selenak: (Peggy Carter by Misbegotten)
Back from busy week on the road, and well, was Thursday a day (and night) of joy in our prequel-to-a-YA-Dystopia world or what? Like a great many people, including May, I thought that Labour would get slaughtered when May decided to get herself a coronation an election. I certainly did not guess that it would relieve David Cameron of his "PM who managed to score the worst own goal" title. After last year's Brexit desaster, my faith in the British part of voting humanity is getting somewhat restored. Meanwhile, James Comey came to bury Trump, not to praise him, and did so with relish. I had wif fi in my hotelroom and watched the live steam to great joy and occasional ire.

And yes, I'm aware of all the drawbacks: the Republican party still isn't afraid enough to lose votes to stop kowtowing to Trump, and without them, impeachment is impossible, plus the British edition of the Orange Menace, aka Boris Johnson, might end up becoming PM after all. But hey. It was a good Thursday and Friday morning.

Also, the [community profile] ssrconfidential ficathon has gone live. Check out more than thirty new Agent Carter stories here!

The story I received was: Playing the Cards, Jason Wilkes - and Jason Wilkes/Howard Stark - post season 2 of Agent Carter, and I enjoyed it a lot. Now I look forward to exploring all the other stories, and won't ask anyone to guess mine because it's terribly obvious again.
selenak: (Resistance by Aweeghost)
24 hours at JFK: long detailed article about two of the Iraquis detained when the ban first struck.

Anti Trump Poems : because if humor and poetry won't save us all, they sure as hell will help us make it through these times.

Ron Rosenbaum tells the story of the Munich Post, and its long refusal to sugarcoat anything Hitler did. Ostensibly the article is Rosenbaum's take on whether or not you can make comparisons between 45 and The Guy From Braunau, but really the story of the Munich Newspaper that fought Hitler from the very start when he was just an also ran small time demagogue in Munich to the time they were closed and, to use a Steve Bannon term, "shut up" in 1933 at his command is at the heart of it.
selenak: (Rocking the vote by Noodlebidsnest)
Broadly speaking, and watching from abroad which means I might have missed a lot, I'm tempted to guess the only Republicans coming out of this election year with their reputations enhanced instead of damaged are, of all the people, the ex presidents Bush (for at no point endorsing Drumpf)...and Megyn Kelly, Fox News Presenter. Or we could just narrow it down to Megyn Kelly. Who in addition to tirelessly battling the orange menace also just took on the 90s tantrum throwing manchild, Newt Gingrich, when he went up against her.

Check this out. Kudos, Ms. Kelly. Not that I agree with you on anything else, but, yeah.

Meanwhile, the Gingrich comedy hour included such gems as "“I’m sick and tired of people like you using language that’s inflammatory that’s not true!”. Spoken by Newt Gingrich. Supporting Donald Trump. I think this might rival Drumpf's own "nobody respects women more than I do", don't you?

Also, I'm having fond flashbacks to the last presidential election campaign, in 2012, when Gingrich suddenly discovered he'd always loved Bill Clinton and thought him a great president in an effort to divide the Clinton and Obama camps. I can't wait for what he'll come up next post elections. He's always known Drumpf was up to no good, and no one but he can save the Republican party?
selenak: (Rocking the vote by Noodlebidsnest)
The world is a scary, scary place right now. By which I'm not referring to the orange menace, though the fact that he got this far and continues to spread his poison is horrible. But frankly, what scares me more is how in so many countries, including my own, so called mainstream politicians are adopting the vocabulary of right wing thugs while said thugs are on the rise. UKIP is pretty much superfluous in Britain right now since the current Tory P.M. puts scorn on the term "citizen of the world" in an almost literal quote from the 1930s Nazi papers (I'm painfully aware of Godwin's law, believe me, but she truly did - and that was a pretty famous quote at that), and wants to "shame" British firms employing foreigners by publishing lists, Orban in Hungary has just destroyed the last independent paper, comes fresh from a xenophobic campain that would feel right at home in the 30s and, just to show he wants to emulate his buddy Putin in everything, dishes out insults at LGTB people in his spare moments (asking Hungarians whether they want a family with mother and father or "people who can't tell whether they are men or women"). Poland is ruled by similar right wing nuttery, and like Hungary, it was elected by popular vote. In France, you have Marine Le Pen and the National Front who to me is more frightening than Drumpf because she could truly become President the way it looks right now. As for my own country: see above: re: mainstream conservatives falling over themselves trying to emulate the AFD thugs. Two weeks or so ago the general secretary of the CSU said that his nightmare was "a football playing altar boy from Senegal" because "we'll never be rid of him". (See: he didn't even use the "non working, Islamic menace" type of cliché. Instead, he conjured a completely integrated asylum seeker.) If you believe he had to step down or that there were in any way negative consequences for him from within his own party, think again. On October 3rd, holiday of German unity, our chancellor and president were in Dresden precisely because Dresden has become such a hottub for right extremists, as a counter gesture. There were hundreds of people screaming the Nazi word "Volksverräter" (people's traitor) at them. The Saxonian police wished them (the demonstrators) "a successful day".

All of this, far more than Drumpf by himself (who makes me throw up), makes me live in a constant state of dread.

Briefly on non-rl news, which are a welcome distraction: Yuletide assignment: that was fast! Not something I've done before, not what I expected, but not a problem, either, I can do it, and will enjoy doing it (which is why I had offered the fandom in question to begin with).
selenak: (Branagh by Dear_Prudence)
Well, what can I say about the new season line-up the tv show British Politics presented yesterday? At least Larry retains his cabinet position. (Seriously, read that entry I just linked. The Larry tale is probably the best thing to come out of this week.)

As for one of last season's chief villains making a comeback in a supporting role after (prematurely, sigh) we all assumed he'd been written out: I can't decide whether it's a cunning ploy to punish him ("you broke it, you can't run away, face the music and become hated trying to fix it the way the rest of us will") or Theresa May's idea of comedy relief. I mean, it's not like Boris Johnson's greatest hit list of diplomatic efforts is a carefully kept secret. I must admit, I can't wait for the crossover episode with the horror show "Turkish Politics", because if ever two people deserve each other, these two people are Erdogan and Johnson. (Otoh, in the interest of not starting yet another war in the Middle East, might be wise to keep him away from Iraq.)

