Okay, let's head back to The West Wing. As long as I mentioned the one song that people sing on Thanksgiving, I thought I might as well include a scene where the show uses the song, as well. It's also perhaps the quintessential scene that explains why Aaron Sorkin and the writers loved writing shows about the holiday. The image is fuzzy at beginning, but it only lasts a few seconds and the words are crisp and lovely.
Not long ago, Stephen Colbert finally followed up on his invitation from the New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to visit the country. Given his adoration of All Things Hobbits, where the two trilogies were filmed, it was only a matter of time before he went. And last week, his show broadcast highlights each night from his trip.
One of those segments concerned his idea to interest writer-director Peter Jackson to make a spinoff series, based on a tiny cameo extra part that Colbert played in one of The Hobbit movies -- The Desolation of Smaug.
This is the result.
On his "Fox News" show Monday night, well-known white supremacist Tucker Carlson said --
“Why do I care what is going on in the conflict between Ukraine and Russia? I'm serious. Why shouldn't I root for Russia? Which by the way I am.”
You can watch the video here. I don't intend to embed it.
How bad was this comment? (And yes, I know pretty much every rational person knows it's really bad, but this is how worse it is.) It was SO awful that even Tucker Carlson himself know it was disastrous and later in the same 60-minute show retracted it!!!
“Before we go," he said, "earlier in the show I noted I was rooting for Russia in the contest between Russia and Ukraine,” Carlson told his "Fox News" viewers, after outrage had broken out on social media. “Of course, I’m joking. I’m only rooting for America—mocking the obsession many on the left have. Ha!”
Imagine how much "social media outrage" there'd have to be for Carlson to not only backtrack his words -- remember this is a man who recently said that he thought white supremacy wasn't a real thing and didn't backtrack that!! -- but to backtrack them during the same show!!
Keep in mind, too, that in his backtrack he claimed he was just joking -- yet in his original words, he said, and I quote, "I'm serious." Moreover, he shows how actually serious he is by first-saying that he doesn't care at all about Russia and Ukraine, yet then contradicts himself seconds later to make clear he really truly does care and hopes Russia, our enemy WHO CYBERATTACKED US wins.
And why on earth would he "root only" for America and not for our allies?? Especially those who are actively fighting in a war against our enemies that we -- America -- are supporting and just gave $391 million in military aid to? Why isn't he hoping that they, our ally, would win which only helps keep us safe??
Moreover, I'm still trying to figure out what the "joke" is he's making. Among other things, I write jokes for a living, and I can't even begin to divine it. He says it's "mocking" the obsession that the left has, but leaves out what that obsession is Doe he mean Trump's phone call extorting the Ukraine president that is getting him impeached? Even if that is something he wants to "mock," saying he hopes our enemy Russia beats our ally isn't mocking that in the slightest. So, this magical "joke" is...what???
(By the way, this "Making a sick statement in support of Russia" and then retracting it when there is a massive public outcry is wearing thing. First, Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) does so, insisting that, ooops, no I didn't really mean Russia didn't try to hack the U.S. election, even though I said it, I, er...misheard the question. And now here's Tucker Carlson the next day, oops, I didn't mean I seriously hoped Russia won, even though I said it, but I was just...er, um, joking.)
Again, to be clear, Tucker Carlson does not have a record of apologizing or correcting his most outrageous statements, including those on white supremacy. In fact, he tends to double-down on them. For him to walk back these comments -- and to do so only minutes later within the very same show -- demonstrates how profoundly wrong and bad they were, not just a mere joke. (Again, he has no record of backtracking on "jokes.") And how likely-terrified he was when his producer came running in, hair on fire, shouting, "We have a really major problem" -- seeing the list of sponsors that has dwindled from his previous comments drop down to almost nothingless, putting the existence of his show at risk. Make no mistake, this wasn't a "walk back," this was a desperate flare he was shooting in the air for help to be saved.
In all honesty,despite all the public outcry, I don't think people should boycott Tucker Carlson – and further, I don’t think people should stop buying products from the few remaining sponsors of his show. However, I don't know why in the world a company would want to be associated with a TV host who supports America's enemy that literally CYBERATTACKED US. And who wants our ally to lose in a war where 14,000 of it’s citizens have died, killed by that same enemy of America??
