So once again we have survived.

Capitalism: A Love Story

tn_capitalismI think the end of the Bush era killed most of the demand for left wing documentaries. I think I heard Robert Greenwald is managing a food co-op or something.

Remember when FAHRENHEIT 9-11 came out? It was a phenomenon. I remember I tried to get tickets online and literally every show in Seattle was sold out. I had to go out of town to wait in a long line to see it. It seemed like such a huge deal then because it was like shit, finally. Finally somebody saying something.

mp_capitalismThen Bush got another 4 years and we lived through that, and we had a chance to pin our hopes on an actual president instead of a mere documentary/film essay. And either we’re still doing that or we’ve given up or whatever but without the right wingers in power for the time being there’s not that appetite for somebody or something to blow the lid off of their nefarious deeds or whatever. When his new one CAPITALISM: A LOVE STORY came out I wanted to see it, but instead I saw A SERIOUS MAN, WHIP IT, and ZOMBIELAND, which all came out on the same day. Uh, sorry Michael Moore. I hear ya buddy, but also I like girls on rollerskates. You know how it is.

You gotta admit, even if his movies aren’t in as high of demand, they’re pretty god damn prescient. Can you believe he made SICKO a couple years ago? Maybe if that came out this year we could’ve gotten some more serious reforms, who knows. Then he makes this movie in the midst of the economic collapse. Makes me afraid to find out what he’s working on next.

Like his other movies this is sort of a narrated personal essay illustrated with campy stock footage and woven around documentary vignettes about different people around the country facing problems that uniquely illustrate what this problem is. There are a few of those Michael Moore being told by security he can’t enter the building scenes, but I think he knows that’s gotten old. He returns to the GM building for old time’s sake (I mean, this could almost be a sequel to ROGER AND ME) but at the end, as he’s putting crime scene tape around the Merril Lynch building and saying through a megaphone that he’s there to make a citizen’s arrest, his narration pleads for people to rise up because “I can’t keep doing this stuff.” It comes across like this might be his last movie, like he doesn’t know where to go from here.

I wish I could find a better picture for the thumbnail there because those scenes are few and far between. That’s a funny moment though because that security guard puts his hand over the camera, and his supervisor (who seems like a nice guy) scolds, “Don’t do that.” They’ve learned that looks bad, because they’ve seen Michael Moore’s movies.

But the real meat of the movie is the stories of people losing their houses, of a guy who calls himself “the vulture” because he snatches up condos from people who go bankrupt, of a widow who found out Wal-Mart profited from her husband’s death by secretly taking out life insurance on him. Ever since his TV show Moore has been pretty good about uncovering the craziest shit I never heard about and embarrassing companies into stopping. Can you believe that shit? Anyway these are interesting characters to watch, that’s why it’s a good movie. But also their stories work together to show a system out of control with no brakes and probly not even watching the road because the prick is checking his text messages.

The most memorable scene is not something Moore shot, it’s a home video taken by a family waiting for the sheriff to come kick them out of their house. Through the window they watch seven cop cars drive in from the distance and up to the house. Then the family sits down in the living room and waits calmly while the sheriff and his deputies try to pound through the door. They call and make it very clear that they will not resist, they will go peacefully, but they’re gonna make him come in and get them because they’re not gonna pretend this shit is okay and just go along with it. This video is scarier than PARANORMAL ACTIVITY.

Moore makes a persuasive argument for this crisis being rooted in the Reagan years. He argues that when he was growing up the rich paid much higher taxes but they were happy and Americans were better taken care of. He calls Reagan a spokesmodel for Wall Street, shows how his philosophy of deregulating, privatizing, cutting taxes and programs inevitably leads to the mess we’re in now. Yeah, it turns out that if you allow businesses to do anything to get money and encourage people to be greedy and not help anybody else then sometimes bad stuff happens. Who’d’ve figured? Weird.

Later Moore talks about the election of Obama and how it seemed like an amazing piece of luck, that maybe we somehow got a good guy through and he’s gonna put an end to corporate rule. And he sure doesn’t imply that Obama is that guy, but reflects on what it was like to have some hope for that. I like these parts of the movie, I agree with him, but I almost wish he’d left them out just to fuck with the minds of the tea partying individuals. Because the partisan parts of the movie are a small percentage of it and the rest is very populist. It’s all fury at banks and at Congress and at the bailout. It would be funny to see some of those peoples’ heads pop like bubbles when they agreed with a Michael Moore movie.