I note that Johnson won't be negotiating anything Brexit related and that another guy who got the newly created cabinet post of "Brexit Minister" will. This proves that May isn't deliberately trying to to make things worse for Britain, at least? I also note that the headline in today's FAZ (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, one of our leading pappers) is "May begs Germany and France for more time", which isn't how her press office phrased it to the local media, I'm sure.

Meanwhile, not just our politicians but those around the globe are still wondering whether this is all a big joke this morning...
selenak: (Peggy Carter by Misbegotten)
Seems that British Politics show I mentioned a week or so ago has written half of their leads out (and all of those pushing for that unbelievable potline). briefly tried to promote a new female villain but then settled on making the lead one of the former minor supporting characters, also female.

Meanwhile, the flashback episodes are still going on. If you want to catch up:

The Chilcot Report, Digested Edition (because it's better to laugh than to cry)

On that note, fanfic from a recently cancelled show, Agent Carter:

Il diavolo rosa: Nonna Manfredi versus Bernard the Flamingo. It's the showdown of the century!
selenak: (Hurt!Doctor by milly-gal)
Reading about the Chilcot Report brings oh so many things to mind. On the (dimly) bright side, after the last ten days highlighted the dysfunctionality of British politics, the mere existence of a) the comission, and b) the report now delivered is a reminder that the U.K. does have a political tradition and understanding of responsibility to be proud of. Because I didn't see Obama ordering such an investigation on to the Bush administration's decision making re: the Iraq War, did you? And I don't think any future president (of either party) ever will; I think Dubya will live out his life without even the minor inconvenience of two or so days public shaming Blair is currently going through before the news cycle moves on. That shoe thrown at him ages ago when he showed up in Iraq was as close as we'll ever get.

Now I've heard some reminders about hindsight being 20/20, but as not only the report points out, no hindsight was necessary. Blair had people in his own cabinet who pointed out the insanity and wrongness of it all. And resigned as a matter of principle. (So very different from a certain bunch who resigned AFTER creating disaster in the last few days.) Robin Cook's resignation speech (in fulll, all eleven minutes of it) is worth listening to again; and here is Clare Short's letter Blair, pointing out that "the consequences of us continuing to be vague about the detail of future arrangements are very serious. We risk putting our armed forces and our civil servants in a situation where they are complicit with breaches of international law. We risk antagonising Arab opinion across the region and jeapordising the prospects of progress with MEPP. And we risk the UK's own international reputation." No kidding, Ma'am.

Of Blair's own letters and memos written at the time, the one currently most quoted is the "I'll be with you, whatever" note to Bush written full eight months before the Iraq Invasion. Sounding for all the world as if he thinks he's Sam going to Mordor with Frodo. And the thing is, he probably does think that (though a less Frodo-like person than W. is hardly imaginable). When he published his memoirs, I browsed through them and among all the usual self justifying hogwash, the starry eyed treatment the US and its leaders get really stood out. Tony Blair in his memoirs about US Presidents, summed up and only slightly paraphrased: "I love America. To prove it, I'll use as many clichés as possible when talking about it. Frontier spirit, vision, leadership, leadership, leadership, vision vision vision. Now, about those guys at the top: 1.) Bill. Bill is brilliant and charming and I fell for him immediately. And damm it if he didn't seduce me all over again in Blackpool 2003 even though I was already in a happy relationship with George by then. Also? He weathered that impeachment thing and left office with an approval rating of more than 60%, unlike me, hmph. 2.) George. Stop calling George stupid, you meanies! A stupid man would never become the American president. Always knowing right from wrong is intelligence, too, and George ALWAYS knows the right thing to do! Plus he's really manly and tough and decisive. 3.) Obama. I met him! He's as brilliant as Bill and as tough and manly as George. And I'm sure he didn't mean it when he said not so nice things about George's Iraq policy."

Power loves power, of course, but the impression I have with Blair is that it's a bit more than that with the US; Peter Morgan was on to something with the last installment of his Blair trilogy. Meanwhile, one of our politicians quipped: "The Special Relationship - so special only the Brits knows it exists." Seriously though, there are more than enough examples in British-American post war history of wars where they WEREN'T on each other's side (Suez, Vietnam, Falkland) that this idea that to maintain a good British-American relationship Britain would have to unconditionally support the US strikes me as a unique-to-Blair interpretation. In his most recent sorry-not-sorry press conference, he mentioned he always believed that Britain needed to have a strong relationship with both the US and Europe. Currently it has neither. ("Back to the end of the queue" was how Obama put it, didn't he?) While the Tories (and Rupert Murdoch) certainly carry a lot of blame for that, a case can be made that Blair's behavior re: Iraq did his share.

At the most recent terrorist bombing in Bagdhad a few days ago, about 200 people died. Not much reporting on this one; violent death in Iraq is so commonplace by now that it only gets a few lines internationally. I don't think many Iraquis will care about the Chilcot report at this point.
selenak: (Henry Hellrung by Imaginary Alice)
Because US politics provide less angst for me than European politics: on twitter, JMS (i.e. J. Michael Straczkynski, for you non B5lers) has not only urged anyone who ever liked one of the shows he's worked on to vote for Bernie Sanders, but has enlisted fictional characters as well by pointing out that Peter Parker and Superman (he said Superman, not Clark Kent) , both of whom he wrote in comics, would most definitely vote for Bernie.

Great Maker, as Londo Mollari would say. Whose endorsement wasn't offered, undoubtedly because Londo's political choices are, err, not of the type that you'd want in rl. Anyway, I can't decide whether I'm more amused or more inclined to face palm. Not that I'm not prepared to believe Peter Parker would vote for Bernie Sanders, but I could be mean and point out Peter Parker (comics book edition) is canonically vulnerable to Daddy figures persuading him into endorsing major political decisions he later disagrees with. During JMS' run, no less. (And that's the first and last time anyone will compare Bernie Sanders to (comic book) Civil War era Tony Stark.) No, but seriously: I'm all for urging people to vote and for expressing one's beliefs about a candidate. Drafting comic book heroes into it, though, has to be a new one.