This is the mindset that Republicans in Congress are willing to follow off the egg of the cliff.
The Late Late Show with James Corden had another of its "Crosswalk: the Musical" sketches, this one for Frozen -- with a touch of Frozen II. Most notable, though, is that includes the all "voice stars" of the film getting to dress up in their characters' costumes for the first time.
Yesterday, I wrote here about how Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) went on "Fox News" and said that we didn't know for sure that it was Russia attacked us in 2016, but it could have been Ukraine, or maybe Ukraine, too. It got SO much outrage, especially since the story also had broken that U.S. intelligence services had privately briefed senators that the idea of Ukraine attacking the U.S. was Russian disinformation, that Kennedy had to do the near-unthinkable -- go back on TV and correct himself.
Kennedy did just that, sort of, going on Chris Cuomo's CNN show and explaining that he'd misheard the question and wants everyone to know that, yes, it was Russia who hacked the DNC computers.
Now, mind you, this got him a lot of praise -- a Republican actually acknowledging he was wrong. And yes, that was swell. The problem is...immediately after he kept insisting that there was evidence Ukraine may have tried to manipulate the 2016 election -- this despite, a) his sources for this were two magazine articles which Cuomo pointed out only asked questions, and weren't giving "evidence," and b) Kennedy himself had been directly briefed by U.S. intel services that the idea of Ukraine attacked the U.S. was Russian disinformation -- and yet he's still trying to raise that as an issue.
And one more thing. His initial claim that maybe Russia didn't attack us and it was Ukraine, that was said on "Fox News" where all the right-wing conservatives heard him. His "correction" was on CNN, which so many right-wing conservatives deride and avoid like the Plague. So, it's pretty likely that most of the people who heard his original lie did NOT hear his slight "walk-back."
The other John Kennedy who served as President of the United States won a Pultizer Prize for the book, Profiles in Courage. This John Kennedy showed what the lack of that looks like. Even in his supposed "correction."
This is an excerpt of six minutes from a really terrific, moving speech at the Anti-Defamation League's "Never Is Now" summit. It's about the problems of social media, in particular Facebook and the need to address responsibility in stopping lies, hatred and conspiracies. It's pointed, thoughtful, angry and eloquent. And the most fascinating and unexpected thing of all is that it’s from…Sacha Baron Cohen.
And as a bonus, just yesterday he wrote an op-ed on the subject in the Washington Post. It's as good and as eloquent, and I love that it starts with a self-aware disclaimer -- "I get it: I’m one of the last people you’d expect to hear warning about the danger of conspiracies and lies. I’ve built a career on pushing the limits of propriety and good taste." And then notes, "I admit that most of my comedy over the years has been pretty juvenile" -- but then puts what he himself does in perspective, "The ugliness my jokes help reveal is why I’m so worried about our pluralistic democracies. Demagogues appeal to our worst instincts."
You can read it here.
I wasn't planning to write another "Capsule Review" so soon after posting my long piece the other day with four films, but the movie I saw on Sunday, Dark Waters, was one I liked so much that I figured I should. In fact, I was planning to leave the theater as soon as the movie ended, because it was dinner time, but it was so interesting that I stayed a while to hear the Q&A with the screenwriters. In full confession up front, this is the sort of story I love, whether as a movie or non-fiction book. But my personal preferences aside, it's terrific. Sort of a cross between Erin Brokovich and A Civil Action, the movie is based on a New York Times Magazine article, “The Lawyer Who Became Dupont’s Worst Nightmare” by Nathaniel Rich. It stars Mark Ruffalo (who also produced -- you may know he’s a major environmentalist, and one of the leading outspoken advocates against fracking, so his heart is clearly in the right place here), with Anne Hathaway, Tim Robbins, Victor Garber and Bill Pullman, and also a wonderful actor Bill Camp who is terrific as the farmer who angrily and unrelentingly brings his story to the law firm. The film is told in a pretty straightforward way, but very effectively -- taut and personal. It was written by Matthew Michael Carnahan and Mario Correa, and directed by Todd Haynes (Carol and Wonderstruck)..
