Is Matt Gaetz lying to us, to himself, or both?

I’m not the least bit surprised that Rep. Matt Gaetz, who wants to dissolve the EPA, is from my former home turf, Northwest Florida.

The Florida Panhandle is one of those areas as red as you can get, a mix of military, military retirees, rural southerners and right-wing Christian theocrat-lovers. The area went for Trump, though not as much as for Romney. And for a large number of the residents, “environment” is lumped in with civil rights, gay rights, women’s rights, questioning the government (which is only okay if Democrats are in the White House) and all the other terrible things that happened in the 1960s when the world went to pot. And so it must be utterly and completely destroyed. Plus, of course, regulation on business is evil. And lots of developers and businesses dislike the restrictions imposed by environmental law in particular.

Despite which, Gaetz insists he doesn’t want an environmental apocalypse. It’s just that we’ve come so far since Nixon created the EPA, the states can now handle things. And cities, too. And they’ll do a much better job without that big, overbearing federal bureaucracy. And possibly some states will But speaking as a former, 40-year Florida resident, Florida won’t be one of them. Even the state Department of Environmental Protection, a much more modest operation, draws people’s ire, both for bottom-line and political reason. Despite his lies to the contrary, Gov. Rick Scott has cut environmental spending. The chance the state will spend enough money to make up for the loss of the EPA? Zero.

So the most charitable view of Gaetz is that he’s clueless. Much like Alan Greenspan, who declared after the financial meltdown of a decade ago that when he advocated for looser regulations, it never occurred to him that financial companies wouldn’t be responsible. Or Danielle Pletka, who said after post-occupation Iraq collapsed into civil war that she’d never imagined the Iraqis would fall to civil war and anarchy if we overthrew Saddam. Gaetz is a sunny, naive guy who assumes that the state will do the right thing. He’s wrong, but he’s swallowing his own snake oil.

The alternative view is that the snake oil is strictly for us. He knows perfectly well the loss of the EPA means a massive uptick in pollution, he just doesn’t care because deregulation! Freedom! State’s rights! He may genuinely believe that’s the right course, or he may simply be aware that voters and big money will reward him for his stance. And years from now, when the consequences of erasing environmental protection become clear, Gaetz will wring his hands and assure us that gee, he was soooo sure the states would carry the ball. He had no idea they wouldn’t use their freedom from regulation responsibly! And it’s unlikely he’ll live with any consequences, other than breathing whatever toxic hell he caused.

clean%20air%20act%20downtown%20smog(1968 LA smog photo from Herald Examiner Collection. Technically smog is covered by the Clean Air Act even if the EPA goes away. At least for now)

Over the years one of the anti-liberal arguments I’ve seen tossed around is that conservatives care more for the future than liberals because they have kids and families where liberals are smug, selfish bastards who stay childless to enjoy their yuppie lifestyle. But it’s liberals who push for a healthy environment, conservatives who advocate passing the buck to the next generation. Let them get elected, let them make their pile while gutting the ecosystem, who cares about tomorrow. Like Louis XV supposedly said when criticized on his policies, apres moi, les deluge — after me the flood. As long as it’s far enough after, they don’t care.

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More time travel films that don’t get recommended a lot (#SFWApro)

As I mentioned the last time I posted on this topic, Best Time Travel Film lists simply recycle the same selections over and over. So as a new-made expert, I’m broadening the list a little.

CRUSADE (2006) has a frustrated young man use his mother’s experimental time machine to travel back to the Children’s Crusade (which also figured in the anime Sins of the Sisters). He tries to save lives as he travels with them (using his knowledge of basic first aid, quarantine, etc.) though he’s worried that by keeping the crusade going, more kids will end up dying or enslaved (it didn’t end well). The protagonist’s pragmatic approach — no worries about time-tampering, just helping people when they’re in trouble — gave this a different feel than most time journeys.

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TOMORROW I’LL GET UP AND SCALD MYSELF WITH TEA (1977) is a delightfully goofy Czech comedy in which aging Nazis in a utopian future conspire with a time-travel pilot to go back and give Hitler a suitcase nuke to turn the tide of the war. Only everything goes wrong, starting with the pilot dying and getting replaced by his identical twin … I love this one, which is available subtitled on YouTube (all rights to image reside with current holder).