Though now I want the fanfic where Peter votes for Bernie while Aunt May votes for Hillary. Meanwhile, MJ (still married to Peter at the time of JMS writing him) is of the "anyone who can stop Trump or Cruz" persuasion and is amendable to either candidate, but that's not what Peter and May want to hear, who try to convince her she HAS TO MAKE A DECISION.

Meanwhile, J. Jonah Jameson is writing an article of how Spider-Man is stealthily supporting Trump. Why? Because he hates them both. Since when has he ever needed another reason?
selenak: (Pumuckl)
Other than the Cameron/Pig revelations (btw, of all the puns, I think I like "Snoutrage" best), this has been an infuriating and depressing week politically. I feel like strangling the entire top hierarchy of the CSU (= Bavarian branch of the Conservatives, the head of same is currently in a power struggle with Merkel) for the vile kowtowing to Orbán the Fascist they've been doing (which I find even more revolting for the fact that it happened near my hometown, Bamberg, and Orbán was staying overnight in Bamberg, not half a mile from my home - ugh!), abd then there are the greedy manager lot responsible for the VW scandal which promises to be a long term disaster of unknown proportions (every seventh job in Germany is within the automotive industry) for whom strangling would be too good and who deserve a life time of toilet cleaning in refugee camps.

And now I've learned that Ellis Kaut has died. This is one of those deaths which objectively you can't call tragic - she lived to be 94 years old, she was a very successful writer who managed to create the most beloved her of any post war German book/radio/tv show (he was all three), full stop. But that's precisely why I'm sad. There are few writers who managed to give me something that was so big a part of my early childhood, and adolescence. Or life, because whenever I come across an episode of Pumuckl, I still can't resist listening or watching, as the case may be.

Her hero was a little red haired goblin called Pumuckl who usually is invisible to humans but at the beginning of the story by accident gets trapped at the work place of a Munich carpenter, Meister Eder, which means Eder can see him now. Pumuckl is basically a cheerful, anarchic, hyperactive child; Meister Eder is a slow, gemütlich carpenter settled in his routines and somewhere between middle aged and old: it's the odd couple charm, of course, though the pair has one thing in common from the get go, they love food (and beer). (Why, they're Bavarians living in Munich, of course they do.) Ellis Kaut wrote their stories first for radio, then as books, and then they became tv. Meister Eder was acted by Gustl Bayerhammer and Pumuckl voiced by Hans Clarin in both the audio versions, which I first listened to as a small child, and on tv when I was entering teenagedom. You couldn't imagine anyone else in the roles. On tv, Pumuckl was a cartoon character, the rest was live action. Shot on location in Munich; you couldn't imagine them in a non-Bavarian setting, either, and when much later, after Gustl Bayerhammer had died, the producers tried to shoot a movie with Pumuckl in a northern setting and without Meister Eder at his side, it promptly flopped. And when this year for an upcoming book anniversary a new illustrator prepared an edition where Pumuckl instead of having a belly is slimmed down to look "more like a energetic kid's hero of today" (so they phrased it), not just author Ellis Kaut - who had sold the rights, and thus legally couldn't intervene - but all of Germany revolted and was indignant, and so the publisher hastily had to scrap this and take it back, and thus republished Pumuckl still has his belly along with his passion for rhyme ("huch, das reimt sich ja, und was sich reimt, ist wahr!") and pranks and annoying Meister Eder's neighbors.

Pumuckl, of course, is immortal. Ellis Kaut has left us today. I'm so grateful for what she gave. Here, in case you know at least a bit German or want to have a visual impression, is an episode of the tv show, "Pumuckl and the first snow".

selenak: (Allison by Spankulert)
I'm currently so worried, angry and frustrated about events like these, which keep happening over here (two more only last night). Which makes the need for fannish things to enjoy even more urgent. On that note, here's an Orphan Black rec. One of the s3 elements I was pleasantly surprised by most was the way the late (since the pilot, so not really a spoiler) Beth Childs was used, the way Sarah's thoughts keep coming back to her. This story expands on the mental Beth-Sarah conversations by giving Beth conversations with a great many other characters. Intense, with a dream logic that makes emotional sense, and extra points for including Amelia:

and when they sing (8316 words) by piggy09
Chapters: 1/1
Fandom: Orphan Black (TV)
Rating: Teen And Up Audiences
Warnings: Major Character Death
Relationships: Beth Childs & Sarah Manning, (sort of) - Relationship, Beth Childs & Kira Manning, Beth Childs & Helena, Helena & Amelia (Orphan Black), Beth Childs & Rachel Duncan, Beth Childs/Paul Dierden
Characters: Beth Childs, Katja Obinger, Kira Manning, Helena (Orphan Black), Amelia (Orphan Black), Rachel Duncan, Charlotte Bowles, Paul Dierden, EVERYBODY SHOWS UP TO CHAT OKAY
Additional Tags: Dreams, Confusing and pretentious

As soon as Sarah had enough memories for Beth she was here: this kitchen, the safest place Sarah knew, a keeping-place until Sarah was ready to meet her. She had been alone there for a while. There were visitors, sometimes, but mostly Beth was just alone. Waiting and waiting and waiting for Sarah to come and see her.

selenak: (Alicia and Diane - Winterfish)
Am I ever glad I abandoned The Good Wife and my emotional investment in same before all of this went down, because the latest PR attempt to deal with a certain actors-in-the-same-room related disaster completely backfires as the Kings attempt to deflect the questions as if they'd never done an interview before. Seriously, guys, "no comment" would have been better than Read more... )

This is starting to look like good material for a Robert Altman directed Hollywood-on-Hollywood farce. Also, whatever Julianna Margulies next job will be, it's bound to include a huge reality check.

From the bizarre to the real life gruesome: good article on why torture doesn't work, and which interrogation tactics actually DO work. Mind you, sadly it probably won't be read by people who aren't already against torture, but still, good article. Probably more relevant than ever, given Jeb Bush's pro torture stance.

