“I’m Paul Barlow, and this is my daughter Jo.”

“Malone.”

“You got a first name?”

“Yeah.”

The Mule

Well, it’s a new year, and I’m keeping my tradition of kicking things off with a Clint Eastwood review. I think Warner Brothers may know about this practice, because they keep releasing his new movies at the end of December. (It’s not for Oscars – I heard they didn’t even screen this one for critics.)

Clint has been directing for almost 50 years. You don’t think of him as a guy who changes with the times, but he’s doing something to stay relevant at least some of the time. Here’s a guy from a couple eras ago still working while we have a cultural movement toward taking stock of our pop culture heroes, in some cases realizing that they were assholes the whole time, or worse. We find out about some horrible shit they’ve gotten away with or they say some shitty thing that makes us reconsider our respect for them.

This accountability is a good thing. Nobody should get away with abusing others just by being a movie star or rich or whatever. Personally I try not to have an itchy trigger finger on the “cancel” button though because I think there needs to be room for context and growth and making amends, if and when possible. But if you start to think some movie star has been a toxic force on the earth maybe it’s harder to enjoy watching them, say, appear in a weirdly titled Chinese propaganda movie starring Mike Tyson. I understand separating the art from the artist, but I can’t always do it.

Which brings me to Clint, who has been a hero of mine for many years and has also earned scorn in his eighties with that weird appearance at the Republican convention, his dumb anti-Obama (though carefully not necessarily pro-Trump) comments in interviews, and the inexcusable things he did to Sondra Locke that we’ve been reminded of after her recent passing. In this case, so far, the flaws of the man have not destroyed my love for his art. I guess he already prepared us for this when UNFORGIVEN told us to dump our heroic image of macho men. To me his work is primarily about looking closer at complicated people. In his movies people are never perfect, but rarely worthless, and there’s more nuance to things than you notice at first glance. He often starts out with a macho world view, then shows that things aren’t so simple. He often tells stories of stubborn men who realize their shortcomings and try to redeem themselves a little. I don’t think he wants to judge people.

Isn’t it amazing to think that UNFORGIVEN was, at the time, a movie where Clint was an old man looking back on his past with different eyes, and now it’s 26 god damn years later and he’s still directing movies? He was 62 then – that’s how old Tom Hanks is right now. UNFORGIVEN is as old now as THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY was when he made UNFORGIVEN.

In a sense, THE MULE – the new movie Clint directed and stars in – deconstructs the Old Clint persona like UNFORGIVEN deconstructed his earlier westerns. Clint plays Earl Stone, an award winning grower of day-lily flowers who, after losing his business, starts driving huge loads of cocaine for a drug cartel. Sounds crazy, but it’s based on a real guy. Like so many Clint characters Earl is a charming hotshot, an emotionally distant failure with his family, a politically incorrect man out of time. But on this go ’round Clint removes any semblance of coolness or toughness, and that changes everything. Even in his element, at a flower growers convention, he’s a dork hobbling around in a white suit telling not even dad jokes, but grandpa jokes. He makes people laugh and swoon in ways that GRAN TORINO‘s Walt Kowalski would’ve found infuriatingly condescending. His voice is alarmingly weak and wispy even before the story skips ahead 12 years. For most of the movie he’s 90 years old (don’t worry, in real life Clint is a mere 88).

Earl and Walt are both Korean war vets. But the joke with Walt is that people underestimate him, he’s a tough bastard, he really will make you get off his lawn. Earl I’m pretty sure would break if he fell over. Threatened at gun point, Earl says he’s not afraid because he’s been in combat. But that’s all he can do – not be afraid.

He’s broke, living out of his rusty pickup truck, rejected by his daughter (Alison Eastwood, MIDNIGHT IN THE GARDEN OF GOOD AND EVIL) and her mother (Dianne Wiest, FOOTLOOSE) after disappointing them way too many times over way too many years. He’s humiliated to not have the money he promised for the wedding of his granddaughter Ginny (Taissa Farmiga, THE BLING RING), the only family member that still wants to talk to him. So he calls a number that a guy gives him and becomes a driver.

