Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Tag:

When Science Fiction Becomes Fact, Start To Worry

How did you spend your holiday? If you’re like me, one guilty pleasure was devouring TV marathons, designed to offer relief from the stresses of the season. Reliable favorites include back-to-back episodes of The Twilight Zone and, on Turner Classic Movies, one whole day devoted to science fiction, imaginings both cautionary and consoling of what the future holds for our world.

But usual escapes didn’t quite work this year, not when fact is scarier than anything Twilight Zone creator Rod Serling might have dreamed up, though the serious Serling who introduced each episode of his iconic series, all furrowed brow and cigarette in hand, did signal he suspected what was coming if mankind didn’t shape up.

Hint: Mankind did not listen to that sober sage.

Let’s list just some of the gloom and doom greeting the world at the start of a new decade.

The end of the year brought surprising news from the Trump administration’s own experts — you know, those folks hired to replace scientists from the previous administration, presumably to more closely reflect the views of the boss and because of their ties to industry.

They showed some independence, with members of the EPA’s Scientific Advisory Board posting draft letters laying out the disconnect between policies they are tasked with adjusting and real science. The statements criticized the administration’s proposed overhaul of Obama-era regulation of waterways, efforts to curb vehicle tailpipe emissions to fight climate change and plans to limit scientific data when drawing up health regulations.

That news coincidentally paired with the umpteenth showing of the 1973 movie Soylent Green, featuring one of Charlton Heston’s less wooden performances and a future world devastated by pollution, global warming, too many people and too few resources, where the privileged use their riches to escape harm and where — spoiler alert – “Soylent Green is people!”

The start of January brought a preview, reported in The New York Times, of proposed changes to the 50-year-old National Environmental Policy Act that would mean “federal agencies would no longer have to take climate change into account when they assess the environmental impacts of highways, pipelines and other major infrastructure projects.”

Those supportive of the move contend economic and employment opportunities must be considered, while environmentalists worry about the future of air, water and wildlife. The public and courts will get the chance to weigh in on the changes to the law, expected to be formally announced this week.

Caring about air, water and wildlife is inescapable when every day brings new pictures of a continent and country burning. Man has certainly helped pull the trigger in Australia, with dozens of arrests of those charged with intentionally setting fires. But scientists and researchers have said that climate change has worsened the effects of the wildfires, which have killed many, destroyed thousands of homes and devastated flora and fauna.Climate change activists take to the streets to demand action.

“Climate change is increasing bushfire risk in Australia by lengthening the fire season, decreasing precipitation and increasing temperature,” according to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology

Australia’s leaders, including its prime minister, remain largely unmoved, insisting that despite drought and bushfires, the country does not need to cut carbon emissions. Energy and Emissions Reduction Minister Angus Taylor told Reuters, “When it comes to reducing global emissions, Australia must and is doing its bit, but bushfires are a time when communities must unite, not divide.”

To be fair, Serling’s brainchild series remains iconic, in part, because it was prescient in its view of the dark side of humanity, of the greed and xenophobia that trump good sense and charity when the going gets a little bit tough. He shone a light on contentious family dynamics and neighbors turning against neighbors, proving only too well his fictional alien force’s informed hunch that when it comes to defeating the human race, no outside aggression is necessary. We will do it to ourselves every time.

His science was never truly fiction.

Still, what once seemed ironic and clever comes as a shock as the fantastical scenarios increasingly play out in real time. The writing is smart, the concepts clever — and all of it is frightening.

In the 1960 film The Time Machine — not exactly H.G. Wells’ 1895 vision, but entertaining nonetheless — Rod Taylor’s character returns to his Victorian present, chastened and woeful after his “machine” offers a glimpse into the future, full of passive citizens cut off from the knowledge of the past and content to be happy and entertained, and ultimately unable to confront danger.

When I watched this time around, I sympathized with those trapped underground, perhaps more in line with Wells’ sentiment about the plight of the working class during industrialization, though they serve as the movie’s villains. That allows for a last act that contains hope for a new day.

Unfortunately, it’s hard to imagine any sort of happy ending when the future is now.Thunberg: ‘Don’t listen to me, listen to the scientists.

Mary C. Curtis has worked at The New York Times, The Baltimore Sun, The Charlotte Observer, as national correspondent for Politics Daily, and is a senior facilitator with The OpEd Project. Follow her on Twitter @mcurtisnc3.

DeNiro: Trump Makes Mobsters Look Bad

Reprinted with permission from AlterNet.

 

Two-time Academy Award winner Robert De Niro unloaded on Donald Trump in a scathing interview published Sunday by the Guardian, calling the president both a white supremacist and a “buffoon.”

De Niro said that when Trump was originally elected, “I thought, well, OK, let’s see what he does – maybe he’ll change.”

