Banter M Issue 39

In this week's edition: 

Why I Love Bernie Sanders - Ben Cohen goes in depth on Bernie Sanders and argues he is the best candidate for President in 40 years. Does this mean Hillary is a bad choice? Not necessarily, writes Ben, especially in light of Donald Trump's alarming ascendancy.  

Dancing Dad pt 2 - Chez Pazienza's hilarious trip to Las Vegas for a children's dancing competition continues. Key quote: "I’m sitting in an oversized banquet hall about 20 feet away from a 16-year-old who’s thrusting her vagina at me. She looks alarmingly like Jessica Alba. This could be a problem." 

Anyone Upset by the New Ghostbusters Trailer Can Go Cry About It - Do not insult the new Ghost Busters movie, threatens Jamie Frevele, who says it is "really exciting to see Ghostbusters who look like me. They aren't secondary, they aren't dumb caricatures, or in need of rescuing, or nagging anyone. They are people. They are Ghostbusters." You have been warned. 


Why I Love Bernie Sanders

by Ben Cohen

I want to be clear about this -- I love Bernie Sanders. I mean this in the most fanlike way possible and am not ashamed to say it.  I think he is the best candidate the US has seen in decades -- and that includes President Obama, Clinton and Carter. 

Bernie Sanders is more progressive than virtually every active politician today and has a record of being on the right side of every issue important to liberals. From war to welfare, Sanders has consistently put the interests of the vulnerable ahead of those with the most, and his lengthly legislative record is definitive proof of this. As Matt Taibbi, a journalist who has spent a significant amount of time with him, wrote when laying out the case for his presidency:

Sanders is a clear outlier in a generation that has forgotten what it means to be a public servant. The Times remarks upon his "grumpy demeanor." But Bernie is grumpy because he's thinking about vets who need surgeries, guest workers who've had their wages ripped off, kids without access to dentists or some other godforsaken problem that most of us normal people can care about for maybe a few minutes on a good day, but Bernie worries about more or less all the time.

Wherever you stand on the political spectrum, it is impossible not to respect this. His compassion for the most needy and his unwillingness to sell out to gargantuan corporate interests that have corrupted the US political system are a real rarity in the current political climate. To declare oneself a socialist in America should spell the death knell for any politician's career, yet here Sanders is, running for president against the well oiled Clinton machine -- and doing pretty well. 

To me, it is blindingly obvious that Bernie Sanders is a better candidate than Hillary Clinton. As corporate centrist Democrats go, Clinton is fine. She is effective, driven, and a highly skilled political operator. She has a reasonably solid, liberal record in the Senate, and she is running on a platform decidedly more leftwing than  in 2008. But she has political baggage, and a lot of it. 

It is true that the majority of her baggage comes from the breathtakingly cynical Republican led war against her and her husband -- a war entering its third decade that promises to get even more rabid and insane should she be the Democratic nominee for president. But Clinton's negative image amongst many liberals is exclusively of her own doing -- a fact made clear during her campaign against Obama in 2008. Clinton's ruthlessness and dishonesty as the election began to slip away from her seemingly knew no bounds. She flailed desperately against a surging Obama, and resorted to a number of underhanded strategies to regain control of the election, including a smear campaign involving his former pastor Rev. Wright, an unsubtle attempt to link him to Louis Farrakhan (and even Hamas), then letting her husband loose to astonishingly use the race card in South Carolina. 

It should not be forgotten that the Clintons ushered in an era of corporate centrism that betrayed many of the Democrat's core deals, arguably setting the course for mass incarceration, widening inequality and the financial collapse in 2008. Hillary opposed some of her husband's policies in private, but has remained throughout her career a 'safe' Democrat who has pledged not to rock the boat or disrupt business as usual. Clinton has taken millions in donations from Wall St precisely because of this -- she is a good investment for the industry and she knows it. 