And lastly: one of our living legends in German politics, Egon Bahr, died at age 93. Here is an obituary in English. Perhaps the best way to describe him to non-Germans is that he was a real life West Wing character who really did believe in this whole public service as a calling thing, while at the same time also being West-Wing-style devoted to "his" Chancellor, the late Willy Brandt.
selenak: (Three and Brig by Ellisbelle)
LJ really seems determined to drive everyone away, doesn't it? Sigh. I hate the new "feed" design.

From the trivial to the infuriating: Jeb Bush won't rule out the use of torture should he become president. Well, naturally. The amazing thing is that he admits it. But this reminds me again that Dubya, Cheney & Co. are all walking around free and wealthy and not ever threatened by being treated as war criminals, and despite of all the years of getting used to it, it's as infuriating as ever.

Oh, and some of them even are lined up to create more misery and disaster in the next administration: Paul Wolfowitz takes a swim.

Real life politics being that depressing, it's always good when fandom comes through. Have a vid rec:

Doctor Who: Survivors: joyful vid about the Companions and their post-Doctor lives and connections. Yay!
selenak: (Omar by Monanotlisa)
...American or otherwise. I'm aware the US never agreed to the International Criminal Court, even before 9/11, but it did sign to uphold the Geneva Convention (I remember this being brought up back when the Abu Ghraib news exploded) , and even if you postulate this "only" counts for prisoners of war, this article mentions that Reagan signed and the US ratified the United Nations convention against torture, which covers every human being, pow or not. So, in theory, shouldn't it be possible to sue Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld et al for authorizing and encouraging torture? Even within the US itself? I mean, I'm aware it would never come to any convictions. I'm not that naive. But it could maybe make it more difficult for a while longer for these guys to rewrite the past.

Also, there's some legal precedent. In 2003, Abu Omar, an Egyptian cleric who had been granted asylum in Italy, was kidnapped in Milan. The CIA then secretly transported him to Egypt. In November 2009, an Italian court convicted 22 CIA agents, one US military official and two Italian intelligence operatives to at least five years imprisonment for their role in the kidnapping. The CIA agents were convicted in absentia and never extradited, but they were convicted, and presumably can't work in Europe anymore for a while. Would it be too much to at least limit Rumsfeld etc.'s ability to travel in the same way?
selenak: (Katrine und Henne by Goodbyebird)
Not so coincidentally, I just finished reading, for the first time though of course I'd watched the movie by Alan Pakula a dozen times, All the President's Men, the book by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein about the Watergate case and their reporting of it. It still holds up incredibly well. Despite knowing a lot about the Watergate affair in advance, and the awareness Bob Woodward will end up as the prototype of the embedded reporter in love with power a few years down the line, the narrative is gripping, suspenseful, and despite featuring a huge cast (even huger than the movie, which prudently jettisoned a few players as movies must to get it down to a two hour tale), you never lose sight of all the interconnections or the developments. The various politicians, hangers-on, Washington Post staff people are given pen portraits, and what surprised me was that Bernstein apparantly was willing to either write himself or have included - all is written in third person, so you can't tell who wrote what - scenes which poke fun at him (Woodward not so much), like this one about a conference with the recently deceased Ben Bradlee ending:

Bernstein was dissappointed to see the meeting end. The editor had pushed his left sleeve up, and Bernstein had seen a tattoo of a rooster. Bernstein momentarily forgot about Watergate. Bradlee, whom he regarded with an unhealthy imbalance of respect, fear, anger and self pity (Bradlee didn't understand him, he had decided long before) was always amazing him. He wished he'd gotten a better look at the tattoo.

Because Woodward and Bernstein for a while ended up is the iconic reporters, it's easy to overlook how young they were when this all went down, and stuff like this humanizes them. (Another Bernstein-making-fun-of-himself scene is when his bike got stolen and he reflects how typical this is: when Woodward goes into a garage, it's to meet Deep Throat, when he goes, it's to find the remains of a lock and a stolen bike.)

Such neat touches aside: what makes the book is of course the story it tells, and the relentless way it traces and uncovers the corruption of the political process all the way back to the White House. (And Woodward & Bernstein, unlike today's readers, weren't even familiar with the paranoid Nixon rants immortalized on tape when writing this, as the book ends before Nixon leaves office.) Though it's not a little depressing that a lot of the campaign tactics they uncover today are taken for granted. To use a list from mid book: bugging, following people, false press leaks, fake letters, cancelling campaign rallies, investigating campaign workers private lives, planting spies, stealing documents, planting provocateurs in political demonstrations.

Planting spies and bugging, we were told by White House officials (and a lot of other people of all parties and persuasions) more recently, is absolutely okay because everyone does it. It's not something even Richard Nixon came up with as an excuse. (His most famous quote in the Frost interview being "if the President does it, it's not illegal", which is a similar idea, more personalized.) Which brings me to, you guessed it, Laura Poitras' movie Citizenfour about Edward Snowden and surrounding circumstances. But before I talk about the movie itself, some thoughts which have been plagueing me for a while. It is this: why didn't become Snowden, Greenwald and Poitras the new Woodward and Bernstein in the eyes of the American public? Especially the not conservative part of it? They certainly did in my part of the world (Germany), but within the States, at least compared to over here, the reactions were pretty much blasé. The right wing attacks on Obama focus on other stuff, and the democratic/progressive criticism of Obama and his government that I've seen mostly seems to be divided between a) "Why can't you be more like... *insert past democratic president of choice with ability to schmooze and intimidate other politicians on a nose-to-nose level*", b) "Why so sloppiliy organized?" , and c) "Where's the promised change, this "the Republicans are blocking everything" excuse isn't doing it for me anymore". Whereas voices like Daniel "Pentagon Papers" Ellsberg's are rare, who firmly rejected John Kerry (and Obama) saying Snowden should have done as Ellsberg did and faced a trial in the US by stating he wouldn't do that in the current day US, either (and good lord, when you're told your government is less trustworthy in terms of human rights abuse than Richard Nixon's...), and witheringly added: (Snowden) would have no chance whatsoever to come home and make his case – in public or in court. Snowden would come back home to a jail cell – and not just an ordinary cell-block but isolation in solitary confinement, not just for months like Chelsea Manning but for the rest of his sentence, and probably the rest of his life. His legal adviser, Ben Wizner, told me that he estimates Snowden's chance of being allowed out on bail as zero. (I was out on bond, speaking against the Vietnam war, the whole 23 months I was under indictment). More importantly, the current state of whistleblowing prosecutions under the Espionage Act makes a truly fair trial wholly unavailable to an American who has exposed classified wrongdoing. (...) Without reform to the Espionage Act that lets a court hear a public interest defense – or a challenge to the appropriateness of government secrecy in each particular case – Snowden and future Snowdens can and will only be able to "make their case" from outside the United States. (...) John Kerry's challenge to Snowden to return and face trial is either disingenuous or simply ignorant that current prosecutions under the Espionage Act allow no distinction whatever between a patriotic whistleblower and a spy. Either way, nothing excuses Kerry's slanderous and despicable characterizations of a young man who, in my opinion, has done more than anyone in or out of government in this century to demonstrate his patriotism, moral courage and loyalty to the oath of office the three of us swore: to support and defend the Constitution of the United States.