At first it seems like he doesn’t really get what the job is. Then it seems like he makes it a point to not know. There’s both tension and humor in this fragile old man pulling into a garage with a bunch of scary tattoo dudes yelling instructions at him. What are you getting yourself into, grandpa? Maybe you should try being a greeter at Walmart or something?

If it gives you an idea of the kind of gentlemen Earl is working with, I was happy to see Noel G. (sometimes credited as Noel Gugliemi) pop up. You may know him as Hector from THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS, or as an L.A. gangbanger in a million other movies (TRAINING DAY [bath tub scene], HARSH TIMES, CRANK, SNOOP DOGG’S HOOD OF HORROR, STREET KINGS, an episode of The Walking Dead called “Vatos,” etc.) He has an effective guy-you-better-hope-is-on-your-side presence. I’ve seen him in DTV movies (RECOIL, FORCE OF EXECUTION) so I was most excited for him when I spotted him in THE DARK KNIGHT RISES. But here too I thought, “Hey, it’s Noel G. Of course Noel G is in this.” And I decided it was about time I honor him with an icon.

Oh, and Robert LaSardo (HARD TO KILL, OUT FOR JUSTICE, DROP ZONE, ONE TOUGH BASTARD, HALF PAST DEAD 2, DEATH RACE, PUNCTURE WOUNDS) is in it too. That can be a good sign. We’ll see if he gets an icon some day.

The job goes surprisingly well. Pretty easy. He’s a guy that likes to take long drives. Put on his sunglasses, listen to some country music or Dean Martin or something, maybe sing along. A safe driver, doesn’t tend to get pulled over, that’s why they hired him. He buys a real nice truck. Starts using his money to help people out. We also find out sort of after the fact that maybe he was hiring hookers during his trips. Livin it up.

You keep waiting for the other shoe to drop. There’s gotta be a catch. These guys give him phones, keep telling him very seriously that he has to answer it any time it rings, day or night. The first time he’s never even used a cell phone before. It seems like he’s gonna get himself in trouble with these guys, but maybe he should be more worried about the feds. There’s also a whole separate storyline about DEA Agent Colin Bates (Bradley Cooper, MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN, AMERICAN SNIPER), newly assigned to the Chicago office, and looking to impress his boss (Laurence Fishburne, DEATH WISH II, MYSTIC RIVER) with a big bust.

Bates and his partner (Michael Peña, BOOGIE BOY) stake out a drug dealer hangout, pick a guy they think is a pussy (Eugene Cordero, THE KINGS OF SUMMER) to apply pressure to and try to get him to rat out the people he’s working with. And this begins a trail that we know is eventually gonna have to intersect with Earl.

Also, is Earl getting too high up in the cartel for his own good? The boss, Laton (Andy Garcia, DANGEROUS MINDS [scenes deleted]), has heard great things about him, and sends his right hand man Julio (Ignacio Serricchio, QUARANTINE 2: TERMINAL) to be his handler. Julio seems jealous, thinks Earl is reckless (he stops for food too much) and kind of becomes the uptight regional manager who lays the law down and ruins all the fun.

It’s not a full-on comedy, but it is pretty funny how most of the people in the cartel seem to think it’s a cute novelty to have this white nonogenarian working for them. He threatens nobody and he’s not scared of much so he ends up in Mexico hanging out at the villa. He’s too old to worry too much about getting killed, so he just acts like he’s at a resort. I like how he becomes buddies with these guys and even starts giving sincere advice to Julio to try to get him to enjoy life more.

