Post-December Debate: Trends Leading Up To Iowa

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President Obama presents a teary-eyed Vice President Biden with the Presidential Medal of Freedom at the White House on Thursday

The December debate turned out to be one of the most engaging events in the primary season this year. This pretty much applies to just the second half of the debate, as the first half was incredibly uneventful. Each of the candidates must have been told during the break. “Listen, you need to go out there and start punching!” It certainly worked, and some surprising things took shape.

Even then, let’s all stop to remember the dumbest question ever posed, “who would you give a gift to, and who would you ask for forgiveness?” As Joe Biden would say: come on, man!

Now, to be clear, it is not likely that there will be any massive change in the polling besides the current trends. However, the effect of the media’s reaction may be felt in the first caucus of Iowa.

Here, we’ll be going over the performances of each candidate, their current trajectory, and what they should probably be doing to win the first state. After all, even small campaigns can pick up steam after an early win. Look at Barack Obama in 2008: he was trailing Hillary Clinton all the way up until his win in Iowa. On the other hand, look at how both Mike Huckabee in 2008, Rick Santorum in 2012, and Ted Cruz in 2016 were unable to really capitalize on those victories. It all depends on the pulse of the voters and the organization of the campaign.

BERNIE SANDERS

Bernie Sanders
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks during a campaign event, Monday, April 4, 2016, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Bernie did incredibly well in this debate. He was clear and passionate, as is the norm. What I am happy about is that he finally started to take the gloves off. Bernie turned his attention towards the two leading moderates, Biden and Buttigieg. He joked that they were in a competition for who has the most billionaire donors.

Aw, just look at Pete’s face when he said that!

Further, he connected that with the corruption of the American political system of today. Without seeming like a jerk, he made his opponents look like corporate tools compared to him. Thanks to the depletion of contenders on stage, Bernie and Joe Biden finally had a healthcare spar.

While I admit to preferring a Medicare-for-all program, an argument can be made that it led to a draw. Both Bernie and Joe made their case for and against, and left it at that. Hopefully, there will be more opportunity to point out the flaws of a means-tested public option.

Bernie surprisingly received the most speaking time during the debate, clocking in at over 20 minutes. This can only help his campaign, as it’s been my theory for a while now that the Democratic base is behind all of his platform initiatives.

Let’s look at the trends surrounding the debate. He has been consistently gaining momentum since mid-October. A few months ago, he had to go through an emergency heart procedure, which caused all of mainstream media to essentially count the days to his departure from the race.

Not only did this moment galvanize his base of hardcore followers, but it also brought newly elected Congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, and Ilhan Omar to bravely endorse him at his lowest moment.

This is not something typical politicians do. Most will abandon ship when the going gets tough. However, these three Justice Democrats got their start in the political revolution Bernie started in 2015. After hosting the largest rally of 2019 in Queens (which I attended) he started to slowly gain in the polls. This is unmanufactured ascension which was virtually ignored by CNN, MSNBC and other networks.

What happened was Bernie’s volunteer organization was gaining ground, just as the media began turning on Elizabeth Warren in the Fall. This December, Bernie has been in 2nd place in Iowa, 1st place in New Hampshire, and 2nd place nationally (reclaiming the position from Warren). The mainstream media may actually start noticing him after this, so watch out for the current blackout to turn into negative coverage.

Success in Iowa depends on the volunteer/grassroots organization, of which he has the largest and most dedicated. His strategy: bring in independents, non voters, young people, non-white voters, anti-establishment Democrats in the Yang and Tulsi camps, and working class people. Meanwhile, his campaign needs to convince Warren and Biden people on caucus day that he has the best shot to win against Donald Trump.

Going after Pete Buttigieg and Joe Biden is the right move, and he should continue pointing out their corporatism. That’s what led Bernie to tie with Hillary Clinton last time, so he should do it again with them. However, he should think about hitting Buttigieg more so, as he currently holds first place in the state.

Somehow. Liz Warren is still technically an ally, and the best option is to not alienate her supporters by attacking, but to distinguish himself as the best progressive candidate. Liz’s numbers are suffering, and their second choice is Bernie anyways.

Overall, his chances to win are good.

PETE BUTTIGIEG

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Pete Buttigieg was attacked by everyone on the debate stage, and while it wasn’t a disaster, he definitely came off as a smug, corporate hack. His answers continued to be vague and flowery. While this nebulous posturing might have worked 10 or 20 years ago, it falls flat in today’s zeitgeist.

He had no satisfactory response to the attacks on his experience, “policies”, and the infamous wine cave. He easily suffered the most in this round. Not as disastrously as Kamala Harris or Beto O’Rourke’s debate failure… but as a media construction, it still hurts nonetheless.

This barrage was expected a month ago, when he began taking Elizabeth Warren’s voters in early state polls. November was a great time for Pete, as he continued receiving endless adoration from media pundits while escaping any legitimate criticism on his job as South Bend Mayor. The candidates up on stage in November weirdly avoided a tangle with the new flavor of the month, even as word got out about his fake endorsement list, bad record on racism, and obvious flip-flop on healthcare.

It took a while, but once protests began cropping up at Pete Buttigieg events, the news networks began to finally pay attention. While it hasn’t be drastic yet, the networks are slowly turning on Pete, like Warren and Harris before him.

Since the start of December, there has been a dip in support as Bernie, Mike Bloomberg, and Amy Klobuchar (of all people) have risen.

If he wants to succeed in Iowa, he needs to siphon support from Liz, Amy, and Joe. Despite his earlier tactic of playing up the “uniter” archetype, he would be better off tearing down the smaller competition who are chipping away at his numbers. This may be risky, as that opens Pete up to more criticism, but, unfortunately for him, his supporters are not committed to him. He’s got to show that he’s the best for the early state.

His chances of scoring a win are good.

AMY KLOBUCHAR

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Amy Klobuchar caught the media’s attention this time around, and this may shift their adoration to her as the main moderate. While I recognize that this is a low bar, the December debate was her best yet.

Amy was very aggressive towards Pete Buttigieg, pointing out his inexperience as only an evil regional manager could. Amy even angled herself as the uniter, giving compliments to Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren. It may boost her standing in Iowa, if the exchange is covered well, of course.

Not every fight goes positively. Look at poor Julian Castro.

Aside from the debate, Amy has been slowly benefiting from the downward slopes of Warren and Buttigieg in recent weeks. Despite this positive situation, her ability to win the state of Iowa depends on a number of outside factors… as her organization is middling compared to Bernie Sanders.

In order to sustain a real rise, she needs to be even more aggressive. Stop with the cheesiness. Don’t promote a stupid dance. Don’t let people know about your reputation as an abusive boss. And pray for the media to start showering you with love. She isn’t as naturally talented as Liz or Pete, so this supposed uptick may not even materialize… but who knows?

Amy’s chances of winning are still low.

JOE BIDEN

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Joe Biden didn’t help or hurt himself in the debate. And that means this was his best performance of the year. He finally started making coherent sentences and managed to avoid putting his foot in his mouth for once.

Not exactly high praise, but for someone who called a voter fat, bragged about a child’s obsession with his hairy legs, recounted his confrontation with Corn Pop, and bled out of his eyeball, this was a good moment.

He sustained attacks from Bernie, coming to a draw on healthcare. At the same time, he came across looking evasive on his foreign policy record when asked about Afghanistan. Joe’s reparations answer was utter nonsense, but it wasn’t as bad as calling Obama, “the first African-American that is articulate and bright” from 10 years ago.