Ouch. But like I said, Mr. Ellsberg as far as American voices are concerned seems to be in a distinct minority. And I don't think the reason is just the public as a whole having become fare more jaded. Becaube, Democrats, Liberals and Progressives on my list, ask yourself, and I'm truly curious: if Snowden had blown the whistle under a Republican president - doesn't matter who, McCain or Romney if they had won their respective elections, or Bush back when - would your reaction have been different? (And it could have easily happened. I don't think any Republican - or any alternate Democrat President, for that matter, i.e. Hillary Clinton if she'd won against Obama in the primaries - would have given the NSA & Co. less leaveway to spy on everyone than the Obama administration did.) Would you have been not only more outraged, but also seen the sheer extent of the licence to spy as something that does reflect the President's personal responsibility the way Watergate did reflect Nixon's? Because I really think the reason why Obama gets more leaveway here than any Republican President would have gotten is because Obama-as-bad-guy really, really, really doesn't fit into the narrative moderate-to-progressive Americans want to hear. Partly because it automatically associates right wing nutters (though these attack him for other reasons) and the sense of not wanting to give them more ammunition, I suppose. But partly because they seem so far apart: Tricky Dicky, Nixon paranoidly taping himself ranting about the Jews/Gays/Press/, and the first black President. He's supposed to be, at worst, the hero who couldn't due to the mess his predecessor left and the Republicans blocking his every move, not the licenser of tactics which any of the titular President's Men from Nixon's time would have wept for joy to be able to use legally.

Now, on to Poitras' movie. Which definitely treats Obama as one of its villains. He's not the prime target, which is the post 9/11 mass surveillance and the total lack of any checks on it in general, and it's made clear early on by veteran whistleblower William Binney, who quit the NSA in 2001, that the Bush administration started this, but among other things, Citizenfour is an indictement of Barack Obama. Glenn Greenwald early on in the film quotes from Obama's campaign speeches (for his first run), all quotes condemming what he now practices. Then Edward Snowden in his first physical meeting with Laura Poitras and Glenn Greenwald names as one of his key motivations the fact that the Obama administration contrary to its promises didn't reduce or curtail the surveillance but escalated it. And while Poitras throughout the film uses clips of various government officials (Keith Alexander, former NSA head, and various guys from the justice department) denying with bland smugness what the film then shows going on, the climax this builds up is a cut from the Guardian staff being forced to destroy hardware to Glenn Greenwald's partner David being held back at Heathrow after a meeting with her in Berlin to a newsclip of Obama (even smugger than the previous officials) saying Snowden was no patriot and should return to the US where lawful trial would happen. (At this point there was scornful laughter in the cinema.) And the very end of the movie, when Greenwald tells Snowden about a new source and its revelations, he draws the chain of responsibility on paper culminating in the letters POTUS, where camera lingers as a next to last final image.

Poitras' biggest problem as film maker must have been that this documentary by necessity takes place largely in hotel rooms where two or three people talk (or type), which potentially could have come across very static and boring. But she managed to avoid this trap, not least because Snowden and Greenwald (who do much of the talking, with fellow Guardian journalist Ewen MacArgill occasionally there as well) both come across as articulate and compelling. And as with All the President's Men, even though you know the rough outline of how this goes in advance - Snowden makes contact, eventually they meet in that Hongkong hotel room, data is transferred, explanation are given, Geenwald starts to release the stories, on the fourth day Snowden's identity is released as well, etc. - the way it plays out on screen remains captivating. Also like All the President's Men, the book, there's unexpected humor: when Poitras tells Snowden (via written communication online, since he's in Russia at that point) that the Merkel story is a go, but the German government hasn't publically reacted yet, Snowden types back whether she has tried to call Angela M. directly since she now has the number. :) There's even a mini subplot, as you'd say if this were a fictional story, about Snowden's girlfriend whom he worries about in Hongkong and whom we in the last five minutes of the film see has joined him in Russia in July this year.

It's, of course, an unabashedly partisan documentary, cum ira et studio, and never pretends to be anything else: the opening credits establish Poitras has been under surveillance since her first post 9/11 movie on the Iraq War, and while you get to know Snowden and Greenwald in the intimacy and extensive length of those hotel room conversations, administration members are only shown in (smug) newsclips. But the main argument, which Poitras lets Binney, Greenwald and Snowden make repeatedly, and also Joseph Applebaum, that surveillance is control, there are no restraints and no watchers on these watchmen anymore, that only a tiny part of the collected material actually can in any way be connected to counterterrorism and the rest is about competition between firms, industrial espionage and utter disregard of any privacy whatsover, and that the self censorship of people is already an every day fact because of this - all this can hardly be told dispassionatedly. Ditto for the point Snowden's pro bono lawyers later make about the Espionage act, which dates from WWI and doesn't differentiate between a whistleblower and a spy (Ellsberg has quite a lot to say about it in his article as welll) and gives the person indicted by it no chance of defense.