That simplicity is a problem with the movie though. I don’t understand economics. To me the bailout does seem like a huge premeditated scam, just like the movie says. That’s the obvious response. But we have also heard from economists that yes, it’s terrible, but unfortunately it had to be done because the alternative of letting the banks fail would be catastrophic. Is that true? I got no idea. But the movie doesn’t refute it, or mention it. It just sticks with being mad about at the politicians for the bailout. Well, we can sure do that, but what should they have done? Should they have stood on principle and said “I refuse to negotiate with bankers” if it was gonna make everything way worse? I don’t know.

So as far as understanding the problem and the solutions I don’t know about CAPITALISM. But as a record of what’s going on and a passionate (but still cleverly-illustrated) cry for Americans to put morals and human dignity above dead presidents it’s a good one. I liked it.

For me maybe the most profound moment is in the scene about an act of civil disobedience, when a neighborhood decides to occupy a house that a family had been thrown out of. So it turns into a face-off with the poor guy who’s supposed to lock the doors and keep them out. He argues with them on a “well, they didn’t pay their bills” basis.

It’s not this guy’s fault. He didn’t cause any of these problems. He’s just a tool. But as somebody in the crowd asks, how can he be willing to be that tool? You have to pay your bills but do you really feel good paying your bills by pushing people out of their homes onto the streets?

Moore is really good at making this point: You gotta draw the line somewhere. You can’t always get away with not being the direct cause. You can’t always pull a Jay Leno. At some point you gotta say man, I won’t do that, I don’t care how much you pay me. I think this man is thinking about that, you can see it on his face. He’s not a monster. He’s a human being, but he’s being forced to look at something he might’ve conveniently averted his eyes from before.

At the end it says that they decided to let the family stay in the house. I’m not sure what happened there, but it’s nice that they figured something out. Call me a pinko or a Jesus freak but I figure it’s always better to try to help your fellow man than to tell him “tough shit.”

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010 at 7:46 pm and is filed under Documentary, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

33 Responses to “Capitalism: A Love Story”

  1. Moore really got screwed not even getting a nod for this one by the Academy.

    The biggest eye-opener for me was learning that lots of pilots are only make between 16,000-20,000 a year. Seeing Captain Sully say that the one thing he could assure congress was that no pilot wanted was for their child to follow in their footsteps, well that was just kinda fucked up.

    I also really enjoyed seeing those couple Congresspeople who stood up to the banks yelling on the House floor about giving them the keys to the treasury.

    Then there was the scene where Michael was asking random stock brokers for advice and the dude said, “don’t make any more movies” that made me smile.

  2. As usual Vern you are right on the money so to speak.

  3. Also really like the moment where Jimmy Carter interrupts The Gambler to tell America hey, maybe we’re all getting a little too materialistic or something here. Has anybody else noticed that? Just thought I’d pop on and see what you guys think. Look at my eyes – I’m real concerned. Pretty sure something ominous is afoot. Now back to The Gambler.

    I didn’t know Presidents were allowed to be that direct and real. Thanks to Michael Moore for digging that up.

    As for the necessity of the bailout, has anyone ever come across a half-decent logical layman’s analysis of exactly HOW letting the banks fail would have been catastrophic, or is it more like “letting the banks fail would have been catastrophic… for the banks.” I feel like maybe that’s the part the economists leave out.

    Thanks Vern.

  4. Jared – the stimulus was one of those things perpetrated when people got fucking SCARED. Remember the Savings & Loans bailout bullshit? A bunch of thieves get bailed out because the people were told that without it, the country would go under like the local Denny’s. Or for that matter, the war in Iraq. If we didn’t invade Saddam, we would get 9/11 times 100, which makes it 900/1100.

    I didn’t see this documentary but like other Moore docs I assume he makes a few good points, which then get disserviced by his bullshit simplicity.

    I wonder if someone else had made SICKO, it would have been taken more seriously by people outside the ghettoized left wing politosphere, instead of being dumped there and labeled as such by the MSM.

