The GOP: Ready to Party Like It’s 1799

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Despite the fact that more than half of their constituency would rather there be a raging dumpster fire in the middle of Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, OH, instead of the coronation of a dipshit as the party leader, the Republican Party will open its 2016 National Convention on Monday night. Yes, the Grand Old Party, the Party of such legendary statesmen as Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower, will (from appearances) nominate a fascist in Donald Drumpf, devoid of any actual governmental leadership, and his almost-as-fanatical henchman Mike Pence (we’ll get to him in a moment) come Thursday night. What will go on between Monday and then? That promises to be the intriguing question.

Political conventions, by tradition, are about as exciting as having your wisdom teeth removed, but they are also almost as old as the country itself. The first political convention was held back in 1831, when the Anti-Masonic Party (if you can’t guess, they were against the Masonic Order and its influence on politics – and we think we created some of those conspiracy theories!) met in Philadelphia to nominate William Wirt as its candidate for President. The National Republican Party (not today’s brand) also held its first convention in 1831 in Baltimore (nominating Henry Clay for President) and the Democratic Party held their first convention in 1832, also in Baltimore (nominating Martin Van Buren). The eventual winner of that 1832 election? Incumbent President Andrew Jackson, who crushed the opposition in getting 54% of the popular vote and obliterated the opposition in racking up 219 electoral votes (his closest competitor, Clay, received 49).

Since that time, the major parties in U. S. politics have met every four years to go through the process of nominating their candidate for the Presidency. As the years have gone on, these conventions have become a way for the individual parties to put on their best look for the citizens of the United States by showing off their up-and-coming leaders and portraying their ideals as the “future of America.” They have also shown the major problems that can occur inside a political organization, from outrage over the leaders chosen to actual physical battles on the floor of the convention and outside the convention hall.

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In 2016, the GOP didn’t even wait until the convention to fuck things up. They did that from the start following the 2014 midterm elections with a clown car assortment of 17 Presidential primary candidates that basically ensured that whoever emerged from the nomination process would be doing so without even a majority of the votes from PEOPLE IN THE PARTY. For all his crowing about drawing the most votes in the GOP primary, the Orangutan Mutant didn’t get more votes that the three men who followed him – Senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio and Ohio Governor John Kasich (who will not attend the convention of his party BEING HELD IN HIS STATE). This isn’t even counting the votes that went to other candidates, such as former Governor Jeb Bush, current New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham or “whatever the hell they do” candidates such as Carly Fiorina and Dr. Ben Carson (and this is just a part of the clown car), prior to their departure from the race.

Faced with the potential for a xenophobic, misogynistic and fascist candidate taking the helm of their party, many in the GOP have been looking for ways to get FAR away from Der Drumpf. Adding an intriguing possibility of the proverbial monkey wrench into the engine’s inner workings, these “Never Trump” people are fighting a battle on the platform and probably will stage some sort of demonstration on the convention floor at least one night of the gathering (and hopefully every night). Perhaps they can do it well enough that it will hide the embarrassment of the party for the way they are putting on their very own convention.

Because the convention has been beset with organizations and groups leaving it like rats evacuating a sinking ship, the GOP hasn’t got enough money to be able to pay for the week’s stay in Cleveland. The organizers for the Republican National Convention are groveling at the feet of conservative mega donor Sheldon Adelson for an influx of cash – about $6 million worth – to offset the costs for the convention. As of two days prior to the start of the “great celebration of conservatism,” Adelson has yet to respond to the letter.

Then there’s the actual platform that the GOP has pushed through. Instead of taking the approach that the party discussed in 2013 following the crushing defeat they took at the hands of President Barack Obama – including attempting to reach out to minorities, adjusting their stance on immigration and following a pro-trade path with the international community – the 2016 version of the GOP has decided to follow Drumpf in jackboot step. Some of the planks that have been put into the GOP platform make it look like they’re ready to party like its 1799, let alone 1999.

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First off is the idiotic suggestion from Mr. Oompah Loompah to erect a blockade wall on the southern border of the U. S. The GOP ACTUALLY IS ENDORSING this idea, although they don’t call it a “wall” but a “physical barrier” to be erected. This “wall,” which would cost upwards of $25 BILLION to build (and would never stand to Constitutional review, as Der Drumpf would have to take land rights from their legal owners to do it), is just the tip of the draconian immigration policy that would be pushed by the GOP (including deportation of 11 million people, as Drumpf has desired).