“But he just got worse,” De Niro explained. “It showed me that he is a real racist. I thought maybe as a New Yorker he understands the diversity in the city but he’s as bad as I thought he was before – and much worse. It’s a shame. It’s a bad thing in this country.”

Describing Trump as a white supremacist, De Niro mused that the president could also qualify as a fascist.

“That’s what it leads to,” De Niro said. “If he had his way, we’d wind up in a very bad state in this country. I mean, the way I understand it, they laughed at Hitler. They all look funny. Hitler looked funny, Mussolini looked funny and other dictators and despots look funny.”

De Niro also recalled Trump’s attack on former personal attorney Michael Cohen, who the president described as a “rat” for cooperating with federal investigators.

“I mean, a mob boss calls people ‘a rat,’” De Niro—who played Al Capone in the 1987 film “The Untouchables”—explained. “That means you lied and somebody snitched on you, so you did commit the crime.”

“So that’s interesting and he makes mobsters look bad because there are mobsters who will shake your hand and keep their word,” the actor continued. “He can’t even do that.”

“[Trump’s] a con artist,” he added. “He’s a huckster. He’s a scam artist. And what bothers me is that people don’t see that. I think that ‘The Apprentice’ had a lot to do with that, which I never saw but once, maybe. It’s all smoke and mirrors, it’s all bullshit.”

De Niro, who, the Guardian notes, “has some things in common” with Trump, said he “never had an interest in meeting” the president, adding he has no interest in playing the president as a character “ever.”

“He’s a buffoon,” the actor declared, later adding that he has “so little sympathy” for what Trump has done.

“I always say every person has a story that’s interesting,” De Niro explained. “It’s how you tell it. And of course his ‘how you tell it’ would be interesting, too, but I’ve not seen one moment of reflection from him, ever. He knows what he is and everything he says negative about people or things is really a projection of himself.”

“He’s not even evil,” De Niro declared. He’s mundane.”

“The things that Trump has done; if Obama had done one fiftieth, they’d be all over him,” De Niro said, arguing Democrats “have to be more aggressive.”

“You have to fight fire with fire,” De Niro insisted. “You’ve got to say: ‘I’m sorry – let’s call a spade a spade. You are who you are and we’ve got to confront you at your own game and that’s what’s needed.’ You can do it in a nice way but you have to be hard and tough about it.”

“You need somebody who’s strong enough to outmouth him, because that’s all he is—mouth,” De Niro said. “And smart enough and well-informed enough in a debate, say, to override all that nonsense that he does, because basically it’s just name-calling. He has no substance. I don’t know how people fall for it. He’s just a big blowhard. But it ain’t over till it’s over as far as I’m concerned with a guy like him because he’s a dirty player.”

 

 

Pence Gaffes Embarrass GOP In Georgia

Reprinted with permission from Shareblue.

 

Appearing in Georgia to back gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp, Mike Pence made a series of fumbling remarks and statements that ended up embarrassing the Republican ticket.

Pence complained that some well-known celebrities have been in the state to support Stacey Abrams, the Democratic candidate. They include Common, Michael B. Jordan, Will Ferrell and Oprah Winfrey.

On Twitter, Pence wrote, “I’ve got a message for all of Stacey Abrams’ Hollywood friends: This ain’t Hollywood. This is Georgia!”

The ignorant remark ignores Georgia’s major role in film production. A recent study found that Georgia leads the world in the number of films that are produced there.

Over the last year, 455 film and television productions were shot in Georgia. Governor Nathan Deal has noted that production from film and television had an economic impact of $9.5 billion on his state during the most recent fiscal year.

Two of the biggest film releases of 2018, “Avengers: Infinity War” and “Black Panther,” were filmed in Georgia at Pinewood Atlanta Studios. Those films alone have earned over $3 billion worldwide. The seventh highest grossing film in 2018, Ant-Man and the Wasp, was also filmed in Georgia.

Despite Pence’s botched attempt at an insult, Georgia has been described as “Hollywood of the south.”

Pence directed part of his Hollywood attack on Oprah Winfrey, noting in his campaign speech, “I heard Oprah is in town today. I heard Will Ferrell was going door-to-door the other day. I’d like to remind Stacey and Oprah and Will Ferrell, I’m kind of a big deal, too.”

Winfrey is a product of the south, and was born in Kosciusko, Mississippi. From a poverty-stricken background, Winfrey worked her way up to become a media mogul and the first black multi-billionaire in America.

To dismiss her simply as someone parachuting in from “Hollywood” is extremely dismissive and insulting.

While Winfrey was on the campaign trail and encouraging voters to turn out for the election, Pence’s chosen candidate has been working on voter suppression.

Instead of making ill-informed attacks on a major engine of economic growth in Georgia and whining about Oprah, perhaps Pence should tell his ally to stop suppressing the vote.

Published with permission of The American Independent.