    Then again, would anyone have bothered to watch it if not for the director of CANADIAN BACON?

    You should review that Vern.

  5. I work at a court of law. Thankfully i never had to do that, but one of our duties is to evict people who haven’t payed rent, or who have contracted debts that they get their accests confiscated, like for exmaple banks reclaiming their mortagues. All we that have mortagues on our hourse,s in truth we don’t own them, the bank does, until we fully pay the loan. Some people fail on tha,t and it’s the court’s job to evict the occupants. By chance i never had to do that service, but i know many of my collegues at work that have, and it’s heartbreaking. But one thoughs up. The truth is, the system is dependent on people who do this kind of job because we need to put food on the tale for ourselves and our kids. It’s great to have principles, but the sad thing is, necessity for a secure job rongs higher. That’s a sacrifice. It’s for this that many people claim that most people even in the west are wage slaves. Nobody who not born rich can survive without income and a job. and all jobs demand sacrifices, our morals being the first casualty. This is why movies and playstations and entertainment exists, to takes us from our minds from the dirty aspects of our jobs, specialyl those like me, who work not on a productive job, but as public servants.

  6. jared-
    it very well might have been better to just let the banks fail and call their bluff. the worry was that, if the credit companies didn’t have any money to lend to anyone, businesses would be unable to pay their employees.
    take the vintage clothing store i work at as an example– they don’t make enough money every week to pay ten people forty hours’ worth of work apiece, so they have to borrow the money all year from a giant payroll company like Paychexx and then wait for halloween and christmas to roll around, make a ton of money, and pay off the payroll bill then. (at least that’s how it’s supposed to work. i’m guessing a lot of companies wind up in massive amounts of payroll debt).
    so if the banks and creditors hadn’t been bailed out in 2008, yes they would have immediately crashed and burned and they would have deserved nothing better, but the ripples outward from that crashing and burning would have caused the almost immediate closure of tons and tons of businesses across the US, and brought about another Great Depression-like era of unemployment.
    would that have been a bad thing? who knows. we’ll probably get another chance to find out sooner or later.

  7. Quick lesson: THERE 01IS NO LEFT IN USA, only degress of right.

  8. Quick lesson: THERE IS NO LEFT IN USA, only degress of right.

  9. Ops, double post! So sorry, completly unintentional.

  10. Asimov – Yeah you might be right you pesky foreigner. At times I feel Tory-ish, yet they would be considered very liberal in American politics.

  11. You seem to feel the same pain & frustrations as I do, Vern, with regard to the common perception of Michael Moore as an uberpinko, a perception that people unfortunately allow to taint the great things that he does because they are afraid to grant his ideas and practices legitimacy.

    People have difficulty listening to him with a straight face because his opponents have seemingly won the PR labeling game by making him the face of silly, idealist leftyism, but the real chickenshits are the people who are afraid to stand on his side & support some of his ideas because they are afraid that they too will be labeled as fringe liberals and lose legitimacy.

    Obviously, Moore’s doing okay as a filmmaker, writer, and successful public figure with many TV appearances and such, but actually that’s what separates him from other idealist activists. He’s as rich and worryfree as he wants to be if he chooses, yet he continues to push the same issues he’s cared about for decades and hasn’t changed his look or tone for years. He has the zeal & hunger of a younger idealist, plus, like you mentioned, he may be scarily prescient on some big issues.

  12. Oh, AsimovLives, I’d say the inverse, chief.

    On a macro-geopolitical scale, “the right” is like monarchies and theocracies and places where women aren’t equal citizens.

    “The left” is democracy or democratic republics, with the “far left” or liberal (again, this is when we look at the whole world, all 186 countries or principalities or nation-states or whatever) meaning socialist states.

    The United States is a liberal nation; that is, it has liberal ideals and a liberal form of government while Iran, for example, is a conservative nation with strict Islamic practices and Islamic hardliners governing it. Within the United States, within our liberal system here, we have gradations that range from what we call “liberal” to “conservative,” but no one here is close to the “conservative” nature of Iran.

  13. Kevin Holsinger

    March 24th, 2010 at 8:50 am

    Vern, I’m not really that knowledgeable in economics either, but I think this is a good rule to follow: when people screw up a system horribly, and then our government’s response is to not really watch what the screw-ups are doing so we can make sure they don’t screw things up again, that’s a bad thing.