Next is the continued drive by the Republican Party to roll back LGBT rights, in particular marriage equality. This is despite the fact that their VERY OWN CANDIDATE said he would be “the best candidate” for the LGBT community. Also working its way into the platform was the GOP insistence on “bathroom bills” such as the one that passed in North Carolina, HB2, that mandates a person use the facilities of their birth sex. I personally want to see actress Laverne Cox of “Orange is the New Black” looking Speaker of the House Paul Ryan in the eye when they both enter the men’s room at Quicken Loans Arena – I’d bet that platform plank would be removed before the end of the night.

On international trade, the GOP has sucked up to the teats of Drumpf again, calling for “renegotiation of trade pacts” so as to “not allow foreign governments to limit access to their markets while stealing our designs, patents…and technology.” Guess who that little tidbit is aimed at? This is despite the factor that the trade pacts – such as NAFTA (now entering its third decade of existence) and the yet-to-be-ratified Trans-Pacific Pact, which has the support of both Democrats and Republicans – normally help to keep prices down (this isn’t to say they are entirely outstanding; a side effect is manufacturing jobs moving to areas that pay employees less).

The GOP and Drumpf have stated that the Convention with be a cavalcade of stars, including a “Winner’s Night” leading up to Der Drumpf being named commandant…err, I mean, the GOP Presidential nominee. This cavalcade of stars includes such names as Natalie Gulbis, the 484th best woman golfer on the planet (and, if you didn’t notice by the ranking, she hasn’t won much lately), actor Antonio Sabato, Jr. and actress Kimberlin Brown (and if you can name anything they’ve done, you have way too much time on your hands), not exactly the “star power” that you might like to help unveil your highly disliked candidate. Toss in his kids – who’ll be afraid to say anything remotely bad about Herr Father lest he disinherit them – and people Drumpf has been walking on for at least a year now (Christie, Carson and Scott Walker, for example) and it becomes a “who gives a rat’s ass” gathering of nothingness. (The four demon spawn of Drumpf equal the same number of sitting Senators who’ll speak at the convention.)

Then there’s the jewel that is Pence (told you we’d get back to him). Pence has shown himself to be just to the right of Genghis Khan in his ruling abilities. As Governor of Indiana, he led the drive for a religious segregation law that allowed people to discriminate on the basis of their religious beliefs. But when queried about it by ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, Pence could not say that the new law wouldn’t prevent people from using it to discriminate against LGBT persons and that it was wrong to discriminate against them. EIGHT TIMES Pence was given the opportunity to say LGBT people shouldn’t be discriminated against and EIGHT TIMES he couldn’t bring himself to say those words. (Pence later signed a law that explicitly said the religious freedoms law could not be used to discriminate against anyone “regardless of race, gender or sexual proclivities”…but only after facing the withdrawal of a significant amount of business from the state.)

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Second, Representative Pence (member of Congress, 2001-13) was into shutting the government down over Planned Parenthood while Cruz was still handling the “dildo case” documents in Texas. Furthermore, during his tenure as Indiana governor, Pence pushed through the most heinous anti-abortion laws in the nation, including a law that made it mandatory that the aborted fetus had to have full funeral or cremation rights performed. Fortunately for anyone that is sane, the courts struck down that and other provisions of the Indiana law passed in March of this year before they went into effect.

You wonder why the “Trump/Pence” logo was fucking the United States? That’s what they’d do if they were elected. (They have since switched to just the names of the candidates and the idiotic “Make America Great Again” statement.)

The entirety of the Republican National Convention should be a train wreck, played out over national television as the GOP embarrasses themselves even further. With their unwanted leaders in Drumpf and Pence to their unwanted hangers-on in Christie and whatever D-list actor or politician wants to put their two cents in as to how great Der Drumpf is, it will be another week of embarrassment for the Republican Party. But that’s their standard they are bearing for the 2016 election…perhaps they’ll be ready the next time around, if they haven’t splintered into warring factions by the next election.

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“The Man in the High Castle” Is Captivating Television

It has been some time since we took a look at some of the new offerings from the movie, television or music worlds and that is a good thing. First of all, I’m not going to waste your time telling you about something that is completely awful (I know I said Quantico wasn’t very good, but it hasn’t been canceled yet…that means some people must like it). If I am going to take the time to offer up something, 9 out of 10 times it is going to be worth checking out (or at least I think so). That is what we have when we look at a new offering that has just been released.

