Tuesday, July 31, 2012

could it be magic

I did it. I finally acquiesced to a combination of cultural pressure and my own personal movie mania and saw "Magic Mike." I wasn't going to do it; I'd seen the trailers and I figured that if I wanted to see beautiful men take their clothes off, I could stay at home and watch porn. Why, I asked myself, should I get all hot and bothered in a theater with the general public when I could see the whole enchilada, and quite a bit more, in the comfort of my own home? I'd also heard that audiences have been whooping, hooting, and cat-calling during the strip/dance numbers, and I could hardly think of a movie-going experience that might appeal to me less. But the all-around positive feedback that the film has been getting coupled with the fact that it had been directed by Steven Soderbergh, an interesting and thoroughly thoughtful filmmaker, piqued my cinematic curiosity. 

What I saw was a provocative and measured testament to the increasing elusiveness of the American dream, and the demoralizing lengths that average Joes (though these Joes are anything but average) might go to in order to achieve the piece of the pie that had been promised them. Of course, the table-turning, gender-bending centerpiece of the film being that men are the objectified pieces of meat paraded in front of a predatory female audience might be interesting enough in itself, but what I found most compelling was the cautionary implication of the human cost of a failed capitalist system.

Only a few generations ago these very same rippled and gyrating hunks might've been trying to get in good favor with their construction site managers so they might make some headway with their local labor unions. Or they might've been driving cabs, or slinging burgers behind a grill in order to pay their way through school. In his fleshly and exhilarating attestation to the plight of the (not so) common man, Soderburgh demonstrates the need for the average guy to not only juggle numerous jobs, but also to prostitute himself simply to get by. It's not surprising that there's such excessive drinking and drug taking in this movie; who wants to deal with this kind of a reality?

In this current recession, amidst continued threats of union busting, increased tuition costs for higher education, and drastic cuts to social services, is it any wonder that the men of "Magic Mike" bare their oh-so-smooth and muscular asses for crumpled, estrogen-sweat-drenched bills? No, not at all. The only question that remains is, what's an average Joe supposed to do if he really is average, or if, heaven forbid, he can't afford a gym membership?

Sunday, July 29, 2012

it's a mad mad mad mad world

I haven't written anything here in almost a month. What with the Aurora shooting, Chick-fil-A basting its chickens in bigotry, Michele Bachmann's full-throated, McCarthyistic cries that Islamic extremists have infiltrated the United States government, voter suppression, extreme weather conditions, the Olympics, and Romney's flagrant lies and endless gaffes, you'd think I'd have quite a lot to prattle on about, but lately, I find myself simply exasperated. Sure, I'll continue to engage in debate about social justice and economic inequity. Of course, I'll go on wearing my bleeding-heart liberalism on my sleeve; keep abreast of current political shenanigans, get ruffled, sign petitions, and vote come November. But right now, I'm looking at the world, at my country, and I'm just resigned. Are the huddling masses really so short sighted as to sell the farm to a mean-spirited, lying, opportunistic plutocrat simply because the last four years hasn't seen them showered in magic prosperity? Can they really be so rigidly partisan and witless as to believe the gross fabrications spun by devious oligarchs; untouchable billionaires and war-profiteers (think Super Pacs), who heartlessly expect to flourish at the expense of the nation, its citizens, world peace, and the planet?

I'm terribly afraid that they might be.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

the supremes

I don't think anyone saw that coming. 

(I’d like to preface this post by stating the obvious: I am not a constitutional scholar  -  legal matters and Supreme Court jurisprudence are far beyond my purview. That said, I do try to keep abreast of the major decisions that this court rules on, and realize the full and far-reaching consequence of their power.)

A national nail biter - for weeks the country has been poised for yet another disappointment. Nothing has suggested that we should've expected anything else but more conservative manipulation, misuse of power, and the inevitable continued shredding of democracy, judiciary neutrality, and constitutional sobriety. While conservative blowhards ceaselessly and loudly caterwaul the dangers of liberal activist judges, reasonable people can’t help but notice that the incessant 5/4 conservative majority of this current Supreme Court have ensured that corporations are people, that it remains perfectly acceptable for campaign finance to be unlimited and clandestine, and that election results don’t really matter. So when Justice John Roberts, George Dubbya’s own cherry-picked ultra-conservative chief justice, sided with the liberal leaning four on the Affordable Care Act, it was a welcomed and exceptional shocker.

Months ago, there was no suggestion that anything in the Affordable Care Act was unconstitutional. Unpopular, yes, but questions of constitutionality weren’t even on the radar. The individual mandate is what’s gotten everyone’s knickers in a bunch, but that was put in as an alternative to the single payer option in order to appease Republican opposition. It was, after all, modeled after Romneycare in Massachusetts. (If we were living in a sane political climate, the Presidential hopeful might be proud to take credit for the architecture of the individual mandate as his greatest achievement, but times being what they are, Mr. Romney feels the need to backpeddle in order to distance himself from it.)  So to read that the four dissenting Justices voted to throw out the entire bill as unconstitutional simply smacks of political partisanship. Exactly the political gamboling that we’ve come to expect from this court,  and exactly why the Supreme Court’s approval ratings are in the toilet. 

Of course, changing the trajectory of how healthcare is conducted in this country may be President Obama’s crowning achievement, and for that fact alone, Roberts must surely have wanted to squash it. But as staunchly conservative as he is, and as much of an opponent to the President, he is also a constitutionalist with encyclopedic knowledge of Supreme Court precedence, and a deep love of the institution itself. Understanding that the court is more partisan and polarized now than ever before, and that this polarization and partisanship has undermined its public opinion and respect, my guess is that Roberts voted with judicial precedence, rather than with his political leanings (as the other conservatives clearly did and as he has in the past). In other words, he may have decided that attempting to restore the legitimacy of the court itself was more important to him than admitting that a bill resembling socialized healthcare, which is most certainly personally distasteful to him, is unconstitutional.

So yes, this has been a pleasant surprise, and has garnered new respect for Justice Roberts from progressives and others who may previously have seen him as just another conservative power player in the de-democratizing of America. But this decision doesn't erase all the damage that this court has recently wrought. We should all keep in mind that in the next term, among other things, these very same Justices who seem driven to make this country a theocratic corporatocracy, will be deciding the outcome of immigration statutes, same-sex marriage, and anti-abortion legislation.  Most importantly, three Justices will most probably be replaced during the next Presidential term. Even if you've been disappointed with Obama's leadership; if you feel he hasn't been as quick to deliver the hope and change that was promised in the last election, keep in mind that the next President will be filling three of these Supreme Court seats.