    I don’t know about the worthiness of the bailout, but I knew there was a problem when Congress went out of its way not to look at how the bailees spent the money they were being given.

    Same thing with this health care bill and not coming up with a system to look at whether the insurance companies really NEED to raise their premiums as much as they will.

    On a final note, if you want to see what a difference not having Bush around makes, try watching a movie like Revenge of the Sith again. Veeeery different experience.

  14. Mouth, i’m not suprised an american would think that. But the reality of it is that there is not one single left wing party in USA. Not one! The democratic party, in any other country, would be classified as moderate right winger, even on the right of such moderate middle center parties like Social Democracy. USA stands unique in the western democracies in that it’s the only country without a left. A REAL left. Hell, even Japan has left wing parties!

  15. Kevin – good points, and the movie does talk about the pathetic lack of accountability to the banks that received bailed out dough. That was an obvious screwup and maybe intentional.

    The movie does not address Revenge of the Sith though. I’m not sure I follow you on that one.

  16. Sorry for the lack of clarity, Vern. You were referencing how Bush leaving office seemed to change the view of people on leftwing documentaries.

    I was simply pointing out that movies like Revenge of the Sith (and V for Vendetta, while I’m at it) also look different now that the Bushies are gone.

    Should have thought up some better transition material from one thought to another.

  17. Yeah, Revenge of the Sith has some “rah, rah, let’s give this one guy too much unchecked power and authorize him to do whatever with the republic/galaxy” vibe that some say was a commentary on the Bush/Cheney administration. Personally, I
    just like the lightsaber fights and the last 20 minutes of the film.

    AsimovLives, it’s a semantics issue. The USA is much closer to Canada, France, or even Venezuela as a political/governmental whole than it is to Iran, Zimbabwe, or a pre-20th century monarchy. The former group of nations represents part of the left side of the global political spectrum; the latter cluster represents a part of the right side of the global political spectrum.

  18. Mouth, it’s not a question of semantics, what’s left and right is very well defined, and no party in USA fits into the left wing spectrum. Democrates are (mostly) moderate right wingers and republicans are EXCLUSIVELY extreme right wingers. That amwricans would evne think of the Democrats as right wingers is a testement of how skewed the politcal arena in USA is, whow completly tilted to the right that they lost perspective entirely. The last time USA actually had a real left wing was during the depression. After that, it’s all a matter of degrees of right wing. This is not sematics at all.

  19. One more time:
    “Extreme right wing” = does not allow citizens to travel freely / does not allow women to drive or vote or show face in public / approves of arranged marriage / relies on traditionalist or tribal customs rather than on a deterministic outlook of humanity’s progression toward a better, more technologically advanced world / relies on a deity or patriarchal figurehead to solve problems / eschews building codes, Western-based internationally recognized precepts, or financial improvement opportunities in favor of religious devoutness (“Inshallah,” that is.)

    No matter how retarded some of us may think the current loudmouths of America’s right wing are, none of them support the above principles. Thus, they are on the liberal end of the global political spectrum. All the political science professors I’ve met say that this is so.

    We inhabitants of this planet get our energy & heat primarily from the sun. The sun is huge in our sky in our perspective. However, there are millions, maybe billions, of celestial bodies that dwarf our sun. It’s all relative.

  20. Vern — just wanted to chime in to say that psychic_hits above is fundamentally correct. Following the crash, banks really did freeze lending and it quickly became a dire situation for many, many companies, large and small, across the US. Since the remaining banks had assets of unclear value, it was a very precarious situation where it was unclear if the next big wave was going to wipe everyone out, and hence they simply couldnt lend any more. Had that situation remained, the economic ramifications would have been catastrophic. Massive layoffs and closings, no expansion whatsoever in any field. Hence, the bailout really was, in my mind, 100% necessary.

    That having been said, they also could have done it much better. The bonuses paid to execs, in particular, are nothing short of criminal, and they certainly had the power to prevent that, had they wished to. But more problematic is the fact that the banks, once bailed out, didn’t really start lending much more anyway. Because the banks more than anyone know what a sham this so-called “recovery” is, and dont want to sink along with the rest of us. The gov. wisely bought shares of the banks (rather than assets) so they could pressure them a little, but they’ve generally been pretty weak doing it.