He also looked stunned at being called out for his list of billionaire donors, which was just delicious for Bernie Sanders supporters. Overall, he seemed overshadowed by the others. I can’t see how this helps him in Iowa.

He’s at fourth place in the first state, which is abysmal for a supposed frontrunner. If he can keep the heat off him for the next month or so, he might have a shot at getting the Pete, Amy, Liz, and other moderate voters to coalesce behind him in the caucus. But really, the only case he can make is “I’m the frontrunner now, so why go with someone else?”

His chance to win in Iowa is so-so. The reason his chances aren’t low is that the noncommittal moderate voters currently shopping around may just decide on Joe during the caucus night. Never count out the perception of being the “most electable”.

ELIZABETH WARREN

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Elizabeth Warren did decently enough during the December debate with her laser focus on corruption. It’s a winning message, as shown by the successes of the current progressive movement.

But very now and then, Warren’s messaging it gets derailed by dumb talking points… the kinds of eye-rolling statements that remind me of Kamala Harris’ Twitter Ban BS. What I am talking about is her repeated point about taking hundreds of selfies.

Honestly, that is laughable as an argument. It was an obvious ploy to get more young voters, and it failed, in my opinion. She brought it up so much that the audience actually started giggling when she brought it up.

Additionally, Elizabeth Warren was pretty much forgotten about on the healthcare debate and foreign policy sections. However, Liz got a good shot in at Pete about his wine cave fundraiser, implying that he is beholden to rich donors. While technically you could call it a draw due to Pete’s rebuttal about her own fundraising hypocrisy, it’s a win for her.

Because it was a damn wine cave Pete went to. And you can’t defend begging wealthy people for money while sipping the finest alcoholic grape juice money can buy.

That being said, It’s hard to say that that moment was enough to get back to the top of the polls like she was a couple months ago. She began dipping hard once the media turned on her in the Fall. In fact, her descent can be traced back to her backtrack on Medicare-for-all, proposing an overly complicated plan that attempted to address every criticism that’s been lobbed so far. The media think that her support for single payer is why she is failing, but those of us on the ground know it’s from her own trepidation on embracing the program.

As of now, Warren’s in third place in all the first states and nationally. If she can keep hitting Pete in Iowa, she might be able to bounce back once something (like the wine cave) sticks. You see, she claims this middle lane where Liz appeals to both Bernie people and Pete/Amy/Kamala people, and if she can successfully thread the needle at the caucuses by grabbing some voters here and there from everyone, she can win Iowa.

All she needs is another shot of momentum. After all, her organization is pretty strong compared to the others, and really… the only things stopping her are Bernie, Pete, and herself.

Her chances of winning Iowa are still good overall.

ANDREW YANG

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Andrew Yang had a really good night with the amount of speaking time he was given. Like Bernie, he seemed like an outsider commenting on the absurdity of the system. He brought forth his fresh perspectives and ideas, and that has helped him garner 3%.

However, he’s been at this state in the race for months and months. He feels like Ron Paul in that his message is unique enough to get attention, but it’s clear that he doesn’t seem to have much of a shot anywhere. He appeals to anti-establishment types and independent voters, like Bernie.

In order to win Iowa, he would have to replicate his strategy as well: bring in non voters, young people. Unlike Bernie, he is unlikely to pull from any other candidate.

His chances are low.

TOM STEYER

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Tom Steyer has the worst shot to win Iowa, and it’s tough to see him score a win in any county. He is trying to position himself in the Liz lane of appealing to both business-friendly moderates and climate-wary progressives. However, his status as a billionaire who bought his way on stage hurts him immeasurably. Tom doesn’t own the issue of climate change, but seems to really believe it. His ads in New Hampshire are so annoying that the voters there actively dislike him.

He could only win Iowa if Bernie, Joe, Andrew, Amy, Pete, and Liz all drop out. And even then, he might get beat by Tulsi or Cory.

Low chances, obviously.

VERDICT

  • In conclusion, these are the candidates with the best shot to winning Iowa: Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg.
  • This is the candidate that has an average chance of success: Joe Biden.
  • And here are the ones with the lowest chances of picking up the state: Amy Klobuchar, Andrew Yang, Tom Steyer.

Everyone else has basically a 0% chance. I don’t think we should even bother with the rest of them anymore. Yeah, that includes Bloomberg. 100 million dollars of ad buys in Super Tuesday states without appearing in one single debate will only hurt Joe Biden and help Bernie. 

Knives Out is a throwback that satirizes life today

Credit to the CBO

2019’s Knives Out is a murder-mystery whirlwind of a movie, written and directed by Rian Johnson (The Last Jedi, Looper). Inspired by the many works of Agatha Christie, Johnson sought to create his own whodunnit story… in his own special Rian Johnson-y way. Namely, by throwing convention and expectations out the window in favor of subversive self-reflection and satire.

This strategy doesn’t always lead to universal applause.

As you may recall with 2017’s The Last Jedi, Johnson employed this to the Star Wars franchise. He turned Luke Skywalker into a grumpy recluse who still hasn’t triumphed over his own dark side. The trifecta of swashbuckling heroes established in J.J. Abrams’ The Force Awakens all fail in their missions by the end of the film. Yoda sets the last books of the Jedi Order on fire. The big bad Supreme Leader Snoke gets dispatched of quite unceremoniously. All the while, many fans were just interested in space battles, sword fights, and good guys saving the day. While this earned critical praise, it turned off a portion of movie-goers.

Rian Johnson’s inclinations towards subverting expectations are still seen in Knives Out. However, this movie didn’t have a built-in obsessive fanbase. That made the job of twisting the murder-mystery genre relatively harmless, and allows audience members to experience this satire with unbiased eyes. With all this being said, Knives Out is a film about power at it’s center. There are all these elements swirling around: mystery, suspense, comedy, etc. But it all connects to the central theme… almost like a donut.

Let’s take a look at it’s plot. Acclaimed crime novelist Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) suddenly died in his room on the night of his 85th birthday. It appears to be a suicide, but Private Investigator Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) is suspicious. The entire family, played by wonderfully talented actors, all seem to have a vested interest in taking the patriarch’s fortune. Each member is so deeply entrenched in their own sense of entitlement that they don’t even recognize just how privileged they are. Not one of them has gotten to their place in life without the financial support of the rich grandfather.

For example, his daughter Linda Drysdale (Jamie Lee Curtis) owns her own real estate empire, of which she is very proud of. But it is revealed that she got her start from a million dollar loan from Harlan. The son, Walt (Michael Shannon), is the handpicked owner of Harlan’s publishing company, and is not at all responsible for its day-to-day operations. And there’s the daughter-in-law, Joni, who has been living off the family for years since her husband died. There are other members of the Thrombey clan, but for now it should be clear that these are talentless, selfish leeches.

It becomes clear that the only one Harlan ever trusted was his nurse and caretaker, Marta (Ana de Armas). Everyone, with the notable exception of Marta, is played up as over-the-top caricatures. Detective Blanc is a ridiculously confident Southern gentleman who sticks out like a sore thumb. Linda’s husband Richard (Don Johnson) is an obvious send up of upper-crust conservative Trump supporters who are oblivious to their own racist thoughts. This really eases us into rooting for the everywoman Marta, even with her quirk of vomiting at the mere thought of telling a lie.