Stylistically noteworthy: as opposed to Michael Moore, who made his persona a part of all his films, Poitras remains invisible, though her voice is present throughout the film. And the clips she uses to establish the various locations (Hongkong, Berlin, Rio de Janairo) never show the obvious tourist sights; the most striking images not involving a person aren't of the cities, though, but of the NSA complexes being built in the US and the ones already existing in Britain and Germany, those ominous white balloons in front of landscapes.

Is the end result then a great movie? I don't know. But it's an important one, I think. And I hope it will be watched by as many people as possible.
selenak: (Rocking the vote by Noodlebidsnest)
So, during the last week we had, in my part of the world, repeated headlines about the senate report on the CIA and its torture practices during the Bush years, mostly focused around the "revelation" that said torture didn't get any results and that what results were achieved by the CIA, they got first, then tortured anyway, then filed reports to make it look better for themselves by reversing the order of events. Then again, there also was apparantly pressure from above to use "enhanced interrogation techniques" against at least some field agent's reccommendations. Various comments to these articles included the suggestion that this was the CIA taking the fall for the government because of course they carried out wishes. The use of torture itself was, of course, old news. It's noticeable that after more than a decade, nobody bothers with the "a few rotten apples" disclaimer anymore which came with both the few army (Abu Ghraib) and the CIA incidents that were reported back in the day.

Meanwhile, also in the news: George W. Bush opens an exhibition of his paintings. The paintings, various reviews inform us, are nicely avarage, neither bad nor particularly good, and Dubya himself just such an affable guy.

This is why political satire has become redundant.

I mean, there never was a chance that Bush, Rumsfeld and Cheney would end up in The Hague on trial, but maybe some hope that the distaste of the public for them would last a little longer than that. And, as much as it's a "go after the tool, not the wielder" unfairness, maybe some chance that some of the actual torturers would face charges, but, so the articles on the Senate report reminded us, the Obama government had refused to charge a single CIA agent in this regard. (Undoubtedly aware that doing so would establish precedence and allow some future person to charge agents for what they did during the Obama years as well, which, while not waterboarding, still would include illegal activities.)

I wonder: did a single reporter interviewing Bush about his painting activities even try to ask him how he feels about the going two wars he started, and the fact that under his government, torture became an accepted interrogation method?

(Where is a shoe-throwing Iraqui if one needs one?)
selenak: (Breaking Bad by Wicked Signs)
This morning there was an interview with Bryan Cranston in the NY Times, about playing Lyndon B. Johnson in All The Way. It's a good interview, and I knew this was his upcoming project, but somehow I'd missed out on the fact this was a theatre play, not a movie or tv miniseries. Which is great for theatre goes in New York but sad for transatlantic me, who thus won't get to watch Cranston in said role. And I'd love to: Cranston bringing out all the ambiguities, the flaws and virtues of Johnson surely will be awesome to behold.

The other reason why I'd have been looking forward to watching the film or tv product this isn't: it wouldn't, couldn't fall into the two categories American dramas seem to when featuring a President in a prominent role: if Nixon, then a tragic villain, if Lincoln, then a noble saint. Johnson's reputation has had its ups and downs, but seems to have settled for "Great Society Awesome, Vietnam Bad" as far as his presidency is concerned, and "Most efficient Senator and Democratic Leader in the Senate Ever/Totally Not Above Stealing If He Needed To" for the decades before that. I remember Ted Kennedy in his memoirs calling him the best American President post-Roosevelt, but even his enemies seem to agree that Johnson, for good or ill, got things done. The Cranston article summarizes: But in 2014, the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act and the War on Poverty, with anniversaries of two other Great Society triumphs, the Voting Rights Act and Medicare, a year away, Johnson endures as something far more interesting and even inspiring: the last and perhaps greatest of all legislative presidents, with his wizardly grip on the levers of governance at a time when it was still possible for deals to be brokered and favors swapped and for combatants to clash in an atmosphere of respect, if not smiling concord. And before that: The story of a ruthless president who got things done — without blinking at the costs and compromises — reminds us that partisan gridlock doesn’t have to be a permanent condition.

There is a pointed if unspoken comparison here to the current President. In all the non-Republican criticisms of Obama (and non-foreign: in my part of the world, he and the entire US government are currently under fire for something else altogether), the constant red thread seems to be that he's too aloof and hands-off to mingle with anyone in Washington outside his inner circle; that something like "the Johnson Treatment" (which, Wikipedia tells me, was the nickname for Johnson's tried and true method of cajoling, intimidating, flattering and terrorizing - whatever worked - Congressmen and Senators alike) would be unthinkable. (Ditto for Clinton-style arm-pressing and socializing.) To which the defense in the recent New Yorker profile of Obama was that in the current climate, with the Republicans so dead set to object to anything from the government, it wouldn't be of use anyway. Which is probably true, but it strikes me that one reason why types like Johnson wouldn't even make it to the presidency these days (except the way LBJ did, i.e. as Vice President taking over from a suddenly dying incumbent) is that both Republican and Democrat candidates harp on presenting themselves as outsiders to the Washington scene. No matter how accurate or not, every candidate spins it like he/she is the noble saviour from outside, untainted by poisonous inside politics and corruption, and voters reward that. That the result isn't change but even more obstruction and inertia isn't really surprising, if you think about it.

Now, the recent Lincoln did show some political manoeuvring and cajoling and showed Lincoln as savvy in addition to being noble, but it still couldn't resist te occasional half profile shot where you expect him to have a halo because of the way he's lighted, and also, being the President who ended slavery and was assassinated means you don't have to convince the majority of the audience he was a good guy. Johnson, otoh, has the Vietnam albatros around his neck, and that's before you get into conspiracy theories about the Kennedy assassination or more reliable tales about his intimidation tactics which make him sound like the Gene Hunt of Presidents. (Phlipp Glennister for Johnson if the play is a success and comes to London?) And then, it's impossible to end his story on a triumphant note for anyone: he leaves office, Vietnman gets even worse, America gets Nixon, and the days of major liberal laws being passed and being put into practice, are over for the next few decades. In conclusion and back to the beginning, I'm really curious about this play, and endlessly frustrated I won't get to see it.
selenak: (Frobisher by Letmypidgeonsgo)
So the latest Snowden revelation is that the US is/was bugging our chancellor's mobile phone. This caused not a few "oh, NOW she gets upset, when we've complaining about the outrage of American spying since July" from our media, but they also agree it's a particularly nasty kick in the teeth in a whole series of same that make for US foreign policy. I mean, as the Guardian puts it in this article, who needs enemies if you have the United States of America as your friend?