Clinton is also a foreign policy hawk who voted for the Iraq war, and consistently refused to take responsibility for it. She is a hardliner on Israel, wanted to intervene in Iran during their revolution and urged US military action in Libya. There is no doubt she will likely continue Obama's drone wars in the Middle East if she wins in November, and we can be fairly certain she will be more aggressive than Obama when dealing with foreign policy issues. This was the major reason I regularly denounced Clinton in 2008 and strongly preferred Obama, who ran on a far more cautious, realist platform. It is also a major reason why I support Bernie Sanders in 2016. 

However, my dislike for Hillary Clinton as a politician and her dubious record in office does not mean I believe she would be bad for the country. And it does not mean I am going to partake in the incessant Hillary bashing we are seeing from ardent Sanders supporters who are genuinely convinced Donald Trump would be a preferable candidate. 

While I have always wanted Bernie Sanders to win, I have witnessed enough of American politics over the years to understand that his candidacy is a long shot. To my British ears, Sanders sounds like the Labour politicians of old -- the die hard socialist heroes my mother supported, who fought for what they believed in and didn't bow down to corporate stooges in slick suits who always claimed they "knew what was best" for the party while stiffing the people who elected them. The New Labour movement decimated the old left in the late 90's, just as the Clintons did to the Democrats only a few years earlier. Perhaps it was necessary given the drastic changes to the economy brought about by Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, but I never forgave Tony Blair for his acquiescence to corporate capitalism and his saddling up to George Bush, and I have never been a fan of Bill Clinton, who willingly absorbed Republican economics and helped destroy the lives of millions through his gutting of social welfare and radical incarceration policies.

The left in both Britain and America have struggled to embrace their roots, despite the overwhelming evidence that the neoliberal experiment has failed spectacularly. The mere mention of a tax increase is enough to instigate the threat of a mass corporate exodus, and leftwing policies of redistribution are panned in the media who are obsessed with rampaging immigrants and poor people abusing the welfare state. In the UK we have seen Labour leader Jeremey Corbyn subjected to an astonishing onslaught of personal ridicule and abuse, and in America, we have seen the moderate centrist Obama lampooned as a socialist/marxist dictator for the better part of a decade. 

This makes electing true progressives incredibly difficult to do, as Sanders is finding out as the nomination slowly but surely slips away from him. There are too many bottom feeders who survive off of the status quo, and presidential politics is now so corrupt that being a millionaire is the minimum requirement for even thinking about running. Bernie Sanders has centered his campaign around these issues and has spoken out about them forcefully. That he has gotten this far is a miracle, yet it is still a crying shame that he will likely fall short. His campaign represents an urgent warning that the electoral system needs overhauling from the bottom up. While he may fail, he has proven that the system is not yet beyond repair. 

The United States is now at breaking point as Donald Trump continues to rack up primary wins, and the world faces the genuine threat of a megalomaniac fascist getting into the White House. This is no laughing matter, and anyone with a conscience should be rallying behind whichever Democrat wins the nomination. As someone of Jewish heritage, Trump's rhetoric and fan base scare me. It scares me so much that I would almost certainly leave the country should he get elected. Jews have seen this before, and it never ends well for anyone not white and christian. 

As the general election draws closer, my reservations about Hillary Clinton are taking a back seat to the long war that must be fought to against Donald Trump. There is no doubt whatsoever that a Clinton presidency would be infinitely better than a Trump one. As Chez Pazienza said this week:

We know that Clinton won’t attempt to round up and deport 11 million people. She won’t roll back civil rights advances, gay marriage, abortion rights, or health insurance coverage for millions. She won’t appoint Supreme Court justices that will undo myriad progressive achievements. She won’t build a giant, unnecessary wall along our southern border and get into an international dick-swinging contest about who’s going to pay for it. She won’t ban Muslims and encourage anyone to “rough them up.” We can be reasonably sure she won’t utterly ruin the United States’ standing in the eyes of the world.