The first act prepares us to get ready for a classic whodunnit… until it switches to Marta’s perspective. As it turns out, she believes that she accidently killed Harlan due to a mix up of medications. Harlan, in an act of protecting Marta, makes his death look like a suicide by slitting his own throat. This is all revealed within the first half, and just like Rian Johnson, our idea of a murder-mystery gets flipped around.

Now, we are sympathizing with the accidental killer who is too pure to lie. As she plays Watson to Detective Blanc’s Sherlock, we stop seeing the PI as the protagonist, earnest as his intentions might be. We don’t want Marta to be sent to prison for a mistake, nor do we want her undocumented mother to be deported as a result. Let’s recap the themes here:

1. We have a family of privileged, spoiled rich kids trying to get a piece of their murdered patriarch’s wealth. Turns out that while many of them could’ve murdered him, none of them did. Or so we see right now.

2. We have the perpetrator, who is actually the most moral, kind, and loving person in the movie. She is a poor caretaker who comes from an undocumented immigrant family.

3. We have a Southern detective poking around the estate in the middle of Somewhere, New England.

The, uh, knives really start to come out once Harlan’s will is read. Keep in mind that throughout the first act of the movie, the family’s attitude towards Marta ranged from dismissiveness to polite cordiality. A running joke is that they never bothered to ask where her family comes from (Ecuador? Uruguay? Brazil?) Richard attempts to use her as an example of “good immigrants” who don’t cross the border illegally. Marta is friendly with the other “help”, Fran (Edi Patterson) and Joni’s supposedly woke daughter Meg (Katherine Langford).

This all changes when it is revealed that all of Harlan’s fortune, possessions, properties, and companies were bequeathed to Marta! Like a switch, all of the Thrombeys turn on her. Even Meg tries to convince her to relinquish the inheritance; after all, her tuition money for her fancy college is going to disappear. When a phone call fails, she outs Marta’s mother as undocumented. So much for friends.

The film then turns from a whodunnit into a suspense thriller, just as she is rescued by the gloriously apathetic black sheep of the family, Ransom (Chris Evans). As we later find out, not only is he equally selfish, but he was the secret culprit all along. Ransom (whose name is kind of a big tell) is just another privileged jerk that wants a claim to his “ancestral home”.

When Detective Blanc and Marta work together to expose Ransom, the real point of the movie is made clear: wealth and power should be distributed to the masses, and nepotism is garbage. We do not live in a meritocracy, where those that are hardworking and talented are guaranteed to be rich and successful. For the most part, wealth is largely inherited, and those that benefit tend to believe in their own innate superiority.

It was only through a convoluted series of events that Marta was able to “earn” her fortune. Knives Out does imply, however, that good things eventually come to the good-hearted: every selfless action Marta took led to the arrest of Ransom.

The closing shot is of a young woman of color from an immigrant family looming over the balcony, looking down on the pompous WASPs who used to make the mansion their home.

Finally, we realize that this is a satire of modern life, masked in the tropes of the genre Rian Johnson loves.

JoJo Rabbit: A Oasis In A Comedy Desert (SPOILERS)

Taika Waititi

Director Taika Waititi has established himself in recent years as one of the film industry’s greatest comedy filmmakers. Not that there is much competition these days; he joins a peculiarly small list of successful modern comedy directors. This includes the likes of Edgar Wright, Adam McKay, and Judd Apatow. Perhaps there are a few more to mention, but it seems to me like we should admit something about the film genre nowadays. There isn’t much going on!

It wasn’t even that long ago that audiences were flocking to the theater for profanity-laden movies about screw-ups that finally begin to grow up. To be perfectly frank, it seems like the era of Will Ferrell and Seth Rogan are over. I guess people just don’t find the man child narrative very entertaining anymore.

My hypothesis for this downfall of that era of comedy is that it came some time in 2016. Now, I wonder what happened in that year that would’ve turned audiences off from watching likable doofuses improv lines about their genitals.

THE CONTEXT

Maybe Donald J. Trump.

I know, it sucks that I have to bring this guy up right before diving into a comedy set in Nazi Germany. But I think it’s important to set the context for why JoJo Rabbit was made, especially in the current cultural climate.

After Trump, a tacky rich guy with a reality show, was elected president of the United States in 2016, comedy and satire changed. Here was this gross, sleazy character from a comedy film now controlling America’s military and ICE patrols. Children get locked in cages, neo Nazis march through the streets in support of the Confederacy, and mass shooters are crediting right wing rhetoric for their actions.

Turns out Vince Vaughn finding out he has to sit through four Christmases isn’t going to be entertaining enough to lighten the mood.

Audiences are quickly becoming more serious, more grim, more politically minded in a age of increased authoritarianism. Unfortunately, it seems most comedians and comedic filmmakers are floundering at the changing times.

Will Ferrell’s last big film, Holmes and Watson, was garbage. It reeked of man-child antics… and we’re kind of experiencing the consequences of that now. Judd Apatow hasn’t directed a major comedy since 2015’s Trainwreck. The Seth Rogen/James Franco team was shattered after the #MeToo Movement exposed some dark secrets on Franco’s part.

Both Edgar Wright and Adam McKay have managed to survive in today’s environment. Keep in mind, however, that Wright’s Baby Driver was an action film. And McKay’s Vice was more of a drama.

So, why is it that Taika Waititi’s movies are funnier to me than anything in the last five years? Why does this year’s JoJo Rabbit work so well in this day and age?

THE SETTING

So, let’s take a look at JoJo Rabbit’s setting, as that is as important to this film’s comedy as it’s actors and writers.

Picture this: it’s the last few months of World War Two in Nazi Germany. Any objective observer can see that the regime is on it’s last legs. Some Germans see the writing on the wall, and are waiting for the conflict to finally end. Others are actively undermining the Nazis by spreading literature and hiding Jewish families. And then there are the fanatics… the Germans who are so deluded about their future that they couldn’t believed that Adolph Hitler would shoot himself in the head.

This self destructing world of tragedy and sadness apparently had some hilarious moments in it. The protagonist, JoJo (played by Roman Griffin Davis) is a little Hitler Youth member that is fully indoctrinated into the Reich’s propaganda.

JoJo is hilariously misinformed about a great many things, from his own sense of superiority to the superstitions about Jews. His imaginary friend, played by Waititi, is Adolph Hitler himself. Hitler is played mostly as a sort of goofy sidekick/mirror, reflecting all the thoughts going on in JoJo’s mind.

The film starts at Youth Camp, where the new generation of Nazi soldiers are raised. It then shifts to his home life with his mother, played by Marvel alum Scarlett Johanssen. The main conflict of the film begins when JoJo discovers that his mother has been hiding a Jewish girl named Elsa (Thomasin McKenzie) in the walls.

After being exposed to his supposed enemy for an extended length of time, he learns that she’s just a human being, and imaginary Hitler is wrong (surprise!). The last beats of the film are more dramatic than funny, as it goes from the death of JoJo’s mother to the climactic last battle versus the Allies. And the two kids emerge from the wreckage dancing together in the street.

THE MESSAGE

The message goes deeper than, “Jews are actually just regular people”. The film is really about questioning your beliefs. It’s marketed as an “anti-hate satire”, but I think that description is a bit too simplistic.

Towards the start of the film, JoJo get into a brutal accident that hinders him from joining the army. He feels like a monstrous outcast, even if the lasting scars aren’t as ugly as he imagines. By that same token, he views Jews as monstrous outcasts as well. It’s not an overt thread, thankfully, but you can connect JoJo’s feelings of being different from the other Germans meld into a shared commonality with Elsa as outsiders.