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There is a completely new world out there when it comes to the streaming services. The days of when these outlets simply provided a way to catch the latest movies or watch an old show (or a new one) are causing rapid changes in what they offer. Part of their attractiveness is that they can be watched over virtually any device. In the beginning it was just computers, then the outlets branched into tablets, cellphones and video game devices. Now, the HDTVs that come out (with the spanking new 4K technology and “smart” TV capabilities) have one or more of these streaming outlets pre-programmed on them.

Maybe it is because of the above that the streaming outlets made the moves they did. Such outlets as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Hulu Plus have decided to swan-dive into the deep end of the pool and produce their own shows rather than just offer the other networks’ material (and, in most cases, pay out the ass for the programming). Since I wasn’t around for the start of House of Cards or even Orange is the New Black, I am trying to find something that I can get into that is new to many (and can take over while I wait for the spring session of Blindspot and the second season of Mr. Robot to start) and it appears that Amazon has the next big thing.

Released on November 20, The Man in the High Castle is a ten-episode series that was foisted on the public all at once, meaning you can take it in the traditional episodic doses or can fully immerse yourself in it through a “binge.” This method of “broadcasting” (hey, it’s the only term I can think of that applies) has its pros and cons; it does allow you to blast through it in one big marathon but, if you take it one or two episodes at a time, you might forget that you are watching it and not go back to the series (confession:  I DVRed The Player, meaning to watch it but never did. It was canceled two episodes into its run). With High Castle, I sincerely doubt that someone is going to forget they have it in the library.

The series is based on the book of the same name written by one of the great minds of U. S. literature, Philip K. Dick. Dick, who wrote the science fiction classic Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? that eventually became the basis for the classic 1982 film Blade Runner (one of my personal favorites), this time steps into the alternative history genre and has the same impact there that he had with science fiction. The person who brought High Castle to the air, Frank Spotnitz (best known for his work on The X-Files), also deserves kudos for producing an excellent product.

The year is 1962, ten years removed from “V-A Day,” or the day that Nazi Germany and the forces of Imperial Japan defeated the United States in World War II. As a part of the peace, the Nazis take over the Eastern part of the United States virtually all the way to the Rocky Mountains, renaming it the Greater Nazi Reich; the Japanese, for their efforts, take over from the West Coast to the Rockies with their Japanese Pacific States. Between the two, running the ridges of the Rockies, is a Neutral Zone to separate the Nazis and the Japanese that has become an area to provide living space for segments of society (minorities, homosexuals and other “deviants”) that would otherwise be persecuted or even killed for who or what they are.

It is a tenuous peace between the two international powers, however. An aging Adolf Hitler is in failing health and, as Himmler and Goebbels jockey for position to take over from him, the Japanese grow concerned that Hitler’s death would result in warfare that would force them out of the former United States. Since the end of WWII, Germany has become a technological powerhouse, developing the hydrogen bomb and planes that fly from New York to San Francisco in two hours, while Japan has languished in its imperial peace. This is an important part of the program, but it isn’t the only plotline to pay attention to as the show continues.

The show opens up with a young man, Joe Blake (Luke Kleintank), visiting a factory in New York City on the seemingly innocent premise of looking for a job. He strolls through a totalitarian Times Square replete with the Nazi swastika burnished on video boards and flags and, upon reaching the factory, finds the manager. As we sit in on their meeting, we discover it isn’t for a job in the factory; Joe is being hired to drive a truck across the Greater Nazi Reich to Canon City, a town in the Neutral Zone, for The Resistance, a rebel alliance looking to oust the Nazis from the country.

After demonstrating his will to do the job, Joe gets the keys from the manager just as Nazi troops raid the factory. While the bullets fly, Joe is able to get away from the factory intact, but everyone else is not so lucky. The Nazis summarily execute everyone who was in the factory save for the manager, who is taken into custody and, as we find out through the first episode, tortured mercilessly.

As Joe is doing this, we go to San Francisco where another part of the story is developing. Juliana Crain (Alexa Davalos), who has assimilated nicely into a post-war Japanese society (taking aikido lessons and embracing their medicinal and cultural offerings), is stunned to meet up with her half-sister who tells her she has a great new job. Later in the evening, Juliana and her sister meet again under much more dire circumstances; Juliana’s sister hands her a package and cryptically tells her to take care of it before running away. As Juliana hides in the shadows, Japanese soldiers execute her sister in the street.