"Top of that list of questions is what exactly does it mean to be an American ally in the 21st century. Germany and France are Nato partners. Their soldiers have fought and died alongside American troops in Afghanistan. Mexico is fighting a bloody battle with drug cartels with America and on its behalf. The Brazilian president, Dilma Rousseff, whose phone was also monitored by the NSA, was an American critic but by no means an adversary."

Mind you, getting your phone bugged seems harmless next to, say, drone strikes - or, as the Guardian also puts it, here:

Take drone attacks, which are Obama's weapon of choice in the new phase of the war on terror. They are reckoned to have killed up to 3,613 (926 of them civilians, including 200 children) in Pakistan alone. Amnesty International this week argued that US officials should stand trial over evidence of war crimes in the Pakistan drone campaign. Human Rights Watch has made a similar case over the slaughter in Yemen.

And given that, yes, all the governments protesting do their own share of spying, it's easier to have sympathy with the case of a private citizen disbarred from entering the US for having been critical (i.e. Ilja Trojanew earlier this month) than with Ms. Merkel, who has been downplaying the whole NSA affair for months until presented with this latest bit of news. But it sticks in the throat nonetheless, as one more bone to swallow.
selenak: (City - KathyH)
Back in Munich as of last night, and somewhat damaged, as I caught what's referred to as "The Book Fair cold", i.e. the inevitable result of spending a week in circulated air with millions of people. But never mind that - it was a thoroughly busy and splendid fair for me, with the Book Trade Peace Award yesterday given to Svetlana Alexejivich meaning it went out on a high note. I must confess I hadn't read anything of hers before, but I most certainly will now.

Svetlana Alexijevich, who is from Belarus, had a few scholarships abroad but always went back home and still lives there, despite the fact that she's no longer allowed to be published there, having run foul of the Belarus dictator. Her three most famous works, all non-fiction novels a la In Cold Blood, are (and I'm using the German titles translated into English here, so maybe the English titles are different) : "War has no female face" which dealt with the then completely unexplored part Soviet women played during WWII (this brought her the accusation of maligning the Great Patriotic War, and it couldn't get published until the onset of Perestroika in 1985), "Boys in Tin" about the Russian/Afghan war and specifically the soldiers coming back to a Soviet Union which no longer existed, having fought in a deeply unpopular war, and being thoroughly damaged, often suicidal. When there were quotes from this book in the speeches I was struck by how you could change "Russian" for "American" and "socialism" for "democracy" and have the exact same passage written today: "Kabul 1988. An Afghan hospital. A young Afghan woman, her child in her arms. I approach her and give the child a teddy bear. It takes it with its teeth. "Why does he take the teddy with his teeth?" I ask. The Afghan woman drops the thin cover in which she had wrapped her child, and I look at a small torso without any arms or legs. "That's what you Russians did."
"She doesn't understand," the Sovjet captain standing next to me says, "we brought them socialism."
"Go home and practice socialism there. Why did you come here?" says an old Afghan man who is missing a leg. (...) Then I am in a canteen. Troubled faces of our boys, who don't understand for what they're dying here. They reply angrily to me: Shoot or be shot, such questions as yours have to wait until after the war. If you shoot, you kill first; if you don't shoot, you get killed. All want to get home to their mothers. Some were made drunk with vodka, put in a plane, and in the same night they arried in Kabul. They cried, screamed, attacked the officers. Two committed suicide. They hung themselves in the restroom. Others volunteered. Children of village teachers, of doctors - they were educated to trust in their country... they will return home within a year, and the country which sent them out to kill will no longer exist."

This book brought her a lot of lawsuits for "slander of the Sovjet army", and more were to come when she wrote the definite book on Chernobyl, "Chernobyl: Chronicle of the Future": "The firemen who fought the fire during the first night all died. A nuclear reactor, and they were called as if to a normal fire; they were not given any protective suits. They each got radiactive poisoning over hundred times the lethal limit. The doctors did not let their wives to them. (...) In a thirty kilometres radius around the plant, thousands of people left their homes - forever. Early on nobody would believe that. Buses full of people and a quietness as if in a cemetery. Around the buses there were a lot of pets - dogs, cats. The pets were left. The humans didn't dare to look at them. 'The birds in the skies, the animals in the woods - we all betrayed them. Our beloved dog Sharik we left a note; 'Forgive us, Sharik.'"

These are all quotes from Svetlana Alexejevich's acceptance speech, and which, like the laudatory speech by Karl Schlögel, was full of such vivid detail going right under the skin. One of the most remarkable things about her: that all these interviews did not make her into a cynic or nihilist, on the contrary. That she still believes in reaching humans when she transcribes their voices.

Something else: usually the Book Trade Peace Award is given in the presence of the President. Only twice it wasn't, and today was the third time, which was why a few demonstrators were outside holding up pictures of Joachim Gauck saying "where are you?". Speculation from the guests was that yes, this was for political reasons. Instead of him, our equivalent of the Mr. Speaker in Parliament come, Norbert Lammert (ranking of German offices: President - who hasn't got political powers but represents the republic -, Chancellor, Mr. or Ms Speaker), and at the celebratory lunch afterwards, he thanked Svetlana Alexejevich for "exposing the so called lupenreine Demokraten as the autocrats and dictators they are". This was a pointed allusion to a phrase former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder had used when palling around with Vladimir Putin, whom he described as a "lupenreiner Demokrat" ("a democrat even if you use a microscope to look at him"), which is remembered as particularly shameful not just because, well, Putin, but because Schröder immediately after his tenure as Chancellor ended went to work for Gazprom, the Russian oil-and-gas giant.