Obviously, Elsa has it much worse, but it’s this situation that forces the two together. Eventually, JoJo starts to interact with her… at first as an ‘interrogation” for his planned expose on Jews. This eventually leads to regular conversations. Which leads to a friendship, which JoJo seems to not even realize. And, of course, he falls in love.

The film’s message is that hate, even deep-seated hate that’s been indoctrinated since childhood, can be undone through friendship and love. Towards the end of the movie, JoJo is caught up in a chaotic battle between the Nazis and America. He would have likely died had it not been for the growth of a conscience. He rejects the Nazis, and kicks imaginary Hitler out the window, Captain America style!

There’s a term for this: deprogramming. It is what happened to Megan Phelps-Roper, a former member of the hateful, cultish Westboro Baptist Church. She was born into a close-knit family that built a new religious sect on extreme acts of bigotry and anger, doing things from protesting military funerals to spreading anti-gay /anti-Jewish hate. They would make signs that read, “Thank God for Dead Soldiers” and say things like, “Jews are the real Nazis”.

Megan didn’t know any better… it was something her father, mother and grandfather believed in. It wasn’t until she was exposed to Twitter, where she could have conversations with people outside the Westboro Baptist Church. The man that convinced her to leave the Church eventually became her husband, who happens to own a blog entitled Jewlicious.

Today, Megan recently released a book detailing her experiences and eventually falling out with her family.

As you can see, this isn’t a hollow message lazily slapped on a goofy comedy. This is an example of communication with people you disagree with actually working.

THE LESSON

This is a lesson for comedy filmmakers on how to make a successful comedic movie nowadays.

While the film has slapstick, it isn’t mindless physical comedy.

While the film has some dramatic moments, it’s not a dreary drama.

While it has a message, it isn’t beating the audience over the head with it.

Taika Waititi is seemingly an expert in balancing humor with serious material, and that happens to be what, in my opinion, modern audiences are waiting for.

Predictions, Hopes, and Fears for the October Debate

Credit to Phil Roeder

It’s time for another Democratic Debate, and I’m already feeling the dread sinking in again.

A month ago, the third debate caused a lot of controversy due to its strict yet vague requirements that narrowed the crowd of candidates down to ten.

Certain candidates, like Representative Tulsi Gabbard, were kept out of the debate. Meanwhile, politicians with less rabid support, like Senator Amy Klobuchar, were invited to take the stage with the likes of Bernie Sanders. This time, Tulsi and billionaire Tom Steyer made the cut by earning 2% in four “qualifying polls”.

At first, I was delighted. I thought that this meant that the debate will be split up into two nights, with six candidates on each stage. I assumed that this would help make discussion and debate less… terrible.

Boy, was I wrong!

Instead, there will now be 12 smiling politicians up there, fighting for their chance to gain 15 minutes of fame. This is my opinion of what each candidate will do, what they should do, and whether or not they even have a shot at the Democratic Nomination.

Let’s start with the lucky ones!


Tulsi Gabbard

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The biggest casualty of the third debate, Tulsi Gabbard is not exactly in the good graces of the mainstream media. MSNBC and CNN have a Clintonian, neo liberal perspective on foreign policy. There will always be a focus on who the bad guy is, and when exactly the United States must intervene with regime change. A few years ago they were cheerleaders for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. This sensationalist attitude gives them plenty of ratings, so its understandable from a capitalistic standpoint to do what they do.

Now they feel it’s time to beat the war drums for Iran, Syria, and Venezuela. Tulsi has made it clear that she is against “counterproductive regime change wars” over and over again. The media establishment responds by calling her a Putin puppet and an Assad apologist. While I have many disagreements with her policy stances (ambivalence on torture… really?) this is where I and most Americans stand on the issue of interventionism.

Like the last two debates she participated in, I suspect Tulsi will bring this up. She also has a reputation for destroying politicians’ whole careers. Tim Ryan looked like a damned idiot fighting with her on foreign policy. Kamala Harris got blown back when Tulsi hammered her on that disastrous criminal justice record.

Kamala’s supporters have now fled to new pastures. So who will Tulsi destroy next? My bet is that she tries to go after Senator Elizabeth Warren, evidenced by her recent shot at the senator. She criticized Elizabeth’s foreign policy, claiming that she hasn’t seen much.

Fair enough, but I don’t know if attacking Warren will be as effective as last time. For one, she will likely get even less time than she usually gets as a result of this 12-person stage nonsense. Elizabeth Warren is also better at handling debates than Kamala Harris or Tim Ryan.

She doesn’t usually interject with cringe jokes or make stupid statements. And when she was attacked by Joe Biden or John Delaney, she did a good job in deflating criticism while also appearing cool and collected. Tulsi’s success as a candidate depends on her ability to spar with the top contenders.

If she even attends, that is!

Tom Steyer

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Billionaire Tom Steyer is a great avatar for what money will buy in this country. Tom kick started his campaign by raising an email list of angry Democrats that wanted to impeach Donald Trump. He ended that initiative, and used his new contact list to spread the word about his run for president.

By spending a crap ton of money, Tom managed to do well enough in the polls of early states to snag a seat for October.

His big deal is that he is a rich guy who wants to pay higher taxes, he wants to take climate change seriously, and he is an “outsider activist”. If he wants to stand out up there on the stage, Tom is going to need to turn his attention on the top tier choices while also not alienating the party’s progressive base.

If I were his advisor, I would ask him to go after Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, or Kamala Harris. Why? Simply put, these are high profile targets that have a hard time defending their records. Attacking Bernie or Elizabeth will only prompt them to highlight his billionaire status. Confronting the small fries will yield no positive results either.

Given the bias of the mainstream media, I expect more questions will be sent his way.


Now it’s time to turn to the Cusp Candidates. These are politicians that made it to the September debate, but have little shot at making it to the November debate unless they really step it up!

Julian Castro

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Former HUD Secretary Julian Castro has been hanging on for dear life. And that is surprising to me, given all of the relatively decent moments he has had on the debates so far. He notably demolished Beto O’Rourke on the issue of immigration. He also had some great points to make against Joe Biden.

He has a good stage presence and a clear speaking voice. Julian is young, yet has plenty of executive experience to his name. He has all the superficial qualities that media pundits and consultants would assume are instant winners for a nominating process.

However, he’s been stuck between one and two percent since the start of his candidacy. This is due to a combination of factors: lack of media coverage, an over saturation of presidential candidates, and an overall desire to have a non establishment choice by a significant portion of the party. He would have fared better in 2008 or 2012, when he was the prophesied “rising star”.

In order to even make it to the next debate, I suspect other candidates would have to drop out. Honestly, at this point, not much can save him. He’s already tried being aggressive. He’s tried the Obama impersonation too.

Either way, I have no doubt that Julian will go after Joe Biden again.

Amy Klobuchar

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There isn’t much to say about Senator Amy Klobuchar. Buoyed by a consistent 2-3% for the entirety of the primary so far, Amy has little place to go. She isn’t willing to get aggressive. Her plans alone are mediocre and ineffectual.

She killed a duck, threw office supplies at staffers, and ate salad with a comb.

Something tells me that half of her support must come from terrified aides. Regardless, I have little hope that Amy will stray from giving a flat, boring debate performance that no one will remember later.

Cory Booker

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Senator Cory Booker, like Julian Castro, would be doing much better if there were less candidates in the race. Moderators tend to give him A LOT of questions, and he’s always prepared to answer them. Maybe a little too prepared.