    I’s possible that none of it really matters anyway, because the whole financial system was revealed to be such a farce. Billions of dollars vanished from the American econmy overnight. That’s not coming back, and were just pretending its still there (it was always imaginary, but now everyone knows it). The bailout helped us limp along in the short term but really I can’t see any real happy ending for the American Economy.

    Vern, the film you really need to watch is COLLAPSE. It’s an amazing documentary which explores the inevitable collapse of America, via economic unsustainability. Its also a deeply interesting look at the guy making the predictions, and what it has done to his life and his personality. It’s kind of Errol Morris-meets-Kiyoshi Kurosawa, in the best possible way. It’s one of the most gripping and challenging docs Ive seen in a long time and I’d love to hear your perspective on it

  21. Loved COLLAPSE as well, Subtlety. I thought that was a criminal omission from this year’s Oscar documentary race. It’s the only doc I gave 10/10 this year, and I found THE COVE as gripping as everyone else did. What makes it so fascinating is that you are watching a man describe a scarily plausible verge-of-collapse scenario, while seemingly on the verge-of-collapse himself psychologically. But the one question that he doesn’t address to a satisfying extent, a question that the director asks him directly, is “aren’t you discounting human capacity for problem solving and ingenuity?” I know there’s no magic solution, but surely there are possibilities when it comes to alternative energy sources.

  22. Okay, I guess I’m the devil’s advocate here. I strongly dislike Michael Moore and haven’t caught the last couple of his films. It has nothing to do with his message because when he does make points about how he feels the world should operate I probably agree with him more often than not.

    I find for the most part he’s a bad filmmaker. I prettymuch find him to be like a much less amusing Sasha Baron Cohen. His films feel more concerned with entertaining than informing. He always seems to favor flexing his persona and getting a laugh and it is almost always at the expense of staying on topic or presenting information honestly.

    My breaking point with him was Bowling For Colombine, so my memories of his films aren’t exactly the freshest, but I remember that one being the absolute worst in terms of wasting my time watching him horse around in situations that felt contrived and didn’t go anywhere.

    I heard things about his next films that made me feel good about my decision to stop watching his work. The way he portrays my country (Canada), even though it is usually positive, I find it kinda patronizing to be treated like we don’t have problems and rarely does it reflect my personal experience. As for our health care system, I no longer live in Quebec so I might actually experience some health care. I live in Ontario now and just applied for my Ontario health card today. I might try to see one of those doctor things just for the novelty of it.

  23. Gwai Lo — I agree he’s not always great at addressing questions put to him, and it sometimes makes his case a little les iron clad than it might seem (the most damning question he dodges is, “isn’t it possible to find data to support any kind of world view?” — wish the director [who also made the fantastic AMERICAN MOVIE and HOME MOVIE] had pressed him a little more on that one).

    Still, while there’s lots to debate in the film, there’s one fundamental point which is hard to argue with. The US economic model is built on a paradigm of infinite growth in a world of finite resources. There’s no getting around that fact and hence you can only argue with him about the details (will it be oil that does it? It’s arguable, who knows, buts its going to happen one way or another). I don’t want to say too much more because I’m really hoping Vern will take a wack at it and we can all discuss it then. :)

    Wolfgang – I’ve heard lots of people make that arguement against Moore’s style, and I can certainly understand it. I think Vern wisely points out that Moore’s films are more personal essay than fact-based documentaries. They almost should have some other genre name, just to be more clear in their intentions. So yeah, if you just don’t like Moore and don’t care what he thinks, you won’t really find much of interest in his films. However, I tend to find Moore more effective than most blowhards who want to tell us what they think because his films have a genuine compassion mixed in with the indignation.

    There’s a moment in BOWLING FOR COLUMBINE where he’s talking to this lady and doing his usual provactuer thing, and all the sudden, out of the blue, she just gets overwhelmed by emotion and starts crying. You can watch Moore immediatly change his tone, and he just puts and arm over her and gestures for the cameras to turn off. It’s a very sweet moment, actually, because he completely drops his camera persona and focuses on trying to consol this poor woman. I mean, you can argue that maybe he’s acting, or that he knows how to look good in front of the camera, but I think a lot of directors would have been like “this is great footage, keep it rolling!” Instead, he’s more interested in making this poor woman feel better in that moment and less like a spectacle. I think that’s the moment when I decided I could put up with his blustering. I think he does the things he does because he genuinely cares about the humans at the center of the politics in a way that most talking heads don’t.