THE GRAND TOUR (1992) has Jeff Daniels coming to realize the strangers staying at his hotel are bored time travelers visiting the present for the thrill of watching one of the great disasters of history—which is obviously very bad news for his small town. A TV movie based on CL Moore’s Vintage Seasons, this is an ingenious tale with a good character in Daniels’ inn-keeper

TIMESHIFTERS (1999) also has a time-tourism premise but it’s more about action than character. Casper van Dien averts the disasters one tourist is here to watch, changing the future. To restabilize it and restore her time-erased child security agent Theresa Saldana must make sure the next disaster happens without a hitch; as it’s going to kill van Dien’s son, he’s not okay with this. A surprisingly well-done time adventure from the TBS cable channel.

5 DAYS TO MIDNIGHT (2004) was a SyFy (I think it was still SciFi then) miniseries in which someone sends Timothy Hutton a 40 year old briefcase containing a case file about his murder, five days in the future. Can he identify his future killer when so many people around him turn out to have a motive?

SOURCE CODE (2011) has Jake Gyllenhaal waking up on a train as someone he knows isn’t himself … and eight minutes later the train blows up. It turns out that a government counter-terrorist project has projected his mind into the memories of one of the victims so that he can identify the killer by time looping the events — but is it just a memory, or could it be a new reality? I like this, though I should note that both this and the Czech film have a happy ending where the guys pair off with a woman who thinks they’re someone else — for some people that’s creepy rather than romantic (they have a point, but it’s not a point that bothers me if I like the film).

STAR TREK IV: The Voyage Home (1986) is the “save the whales” film in which an alien probe is destroying Earth in its efforts to communicate with the now extinct humpback whales. The Enterprise crew head back to the past to bring back some whales, but find San Francisco in the 1980s takes a lot of getting used to. The most light-hearted of all the films, with the cast playing characters they know well and lots of cross-time humor.

More film recommendations at a future date.

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Wonder Woman: All This and World War II (#SFWApro)

wonderwoman230So as I mentioned in my last Wonder Woman post, getting the Lynda Carter Wonder Woman show on the air convinced DC the comic should look just like it. In a two-part story, Diana goes back to Earth-2 in WW II and hands over her comics to that world’s Wonder Woman. Except instead of the real Golden Age continuity, it was changed so as not to distress anyone coming to the comic from the show: instead of General Darnell, Wonder Woman and Steve work for General Blankenship. Steve’s a brunette. Etta Candy a college student, is now in the military. Diana Prince is a Yeoman instead of a lieutenant.

This annoyed the heck out of me at the time: why should they muck up continuity just to make the TV viewers happy? For example, Wonder Woman’s run-in with the Cheetah (cover by Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, all rights to current holder) ignored the character’s existing history in various ways. Reading now, after multiple Amazonian reboots, I find I appreciate this period a lot more. The Cheetah story (by Martin Pasko) may have been discontinuous, but Pasko captured the character well — an insecure woman whose repressed anger at people who make her feel inadequate manifests as a savage split personality (the current cat-woman Cheetah resembles her in name only). And it obviously did work for the bottom line, as Diana got a backup series in World’s Finest along with her regular book.

Martin Pasko started the run but Gerry Conway did the bulk of it. Conway’s Bronze Age work could be hit or miss, but he really seemed to click here. A running element is that even though Wonder Woman is in America to help win the war, she’s really uncomfortable with the American military machine, and prone to lash out at it. In one story, for instance, she tries to shut down the Manhattan Project out of fear of what atomic weapons can do. Later, after the villainous Duke of Deception (one of Mars’ agents) tricks her into apparently going berserk, she winds up on trial for treason (she beats the rap). We have guest appearances by the Justice Society and Sgt. Rock, old foes (Dr. Psycho, one of my favorites), and several new ones including Baron Blitzkrieg, a Nazi superhuman who became a running foe in the later retcon series All-Star Squadron.