THE MULE is more what I want to see out of Clint than A STAR IS BORN or FIRST MAN, two movies he developed for a while but left. And it’s definitely more my speed than his last several, especially the True Stories of Brief, Simple Heroism duology of SULLY and THE 15:17 TO PARIS. The latter I never finished writing my review of, but I thought having it star the actual guys who stopped a terrorist attack on a train was both its only reason to exist and its biggest weakness. I remember my favorite parts were when it was just a plotless travelogue. This one is much more eventful and polished.

But I also have a few reservations. I’ll list four.

1. There’s this moronic game show host guy who is currently in the White House, soon to transfer to America’s Dumbest Criminals, and his trademark is to ruin absolutely everything that could possibly bring any kind of joy into our lives. Sure enough his disgraceful fear-mongering about the U.S.-Mexico border dampens my enjoyment of crime or action movies on related topics. There really are cartels and they really are bad guys but in the context of that asshole’s brainwashing Clint’s generation these things stop feeling like just a story and pick up at least a whiff of propaganda. So it feels gross when, for example, they cut to Laton living his DESPERADO-villain mansion-swarming-with-bikini-girls lifestyle and the screen simply says “MEXICO.”

(Note: Laton is kind of depicted as a nice guy, which is weird because the real Earl worked for El Chapo! Maybe that’s why they have the meaner character played by Clifton Collins, Jr. [FORTRESS]).

2. Though I’m traditionally much easier on Clint’s directorial works than alot of people, I did cringe at some of the heavy-handed cramming-of-themes-into-dialogue he was willing to sign off on here. The worst offense is when Earl explains to his ex-wife what he likes about growing flowers and is too stupid to realize that he’s exactly describing the kind of love and attention that he never gave his family. And then she has to point it out as if we’re too stupid to realize it too. Trust us Clint. We see the themes.

It’s also comical when, in the prologue at a flower convention, Earl sees a mob of buyers crowded around a guy talking up buying flowers online. There’s first a closeup of Earl looking horrified, then he says “Internet! Who needs it?” Cut to 12 years later and he’s packing his belongings into his rusty pickup, telling laborers “it’s that internet.”

(To be fair, the New York Times article that inspired the movie does bring up the theory that “it was the Internet that turned Earl Sharp from a day-lily farmer into a cocaine courier” when his annual color catalog became obsolete.)

3. The “Ain’t That a Kick In the Head” scene is great and then they start playing the song again a couple minutes later. Weirdly lazy.

4. And furthermore, there should be a talking mule character who narrates the film.

Clint doesn’t do much to mitigate 3 or 4, but he does for the first two. Once again things turn out to be more layered and ambiguous than you assume at first. Not even the cartel thugs are judged. There’s a common crime movie trajectory where at first the gang is nice to the protagonist, but he really shouldn’t trust them because eventually they’ll turn on him. Here it’s kind of the reverse. They’re mean and intimidating and he makes a point of not being friendly or saying thank you or anything. He just wants to take the money and go and never do it again. But after he comes back a couple more times he starts to have a rapport with them and they clearly have a soft spot for the old man they call “Tata,” or grandpa. Joking with him, helping show him how to use his phone, standing up for him.

You know those Bad Hombres Trump warned you about? They’re pretty cool if you get to know them. Even the scary “Superstar” Billy Graham looking motherfucker (Lobo Sebastian, GHOSTS OF MARS) who hunts Earl down when (SPOILER) he disappears with their drugs is sympathetic when he finds out he was with his dying wife. The movie never acts like Earl is any better than them.

His handlers watch, livid, when he pulls over to help a family with a flat tire. The scene is partly a chance for Clint to grumble about know-nothing youngsters and their computer phones, because the husband has never changed a tire before and is trying to Google it. But since the family is black it also seems like a “you see, he’s not racist, he’s color blind” moment… until he innocently remarks “it’s great to help Negroes.” Walt Kowalski makes racist remarks that in his mind are good-natured ribbing, but he’s still macho enough to be the aggressor in most of those conversations. Earl takes it to a kind of pathetic place where he says the thing and laughs and it’s kinda more sad than anything, and you watch everyone consider it and decide they can let it go. (This family lets him know not to use that word, which he seems to only half comprehend.) When he has a simultaneously friendly and offensive encounter with some Dikes On Bikes they so clearly could beat the shit out of him that he can’t come across as a bully. They seem to give him the benefit of the doubt. In GRAN TORINO it might’ve been “ha ha, they don’t know how to handle him!” but this is “this guy really doesn’t know how to handle the modern world.”