    As for Canada, I know lots of Canadians get annoyed that he acts like there are no problems there (same thing people said abou Cuba in SICKO). But really, his films are written for an American audience about specifically American problems, and I think its his intent to show Americans that there are other possible systems out there which can also work (sadly, it’s news to many Americans). It might be more balanced if he pointed out the problems with those systems too, but then again it’s not intended to necessarily tell the whole story, just to get people thinking. I’m glad he makes films, but of course I hope to God no one just watches one and assumes they understand an issue in its totality. Though of course you always run that risk when you make such an argument.

  24. Mr. S;

    I liked Borat and Bruno and I feel that is probably the same ‘genre’ or style of filmmaking Moore should be classified in. And on that standard it comes down to how amusing you find his persona, which to me isn’t terribly funny, but the strong political nature of his work can’t really be ignored.

    And even though I agree with his principles of the state providing necessities and opportunities for people (who doesn’t?), his films definately come across as hateful. He’s pretty good at giving people very specific targets to hate and drawing lines in the sand and rallying people up for some sort of big showdown. I think I even remember in the trailer for CAPITALISM the phrase “there’s gonna be a war between the people who got nuthin and the people who’ve got everything!”. And I’m pretty sure he wrote a book called ‘Stupid White Men’.

    There is this nagging feeling with me that he really wants something like the French Revolution where the poor pull the rich from their homes and bash their brains out in the street. It’s not my place to tell America what it needs, but I guess I would ask you guys who live there if you really feel your country is that bad? And if so, why don’t you emigrate?

    And BTW, I know Moore is actually very popular here in Canada and Europe. In Canada he’s big with armchair socialists and most of my friends in Europe just like his movies because they like laughing at dumb Americans.

  25. Wolfgang — see, I don’t know that in this case being angry is the same as being hateful. I don’t see any evidence in his films or writing that he’d like to work up a lynch mob to go after the stupid white men in question. But he would like to call them out and make sure they can’t just get away with fleecing people mercilessly.

    Yes he’s angry, but isn’t there a time to be angry with folks who are exploiting people, often destroying people, and laughing all the way to the bank? I mean, I’m angry at them. I dont want them to get executed or anything, but since that’s not looking all that likely (more likely: generous retention bonuses) I’m not too worried that getting mad at them will lead to a reign of terror. When the situation has gotten as one-sided as it has gotten here, I think anger IS the humane response. At the very least, you can make fun of them and tell people what the assholes up to, which is what Moore’s films tend to do. When he calls people out specifically, maybe it feels a little mean, but is it better to just be vague and say that maybe some mysterious people out there maybe aren’t being all that nice? If they can do the deed, they should take the heat too. Again, not to advocate their death or anything, but criticism for actions taken seems pretty fair.

    As far as non-Americans who like Moore, I think it often does come down to American-bashing, which is pretty lame. On the other hand, I did have one European (a German) tell me that the reason he and his friends liked Moore is because it was nice to see a different kind of American who was pushing for a society more like what they feel is right. And I can say, gee, when I see Iranians standing up to their government, I definitely side with them and want to support them (see: http://frontpage.americandaughter.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/06/the-finger.bmp) so maybe that’s part of his appeal outside America.

    Anyway, is America that bad? Nah, its pretty great a lot of the time, especially compared with elsewhere in the world. But there are plenty of problems, especially for the ever-expanding poorer side of America, which ought be be addressed –and its all too easy to sweep them under the rug if you dont have agitators like Moore out there. Why not emmigrate? Because it’s my home, man — and I don’t want to just give up on it and move somewhere where they already agree with me. I’d rather try to make my country as great as I think it could be.

  26. Yes, I do agree with you that it is perfectly reasonable to address problems and the people you feel cause them. And that is a right the media have and should have.