Running home, a perplexed Juliana (why would soldiers kill her sister) looks in the bag her sister gave to her. In the bag is a film entitled The Grasshopper Lies Heavy and, after viewing the reel, Juliana discovers it is an alternate reality film based on what happened if the Allies had instead won World War II (you with me so far?). Spurred to action by watching the film and the death of her sister, Juliana leaves her boyfriend (Rupert Evans) who hides that he is part Jewish, a crime punishable by death even in the Japanese Pacific States, and heads for Canon City with a ticket procured for her sister to make the trip.

The remainder of the first episode brings our protagonists to Canon City. Blake has what might be called an uneventful run but discovers that, out on the Great Plains, hospitals are crematoriums for the sickly and elderly instead of healing (remember, that’s Nazi Country). Juliana has her own issues, with a female passenger on the bus she is taking to Canon City mysteriously stealing her belongings but not the movie reels. The first episode ends with a twist that I honestly didn’t see coming and, after seeing it, nearly made me rocket into the second episode rather than allowing the first one to sink in fully.

Beyond the point that we have several different plotlines intersecting in this one hour – the impending death of Hitler and the potential for war between the Nazi and Japanese, the trips of both Blake and Crain to Canon City to do what isn’t exactly known and the film (is it possible it’s true?) and its purpose – there is an attention to detail in creating the false reality of “this” divided U. S. nation that is remarkable. There are far too many things to point out that helped to convey the dread and dismay of the conditions of living in such a situation and, with the supporting cast, all viewpoints are offered (Crain’s mother hates the Japanese for killing her husband; Blake meets a police officer who was in the U. S. military but now accepts his fate with the Nazis). It potentially indicates that there are some deeper analogies that we might see in the future of the program.

The Man in the High Castle also showed me that there is a new reality to the future of television. Unrestrained by broadcast guidelines or traditional “broadcasting times,” these shows being put out by the streaming networks are quality works that should demand a great deal more attention from the viewing public. If every program was of the high quality that High Castle is, then there would be a greater impetus to “cut the cord” from normal cable and network broadcasting, which have become staid with their product.

If you haven’t had a chance to check out these streaming channels, you’re missing out on what could be a bountiful arena of choices for your viewing pleasure. You’re definitely missing out on one of the best programs of the year with The Man in the High Castle; I’d suggest climbing onboard the wagon soon for both the show and for the streaming channels.

The Coming Downfall of Broadcast Television

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There have been some things that have been consistent in the average person’s life when it comes to entertainment. The theater has been around since the Greeks and Romans put plays on in their massive outdoor amphitheaters and musical concerts have almost the same longevity. The change has come in the way that those things – acting and musical performances, along with sporting events – have been delivered to the populace.

In the really “old days,” the only way to partake of these artistic or athletic endeavors was in a live setting. With the creation of radio, it became possible for people to join in on a concert or sporting event from several hundred, even thousands, of miles away. When television came along in the 1920s, the picture was added to the radio broadcast and became the preferred way for people to witness events from thousands, even millions (remember the moon landing in 1969?), of miles away. As technology improves, however, many of these avenues are becoming extinct or may become extinct over the next decade or so.

First to go was radio. The normal terrestrial radio – replete with commercials – lasted for over 100 years before the advent of satellite radio came along. At first, many said “I’m not going to pay for radio,” but, as time, technological improvements and personal choices came to the fore, people decided to pay for satellite radio. Today, SiriusXM and its array of channels challenge terrestrial radio across the board in the ability to deliver breaking news, sporting events and musical events and artists’ recent musical output. It doesn’t bode well for the future as more terrestrial radio stations become “automated” – basically eschewing live DJs for stale canned programming to reduce costs – and the satellite stations boom, basically destroying an industry 100 years or more in the making.

A similar situation is happening in the world of television. Just a little younger than the radio industry, television has been a staple of U. S. households since it was popularly mass-produced in the 1950s. Over the past 60-plus years, television has not only brought to those around the world important historical moments – the moon landing, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the standoff at Tiananmen Square, the bombing of Baghdad in the first Gulf War – but has also brought hours of entertainment through movies, musical concerts, comedies and dramas.

Those traditions are quickly changing and nothing shows it more than the recent announcements from two powers in the television world, one a major network and one a cable powerhouse. It was announced on Monday that CBS Television Studios would be bringing a new entry into the Star Trek universe come January 2017. While not commenting on what tack the new series will take, it does have the power of Alex Kurtzman, who produced the 2009 theatrical version of Star Trek and 2013’s Star Trek Into Darkness, behind it.