This ties back to the DIRTY HARRY movies. In THE ENFORCER (1976), Harry throws a bunch of chauvinistic shit at his new partner (Tyne Daly) but ultimately can’t deny that she’s a great cop. That’s his usual pattern of prejudice. Of course Harry, being a white man, never had to be degraded at work before proving himself, so fuck that. But in his backwards way, even Harry Callahan learned he was wrong, whether or not the audience picked up on it. And now he’s expressing that through a goofy old man. You kids don’t mind me, I’ll help with your car or motorcycle if you want, but I won’t be in your way for long.

Earl keeps thinking he’s in a movie about the wit and wisdom of Earl, then finding out otherwise. There’s a warm moment when he’s sharing life lessons with Julio, encouraging him to have more fun, but Julio hits him back with a trenchant observation he doesn’t see coming. He can’t deny his failure with his family. And that’s where the movie seems truly confessional. I don’t know much about Clint’s family life, but I bet there’s some autobiography in the story of a guy neglecting his family for his career, where he travels all the time and is treated as a bigshot, and being stubborn about it, saying he did it to provide for them, but late in life regretting it and trying to make amends. I don’t know if having his real daughter play his estranged daughter supports that theory or not.

But that’s what the movie is really about, and also the part that’s not from the article. The movie is pretty loose with the true story, but not in a painfully full of shit way. One non-essential detail from the article that I wish was in the movie: it describes the Detroit (not Chicago) D.E.A. office having “a particularly great SCARFACE poster” hanging in it, because “Every house we hit has a SCARFACE poster” according to Jeff Moore, the inspiration for Cooper’s character.

Reading the true story made me realize how vague the movie is about the operation. He picks up the stuff, he drives, he drops off the stuff. It probly says from where to where, but I wasn’t totally clear. In reality he was based in Detroit and making long drives all over the country.

Clint didn’t originate the project – the rights owners originally developed it for Ruben Fleischer (ZOMBIELAND) to direct (he gets a producer credit). Screenwriter Nick Schenk is the guy who wrote GRAN TORINO, but he was hired before Clint. [SPOILERS] As in GRAN TORINO, Clint’s character kind of martyrs himself, making a personal choice he believes the cartel will kill him for. When he survives he’s so against bullshit that he interrupts his lawyer’s defense to plead guilty and get it over with.

The real guy pleaded guilty too, but his lawyers portrayed him as someone with dementia who had been taken advantage of, and he tried to to convince them to let him grow Hawaiian papayas for them instead of go to prison. The court did not accept that offer.

For a few years now I’ve gone to new Eastwood movies with trepidation, because time is a bitch and I’m pretty sure he can’t keep making these forever. For the first time in a while he doesn’t have his next one already announced. I hope this isn’t his last movie, but it would be a good one to end on. THE MULE smuggles its way into our hearts.

That was a joke. But I liked the movie.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, January 2nd, 2019 at 10:13 am and is filed under Crime, Drama, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

23 Responses to “The Mule”

  1. Nicest drug dealers EVER. A great commercial for being a drug mule.

  2. I’m usually not real down with the current trend of mixing personal politics and film reviews (as I’m sure you’ve read a few reviews lately that seem to be more about how “woke” the critic is, and less about the actual movie they watched). But with that said, I’m glad you laid some shit out on the onset.