And as often happens in comics, we got loose ends. Conway had introduced the masked Nazi spymaster Armageddon, whom I presume would have unmasked as someone in the cast (I’m guessing one particularly officious military intelligence guy). He also gave Etta a boyfriend whose thought balloons show he was up to no good — but we never learn what. The last couple of issues of this era (by Jack C. Harris) jump ahead to the end of the war, Etta’s single, the sinister beau forgotten.

After the war ends, the Earth-1 villain Angle Man winds up jumping from Earth-1 present to Earth-2 in 1945, thereby bringing both Wonder Women together and providing a smooth transition back to the present. The TV show had moved back to the present day, and the comic followed. However they stuck with the continuity from the previous period rather than turning Diana Prince into an agent for IADC (Inter Agency Defense Command, I think) as she was on the second season of the show.

I’ll be reviewing her next phase as soon as I read through it.

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Undead sexist cliches: The woman is an aquarium, her baby is a priceless fish

That’s how Echidne of the Snakes has frequently described the pro-life view of women: they’re aquariums whose only value is the precious life they hold. You don’t worry about the rights of aquariums. You don’t worry about the health of aquariums. All that matters is the baby.

Which leads to the new Arkansas Act 45 just recently passed. Under this state law, D&E abortions, which are a standard second-trimester approach, are banned. The only exception is if it’s life-or-death for the mother, or she’s at risk for serious physical impairment, or the baby has died (depressingly, that’s actually better than some proposals that wouldn’t allow an exemption  even if the baby was born dead). No exception for rape.

On top of which, it allows spouses and parents (it doesn’t seem to specify “parents if the woman is under-age”) or other healthcare providers to sue to stop the abortion, and to sue the abortion provider for damages. That right apparently extends to babies born of spousal rape (but good news! He can’t sue the provider for damages!).

The lawmakers supporting the bill talk about how they’re showing compassion. Sorry, forcing a woman to bear a child, let alone giving a rapist a say in her decision — hell, giving anyone else a say in her decision — is not compassion. It’s just throwing more roadblocks in the way so that the aquarium has to do its duty.

I think it’s telling that if Obamacare goes, the Senate has no interest in protecting the ACA requirements insurers cover contraception and maternity care. Contraception no surprise, because in the forced-birther universe only irresponsible sluts use it. (this does not, as far as I know, apply to guys using condoms). But maternity care? If they’re so het-up about protecting the fish, making sure plans provide maternity care (many formerly did not) would seem important. But no — it’s almost like if “the fetus has rights!” doesn’t reinforce the woman’s aquarium status, they don’t care. If a woman has to bear her rapist’s child, that means she either spends lots of money to get good care or the child and she suffer bad health issues, all through no fault of their own. Yet somehow I don’t see a move to provide that funding. Ultimately the fish isn’t that precious. As witness the Idaho forced-birthers who think abortion is wrong but denying your child medical care is godly.

•Did I mention that some states require rape victims who bear a baby from the rape to give their rapist time with the child.

•In Russia, domestic violence is getting decriminalized. I suppose I should take comfort that we’re not the only country grappling with sexism in the halls of power … but I don’t.

•On the positive side, pro-choice lawmakers are pushing to end the Hyde amendment that bans any federal funds going to abortion (e.g., Medicaid). I doubt they’ll succeed, but I think it’s good and necessary to fight for abortion (and other) rights.

•women on Twitter respond to Trump’s declaration female staffers must dress like women.

•In this morning’s post, I linked (not directly) to conservative Carrie Lukas whining that all liberal criticism of Kellyanne Conway is sexist. Sorry, I think ripping into someone for citing a massacre that never happened to justify Trump’s immigration ban on Muslims is fully justified.

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Trump’s cabinet: a wretched hive of scum and villainy

For example requiring financial advisors to put your interests ahead of their own when they give you advice (i.e., they can’t steer you to their bank’s products just to make money), seems like an obvious requirement. But the shit-gibbon’s blocking it. And the Republican Congress wants to roll back protections (clearly disclosed fees, for instance) for users of prepaid debit cards.

•A Trump Golf Club must pay $5 million to members who were denied the right to play but couldn’t get their dues back. As LGM points out, the right wing would have a fit if a Clinton Golf Club had done that.

