Tuesday, 21 March 2017

The breathtaking, treasonous, self interest of the US Republican Party is probably unique in world history

You have to admire the Russian operation of 2016 - which perhaps in the long term has fatally damaged faith in both U.S. political parties,
and Wikileaks,
and the concept of truth itself.

But to achieve this it has had the help of what is perhaps a uniquely dedicated political institution, the Republican Party, an organisation which historically has risen above petty concerns like the good of its own country and citizens to embrace naked self interest in a way I don't think I've ever seen in any other historic example anywhere in the world.

I was shocked by the House Intelligence hearing into Russian hacking hearing a few days ago. I shouldn't have been.

Despite broad consensus of Russian interference in the 2016 election, Republican Trey Gowdy only wants to prosecute those 'leakers' trying to expose the extent of the conspiracy. Even the Russians must be embarrassed to watch this.

Treason is harsh dirty word not really used in UK politics since the Elizabethan era - but it seems inadequate now to describe the acts of politicians quite prepared to cover up and even encourage malign foreign influence if it helps them prosper politically. It is almost pantomime villain territory and would  be difficult to believe had not the Republican party been quite capable of similar in two previous historical examples.

In 1968 Republicans working behind the scenes sabotaged the Paris Peace talks to ensure the Democratic government at the time did not get credit for ending the Vietnam War. The war by then had already killed 30,000 Americans and countless Vietnamese.Thanks to Richard Nixon's successful electioneering tactics the Vietnam War would go on until the disastrous collapse in 1975.

In similar fashion - it is alleged (by many) - that Republicans prolonged the Iranian hostage crisis in 1981, again to ensure a Republican victory in the election of 1980.
 "Allegations that the Reagan administration negotiated a delay in the release of the hostages until after the 1980 presidential election have been numerous but unproven. Gary Sick, principal White House aide for Iran and the Persian Gulf on the Carter administration’s National Security Council, claimed in his book October Surprise: America's Hostages in Iran and the Election of Ronald Reagan that CIA Director William Casey and possibly Vice President George H. W. Bush went to Paris to negotiate such a delay. Many others have made the same allegations."

We could perhaps add the Southern Strategy to this. Though it does not include the collusion of a foreign power it does indicate the Republicans willingness to undermine social and racial cohesion within their own nation if it suits their political agenda.

And don't think that sacred constitution is safe either. More recently the Republicans, who routinely wave around the United States constitution as if it were personally handed to them from Mount Sinai,  have also sought to directly undermine that supremely sacred document to their own political ends. The Founding Fathers enshrined within the constitution checks and balances to moderate the influence of the Presidency, such as the Congress (the lower chamber) and the Senate (upper chamber) and the creation of a independent Supreme Court. Membership of the Supreme Court is for life and it is with the power of a president to replace Supreme Court members if one should pass away.
Or it was.
Until 2016, when a President elected with a substantial majority in 2012 was blocked from appointing his own choice of Supreme Court judge by Republican Congress, an act which directly undermines the obvious written intent of the US constitution.

It would seem, for the purposes of the Supreme Court at least, the United States is already a one party state.

Republicans are enabled in this by the other party, the Democrats, who have seemingly fallen off their high horse so many times now they have serious concussion. "We go high, they go low" might be a noble policy when dealing with normal political opponent but when dealing with an opposition quite happy to even collude with a hostile foreign  power and cover it up, ongoing Democratic ineptitude and weakness must hover around treason itself.

I'm not being naive about my own country. The Conservatives have rigged at least one UK election  and members of the Labour Party and the Unions that backed them in the 1970s have long been suspected to be under Russian influence. Perhaps Nazi influence on British society in the 1930s or German influence on the monarchy before that could also be cited as examples of recent political treachery in the UK.

But these are individuals, not an entire organisation with an established record of doing similar. There is nothing, I think historically in any nation which compares with the naked greed for power AT ANY COST which can be seen in the Republican Party right now. I'm sure in future they will defend themselves by hiding behind the breathtaking incompetence of the current occupant of the White House, but this is a much bigger issue than one man. He is a bumbling opportunist who was presented with the opportunity to become the most powerful man on Earth - can we really blame him for taking that opportunity?

The ones who will ultimately carry the can for this are the ones who enabled his rise - and somehow future historians will have to explain how they chose to do this at the expense of the country they swore an oath to protect.

Friday, 17 March 2017

Netflix IRONFIST is not bad (but you should be watching LEGION)

Netflix's new Marvel series, IRONFIST, is getting a critical pounding. Don't believe the hype. It won't win any awards but it's far from the worst superhero show on tv.

Confession - I've read the comics.

As is, Danny Rand is a long way from the most original comics character of all time. A clumsy amalgam of Bruce Wayne and the 'lost in ShangriLa' legend used for The Shadow and more recently Dr Strange, there is little new about him beyond the elevation of a martial arts concept 'chi', into a full blown super power, the IronFist. He's a bit dull, and obviously in the long lead up to THE DEFENDERS, you can see why Netflix chose to get to Danny Rand last after Matt Murdock, Luke Cage and Jessica Jones.

That said, after his rehabilitation in 'Heroes For Hire' team up comics, where Rand and Luke Cage setup a mercenary superhero team, some talented comics writers have had a crack at the character over the years and by concentrating less on the Shadow/Shangri-La/Dr Strange/Martial Arts yawn background and more on the Rand family saga, and interaction with other (better) characters like Colleen Wing and Luke Cage, he now has his own identity.

They've obviously tried to go some way with this in the new Netflix series with, I think (up to Ep 2 anyway) some level of success. It's a fairly pedestrian version of something like BILLIONS with some fairly likable characters that might grown on you. This series probably only exists to setup Danny's friendship with Luke Cage - it not is not meant to be the definitive statement in any way on Marvel martial arts characters. Yes it does have a white western guy teaching martial arts to an American Asian, but it's not like the villain is a fiendish Mandarin supervillian with a stringy mustache and long fingernails*

IRONFIST is definitely a notch below in every department DAREDEVIL, LUKE CAGE  and especially JESSICA JONES but
trust me
it's a hell of a lot better than MARVEL'S AGENTS OF SHIELD. Perhaps that's the main issue with IRONFIST, it's Netflix expectation. Their standard level of product is so good the merely mediocre looks terrible in comparison.

Mainstream tv critics who've embarrassed themselves over admitting liking the other Marvel Netflix shows are particularly laying into this one for a variety of reasons and should really get over themselves. DAREDEVIL  is good but seriously overrated for me - sliding heavily into repetition and wasting great acting talent. LUKE CAGE starts magnificently before running into blaxploitation parody. Only JESSICA JONES really sustains itself until the end of the run.
Those looking to punch IRONFIST for not being on the same supposed level as DAREDEVIL should be looking at FX's breathtaking LEGION, which quite frankly is making them all look like children's tv.

*The premier martial artist in Marvel's universe of superheroes is of course full blown, 100% Chinese Shang-Chi, who has no super powers beyond being THE Marvel Master of Kung Fu - which keeps him surprisingly competitive in a world of genuine gods and monsters.

Shang-Chi, a son of Hu'nan province, will initially have little in the way of racial complication for his screen depiction unless we get as far as his parentage, at which point the racial correctness movement will no doubt go into meltdown. For the most part the character is a close analog of Bruce Lee's character from ENTER THE DRAGON, but Shang-Chi's father is no less than the arch-devil of racially insensitive western depictions - the Fiendish Fu Manchu!

Tilda Swinton was the best thing about DR STRANGE.