Earlier during the Book Fair, I had chatted with Gert and Gisela Heidenreich, both writers, and she told me that back when Schröder said this she left the party (i.e. the SPD) even though she still considers herself a social democrat in her politics. Almost as depressing, they both said, is what's going on with the US right now; one of the oldest ongoing democracies self destructing, inwardly because of the crazy Tea Party nutters and outwardly because of the paranoia and disregard of anyone else's rights. After what happened to Ilja Trojanov, Gert Heidenreich was wondering whether he'll be refused entry the next time he has to attend a conference in the US as well, given he wrote as critical things as Trojanov did. And Guantanomo continues while nobody cares. He had another thing on his mind: during the last two years, he'd worked with director Edgar Reitz on the later's project Die andere Heimat, "The other Heimat" (we had a lengthy discussion of how Heimat is an untranslatable German term because it really is not at all the same as Fatherland/Vaterland), which had its premiere during the last weeks to raving reviews. Now Gert Heidenreich developed the story with Edgar Reitz, wrote a novella on which they then based the script, and is duly noted as co scriptwriter in the credits. During the first two showings of the movie, they were both attending. And then the glowing reviews started to drop in, and suddenly Edgar Reitz, who was also coming to the Book Fair, decided that all future appearances were to be of him alone, and wrote an email to Heidenreich's publisher accusing the later of "trying to cash in to my success" by promoting the novella which was published simultanously with the film release. This was bewildering the nth degree to Mr. Heidenreich because he'd thought they were friends (plus, of course, it had been their shared project from the start); at a guess, it might be because Edgar Reitz wants critics to see Die andere Heimat as the crowning of his autobiographical oeuvre (his tv series "Heimat" years ago became a modern classic), and sharing credit is inconvenient to the lonely auteur theory. Still, it's a shame and conduct unbecoming.

Books I browsed through which I want to read at a later point: Jung Changs new biography of the Empress Dowager Cixi, in which she reclaims her from evil caricatureness; Pat Conroy's "The Death of Santini", in which he dispenses with the fictional guises and writes straight autobiography about his dysfunctional family & himself. I had met Pat Conroy many years ago, and he'd been funny, moving and very kind to a shy young woman, i.e. yours truly, which I never forgot. Of his novels, I have some I love ("The Prince of Tides") and some I like ("Lords of Discipline"), and only one which I thought was a mess ("Beach Music"). He does get repetitive if you read all the books, true, but the majority of them still left a profound impression on me, and a first look at this new book, which is far slimmer than the weighty and messy "Beach music", left me with the impression he was back to form. Mind you, it also left me thinking once again that most fannish hurt/comfort dark fics have nothing on the Conroy home life, but, like Svetlana Alexjevich, he tries to give written form to the traumatic horrors that happened and by that reaches people. Which is what so many of us try and not that many manage.

Mind you, it'll be a while until I can get to those books, probably not until Christmas. Meanwhile, there is tv to catch up, and the book fair cold to cure. Till later!
selenak: (Rocking the vote by Noodlebidsnest)
In the department of You Can't Make This Up: surely, in a few years, we'll discover British Labour leader Ed Miliband has cunningly bribed the Daily Mail to attack his departed father (fought against Hitler, refuge) for "hating Britain" (translation: being a Socialist) and to gate crash his uncle's funeral? They couldn't be naturally this dumb, surely, not even the Daily Fail? Anyway, you have to love the Guardian's summary: Previously known to many voters only as the man who knifed his brother, Ed Miliband has the Daily Mail to thank for his transformation into the man who loved his dad.

Meanwhile, of course, the US conservatives also do their level best to come across as caricatures without the brains of a five years old, but that's not new. It would be a tad easier to sympathize with the Democrats in government on more than the healthcare subject, though, if they didn't give the continuing impression of having adopted Richard Nixon as a role model. I don't suppose it got anywhere mentioned across the Atlantic, but this seek one of our writers, Ilja Trojanov, who was en route to a literature conference in Colorado, was denied entry to the US at the airport. (More about this in English here.) Considering he was among the most prominent public protesters against the NSA spying, the conclusion he drew, that this was a punishment by the land of the free for having voiced an opinion, does strike one as likely. Next week, the Frankfurt Book Fair starts; I wouldn't be surprised of the matter gets mentioned in at least one of the opening speeches.
selenak: (Baltar by Nyuszi)
You know, I don't often identify with Lee Adama, aka Apollo from the rebooted Battlestar Galactica, but right now I do. To be more specific, with his speech during Gaius Baltar's trial in the third seaon finale, and his "We are not a democracy anymore, we are a gang" conclusion. Because what else are we these days, "we" being the Western democracies, plural, not just one (or two)? The British police detaining David Miranda, the partner of journalist Glenn Greenwald who was Edward Snowden's foremost media channel, for the nine hours it is currently possible to detain someone without having the charge them with a crime is just the most recent example.

Leaking information about war crimes is unpatriotic and treason. So is leaking information about the complete disregard of just about anyone's privacy (especially if they don't carry a US passport) world wide. But using plain old mafia tactics of intimidation and harrassment, oh, that's okay, because that's how you fight terrorism. Back in 1962, something happened in Germany that's known as "die Spiegel-Affäre", the Spiegel Scandal - you can read the details here you don't know them already. Back then, the fact that one of our major magazines published an article about the state of the German army, which led among other things to the then secretary of defense, Franz Josef Strauß, having the author of the article (who was on holidays in Spain) and the chief editor of the magazine arrested and accusing them of treason. Lack of patriotism. Leaking military secrets and helping the terrorists communists. Cue major public uproar (which is why the Spiegel Affair is seen as a big turning point, the first trial, so to speak, of whether Germans were still in the old authority-beholden mindset or had internalized democratic values) and effectively the end not just of Strauß' as a secretary of defense but of his political career outside of Bavaria.

I think of that, and the what's seen as acceptable behaviour by the state these days in the name of "fighting terrorism", and well, I do feel like Lee Adama. We're a gang now, or several gangs. Sure, it's still better to be in this gang than, say, in the Russian one, especially if you're gay, but you better not question the gang leaders tactics anyway, or keep it to complaining, as opposed to trying to document said tactics, because otherwise you're aiding the terrorists. And there are no polticial leaders, none, from wichever party in whichever country, who aren't complicit in this.

The terrorists won a long time ago.


selenak: (Default)

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