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Schrödinger’s cat blew up. Now what?

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Schrdingers cat blew up Now what

Before the identity of the bomb-sending terrorist was known, he/she/they were in a state similar to that of Schrödinger’s cat. Now that a suspect has been identified, the cat has officially blown up.

Trump detractors will claim the President is to blame for stirring up the kind of extremism that drove Cesar Sayoc to allegedly send fake bombs to Trump’s enemies. His supporters will say this is a deranged man doing things that deranged people do. We’ll see a lot of references to James Hodgkinson, the man who shot Representative Steve Scalise.

As with most things lately, the truth lies in a gray area that makes both sides right and both sides wrong.

President Trump has stoked an anger in his base that has made some of them more extreme than they previously were. As for his leftist foes, they too have played a major role in bringing incivility to the streets of America at a time when law and order should have the advantage.

Where does that put us? The answer is depressing.

Welcome to modern America

This didn’t start with President Trump. It didn’t start with Senator Bernie Sanders. It didn’t start with Antifa or white supremacists. The anger and extreme behavior that permeates American culture started when the country was formed and has manifested itself in outbursts of collective rage ever since.

Our history is pocked with the aggression that manifests as a part of human nature. These manifestations have taken dozens of forms to generate trends in behavior in the populace. It has been mostly positive at times, such as the collective anger combined with national pride that marked the 1980s. The actions that led to us winning the Cold War gave us an enemy in the USSR towards which we could point our anger.

We saw it in WWI and WWII as well, but it was different for the Korean and Vietnam Wars. Anger was internalized. We didn’t have enemies the general population hated. We had politicians keeping us at war that gave the people internal foes to hate and protest.

There are moments of relative calm before every storm throughout history, but modern America is different. Starting with 9/11 and continuing into the outrage of the right during the Obama era, the anger has manifested into a constant dissonance of point and counterpoint, nasty debate after nasty debate, which brought it all to a head in the 2016 election. When Trump won, the anger shifted.

Today’s anger towards Trump is stronger than the anger towards Obama. It isn’t just the shift between right and left. It’s that there hasn’t been a break since 9/11. The visceral fear and dismay have been constant for nearly two decades. Many people, including Cesar Sayok, have reached breaking points.

This is a time when insanity becomes the norm.

As a society, we’re now accustomed to hating one another. This has happened two other times in history. The first was the Civil War. The second was a string of events that included McCarthyism, the civil rights movement, and Vietnam War protests. We’re now in the middle of a similar turbulence. As with the previous two periods of internal strife, it seems like the division may be permanent.

It’s not. We made it through the previous two and came out the other end as a stronger nation. The same can happen now. It may not happen soon. Then again, it could also happen very quickly. Nobody can predict what national or world events can take place that unify us, but we’re not at a point of no return yet. If anything, the events that drive today’s fighting is minuscule compared to the previous two circumstances. Stakes are lower. Civility is higher (though that may be hard to believe in a time when civility seems to be waning).

There’s one major difference between events of today and the events that triggered the Civil War and the turbulence felt in America before and during the Vietnam War. Those situations were focused. The discontent manifested towards individual causes and events for extended periods of time. Today, the outrage is bouncing around so fast that few can even keep up.

Democrats are unified in their hatred for President Trump, but even in that unity there are challenges keeping up with what particular trait or action to hate at any given moment. The same was true for Republican hatred of President Obama.

In other words, the angry people of America aren’t sure where to point their anger at any given moment.

There are no unifying forces today. There’s no Abraham Lincoln or Martin Luther King Jr to change the conversation back towards healing. It isn’t Trump. It isn’t the Democrats. It isn’t the media. We’re a nation without moral leadership. That should worry us more than anything else about the state of modern America.