By the way, several people who are part of the real story have cameos in the film, and in a nice touch they visually identify them at the beginning of the end credits, one of which is a big surprise and not a noticeable reaction from the audience,
Here's the trailer. It's a bit heavy-handed with the full-screen cuts to graphic cards and pounding ka-thump music, but does a respectable job with presenting the film.
Over the weekend the following exchange took place on "Fox News" between Republican Sen. John Kennedy and host Chris Wallace --
WALLACE: Senator Kennedy, who do you believe was responsible for hacking the DNC & Clinton campaign? Russia or Ukraine?
KENNEDY: I don't know. Nor do you.
WALLACE: The entire intel community says it was Russia.
KENNEDY: Right. But it could be Ukraine. Fiona Hill is entitled to her opinion
For the record -- Fiona Hill wasn't giving her "opinion," she was stating the results of investigations by 12 U.S. Intelligence Agencies.
And the Intel services recently briefed senators in private that pushing "Ukraine" as the perpetrator is, in fact, a disinformation campaign by Russia, which Putin himself has pushed publicly. Moreover, the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is Republican-led said IT WAS DONE BY RUSSIA.
The are so many outraged words that can be used to describe what Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) said and is doing here, after having sworn an oath of office to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution, not merely protect the back of his party's relentlessly-corrupt leader. At some point though they are just descriptive words that don't even begin to do justice to the damage of the actions. Better, it seems, is to paraphrase former Senator Lloyd Bentsen and let that encompass it all --
Senator John Kennedy, history knows the revered administration of President John Kennedy, who received the Purple Heart during WWII, won the Pulitzer Prize for his aptly-titled book Profiles in Courage, and called on Americans to a higher responsibility beyond self-interest, and you are no John Kennedy.
During the House Impeachment Hearing, Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY 21) tried to chastise Democrats by whining how unfair and wrong it was for them to claim that Republicans didn't think Russia was involved an any actions in 2016, because no Republican on the committee believed that. Now, in fairness (and forgetting for a moment that there isn't much evidence to support what she was whining), Sen. Kennedy isn't on the House Impeachment Committee, he is merely in the Senate and (to repeat, since it bears repeating) was only briefed by the Intel services that "Ukraine" is Russian propaganda and the Senate's own Intelligence Committee, led by a Republican, said that it was Russia that attacked the U.S. And in equal fairness, he isn't alone, in either the Senate or the House.
When one takes actions that promote disinformation by Russia, you are a Russian asset. Perhaps unwittingly, perhaps not. But by those standards, any Republican who pushes any part of the "Ukraine" story is a Russian asset.
And this, in part, is why for the past year or so I have been writing that this is not about Trump -- who know who he is. This is about the elected members of the Republican Party who enable him and are complicit.
In a broadcast from Richmond, Virginia, today's guest contestant on the 'Not My Job' segment of the NPR game quiz show Wait, Wait...Don't Tell Me! is U.S. Senator and former Virginia governor Tim Kaine, who also was the Democratic nominee for Vice President in 2016 as running-mate of Hillary Clinton. Host Peter Sagal touches on the election a few times (and in amusing ways...), though doesn't dwell on it. Mainly, Kaine tells a long, hilarious story about a Virginia tradition when the outgoing governor hands over the keys to the governor's mansion to the new occupant and is supposed to pull a prank. He explains what he did, which he proudly suggests will never be topped.
On this week's 3rd & Fairfax podcast from the Writers Guild of America, the guest is screenwriter Scott Z. Burns whose works include Contagion, The Bourne Ultimatum, and The Informant! He also talks about his two new films this year, both based on true stories: the recently released The Laundromat for Netflix which stars Meryl Streep, Gary Oldman and Andtonio Banderas, directed by Steve Soderbergh, and the upcoming The Report.for Amazon Studios, for which he makes his feature directing debut, starring Adam Driver, Annette Benning and John Hamm.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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