    As for your feelings of anger/hate, well, that’s why ask about what keeps you guys in America. I feel like I keep reading the same thing year after year from leftwing Americans and it all just sounds like an abusive relationship. It treats you badly and it just makes your whole dynamic more intense. You’re angry at your country, but not angry enough to leave. So I guess a guy like Moore is a coping mechanism for you guys. You watch him ‘punk’ the people you feel responsible for your suffering and it makes you feel a little better about a situation that doesn’t look like it will change (to me).

  27. And yeah, my German friends see him as a positive force of change too. I was talking more about my French friends earlier.

  28. As a german i can totally agree on what is said above. Typically the Americans that make it into our main-stream media are religious freaks or stuff like that. As someone mentioned above people like obama may be considered here as moderate right wingers and what you people reffer to as right wingers is considered tottaly nuts here ( Sarah Pain anyone?)
    So its nice to see that there are Americans that share opinions on topics like gun control, health care , the iraq war etc. Actually i have said the same thing about verns column as well. Somehow the liberal American is not represented well in our press, i guess their storys just doesn’t sell as many newspapers as vicepresident-canidates that confuse the bibel with a history book.

  29. Thats supposed to be “Sarah Palin”, just a typo

  30. Wolfgang — I mean, I hear ya bro. I go back and forth on Moore. Like, is it really doing all that much good just to keep telling the people who watch his films the same thing they already know? Is it just polarizing people and making it hard to find common ground? And how do jokey stunts really help make anything any better?

    On the other hand, I appreicate his compassion and his dogged persistence in making sure these issues stay vital. And to be fair, I think he does do a pretty good job of at least trying to make the case on moral grounds, appealing to people’s best natures rather than their politics and love of divisive goading (which he clearly also indulges in, from time to time). He is pandering and gimmicky sometimes, but I think this also hooks some people who don’t usually participate in these discussions, getting them a little more involved in the forces which impact their lives.

    And you know, I guess I just don’t share your pessamistic appraisal of the future here. It’s always a struggle, but in many ways America has been making huge strides in the last decade or so towards being a more liberal place, even with Bush in office. So I think there’s a vital need to keep having the kind of conversations Moore wants to have, especially with younger people, in an effort to show them the different possible worlds they can inherit. While the pundits never get anything valuable out of Moore’s films, I’ve had a lot of civil and productive conversations with friends and peers come out of the films spotlighting particular issues. So ultimately I think they’re a valuable part of the dialogue in American society, and hopefully not just self-congradulatory liberal porn (though Im sure there are plenty of people who use them for that purpose. Looking at you Olberman, you insufferable jackass).

    Oh, and it’s good to know the German guy I talked to was representative of a larger group. Thanks for the support, Germans! We can really use it!

  31. I have to comment on the (inevitable?) political philosophizing following this review, because the strangeness of the discussion turned out to be interesting for me as a non-American. It’s fascinating to see actual Americans debating whether you’re liberal or not. Well, let me tell you: From a European (Scandinavian) point of view, you are the most liberal of all! It’s possible to nitpick and complain that 14-year-olds can’t buy vodka at the corner shop like my Danish girl could, or that you can’t smoke pot legally like some places, but overall it always seems like someone, sometime thought something like “freedom for all”… There are a lot of things to complain about with the US, but if there is one thing you got right, it was being liberal!

    But the question about which party is more liberal leads to a strange discussion. To me, unregulated capitalism is a very big part of the definition of liberalism, and that one unbelievably conservative party in the US seem to be all for that (some guy up there in the conversation implied that more to the left somehow equaled more liberalism, which is not a very educated thing to say). But then personal freedoms when it comes to sex, drugs, and rock and roll (and religion) is another big part, and when it comes to that, the other, somewhat-less-far-conservative party seem to be in the forefront. So to a foreigner (or just me), you don’t have one political party going for liberal; you have two parties fighting against different parts of liberalism.

    But the end result of the fight seems to be the opposite of AvP: Whoever loses, you win.

  32. Because several people asked for a lay persons discussion of the Wall Street Bailout, here is Matt Taibbi from Rolling Stone. The reality is much much worse than you can possibly imagine.

    http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/story/32255149/wall_streets_bailout_hustle

    And one about Goldman Sachs,
    http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/story/28816321/inside_the_great_american_bubble_machine

  33. wow!

    thanks kamper,

    that was a rather disturbing read.

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