    I’ve read a good number of reviews for this movie that are dismissive edging into downright hostile. It’s a little weird, and I can’t help but think that it’s more about the current “us vs. them” political landscape, than the movie itself. But, of course, no one is actually saying anything about that. So I appreciate you owning up to a political bias right up front.

    I think if Clint is out of touch about anything, it’s that he comes from a time where political disagreement would lead to discourse, instead of blind, violent opposition. And at one time he was considered thoughtful, but now it seems that many view him as some right-wing provocateur.

  3. I spent a few hours hanging out with Robert LaSardo once. Nice guy. I think I actually recommend he read OutlawVern while we were chatting.

  4. Great review, Vern!

    Anyone saw that weirdly titled Chinese propaganda movie starring Mike Tyson?

  5. I don’t separate art from the artist. I prefer to consider art in light of the artist. I’m able to appreciate Seagal movies as the heroic image he could never measure up to in real life (like even the basics of not raping or beating women), but the movie hero was a truly noble ideal. Mel Gibson is getting more difficult as he keeps blowing his second chances and Dragged Across Concrete sounds like trolling provocation, but we’ll see.

    I think if Bryan Singer gets the job directing Red Sonya I may actually boycott it. That just seems so egregious. How many chances do we have to give this guy? Watch they cast one of my favorite actresses as Sonya too so it’ll be really hard to avoid.

  6. I can absolutely get fed up with an artist’s personal behavior to the point where I can’t in good consciousness continue to support them, but I don’t think I’ve gotten there with Clint yet. I can reasonably disagree with a man’s preferred fiscal policies while still remaining friendly, and I feel like that’s still about the level at which he and I would largely disagree. If anything characterizes politics in general here at the dawn of 2019, it’s a generalized lack of compassion, and for whatever other flaws he may have, Clint Eastwood is a compassionate filmmaker.

  7. The reviews on this film have been all over the place, so I’m happy to see that Vern liked it. I’m mostly unbothered by Clint’s politics because I don’t think his films map very easily onto his stated personal beliefs.

    That doesn’t mean every one of his films is clear-eyed and enlightened. I’m one of those weirdos who thinks that American Sniper isn’t just some jingoistic nonsense, but I also think that the racial politics of Gran Torino can be pretty damn ignorant.

  8. And in time, when the new generation of Rambo right wingers like Gerard Butler have been at it for a while, perhaps we’ll miss the politically confused old timers like Clint?

  9. Alright, I’ve held my tongue about this for as long as I could but there’s an elephant in the room I need to address.

    I want to preface this by saying that Vern, 2019 marks the tenth anniversary of me as a reader of your personal sight and I’ve been a follower of you even longer than that going back to AICN.

    We don’t know each other on a personal level of course, there’s a lot about my personal life no one here knows, but we have been online acquaintances for a long time so I feel like everyone here knows me well enough not to misconstrue what I’m about to say, at least I hope so.

    But dude, come on now, Trump’s trademark is to “ruin absolutely everything that could possibly bring any kind of joy into our lives.”? What are you talking about? Do you not realize how bizarre that sounds?

    I am not a Trump supporter, but the reaction to the guy is just bizarre to me, people are acting like he’s a cross between Hitler and the Antichrist and man, I’m just not seeing it, it’s like a left wing version of the right wing’s “Obama is a secret Kenyan Muslim Communist terrorist!” nonsense, is this just how Americans operate now? Literally acting like the world is ending when a President is not a member of their political party?

    People need to bring things back down to Earth, Trump may be bad but Bush was worse, Bush started a major war that cost a lot of lives, ie real life consequences, so far Trump has not done something as bad unless being an asshole on Twitter counts, but people really haven’t learned just to tune all that shit out yet? Who in their right mind pays attention to his Twitter?

    All I’m saying is everyone needs to calm down and take a deep breath, Trump is not the end of America, it’s going to be ok.

    I just don’t think it’s mentally healthy to engage in so much political hyperbole as people do nowadays, people are losing touch with reality and it’s dangerous, criticize Trump all you want but try to keep it grounded in reality and not statements like “his trademark is to ruin absolutely everything that could possibly bring any kind of joy into our lives.”