Despite getting a good amount of speaking time during each debate, Cory hasn’t risen much over the last few months. Perhaps its that face he makes all the time. Perhaps its the over rehearsed lines. Or maybe voters are savvy enough to recognize his corporate leanings. Cory is playing the role of a less effective Obama or Harris, essentially.

The next debate will have to be his best one yet. You may notice that this is true of most of the contenders here.

Beto O’Rourke

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Beto O’Rourke is finally starting to make his presidential campaign about something besides himself. The new focus on gun reform has given him praise from mainstream media outlets and primary rivals alike.

Unfortunately, it may be a case of too little, too late. Beto has an enormous hole to climb out of, support-wise. Outside of Texas, there doesn’t seem to be much room for the guy.

If I were him, I would turn towards the upcoming Senate race in Texas… but he seems to have too big of an ego to stop pretending that he has a shot. Lately, Beto attacked Mayor Pete Buttigieg over the gun issue, and it wouldn’t shock me if he continues this strategy in the next debate. 

Which is fair enough, I would do the same. After all, Pete basically replaced him as the young moderate.

But, as I said, it may not be enough. Maybe he should curse more or stand on more tables.

Andrew Yang

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Entrepreneur Andrew Yang is having a slow but steady climb, and its funny how so few people have noticed. In fact, I was tempted to include him with the top tier.

However, as of now, Andrew hasn’t yet been confirmed for the NEXT next debate in November. And that is my criteria for the top candidates in the race.

His outsider/sorta libertarian status will likely continue to boost Andrew through the following months. Universal Basic Income is an interesting idea that was laughed at by Kamala Harris and Pete Buttigieg, and I would hope that in this upcoming debate, Andrew should challenge them on what exactly is ridiculous about his proposal.

My main issue with it is that the ultimate goal is to phase out the welfare state. I would prefer a UBI that works alongside Medicaid, SNAP, and other helpful programs.

For Andrew to really make his mark, as I’ve suggested before, he needs to engage with the goofy, insincere politicians up on that stage. He should also loosen up his performance a bit… he comes off as a tad too “PowerPoint Presentation”, if you get what I mean. I know, its not a policy criticism, but performance unfortunately matters a lot in politics.


Last, we come to the Top Five. These guys have already qualified for the next debate, so having a breakout moment is not necessary. However, it would be incredibly helpful for their respective campaigns. In addition, one wrong move could possibly sink them forever.

Pete Buttigieg

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To be perfectly honest, I underestimated how well Mayor Pete Buttigieg would do. I figured that he would join the likes of John Hickenlooper and Jay Inslee, dropping out after a couple debates.

As it turns out, Mayor Pete seems to have plenty of connections with wealthy donors, and that love has trickled down to the media as well. For a couple months, he was the rising star. Before Kamala was the rising star. And now Elizabeth. In fact, when you look at demographics, the same cohort that loved Hillary Clinton in 2016 (white, well off, post graduate liberals) have moved from Pete to Kamala to Elizabeth over the cycle so far.

Which really tells you something about how little policy or ideology matters to this sect of the Democratic Party. Notice how I haven’t said much about Pete himself, and that’s because there isn’t much to say.

He’s a white, well off, post graduate who is vaguely liberal on a variety of issues. Pete has a decent enough presentation, even if he reminds me of the kid from MAD magazine.

However, his whole candidacy hinges on the idea of him being young and smart… and that’s about it. Being wedged between fourth and fifth place isn’t bad in a field of 20, but if he wants to take back some of that support he lost, Pete should probably get aggressive on a rival that shares his base.

Chances are, his advisors told him to stay above the fray. Again.

And I will be bored by him.

Kamala Harris

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Senator Kamala Harris is probably feeling desperate right about now. After a great showing in debate #1 crushing Joe Biden, she got blindsided by a takedown, courtesy of Tulsi Gabbard. Her support drifted to Elizabeth Warren, and by the third debate, Kamala thought she could endear everyone by giving coached one liners and dad jokes. That was obvious a dumb move, but I suppose when you live in presidential primary bubble, you lose touch with reality.

As it stands now, Kamala is even suffering in her home state of California. Like Pete, she should probably take that educated, Hillary-loving base back from Elizabeth Warren.

How? Well, it will be hard, as she would have to really examine why she appealed to voters in the first place. Kamala shone when she turned the conversation with Biden personal, and essentially prosecuted him for his segregationist record. So perhaps she could start there.

She’s got to show that she would be a tougher fighter against Trump.

Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks during a campaign event, Monday, April 4, 2016, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Bernie has had a rough time in the last month or so. While breaking volunteering and fundraising records, he hasn’t gotten much attention from the media. And being that outlets like CNN are so influential, their blatant disdain of Bernie has not given him much opportunity to get his message out. Which is insane for a guy who has been reliably top tier from the beginning.

In the third debate, Bernie was sidelined from discussing climate change or criminal justice.

Just recently, he had a health scare, leading to a couple of stents being place in his wrist. To be clear, it was a standard procedure that occurs for many people at some point in their lives when they deal with a heart attack.

This was probably due to his crazy rally schedule, planning four events per day.

With time to rest, and a new personal story to share, Bernie should be ready for the October debate. The moderators will likely ask him about the situation, which gives him the chance to really connect with voters in a way he typically doesn’t do. Which is good, as it can show off his softer side.

Here is what might be a preview of what to expect.

However, with 12 candidates up on stage, I wouldn’t be surprised if the hosts ignore him after that. Which means Bernie has to nail it every time he speaks. No sore throat. No peace making.

Bernie shares a base with Joe Biden (working class, multiethnic), due to Joe’s perception of being a down-to-earth guy who is best friends with President Obama.

As such, the Vermont senator absolutely needs to hit Joe on his corporate donors in the same successful way he did to Hillary Clinton a few years ago. Not to mention a few words on trade, wall street, war and bankruptcy laws.

Many think that Bernie needs to go after Elizabeth Warren right now. Maybe a little, for now. He’s pretty much guaranteed a limited time to get his message out, and attempting to convince former Hillary supporters will be harder than non committal Biden people unaware of what’s really going on.

Don’t forget, Joe Biden is STILL technically the front runner.

But for Elizabeth, Bernie should highlight his foreign policy prowess and his leadership throughout the years.

Elizabeth Warren

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Senator Elizabeth Warren is now the new media darling, which I thought would only happen later down the road when Joe and Kamala drop out. She was unchallenged by the media for three straight debates.

The criticisms she has received have come from fools like John Delaney and John Hickenlooper.

Things are great for her right now, but it’s hard to see what will happen by the time of the Iowa Caucus. After all, its still early.

She could spring up to first place and stay there forever. She could get clobbered by all her rivals now that she’s made herself a target. Kamala or Pete could make a comeback and snatch back their base of white educated voters.

In order for Elizabeth to do well in this debate, she should come prepared for the knives to come out. Her debating style is passionate but non confrontational, often pivoting to her framing of a question or accusation.

Which is fine, I guess… unless a candidate is wise to that strategy and calls her out. I suspect that Elizabeth will be on defense. Unless her rivals are too dumb to come after her.

Which is possible.

Joe Biden

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President Obama presents a teary-eyed Vice President Biden with the Presidential Medal of Freedom at the White House on Thursday

Vice President Joe Biden is somehow the current front runner. After the terrible showings at all the debates, the incoherent rambling, the lies, Corn Pop, and now his family’s connection to a Trump scandal, it’s hilariously sad that this man is still doing as well as he is.