Federalists

What Stacey Abrams gets right about moving forward from the Georgia election

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What Stacey Abrams gets right about moving forward from the Georgia election

Democrat Stacey Abrams possesses some pretty radical political ideologies. I completely disagree with her far-leftist rhetoric or the agenda she hoped to bring to Georgia as governor. Republican Brian Kemp is the next governor, which even Abrams admits.

But she refuses to concede that she actually lose the election. She’s clear that Kemp is the governor-elect, but she falls just short of saying that his victory is illegitimate.

That’s all political theater. Here’s what she gets right. Georgia and many states need to clean up their election practices. Laws should be passed. Other laws should be removed. Ballot access for American citizens must be protected and the process must be made as easy as possible without jeopardizing accuracy or opening the doors to fraud.

Most importantly, this must be done through a combination of the legal system and the state legislature. At no point should she or anyone else try to turn this into a federal issue.

People on both sides of the political aisle seem to be leaning towards fixing election problems at the national level. This would be a huge mistake. The states must clean their own houses. The residents of the states must be the catalyst. Keep DC out of it.

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Conspiracy Theory

Many Democrats support Mueller investigation without knowing what it’s about

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“Trump stole the election!”

Two years and two elections ago, something happened that has Democrats scratching their heads even today. Hillary Clinton lost. She wasn’t supposed to lose. She was cheated some way, somehow.

This is what they hope to be proven by special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian influence in the 2016 elections. The problem is a majority of Democrats think the Russians did something that Mueller’s team isn’t even investigating because there’s absolutely no hint of a possibility that it could be true.

67% of Democrats believe “Russia tampered with vote tallies in order to get Donald Trump elected President.”

Let that sink in.

Robert Mueller Poll

If you believe Russia attempted to influence the elections by using social media and other venues to spread anti-Hillary rhetoric, you’re almost certainly correct. In fact, the Mueller investigation has assumed that to be true from the beginning. The question isn’t whether or not Russia tried to influence the elections in this way. It’s whether or not Americans helped them, in particular members of the Trump campaign.

What’s not being considered is whether or not Russia tampered with vote tallies. They did not. It’s not even a consideration in Mueller’s investigation, yet two-thirds of Democrats believe it to be true.

67% of Democrats can’t wait for Mueller to prove their theories correct even though he isn’t even investigating vote tally tampering at all. It’s reminiscent of the days after Obamacare was launched when Democrats asked, “Wait, it’s not free?”

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Entertainment and Sports

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs would be terrible if the Coen brothers didn’t make it

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The Ballad of Buster Scruggs would be terrible if the Coen brothers didnt make it

Directors often get too much credit for making movies great. That’s not the case with the Coen brothers. In their latest release, their presence in the director’s chairs and behind the writing desks took what should have been a mediocre Old West anthology and made it clever enough that most viewers will enjoy it. Others, like me, will hate it despite their presence.

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is a Coen brothers film made for Netflix that doesn’t take itself too seriously, which is why 91% of critics reviewed it favorably on Rotten Tomatoes. But the thumbs-up/thumbs-down approach by Rotten Tomatoes makes the rating a bit misleading. Many of the “positive” reviews I read were essentially homages to the Coen brothers. There were many complaints about the six-part anthology that were followed by “… but it’s the Coen brothers, so…”

That’s the big plus in the movie. The Coens were able to tell the six stories the way only they could with such attention to detail that I almost watched it a second time even though I hated it. The critic in me detested what the movie tried to do. The fan in me loved how the Coens tried to do it.

Unfortunately, that means the only valid reason to watch it is to see the Coens do their thing. That’s enough of a reason if you’ve already seen all of their other extraordinary works. If you’ve missed any of them, I’d start there before using The Ballad of Buster Scruggs as a filler to get you through until their next masterpiece.

I normally don’t do spoilers. In fact, I make a point to not even spoil important components like mood or tone. Since this is a case where I’m not only going against the grain of other reviewers but I’m also trying to dissuade certain people from seeing it, I’ll go ahead and warn that there are spoilers ahead.