•Should we consider Trump’s administration a Breitbart administration?

•Trump’s new FCC chairman is expected to roll back Internet neutrality and other Obama-era policies. He’s also blocked an FCC rule that limits what phone companies can charge inmates for outside calls. And cable and phone companies want to repeal a rule restricting their use of our data.

•Trump plans to channel funds for fighting violent extremism so that they focus on Muslim extremism only. After all, think how upset Steve Bannon and the other bigots in the cabinet would be if the government interfered with people like the guy who shot up a Quebec mosque. Which Fox News initially blamed on a Moroccan immigrant. And Trump’s press secretary held up as a reason to keep out Muslims.

•Then there’s the Yemen mess. I’m sure the people who freaked out about Benghazi will be equally enraged.

•Roy Edroso spots a spate of right-wingers comparing Trump to Lincoln. Oh, and criticizing Kellyanne Conway is just sexism. As far as I’ve seen it’s been about her lying for her boss, not say, sexist insults. Oh, Conway herself is furious that none of the media people criticizing the shit-gibbon have been fired.

•Billionaire Peter Thiel argues that when Trump talks about building the border wall or issues orders discriminating against Muslims, we shouldn’t take him literally. Because?

•Trump remembers the Holocaust in a White House statement. Only he doesn’t mention Jews. Which fits the Holocaust Denial argument that of course they’re not saying Jews weren’t killed, it’s just that they weren’t killed more than anyone else. The White House has defended this as “inclusive” but it’s not that hard to say “millions of Jews were targeted for genocide, along with Roma and gays.”

•Trump’s nominee for Treasury, Steve Mnuchin, says his bank didn’t use robo-signing on foreclosures (where they just rubber-stamp foreclosure documents without review, even when that was illegal). A new report disagrees. Senate Democrats on the relevant committee denied the committee a quorum, but the GOP changed procedure to get a full Senate vote anyway. And after a year of denying Obama a Supreme Court appointment (and multiple lower court appointments) protested how shocked they were that Dems wouldn’t immediately vote for anyone Trump wanted.

•Trump threatens to invade Mexico (though the Mexican president says he didn’t) and hangs up on Australia.

•However to give Trump his due, he hasn’t undone Obama’s protections banning federal contractors from discriminating against gay and trans employees. Unfortunately he’s also not going to do anything about lowering drug prices, one of the things he ran on.

•Just remember, protests can work. And work. Also remember it’s important not to burn out. Very important.

•When regular people speak up against Trump, one right-bloggers wants you to know nobody elected them.

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Victorian cynicism, story tellers, privacy and the JLA: books and graphic novels (#SFWApro)

THE TWILIGHT OF THE GODS And Other Tales by Richard Garnett is a late 19th century collection of shorts reminiscent in its cynicism of James Branch Cabell, though never quite as cold: a freed Prometheus passes himself off as a martyred saint (“Why yes, the eagle that came to attend to me was sent from heaven,”), a prophet interprets the holy books (“A woman is worth one ninth of a man, so clearly ‘take one wife’ requires taking nine women!”) and a group of rebellious cardinals back off when they learn the Pope has a cloven hoof (“If we’d realized who you were—well, of course, we have much more respect for you now.”). Delightful

THE MABINOGION is a collection of Welsh legends gathered by Lady Charlotte Guest in the 19th century (though I read a later translation of the tales, by Jeffrey Gantz. The 11 stories include the four branches adapted by Evangeline Walton; How Culhwch Won Olwen an Arthurian tale that seems to embody a completely different set of traditions than the rest of the mythos; some Arthurian tales possibly adapted from Chretien de Troyes; and the satirical Dream of Rhonabwy. If you’re into Celtic stuff, this is definitely worth reading (I’ve read it a couple of times before), and it gave me some good ideas for Southern Discomfort to boot.

THE 100 NIGHTS OF HERO by Isabel Greenberg is an Arabian Nights variation in which a woman and her lesbian lover stave off a lecher’s attention by spinning stories so intriguing he just has to postpone getting physical until the tale finishes. Familiar tales but adjusted enough (and with a running feminist theme) that they worked for me. I gather this is part of a series (which probably explains the early stuff with gods that doesn’t actually play into the main story) but it worked fine as a standalone. Cover by Greenberg, all rights to current holder.