  10. Griff, maybe you should’ve waited for a “Trump isn’t THAT bad” discussion until federal employees are able to pay their bills again, because they aren’t taken hostage anymore by a most likely mentally ill man baby and Russian spy, who threatens to shut down the goverment for years, because he only wants white people in his country. Just sayin’.

  11. I think Griff raises a good point that the degree of hyperbole we employ in political speech (or any other speech) often says more about our own funhouse mirror subjective emotions than it does about reality. He’s not altogether wrong. At the same time, I think right neoliberal policies that create and entrench vast wealth and power disparities, racism, and non-evidence-based fear-mongering are objectively pernicious, as is the WWF-ifying of political discourse, of which Trump is both product and accelerant. This is the party/media complex that would have us believe that we should be more concerned about Honduran migrants than climate change and runaway income inequality fueled by monopolistic organizations, corporate welfare, soft money, and a laissez faire response to automation and various serious public health crises. Not to mention a President who will go down as more corrupt and venal than Warren G Harding and whose own universally respected Sec Dec resigned in protest openly suggesting that the President is undermining the military alliances we spent the last 70 years building. Obama was a competent if mediocre/unremarkable President. Trump is a corrupt, racist, dangerously impulsive demagogue who appeals to the worst angels of our nature. So, let’s not push a valid call for balanced discourse into false equivalence of policy of presidential behavior.

  12. I liked the shout out to Noel G, he’s a great character actor for this kind of thing. Also cool to know he’s gonna be in the new S. Craig Zahler/Mel Gibson/Vince Vaughn Dragged Across Concrete. Which just had a really spoiler-filled workprint trailer leak the other day (thankfully got scrubbed from the internet).

    Anyhow I want to check The Mule out, it looks good and I like your ongoing look at Eastwood stuff, Vern. Keep it up.

  13. My favorite Noel G. line is in CRANK, where he’s trying to play it cool when Chev “Fuck You, Chev Chelios” Chelios gives him three seconds before he throws him off the roof. I’m pretty sure I say “Why you say ding? WHY YOU SAY DING?!” every time I hear the microwave go off.

  14. I don’t forgive W for the Iraq war which should have been obvious to everyone in 2001 that it was an agenda unrelated to 9/11. But Trump has declared war on the press which could end up being more dangerous ultimately.

    The death toll of hate crimes like Charlottesville may not be as high as Iraq but they happened on American soil and are rising and spreading. Installing Brett Kavanagh in the Supreme Court could end up killing countless women and minorities for generations to come.

    I don’t think it is a gross exaggeration to suggest Trump is ruininng everything one by one given every day comes a response to some daily thing filtered by the Trump machine. I definitely wish media and Democrats would stop playing the game of answering all his false statements because that’s playing by his rules. But I support Vern expressing his frustrations astistically.

    A small exaggeration is not the cause of the divide we’re now seeing. It’s perhaps a healthier reaction to it than giving up completely.

  15. Griff, that was hyperbole, as in “I am intentionally using hyperbole,” and I feel it is supported by the specific example I use, that the political atmosphere he has created has made it harder to enjoy an action movie trope that didn’t used to feel as harmful.

    As for the rest, I strongly believe that you are wrong. I agree that Bush killed way more people (so far – though don’t forget Puerto Rico or the two children who have died at the border so far), but Trump’s corruption and approach are endangering our institutions and our culture and setting bad precedents that could last for generations. Even ignoring all the crazy judges and unqualified office holders he’s been able to install. It is very bad and going to keep getting worse until it comes to a head and there’s zero chance that I’m not gonna vent about it in my reviews.

  16. Haven’t seen The Mule yet. Just putting my two penny-worth in. I for one appreciate the hyperbole. It helps me keep my sanity in these strange, strange, (i.e. dangerous times). Keep up the great writing Vern.