The crossover of Kurtzman from the Big Screen to the Little Screen isn’t the important change, however. CBS has already stated that the premiere episode of the new Star Trek series would be broadcast on its regular network airwaves. Following that, the premiere and each new episode would be seen on CBS’ brand new on demand outlet, CBS All Access, and would not be broadcast on the traditional airwaves ever again.

After this announcement regarding the CBS/Star Trek partnership, it was announced on Tuesday that longtime cable television giant HBO and former The Daily Show front man Jon Stewart had joined forces for him to issue commentary during the upcoming 2016 Presidential campaigns. So what will be the name of Stewart’s new show that will premiere next year? It won’t be a show and it won’t be on HBO, fans; it will be “short form digital content,” or online efforts, with Stewart offering commentary that will appear over HBO’s on demand and streaming outlets HBO NOW, HBO GO and other arenas.

What do both of these legendary entries do? Sidestep the traditional broadcasting arenas in favor of online or “streaming” outlets, signifying that there is a coming downfall of broadcast television.

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Since the beginning of the 21st century, this transition has been pretty easy to see coming. Netflix wormed its way in with its creation in 1999, initially offering only DVDs to customers as an alternative to the “big box” movie rental outlets such as Hollywood Video or Blockbuster Video. Not only did Netflix crush those outlets with its business plan, they soon grasped onto the idea that they could do television just as well as the traditional broadcast networks. Such now-acclaimed dramas and comedies as House of Cards and the resurrected Arrested Development got their start in 2013 on Netflix and the acclaimed Orange is the New Black premiered in 2014. Since these and other shows premiered, Netflix has earned over 50 Emmy nominations and won 11 times.

After Netflix showed the way, there were many who followed. Hulu and Amazon Prime Video now have their own streaming video networks in addition to their usual movie rentals and they have made their impacts not only on broadcasting but on awards shows with their own original programming. Even the traditional networks, such as what CBS has done above, have entered into the digital arena.

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If you’re going to have the non-traditional broadcast sources, you have to have a way to get it to the people. With Roku, ChromeCast, AppleTV and software on the Xbox and PS4 video game systems, there are ways to use an internet connection to pretty much see anything that might appear on network television that same day or within a couple of days of a program’s original broadcast (if it is on the network’s digital outlet, then the next day). The combination of these internet streaming options plus the drive to sever the ties with cable could very well doom the traditional network outlets and cable television.

Cable television, as traditionally offered by Comcast, Time Warner and several other outlets, offers different packages for homes in their areas. Households can pay anywhere between $20 (for the barest bones package that basically only gives the local broadcast networks) and $300 (for every bell and whistle available, not to mention internet access and/or phone) for cable television programming. If people were able to make the choice to buy the channels that they like and want – say a Netflix here, an ESPN there, etc. – and pay drastically less than what they pay for cable, people will do that in a heartbeat.

Cable broadcasting will more than likely end when those device providers – Roku, ChromeCast and the others – start providing “bundles” of channels at a low price for their viewers (this might also be the saving grace of broadcast television in that they could negotiate rights, much like they already do with the cable companies, with the streaming providers). These “bundles” could offer local television station programming, a sports channel or two, a movie channel and a news channel for next to nothing. You could have a sports package, a movie package or a news package to go alongside the local channels that can be picked up with a digital antenna. Then there is always the fallbacks of Netflix, Hulu and Amazon that could bring the programming.

There is one problem that could be present for those looking for the utter devastation of cable. Live televised sports still provide the most viewers in television – look at the numbers for football’s Super Bowl or for soccer’s (the rest of the world’s football) World Cup. The individual leagues have been looking to this, however, and have come up with streaming options that could easily make their way to a streaming home.

Major League Baseball’s MLB.tv is something that is offered year round (usually using the feeds from the local team’s affiliate) and the National Football League recently broadcast one of their games between the Buffalo Bills and the Jacksonville Jaguars not only from London, the United Kingdom but also exclusively streamed over the internet. If the individual leagues can figure out a way to remove the broadcast networks from the equation and monetize their offerings, they will be the first to “cut the cord.”

And this doesn’t even add into the mix the expanding world of mobile programming, or watching traditional television on your cellphone…

The moves by CBS and HBO (and others, to be honest – the situation is rapidly changing) to bypass the traditional network broadcasting routine for straight-to-digital broadcasts signifies a seismic change, a strange new world for the future of television broadcasting. Will the other companies in the industry catch up? Will the cable companies be able to make adjustments in their offerings? Will the streaming channels and the devices that provide them take the idea of “cutting the cable” all the way to the logical fruition of cable’s destruction? The coming years will provide the answers.