To be fair, he has been very slowly declining in the polls since he announced. Which tells me that most people being polled aren’t even paying attention to the election right now. They just see a list of names they’ve seen on TV and just pick somebody without thinking about it.

It is both disheartening that Americans aren’t tuning in right now… but it also gives me hope that there are still months to go before voters really start their decision making. What I’m saying is that Joe Biden has a lot of soft support, from the working class specifically.

Those voters could totally go to someone like Bernie Sanders, who shares a base with him. Older African Americans seem to be his most loyal support, which is good new for his prospects in the southern primaries like South Carolina.

Unfortunately for Joe, his best hope is to try to hold on to as much support as possible before Super Tuesday.

So for the debate… well, just work on yourself, Joe. Put on the record player. Hear words. Get into a fight with Corn Pop. Chill with Segregationists.


If you want to know my fantasy of what will go down, here it goes:

Bernie turns his health scare into a positive, making a good case for Medicare For All. He takes turns with Elizabeth, Julian, Cory, and Kamala in attacking Joe Biden. Bernie highlights his record on trade, war, and economics versus Joe. Elizabeth gets surprisingly hit by Kamala, Pete, and Tulsi. Tom Steyer gets one question, and Bernie folds him into a pretzel. Then, Andrew Yang endorses Bernie on the debate stage, drops the Mic, and walks out. Amy and Beto also drop out. Joe Biden plummets as Bernie rises. Elizabeth’s base gets split by Kamala and Pete.

Obviously this won’t happen (not all of it, at least). I’ll let you know my thoughts after the debate, too!

A stream of conscious on staying focused on goals that shift

Hi, it’s me again. Took a long time to get back into writing here, but, as many of you understand, life has a way of drifting you into other paths.

Towards the end of March/start of April, I took a flight back to New York City.

Get ready: things are about to get personal.

Well, I was originally in NYC in 2018, but then I figured I should go on my Israel Birthright trip. That turned out to be set for last August, the exact month my lease was up. Plus the exact time that my temporary museum job closed down.

After my trip abroad, I decided to take a few months off to refresh and save money by staying at my Dad’s in Texas.

After LASIK surgery and a few months working at a retail chain, I was ready to head back into it. Hmm, maybe I should let you know why I was in NYC in the first place.

So, here’s the deal. I am stuck between my interest in the writing industry and the acting industry. I went to New York from Florida because of my dream of becoming a working actor.

Not a famous actor with servants and an arrogant attitude, but a middle class actor that works with talented performers and directors… And makes a good living, but can still keep his privacy and a sense of humility.

This is still a goal I am pursuing, though it’s starting to veer more into the realm of improv/sketch.

I’ve also got this part of me that’s really into writing. That can be non-fiction articles like the content you see on this blog. Or it can be short stories, plays, novels, etc.

I never took it too seriously as a way to support myself until earlier in January of this year. After reading and researching about what it takes to grow a writing career, I decided to set up this blog, as well as actively search for freelance jobs.

The second goal of my career was to earn a living on my writing skills. Freelance, of course, because I value my autonomy. I took it upon myself to write a post as often as I could, about whatever topic I felt like discussing.

This led to an internship that fell apart within a couple months due to poor leadership. But it also led to a freelance writing job I currently have working for a Youtube channel.

It pays more than you would expect, but not enough to fully pay the bills… Unless that retail position I transferred to NYC goes away. That way I could dedicate more time to the channel.

After all, retail is probably one of the most soul-sucking, depressing jobs out there in America. Besides coal mining.

Meanwhile I only picked up a total of two acting gigs during this time. The good news is I returned to a great theatre company that provides creativity, expression, and freedom.

The bad news is that all of these things have distracted me from applying to acting notices. At the same time, I’m not too bothered by that if I’m utilizing my writing skills to grow my portfolio and experience.

I love both, after all. And one things that I’ve noticed is that I enjoy improv and sketch a hell of a lot more than dark, gritty short films that don’t pay me.

I’ve even been thinking about taking classes at UCB or the PIT, the two biggest institutions in NY for improv.

So it’s a tough thing to balance, but it’s also caused me to stop posting here on the blog.

Which is a bad thing.

It’s not only good for a writer’s career to regularly post, but it’s a great opportunity to get things off your chest, and focus on sharing ideas that you’re passionate about.

The reason for posting this is that it’s time to get back into making articles again! I can’t promise that it will be more frequent than I was in January.

All I know is, there is PLENTY to talk about right now in the world. I can’t wait to jump back into it!

Beto O’Rourke enters 2020 race by saying nothing passionately

Beto makes a gesture in front of guitars. That’s because Beto likes to gesture, and Beto likes guitars. Credit to crockodile on Flickr.

I had high hopes for Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke in 2018. I thought he was a progressive going up against Senator Ted Cruz, one of the most unlikeable politicians in the country. Beto was advocating for an end to money in politics and Medicare-for-all. I was encouraged by his interview with The Young Turks. He started gaining traction, receiving plenty of small dollar donors. I was happy to see that viral video of him defending NFL players that protest police brutality. Then, something happened last summer. He began backtracking on healthcare. He broke a pledge to not take oil money. He apologized for using the term, “Lyin’ Ted”, when that was a great weapon to use against his opponent. Then he LOST to Cruz. I was surely disappointed in him, but that was only the tip of the iceberg. Beto’s record was eventually detailed by David Sirota in this report.

Turns out Beto was never really that progressive. Here is an excerpt from that article:


Capital & Main reviewed the 167 votes O’Rourke has cast in the House in opposition to the majority of his own party during his six-year tenure in Congress. Many of those votes were not progressive dissents alongside other left-leaning lawmakers, but instead votes to help pass Republican-sponsored legislation.

O’Rourke has voted for GOP bills that his fellow Democratic lawmakers said reinforced Republicans’ anti-tax ideology, chipped away at the Affordable Care Act (ACA), weakened Wall Street regulations, boosted the fossil fuel industry and bolstered Donald Trump’s immigration policy.

Consumer, environmental, public health and civil rights organizations have cast legislation backed by O’Rourke as aiding big banks, undermining the fight against climate change and supporting Trump’s anti-immigrant agenda. During the previous administration, Barack Obama’s White House issued statements slamming two GOP bills backed by the 46-year-old Democratic legislator.

So Beto O’Rourke evolved into my perception of him as of this moment: a less charismatic white Obama with a worse record. His announcement video was filled with clichés and platitudes that I believe most people are sick of hearing.

Much gesture. Very wife. Wow.

I couldn’t give you an analysis of his policy platform, because he currently doesn’t have one. If his record is any indication, he is progressive on gay rights and pro-choice, and centrist with all other issues. No different from your average establishment Democrat.

Can he win the nomination?

It all depends on if he keeps that nice small-donor base from his Senate run. My hypothesis is that he doesn’t as many of those supporters assumed he was a progressive like Bernie Sanders. Beto will likely draw from the same wealthy donors shared by Kamala Harris, Joe Biden, Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand, etc. He has a no-PAC policy, but of course he is still open to large individual contributions from Big Oil and others. Some low-information voters may come to him as a young, energetic counter to Donald Trump, including those wacky centrists in the party. His main obstacle early on will be to jump ahead of Biden and Harris as the establishment pick. Beto is wary of going on the offense, so I have my doubts about his viability against the confident, folksy Biden and former prosecutor Harris. In order to survive past Super Tuesday, he needs more than his home state of Texas. I remember what happened to John Kasich in 2016… he won his state of Ohio and quickly dropped out thereafter. Beto has a shot in the Iowa and Nevada caucuses, as their format could work well with his strength as a door-to-door campaigner. But before any of this, he needs to have some darn policies!