  17. Griff, I love you man. Been reading your comments for all ten years and think you’re a sharp guy but, you’re wrong. Like, wrong to the point of sounding brainwashed.

    You just listed a long series of wildly racist and insane things that mainstream republicans (including the current president!) literally accused Obama of being and weighed them against Two, exaggerated strawmen claims that NO mainstream democrats accuse Trump of being, then surmised that the whole thing is a wash.

    It’s not the same. They are not equivalent.

    And if you don’t see the real, permanent, policy based dangers of a hard-right Supreme Court (to say nothing of the 100+ lifetime appointment federal judges) to pick just one topic, then you’re not paying attention.

    Read up more, dude. Or at least vary your media intake. The type of faux-reasonable, tone-policed, shrugging centrism that you espouse is wholly unproductive, intellectually dishonest, and means that, despite what you claim, you functionally *do* support Trump’s agenda and polices because that is the ultimate result of your attitude.

    I consider you a good and intelligent person, but I’ve never seen you say something more objectively wrong.

  18. Just as a casual observer from another country, I’m not entirely sure it IS even that hyperbolic to say Trump ruins everything. He does seem to be having a shot at breaking something from pretty much all aspects of human existence, be that financial, environmental, socio-economic, sexual, etc.
    It seems we wake up every morning over here to see another head-scratcher of a news story from the States.
    “Oh hey, Trump just took a bunch of endangered species off the endangered list so people can hunt them. That seems villainous”
    “Oh shit, Congress just blew out the American deficit by a trillion. Seems like a bad time to decide to do that”
    “Huh, thats weird. Trump just signed an order to allow ISPs to sell users search data to the highest bidder…uh…why?”
    “Oh man, this fuckin’ guy just pulled out of the Paris Climate agreement. That one affects us too”
    “Damn, Trump just made the sale and import of elephant parts legal. There’s surely no way to spin that in a non-evil light”
    “Oh no wait, now he’s locking up refugees in concentration camps. That’s worse. But I guess we do that one here a bit too”
    “Did he just try to suggest arming teachers? Wow, that’s an obviously bad idea”
    “And we’re removing trans people from the military now are we? So back to being a cartoon villain then I guess”
    “Wow, that’s a very dumb man that was just appointed to the highest court in the land. And he seems to have lied continuously under oath as well. Did no one notice that?”
    “Ah it’s a lovely summer day and – oh, here’s the news. Huh. Government employees aren’t getting paid because…oh you gotta be kidding. Because he wants an actual wall? The wall wasn’t a metaphor?”

    He does seem to cover a lot of areas of villainy. And that’s leaving out all the weird sex stuff, Russian blackmail, and personal financial crimes.

  19. Alright everyone, thanks for the input, I appreciate it, especially from you Tawdry, that means a lot to me to hear you say that.

    Look, I like the think Trump is not THAT bad and the situation is not THAT bleak but clearly maybe I’m wrong, maybe I’m guilty of burying my head in the sand, I try not to, but there’s just so much noise out there, it’s hard to sort it through it and not go insane.

    I really have no clue just what the fuck is going on to be honest, I have no clue why things have gone so wrong, for whatever reason the years since 2013 have totally flown by for me (I’m 29 fyi) and it’s been hard for me to really keep up with it all, it’s enough to make my head spin and it creates a very surreal feeling, almost like none of this is really “real” so the impact is lessened for me, it’s just hard for me to understand all of this.

    I’m sorry, all I’m trying to say is that I do think it’s healthy not to become too obsessed with Trump and I do think it’s healthy to try to keep a good attitude and believe that we can get past it, America’s been through some rough times before and survived, maybe we can pull it off again?

    But maybe I’m naive, I’m going to do everyone a favor and respectfully bow out from bringing Trump again, I don’t want to say something stupid (too late?) so I’ll just shut my big mouth.