As noted already, this movie doesn’t take itself seriously. There are six completely separate stories tied together by two things: death and the historical Old West. We’ll deal with the death aspect shortly, but one good thing I can say about the movie is that I’ve never seen one capture the beauty of the period like this one. Even on a small screen, the sets are stunning. It’s a shame that such amazing cinematography will have so few see it on the big screen.

Now, let’s deal with death. It’s the overarching theme throughout, and it’s noteworthy that none of the reviews I read seemed to catch onto the specificity of the deaths. In order from first to last, the deaths are whimsical, ironic, undeserved, deserved, and tragic. This is done in a very particular order to keep the audience engaged. It’s an emotional ebb and flow that the Coens have mastered over three decades of filmmaking.

The opening story shares its title with the movie itself. It’s a live-action cartoon with stunning aspects that make the viewer laugh, marvel, and finally scratch his or her head. Buster Scruggs’ death is as quick and unexpected as the death the character dishes out throughout his story.

The second story, Near Algodones, demonstrates the inevitability of death for one who chooses a life of crime. Both times the lead character is captured and set to hang are comical and ironic, as if saying Death won’t be cheated by death. His final scene is the last real laugh we get in the movie.

As is common for the Coen brothers, there’s no attempt to ease in to a drastically changing mood. From beginning to end, Meal Ticket makes us feel melancholy and turns it up near the end of the third story. The only temporary relief is seeing an orange chicken mesmerizing a simple-minded crowd with its ability to do basic math on command, a not-so-subtle allusion to President Trump and his adoring fans.

The star of the anthology is the fourth story, All Gold Canyon, as Tom Waits delivers on multiple connections. He touches nature as both an intruder and its defender. He talks to his goal, “Mr Pocket,” like a friend about to deliver the good news of riches heading his way. The best line of the movie comes out in a dialogue between Waits and the pocket of gold when he says, “I’m old, but you’re older.” All of this combines for a deep connection we’re able to feel with his character. We may like or dislike other characters, but we actually connect with this one. Any of the stories could be fleshed out to be a standalone film, but this one would probably yield the best one.

The fifth story, The Gal Who Got Rattled, is another one that could easily expand. It made me think someone could make an interesting series about life on the Oregon Trail that followed the guides back and forth in their exciting journeys. Instead, we get a glimpse at the trail, another glimpse of irony surrounding an annoying dog that survives both of its masters, and then a fleeting glimpse of real action as Grainger Hines fearlessly takes on a group of Commanche who want his scalp and the young lady he’s protecting.

The Mortal Remains rounds out the movie. It’s the only story that doesn’t end in death, though it’s predicated by death; two of the five characters in this story are bounty hunters with the body of their most recent prey strapped to the top of the carriage they’re riding.

There are different interpretations for this segment of the movie. Some say the self proclaimed “reapers” are taking the souls of the other three passengers to their resting place. This theory lends to the apprehension and dread they demonstrate when they finally get there. Others say they simply fear that death may come to them soon, which is why they hesitate to enter the hotel. I lean towards the first interpretation. The three in the carriage with the bounty hunters/reapers died normally while the body on the roof had to be hunted down, which is why he has to be carried to his final resting place instead of walking there like the other three.

Who knows? The Coens.

The stories in this movie were accumulated over 25 years. It’s very possible that there is a much deeper underlying meaning to all of this that the Coens may or may not ever reveal. It could be personal, like their own private joke about Hollywood; watching Meal Ticket definitely lends itself to the notion that the highest level of art can’t be as popular as a counting chicken. There may be nothing to it at all. The Coens know, and unless they’re changing their style, they aren’t telling us their secrets.

An uncanny number of reviews I read noted a variation of the idea that the whole was less than the sum of the parts.

The bottom line: Lots of people loved this movie for everything the Coen brothers bring to the table. Some, like me, hated it because it’s six stories that individually could have been great but compressing them into one movie didn’t do them justice.

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