.

Fourteen years later, don’t you find it improbable that the US military has been unable to extricate itself from Iraq and Afghanistan, its two major wars of this century, despite having officially left one of those countries in 2011 (only to head back again in the late summer of 2014) and having endlessly announced the conclusion of its operations in the other (only to ratchet them up again)?

Fourteen years later, don’t you find it improbable that Washington’s post-9/11 policies in the Middle East helped lead to the establishment of the Islamic State’s “caliphate” in parts of fractured Iraq and Syria and to a movement of almost unparalleled extremism that has successfully “franchised” itself out from Libya to Nigeria to Afghanistan? If, on September 12, 2001, you had predicted such a possibility, who wouldn’t have thought you mad?

Fourteen years later, don’t you find it improbable that the United States has gone into the business of robotic assassination big time; that (despite Watergate-era legal prohibitions on such acts), we are now the Terminators of Planet Earth, not its John Connors; that the president is openly and proudly an assassin-in-chief with his own global “kill list”; that we have endlessly targeted the backlands of the planet with our (Grim) Reaper and Predator (thank you Hollywood!) drones armed with Hellfire missiles; and that Washington has regularly knocked off women and children while searching for militant leaders and their generic followers? And don’t you find it odd that all of this has been done in the name of wiping out the terrorists and their movements, despite the fact that wherever our drones strike, those movements seem to gain in strength and power?

Fourteen years later, don’t you find it improbable that our “war on terror” has so regularly devolved into a war of and for terror; that our methods, including the targeted killings of numerous leaders and “lieutenants” of militant groups have visibly promoted, not blunted, the spread of Islamic extremism; and that, despite this, Washington has generally not recalibrated its actions in any meaningful way?

Fourteen years later, isn’t it possible to think of 9/11 as a mass grave into which significant aspects of American life as we knew it have been shoveled? Of course, the changes that came, especially those reinforcing the most oppressive aspects of state power, didn’t arrive out of the blue like those hijacked planes. Who, after all, could dismiss the size and power of the national security state and the military-industrial complex before those 19 men with box cutters arrived on the scene? Who could deny that, packed into the Patriot Act (passed largely unread by Congress in October 2001) was a wish list of pre-9/11 law enforcementand right-wing hobbyhorses? Who could deny that the top officials of the Bush administration and their neocon supporters had long been thinking about how to leverage “U.S. military supremacy” into a Pax Americana–style new world order or that they had been dreaming of “a new Pearl Harbor” which might speed up the process? It was, however, only thanks to Osama bin Laden, that they—and we—were shuttled into the most improbable of all centuries, the 21st.

Fourteen years later, the 9/11 attacks and the thousands of innocents killed represent international criminality and immorality of the first order. On that, Americans are clear, but—most improbable of all—no one in Washington has yet taken the slightest responsibility for blowing a hole through the Middle East, loosing mayhem across significant swathes of the planet, or helping release the forces that would create the first true terrorist state of modern history; nor has anyone in any official capacity taken responsibility for creating the conditions that led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands, possibly a million or more people, turned many in the Greater Middle East into internal or external refugees, destroyed nations, and brought unbelievable pain to countless human beings. In these years, no act—not of torture, nor murder, nor the illegal offshore imprisonment of innocent people, nor death delivered from the air or the ground, nor the slaughter of wedding parties, nor the killing of children—has blunted the sense among Americans that we live in an “exceptional” and “indispensable” country of staggering goodness and innocence.

Fourteen years later, how improbable is that? Ω

[Tom Engelhardt created and runs the website, a project of The Nation Institute of which he is a Fellow. Tomdispatch is intended to introduce readers to voices and perspectives from elsewhere. Its mission is to connect some of the global dots regularly left unconnected by the mainstream media and to offer a clearer sense of how this imperial globe of ours actually works. Engelhardt received a BA (history) from Yale University and an MA (East Asian Studies) from Harvard University.]

Copyright © 2015 The Nation

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License..

Copyright © 2015 Sapper's (Fair & Balanced) Rants & Raves