  20. Thanks for reading our words and understanding that they weren’t meant as an attack, Griff. That takes integrity and character.

    I don’t think you said anything stupid, so much as you just unknowingly repeated a slick talking point without fully recognizing the implications. The solution isn’t to back out and silence yourself. It’s totally fine to say something “dumb” in earnest, if you’re willing to learn and grow from it.

    And to be fair, there is a lotta noise out there and it’s fine to filter out the non-policy-based stuff. Like you, I don’t terribly care about Trump’s boorish persona and twitter antics and do my best to ignore articles on the subject. But it would do you well to find 3-5 news sources that you can cross reference to determine accuracy and bias. NPR has a lot of great podcasts. WaPo’s “Can He Really Do That?” Is another solid audio source of info on all thUng’s POTUS. I get the sense that you’re not a total pinko like me, so I’m not sure what other sources to suggest that wouldn’t just make your eyes glaze over. It’s fine to listen to center/center-right news sources, so long as they have integrity. Seek those out.

    It’s not totally hopeless, but appointing extremely young judges rubber stamped by the Federalist society to lifetime appointments is certainly going to make it harder for the country to course correct for the next several several decades. And if we lose RBG… well, let’s not talk about that.

  21. Trump has not killed as many people as Bush, and it’s certainly possible America will survive him. But I am 100% on board with saying he ruins everything, just in his near-miraculous ability to and absolute devotion towards bringing out the absolute worst in people and turning benign, everyday things into soul-deadening culture war grudge matches. And THE MULE is case in point, because as Vern points out, yes, there really are cartels, and yes, they really are bad. You ought to be able to make a movie about someone who works for them and have it just be a fact, not a political argument. I mean, it’s based on a true story, for fuck’s sake. But of course, in the current state of things, that’s just impossible. Because he has so consistently and dishonestly tied the real existence of cartels to the concept of immigration, that you know suddenly something like this little biopic is gonna get used by his supporters to bolster their bullshit, hateful worldview. And every inch they gain, every mind in the mushy middle they turn, makes it easier for them to sadistically do real-world harm to real-world vulnerable people. As such, he’s turned the whole world into propagandists working desperately every minute to advance their own version of reality. He’s turned politics into the culture war at the highest levels of government, with the biggest microphone in the world. And that’s how he literally ruined everything.

    Also, you know that pee tape is eventually gonna come out, and then how are you ever going to enjoy sex again? See, ruins everything.

    But Griff does make one very good point: Trump just made explicit the things that W put a good face on. Trump didn’t invent xenophobia and craven, selfish power grabs, he just made them more explicit. He said the things W and co. were just cynically counting on other people to say. But it’s the same playbook that goes all the way back to Nixon and the Southern Strategy, the original sin of the GOP (and before that, the original sin of the Southern Democrats, and before that, the original sin of America itself). He’s turned up the volume, and he’s upped the stakes with his extreme rhetoric and wild disregard for democratic institutions, but if we act like he invented this stuff, we’re never gonna solve it. He’s the living embodiment of the worst of us, but he does represent at least an aspect of us, America, and until we root this stuff out of ourselves, there will always be another Trump waiting in the wings to take advantage of our weakness (and probably a much smarter, smoother one next time, who uses the right code words and does his dirty work behind closed doors instead of on twitter so we can pretend everything is nice and civilized).

  22. To me it is all about mother earth. Within our lifetimes Miami and the polar bears and coral reefs and possibly all saltwater fish will disappear, all because powerful people decided a scientific phenomenon could be used as a political wedge issue. The effects of global warming will be so fucking catastrophic and so many millions of people and animals will suffer and die because of it.

    Griff presumably you are a fan of EARTH MAIDEN ARJUNA, so I’m sure you can agree this is a big deal :)

  23. Heh, I’ve heard of EARTH MAIDEN ARJUNA but haven’t seen it, however I did listen to a podcast about it once so all I know all about it.

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