Can he win in the general?

This is tough for me. On one hand, I can’t imagine Beto could inspire voters to the polls like Bernie Sanders or Barack Obama could. On the other hand, I have noticed polls showing that the Midwest is actually starting to sour on Trump now. I gave some states to Beto, but Ohio and Pennsylvania have had a longer trend towards the conservative side when compared to the other parts of the Midwest. I put here that Trump barely wins… but it could just as easily be that Beto barely wins.

From yapms

Sigh, anyways… did I mention that he live streamed a dental exam!? Why would you do that!?

Captain Marvel Review: It’s just fine. Really, it’s fine. (SPOILERS)

Credit to Andy Park.


Captain Marvel did what it was designed to do. The film had three major goals:

1. Introduce a new character and franchise.

2. Provide a prelude to Avengers: Endgame.

3. Give fans its first female-led superhero movie.

Without excelling in any one category, Captain Marvel succeeds in achieving these goals.

The Good

Brie Larson plays Carol Danvers very well as a pilot conditioned by her upbringing and by her aliens kidnappers to ignore her emotions and remain stoic. I have heard criticisms of her performance as being too wooden, but I honestly wonder if audiences even noticed how many times her mentors told her to stay in control of her emotions. As a fellow actor, I appreciated Larson’s use of micro expressions, especially in her interactions with Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury. A slight smirk or eye twitch is all that’s needed to for the action-oriented character. When she does get emotional, I definitely feel it. Ben Mendelsohn plays a great villain as Talos the Skrull leader. He reminded me of Hades from Disney’s Hercules; a confident showman annoyed by slight inconveniences. Talos really surprised me as one of the funniest parts of the film, besides Fury and Goose the cat. The other notable performance comes from Lashana Lynch’s Maria Rambeau. There is a point in the second act of the movie where the protagonists visit Danvers’ old friend Maria. The two have a heart-to-heart that was absolutely necessary to ground the story. After an hour or so of CGI action, aliens, chase sequences and body snatcher paranoia, we are reminded that our main character was a human being whose absence had an effect on the lives of her closest friends. You can see the hurt and confusion in Lynch’s eyes as she sees a shadow of her best friend… with a new name, a new persona, no memory and a ridiculous outfit.

The Bad

Unfortunately, Captain Marvel is plagued with continuity problems, and a case of “phase one syndrome”. By that, I mean it is reminiscent of early MCU outings that are now regarded to be mediocre lead-ups to a theoretical Avengers movie. I’m talking about The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger. Pretty much every movie in Phase One except for Iron Man and The Avengers. Captain Marvel has a couple surprises, like the appearance of the Tesseract, but still falls back on a familiar formula of a protagonist who lost their memory. By contrast, Black Panther crafted a well-made story of a man learning how to be a leader. It is a plot that’s been done before, but not with the unique vision Ryan Coogler brought to it. Captain Marvel’s directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck were… fine. Nothing noticeably terrible, but nothing that made this movie stand out from the crowded superhero genre. Additionally, how exactly did Annette Bening’s Mar-Vell get her hands on the Tesseract, when we know from the timeline that SHIELD founder Howard Stark found it in the 1940s? Did she take it from Stark, or was she working alongside SHIELD? It’s poorly explained, that’s for sure.

Conclusion

The film is fine. It is nothing special, but it doesn’t deserve the criticism it gets from angry online trolls obsessed about some kind of anti-men agenda. They obviously ignored the awesome men in the movie (Fury, Coulson, and Talos). I would say it is worth seeing if you’d want some background on Danvers before she shows up in Avengers Endgame. If you are looking for a fun time with the family and nothing more, go see Captain Marvel.

7/10

That feeling when Glenn Beck says wealth inequality is great…

This chameleon’s expression is my expression. Photo by Enrico Corradi.

CPAC 2019 just ended, and my major takeaway was not President Trump groping an American flag or babbling about there being, “NO COLLUSION!”. A throwback from years ago, Glenn Beck, emerged from the wilderness to give his take on scary socialism. Again.

This guy. Photo attributed to Gage Skidmore.

For those that have forgotten, Glenn Beck used to be a commentator on cable news and radio. He made a career out of standing in front of chalkboards and crying, which is bizarrely somewhat admirable.

Look at this clip from his old show, where he breaks down how then-President Obama was a radical extremist. He draws connecting lines and posts up pictures, moving from one idea to another, giving little time to actually process the nonsense.

This convinces people. Seriously.

Glenn Beck’s philosophy boils down to a conspiracy theory: any attempt to use government action to do nearly anything is part of a Marxist plot to destroy the good, Christian, American family. Healthcare? Well, that’s just a Marxist plot. Taking care of the environment? Well, that’s also a Marxist plot. Anything that involves doing anything for anyone other than yourself is a Marxist plot. Jon Stewart did a fantastic job breaking him down for us:

But all of that was quite a long time ago. Maybe Beck has changed in some way. I heard a year ago that he didn’t like Trump, so perhaps he had some kind of epiphany. Wrong! Here, Beck explains why income and wealth inequality is not only overblown, but it’s actually a good thing:

Colonel Sanders talks about the merits of the free market… the same free market that sunk his company The Blaze.

In the speech, Beck explains Democratic Socialism like your elderly distant relative who never studied politics in his life, but because he absorbed decades of pseudo-intellectual talk radio and cable shows (like Glenn Beck’s), he believes himself to be a seasoned expert. He equates Democratic Socialism with “Equality of Outcome”, and contrasts that with capitalism’s “Inequality of Outcome”. Equality of Outcome as a colloquial term refers to economic systems that rewards everyone the same amount, regardless of their contribution. A common example of this in American life would be all the kids on a little league baseball team collecting a trophy just for being on the field. The concept brings up thoughts of starving Russians waiting in breadlines for working 10 hour work shifts in the factory. Glenn Beck seems to think that the Democratic Party is into that. In fact, he probably thinks every waffling, do-nothing corporate Democrat is a Communistic ideologue hellbent on recreating the Soviet Union, or Venezuela, or China. In reality, most Democratic politicians have little to no ideology. They’re biggest concern is money, and their reelection. And I realize this is anecdotal, but no Bernie Sanders voter I’ve ever known has ever talked up “Equality of Outcome”. Beck would probably tell me that that’s all a front, though.

In his hypothesis, Glenn Beck uses “Inequality of Outcome” to describe America, and its supposed free market system. Inequality of Outcome is… a word he just made up for the purposes of his argument. But I understand that he’s referring to “Equality of Opportunity”, which is colloquially known to be when everyone in society has the same chance to succeed in life as everyone else. Which I think is great: if we lived in a society where everyone starts on the same playing field, where the most successful people are the ones who work the hardest, then I would be fine with that. I’m sorry to inform Beck that this merit-based economy does not exist in America, and never has.

Looking at the data above (and yes, unlike Beck, I am using facts and numbers) you can see that Americans have had a staggering level of productivity. As a workforce, we are certainly not lazy. And look at the levels rising together during the years right after World War 2. Yet our hourly compensation has drastically stagnated since the 80s. This is not merit-based. Specific government policies that benefit the wealthy and corporate power were put in place, not unlike the years leading up to the Great Depression. People like to call it trickle-down economics. After the recession a few years ago, the American economy slowly recovered, but the jobs that have now emerged have become low-paying customer service jobs with little to no benefits. I cannot tell you how many workers my age have to balance their bartending gigs with barista shifts on the weekends just to make ends meet. More people are employed, sure, but they are also in poverty.