We know this because her rhetoric and record reflect it. While Clinton is no saint, she is a safe pair of hand for the country as it enters one of the most important times in human history. While Donald Trump believes climate change "goes up and it goes down", Clinton has pledged to protect President Obama's carbon emissions rules, invest billions in renewable energy, and implement a broad array of policies to drastically curb America's environmental footprint.  "You don't have to be a scientist to take on this urgent challenge that threatens us all," said Clinton. "you just have to be willing to act." While Hillary Clinton may advocate more militarism abroad, Donald Trump has openly advocated committing war crimes by killing suspected terrorist's families, and called anyone against torture a pussy. Clinton's policies may well be counterproductive in the long term, but Trump's would be catastrophic almost immediately -- so catastrophic that former CIA director Michael Hayden warned that the military may not follow his orders should he get into office.

However disappointed you may be with a Hillary Clinton victory over Bernie Sanders, it is not the end of the world. As someone who was vehemently opposed to her candidacy in 2008, I understand your frustration. I too dream of living in a country with universal health care, a political system that thrives without corporate influence, and free education for all. There is nothing more I would like to see than a genuine political revolution with someone as decent as Bernie Sanders leading it -- but in the US political system this is likely a fantasy -- a fact that even Noam Chomsky concedes:

Suppose that Sanders won, which is pretty unlikely in a system of bought elections. He would be alone: he doesn’t have congressional representatives, he doesn’t have governors, he doesn’t have support in the bureaucracy, he doesn’t have state legislators; and standing alone in this system, he couldn’t do very much. 

Clinton on the other hand, may have more luck given her status within the Democratic party and her ability to outmaneuver Republicans at every turn. Of course this isn't something to get particularly excited about as no one wants to relive the vicious politicking of the 90's  -- but at this point in the game, it is the very best we can hope for. 

So while I love Bernie Sanders, I'm going to start liking Hillary Clinton, because the future of the free world depends on it. 

Next: Dancing Dad pt 2 - by Chez Pazienza

Dancing Dad Pt 2

by Chez Pazienza

(Continued from pt 1)

I’m sitting in an oversized banquet hall about 20 feet away from a 16-year-old who’s thrusting her vagina at me. She looks alarmingly like Jessica Alba. This could be a problem.

Welcome to the first and only full day of Access Broadway, where elite teams of dance students from across the Southwest descend on Las Vegas to perform for (supposedly) real-life Broadway-level judges to win (supposedly) a real-life chance at making it on Broadway. I have no idea how Broadway works given that my only experience with it has been from the other side of the stage -- the good side, where I can have just come from two martinis at Sardi’s and not have to move or talk -- but it’s tough to imagine it all begins in a place like this. At the Santa Fe Station Hotel & Casino. For the mercifully unfamiliar, the Santa Fe Station Hotel & Casino -- named such because the Wallet Chain Wrapped Around Chris Daughtry’s Ball-Sack Hotel & Casino didn’t have the same ring to it -- is basically the seventh or eighth level of hell, a smoke-filled windowless pit way off the Strip where old invalids go to plug the last days of their lives one-by-one into slot machines and fat white men in American flag t-shirts and Evinrude ball-caps ogle trailer trash cocktail waitresses. Everyone here is ugly. This whole fucking place is ugly. You get the feeling that on New Year’s Eve, the big draw here is that everyone watches a giant Benson & Hedges Menthol Light ash down to midnight (the tower of ash then falling over like a flaccid penis). 

It unnerves me that my daughter is spending any time at all in this place, considering how many people at the casino downstairs from this ballroom are probably on the sex offender watch list.

Inara, though, takes no notice of any of that. This morning, we headed out here from our swanky room at the SLS on the Strip -- a stellar decision on my part, I realize, now that a father who’s staying at the Santa Fe has informed me that the rooms here are every bit as disgusting as the casino floor -- and I’ve been parked in this chair next to the giant dance floor pretty much ever since. I dropped Inara off at the “backstage” area the minute we arrived so that she can get prepped for her big solo number, which is one of the first of the day. The way this whole thing works is the schools/teams do an entire day’s worth of various “acts,” each lasting anywhere from a couple of minutes to maybe 20. There are solos. Comedy reads. Small groups. Large groups. Full musical numbers meant to condense an entire broadway production into a single medley. Etc. Etc. If this sounds like a lot to take in, that’s because it is: I’m told that none of us is getting out of here until well past midnight. I will be spending an entire day and night in Jame Gumb’s basement prison watching children try to impress people who look and sound like game show hosts. Just as the Founding Fathers of this great nation intended.

