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PROUD OF WHAT?

It is clear after this first presidential debate of the 2020 US election, that America has a choice between a dull, elderly, frail, moderate, Democrat, and an energised, compelling, fascist who encourages white supremacism.It is not clear that Americans will choose the weaker candidate, in terms of age and body language, for some times history veers in the direction of ugly demontstrations of untrammeled power. This conduit to a seemingly fearless, reckless power souce, an elan, is what Trump seems to offer his followers, like a vampire feeding an evil blood supply.Germany had this choice in the 1930s, and went the wrong way after the Reichstag fire. Germany chose low unemployment, a big economy, patriotism, and a repudiation of physical weakness and 'disease', along with their mesmerising, terrible leader, who promised to shatter all the old values and humble the previous world system.Trump's now infamous call to 'stand back and stand by' suggests there may be dar…
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FREEDOM OF RELIGION

There is alarm among progressive Americans (at least) that their current president, Donald Trump, is seeking to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court bench left yawning after the sad death of the hugely popular and in some quarters notorious RBG, with a woman judge, legal scholar and Notre Dame law professor, known to be a conservative; and a member of an unusual, eccentric religious sect, affiliated to Catholicism but also with Pentecostal leanings. The highest court in their land is ultra-politicised, because it is the final arbiter for interpretations of what is and is not constitutional, and, this has stark implications for Roe v. Wade, gun control, and freedom of speech cases, and beyond. Now, as Habermas argued, all interpretation has bias, but the Court tends to focus on either the 'original intent' of the framers, or seek a more living, process-oriented view of the document. Ms. Amy Coney Barrett is called by some in the media 'an extreme ideologue' - and it is…

THE RULE OF SIX WEEKS

The next six weeks, give or take a few days, will bring us the most nail-bitingly epochal events of most of our lives, at least in the UK and USA; but much of the world will be watching with much concern, also. From the Anglo-American perspective, we're experiencing the multiple deaths of Rasputin.Firstly, the UK is about to see whether its lukewarm semi-lockdown efforts will calm the exponential rise of infections in the pandemic, or lead to a pre-Christmas lockdown that will obliterate the economy for a generation; we just don't know yet. Meanwhile, Trump is dangerously close in enough electoral college states against Biden to maybe just sneak in - or close enough to dig his heels in and cause untold damage before he is thrust out somehow; we'll know more soon. Also, what of his Supreme Court nominee? We're looking at political, economic and medical crises in the West that will shape history for the rest of the century - if only because 4 more years of Trump would ha…

THE HINGE OF HISTORY

Yesterday, my cat located a mouse in my office (a small crowded room filled with books, and boxes of books and papers); before he could pounce, I locked him briefly in another room, and set about trying to rescue the petrified mouse, crouched in a corner. I picked it up, and was going to put it outdoors, but it wriggled free, and is now somewhere else. I am sad to think that now my cat may locate it before me, and do his catlike thing, and play with it to death, but I tried.This is not to try to show I am better than other people, or cats, since I am a meat-eater and wear leather, but I do shy away from directly encouraging or facilitating death in living creatures; even seeing mosquitoes killed makes me uncomfortable, though of course I kill them. This does not stop me from enjoying Bond films, though I am against most acts of violence in what is called reality - historical actuality. If I am conflicted, that is likely because, like many over-educated white middle class Westerners, I…
The new live action Mulan from Disney is now playing on TV, put there by Covid-19. It is a remake of a hugely-popular and more, well, comical, animated version from more than 20 years ago, that has great nostalgic pulling power for many now-older online film addicts; the plan is to charge a lot of money to download it, and share with one's younger friends and family, to pass the bug on.
Reviews have agreed: It's well-made, apparently inoffensive state of the art, and the lead actor is appealing. It features several legendary Chinese actors, and is never less than good to watch, with a rousing score. It is also directed by a woman from New Zealand best known for the excellent Whale Rider from 2002.
Unfortunately, the movie is also, almost by accident it might seem, a disturbing propaganda delivery system, which will be most dangerous in China, the main market for the film in cinemas. The villains (Mongols apparently) are trying to overthrow the Empire/Emperor so it is the inversi…

IN FOR A PENCE?

It is possible to disagree with, or even recoil from, VP Pence's right-wing conservative political and social and religious beliefs, and still recognise that his recent conference speech was a remarkably powerful rhetorical exercise in firing up the new Republican pro-Trump base (down to its nasty transition pun); AND as clear a delineation between choices in any American election they've had since Reconstruction. 'Freedom vs. Control' may be an extreme version, capitalism vs. socialism also a slight exaggeration, but this is the final battle (for now) of the so-called 'Culture Wars' that have been brewing in the US since Nixon in 1968.It's the ultimate American struggle, between the angels of our better selves with a progressive liberal agenda, versus traditional, evangelical, broadly Constitutional literalists, who think America has always been great, needs little correction, and is exceptional in the eyes of God - basically FDR versus Bush Jr. slash Chen…

THE KILLERS HAVE A NEW ALBUM

Imploding The Mirage, as critics and reviewers will quickly inform you, is a title that refers to the famous Las Vegas casino's demolition, which made way for something arguably even snazzier, or more empty. Born in Vegas, that most artificial and symbolic of American places (famous for gambling, glitz, misadventure, criminal origins, and mass murders), The Killers - named after a Hemingway-based film noir, but following in the footsteps of numerous rock acts that have signalled their outlaw claims with similar names (Jerry Lee Lewis was called The Killer) - are a very American rock band. That their lead singer, Brandon Flowers, is famously a Mormon and allegedly a straight arrow, albeit flamboyant on stage, only adds to the resonant enigma - they are part of the myth of the American Dream, while in classic post-modern mode, nod to the artifice, albeit a non-nihilistic one with a God.Their inoffensive, hummable songs, mainly about broken hearts, yearning, broken lives, and hoping …