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THE PRIVATE EYE by Brian K. Vaughn and Marcos Martin is set in a world where a massive Internet hack has exposed everyone’s every digital secret; years later the Internet is shut down, privacy is near sacred (people wear masks to minimize the fallout from any embarrassing stuff they do) and everyone relies  on old-fashioned means of entertainment such as TV and books. An investigator whose client turned up dead discovers a scheme to resurrect the Internet and finds himself dodging both the “Fourth Estate” security police and the criminals responsible. Interesting in premise, less in execution (and heavy-handed when it gets to the Get Off The Internet And Go Outside theme).

JUSTICE LEAGUE: Injustice League by Geoff Johns and various artists has a)Luthor, having saved the world in a previous TPB, pushing his way onto the League; b)the JLA agreeing on the principle of keeping your enemies close; c)the evil alt.Green Lantern Power Ring’s ring falling into the hands of a reluctant wielder; and d)a virus Luthor created brings death to metahumans and empowers (then kills) ordinary people. This has some good character bits, but I really dislike Morrison’s handling of the Doom Patrol and the second adventure is only adequate (it reads like a reworking of the gene bomb plot from the old Invasion crossover event). So a mixed bag.

SWEET TOOTH: Animal Armies by Jeff Lemire is part of a series about a human/stag hybrid with a soft spot for candy. In this one, he’s captive in a sinister research center while the guy who dumped him there struggles to fix that mistake. I gather this has some devoted fans, but all I see are familiar tropes recycled to very little effect.

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Woody Allen, a twenties reporter and Archie Andrews: movies and TV (#SFWApro)

If Woody Allen’s Anything Else remade Annie Hall, WHATEVER WORKS (2009) similarly remakes Manhattan with its December/May romance. Here it’s dour intellectual Larry David in the Woody Allen role reluctantly taking in Southern runaway Evan Rachel Wood, then winding up married to her. Given David isn’t much younger than Allen (in contrast to Jason Beggs in Anything Else or Owen Wilson in Midnight in Paris) I wonder why Allen didn’t play the role himself. I’d probably have preferred it: Allen’s own ineffective persona would have softened the character’s constant lectures on the Meaning of Life and reminders of how brilliant he is (not that you can tell from the lectures), whereas David’s just overbearing. Wood, though, is spot on as a Southerner; Patricia Clarkson and Ed Begley Jr. play her parents, who get implausible happy endings. “If you throw me out and I wind up an Asian prostitute, it’s going to be on your conscience.”
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(All rights to poster image reside with current holder)

MAN OF THE CENTURY (1999) is an oddball comedy about Johnny Twenties, who speaks, dresses and acts like a crack reporter from the roaring twenties — or at least the kind of reporter you’d see in a movie from that era — to the bemusement of everyone around him and the sexual frustration of his girlfriend, who can’t understand why the furthest Johnny will go is a peck on the chief. This should have flopped as badly as an expanded Saturday Night Live sketch comedy, but in its own goofy way it completely worked for me. “Theodore Dreiser—he was Dr. Seuss, right?”

RIVERDALE is the latest attempt to incarnate Archie Andrews and his gang for TV (quite aside from various cartoons, there’s a 1990 movie, To Riverdale and Back Again) but it didn’t work for me. The template is Pretty Little Liars or Twin Peaks (depending on your POV, I guess) with Riverdale a town riven by secrets and scandal (the classic soap Peyton Place wouldn’t be far off the mark either): Cheryl Blossom’s brother Jason died mysteriously, Archie spent last summer getting it on with Mrs. Grundy (younger and hotter than the comics), Veronica’s father is caught up in a criminal trial that might ruin him, etc. Not to my taste, which is not to say that it isn’t good, or might not click with the rest of the audience; given that Josie and the Pussycats are at Riverdale High, I wonder if Sabrina’s going to turn up, which would be more interesting (answer: yes). “Jason was captain of the football team,  but how will he be remembered?”

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