I’ve already sat through a production of Peter Pan that was surprisingly impressive and a few other odds and ends: a couple of future actors and actresses who read stories no doubt gleaned from teen angst and the aforementioned Jessica Alba. So far everything has been good, although I can’t help but wonder how I’m going to feel when I’ve been subjected to my 179th act as opposed to my 16th or 17th of the day. I’ve twice braved the casino to grab a Starbucks from the place’s food court. Because yes, this casino has a full-fledged food court. As Inara’s big solo approaches, though, I move over to the center of the room and get even closer. Since the Access Broadway people -- whatever horrid creatures they must be -- are trying to make as much bank as they can off of this, photography of any kind is prohibited. I found this out when I tried to take a picture of my kid earlier when I first dropped her off. A parent literally grabbed me and warned, “Oh no! You can’t do that! They’ll come for you!” As if “they” were the Stasi and I’d be black-bagged and wake up with the realization that as punishment for my crimes I would have to live out my days dumping ashtrays in the casino. So, no, I can’t take pictures. What I can do, though, predictably is buy both still photos and video of my child’s performance later in the lobby, for a nominal fee, of course. (What I can’t do, it turns out, is buy anyone else’s child’s performance, so goodbye 16-year-old dance porn.)

The floor is clear and the music starts. I’ve heard the song before. I know it well because Inara and I practiced it together over and over. I’ve watched her sing it. But as she steps out onto the floor -- thunders out really -- I realize that, goddammit, I’ve never actually seen her sing it. Not at all. Not like this. She launches into “I Was Born To Entertain,” from the musical Ruthless, about a precocious little girl who loves to sing and dance. She’s all smiles, a giant streaking comet of pure personality, singing her heart out. I start laughing. I can’t help myself. Everything is hyper-exaggerated in that way so much old Broadway is, but it is absolutely glorious. All I can think is, “That’s my little girl. That’s the baby I held and the toddler I pushed on a swing in the park and the child that’s been my everything since the moment I laid eyes on her. That’s her, singing and dancing and chewing this whole place to bits.” I’m not crying only because her routine is just so damn funny, but I know I should be. There should be tears streaming down my face right now -- because I’m just so, so proud. That’s my daughter. Inara Grace Pazienza. She’s a little bad-ass.

With one final note held for an eternity and her arms reached up to the sky, the song ends. And the crowd goes nuts. The parents love it. The judges love it. Everybody loves my little kid. It’s an image and a feeling I’m trying to take a snapshot of with my mind so I never forget it and so I can recall it later whenever life pounds me into the ground. This happened. I was here for this. My child did this. She runs off the floor and I bound out of my seat, walking past the parents I met yesterday for the first time, a couple of them patting me on the back. “She was amazing!” one says. I can’t stop smiling as I move to the off-stage area and there she is, in her sequined dance dress with her hair back in a high bun and her face all made-up. (I can ponder later whether that kind of thing is oddly disconcerting.) She sees me, calls out to me and we close the few feet between us in a flash. She’s in my arms and I’m holding her tightly, telling her how good she was and how proud she should be of herself.

Fatherhood has always been something I’ve practiced in secret. True, I wrote about my daughter many times during the difficult early break-up between her mother and me: the pain and sorrow of being separated from her, the knowledge that I’d never have a full-time life with her. But when Inara was with me, whether it was for a couple of months as a baby and toddler or a couple of weeks or weekends at a time as she grew to school-age, I generally kept her close. The time we spend together tends to be just the two of us. Maybe that’s partially my fault, because when she’s with me I just kind of want to soak it all in -- and maybe, just a little bit, I’m afraid, afraid of losing her for even a minute more. But here, now, I’m a father out in the open, with other parents and a big crowd around. Inara’s Dad, stepping out of the shadows and into the light. I’m so lucky to be this little girl’s father. I’m so lucky to call her my daughter. And as she slips out of my arms and runs gleefully toward the backstage area, her little friends gathering around her to congratulate her as they all move with purpose, I feel good. My heart is filled with love.