Glenn Beck seems to think in overly simplistic terms. If good things happen to you, you deserve it and earned it. If bad things happen to you, it’s your fault and you deserve it. If you are a billionaire with three yachts… well, you’ve obviously earned every penny (despite the data that shows that a disproportionate number of wealthy individuals inherited their wealth).

Unfortunately, a large percentage of America’s population agrees with Beck. Nowadays they’ve graduated to even more malicious voices like Alex Jones and Tucker Carlson. Perhaps when they say something ridiculous, I’ll write about that too.

Where does Assassin’s Creed go from here? (Spoilers)

It took a couple months, but I’ve finally managed to complete Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey. There were beautiful vistas, fun combat, and historical/mythological references peppered through the world map of Ancient Greece. I hung out with Socrates, Hippocrates, Pericles and… uh, my dad Pythagoras. I liked how myths and legendary monsters were tied into the First Civilization lore of the larger series.

Some weird things exist in this game as well. The homeland of Kephallonia became riddled with a terrible plague, and this drove me back to the island to try and solve the expected quest line. But there was nothing to be found. No cutscene. No dialogue from the main character. It’s as if the quest was never finished by Ubisoft’s developers. After the main story line ended, the cult hunt became very monotonous. Investigate clues for 15 seconds, infiltrate a camp or fortress, ride in the ship, kill a mercenary, pick flowers for an old man, repeat.

Despite these gripes, I did actually like Odyssey. Not as much as the Ezio-central games, but it was nice to return to a series I was getting tired of. Which brought me to this thought: where does the AC team go now? I don’t just mean in terms of setting, but also with where they are taking the gameplay. Anyone who has played Odyssey will notice how much the series had drifted from a stealth adventure to an action RPG. The originals were all about blending in with the crowd, stalking an assassination target, and employing hidden blades, poison, traps and distractions to get your way. Nowadays, we have three skill trees for combat, a huge variety of armor pieces, and fiery maces. Stealth does exist (and my whole playthrough of Odyssey was stealth focused), but now it’s one option among many. so, should the developers at Ubisoft return to the old formula, with perhaps a couple new gameplay additions? or should they continue on their current path of straying into the RPG and action territory? honestly don’t know the answer to this. I enjoyed playing both versions of this franchise. Assassin’s Creed is experiencing a second wind as of Origins, so maybe this change is what the series needs to survive.

Where do they go, setting-wise? Another difficult question to answer. There are many time periods and places to choose from. Here are some that could be fun for another installment:

Japan

This is a hugely anticipated setting for Assassin’s Creed. The benefits are obvious: ninjas, samurai, a variety of weapons and playstyles. The downside to this is that we have seen video games set in feudal Japan many times over. It might feel a bit redundant to experience a time and place many gamers are already familiar with.

China

An alternative to Japan would be its neighbor, China. This culture has seen comparatively less attention by game developers, and is filled to the brim with historical and mythological content. China has everything from cities to mountains to deserts. I would like to see this game take place during the Qin Dynasty (some time between 221 – 206 BCE). The first emperor of Imperial China, Qin Shi Huang, ruled during this time. He was eventually assassinated. The terracotta army, the beginnings of the Great Wall and Confucianism were all prevalent during this time. Oh, and crossbows would come back to the series!

Rome

Between 474-480 AD, the Western Roman Empire dissolved after the assassination of the last Emperor Julius Nepos. Ravenna was the capital, and the empire encompassed Spain, France, England, Italy, Carthage and parts of central Europe. This is a period of history that changed the face of the world, ending the Ancient Era and ushering in the Middle Ages. One could interact with Romans, Carthaginians, Greeks in Sicily, and the numerous tribes scattered throughout the continent. Italy would be vastly different to what we experienced in the Ezio Trilogy, so there should be no worries about retreading the same ground.

So those are my thoughts on the matter. The next game releases in 2020, so Ubisoft has plenty of time to find this blog!

Why are so many people ready to hate Captain Marvel?

This guy already hates Captain Marvel. He hasn’t even seen it yet.

As a rabid fan of Marvel Comics and the MCU, I am eagerly anticipating the release of Captain Marvel on March 8th. This may sound ridiculous, but I don’t think Kevin Feige and the team have made a single bad installment. Thor: The Dark World is widely considered to be the worst one, and even that is just mediocre.

When the first trailer for Captain Marvel came out, however, I wasn’t impressed. The opening shot of Blockbuster Video felt a bit like nostalgia bait. The suit was CGI and green, bring up bad Green Lantern memories. And the vagueness of the trailer left a little too much to be desired. But you know what? It’s just a trailer. It’s not a big deal. As time went by, more trailers released, and they were actually quite good.

So now I’m pretty hyped for the lead up film to Avengers: Endgame. But guess who decided to barge in and destroy this movie’s Rotten Tomatoes audience rating? Trolls.

As this article is being written, the Audience Score sits at 32%. This was a concerted effort by irrationally angry people on the internet who want Captain Marvel to fail. This isn’t just a one time thing either; I remember waves of weird anger towards Black Panther, Wonder Woman, The Last Jedi, and The Force Awakens. These trolls all seem to have the same argument as to why each movie is bad:

These movies are pushing an “SJW” agenda.

What is that, exactly? “SJW” stands for “social justice warrior”. The usual description of this type of person goes like this:

1. Overly emotional

2. Obsessed about ruining everyone’s fun

3. Prioritizes pushing social change at the cost of quality

Trolls accuse films like The Force Awakens of pushing diversity by making none of the three protagonists white males. Sure, let’s ignore the fact that the overwhelming majority of American films are centered around white men. Let’s ignore that society and culture caters to white men. That is not an insult… it is just a factual reality.

A film like Black Panther makes the effort to cast mostly black actors, and has a black director… And somehow this sparks outrage because of “reverse racism”. I have listened to a person in real life tell me that he couldn’t relate to a character because that character was a different race and gender than him. And this is someone who thinks Martin Luther King Jr. was a great guy! Talk about cognitive dissonance.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I have noticed that the same trolls who throw this word around are unknowingly engaged in psychological projection. When you read their reviews, you can tell how emotionally immature they are, how obsessed they are with destroying a movie’s reputation, and how zealous they are about pushing their own agenda.

My hypothesis is that this is the same group of whiners that show up each year to complain. These are the people who notice a change in the diversity of casting and become anxious, hateful and inconsolable. Perhaps it’s because they feel a loss of power. What I would say to them is CHILL THE HELL OUT. It’s just a movie. Judge it on its merits.

The truth is: yes, there are now a select number of films out there that have made concerted efforts towards diversifying its casting. I do not believe it is part of some secret plan to hurt all white men. I also do not believe it come from a sense of justice or altruism. Here’s whats really going on: MONEY.

The entertainment industry is interested in growing its audience above all else. And being that superhero and sci-fi adventure films have been one of the only genres nowadays that make any money at the box office, why wouldn’t they try to expand their base of devoted fans? Young white men have always been the target audience of these kinds of stories (again, not an insult but a reality). And based on the box office returns of Black Panther, there is still untapped potential in the market. As long as they keep making money, they will continue trying to diversify.

So don’t listen to the trolls. See the movie. If it’s good, it’s not a big deal. If it’s not good, it’s not a big deal.