Next week:Conclusion. 

Next: Anyone Upset by the New Ghostbusters Trailer Can Go Ahead and Cry About It - by Jamie Frevele

The Ghostbusters girls

The Ghostbusters girls

Anyone Upset by the New Ghostbusters Trailer Can Go Ahead and Cry About It

by Jamie Frevele

The new trailer for the new Ghostbusters movie dropped today and as someone who has been a fan of the franchise since her single digits, this feels like Christmas morning. Here are four ridiculously kickass women donning the jumpsuits, doing science, and cracking jokes because at long last, people are coming around to the fact that women can do these things as well as men can. Got a problem with me making this about feminism? Then go fucking cry about it. Cry into your sad little beer and go make yourself a sandwich, because this is about feminism for me and you're going to deal with it.

Let's discuss the "issues" people are having with the trailer right off the bat.

Why is Leslie Jones, who is black, the one character working a blue-collar job at the MTA while the white women are scientists? Sure, it's stereotypical that a minority is being characterized as the "street smart" member of the group. That's a little annoying, yes. But does it look like she's a secondary member of the group the way Winston Zeddemore was? Hell, no. She's there in the beginning, getting a fair share of face time in the trailer.

There's so much CGI. Um, what did you expect? Real ghosts? Crude practical effects? The special effects from the original movies were groundbreaking for the time and made the movie a classic genre film. But they were pretty shitty special effects when you go back and look at them. If you think CGI effects are obvious, did the stop-motion animation of the devil dogs look any more subtle to you? I strongly urge you to get over it. Because this bitch is gonna be in 3D and Slimer is going to look even more legit than he did before.

None of the original Ghostbusters were in the trailer. Yeah, because this movie isn't about them. This is a new movie. It acknowledges the first movies right off the bat, so it's definitely not ignoring the OG crew. That would have been a dick move, and everyone involved knew better than to do that. Why is it so hard to accept that more than four people could be Ghostbusters?

It's a shameless Hollywood money grab reboot. Were you born yesterday? Of course this is a shameless Hollywood money grab. The first movie was not an independently-funded indie made with blood, sweat, and tears, as much as it was written by people who gave many shits about the content. Movies are made to make moviemakers money. The first movie was, the second movie was, and the third movie is right alongside of them. Reboots suck, but if you're not used to them by now, I urge you to start following the presidential campaign so you can channel your misery into something worth being miserable about. Nothing is sacred, most of all things that come from Hollywood. No one got this upset when they heard there were going to be new Star Wars movies, which didn't have the original cast in leading roles nor did it have the original filmmaker in charge. And guess what? That movie made a shitload of money. Was it all donated to charity? So stop your bellyaching and reprioritize things that are meant to entertain you.

No, #NotAllDetractors of Ghostbusters are upset because they're sexist. In fact, the complaints about Leslie Jones's character are quite legit, and let's hope they're addressed because even I have some icky feelings about it, as funny as I know she's going to be. But there's something that we women are seeing that a lot of these men aren't: the kids who are seeing this movie will now have a universe that includes male and female Ghostbusters. There could be more diversity -- No Latina Ghostbuster? In NYC? Really? -- but my nine-year-old cousin is seeing something that I didn't get to see when I was nine, and I'm so thrilled for her. I'm also thrilled for the boys who will see this movie and see girls as action heroes. Funny ones! Smart ones! Doing awesome things! Those boys won't grow up to say things like "lady Ghostbusters are raping my childhood." These women are their Ghostbusters. The original cast will also be their Ghostbusters. They're going to have all kinds of Ghostbusters from the get-go, and this is a very good thing.

But it's also really exciting to see Ghostbusters who look like me. They aren't secondary, they aren't dumb caricatures, or in need of rescuing, or nagging anyone. They are people. They are Ghostbusters.

And if you're still complaining, here's a sentence that explains it all:

And the followup:

So, stop wiping your tears and just don't see a movie you're not interested in. But don't be surprised if it's hard to find a date the night that movie comes out.