The Girl With All The Gifts & The Last of Us: A Dual Review With No Spoilers

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I watched The Girl With All The Gifts since I was very interested and decided it would be a good while before I could get to the book.

Well.

It’s…okay. It’s not the revelatory burst of cool originality I’d been led to believe, and it’s nowhere near as good as the other zombie flick I saw recently, the Korean Train To Busan which is a revelatory burst of cool and one of the best films in this genre ever made.

The Girl With All The Gifts is kind of tedious, the characters sketchily drawn, and the story underdeveloped. That said, I’d have probably enjoyed it more if it weren’t for one thing:

I’ve played the video game The Last Of Us.

The Girl With All The Gifts is like a clumsy echo of The Last Of Us. It has a similar theme, similar setting, suspiciously similar ideas (The Last Of Us came out a year before the novel). I’m not saying it’s a rip-off, I doubt it is. But the thought occurs.

And while The Girl With All The Gifts is a so-so zombie flick with a few new ideas, The Last Of Us is a goddamned masterpiece.

The Last Of Us is one of those works of art which elevates its medium. It isn’t just possibly the greatest narrative game ever made, it isn’t just a more satisfying cinematic experience than most films…it is literature.

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The writing, the direction, the art design are all phenomenal. The acting — and acting it is, full motion capture by the actors, with all the subtleties and complexities of real life, and eyes full of humanity — is amazing, and moving, and heartrending. And the characters are real the way the best characters in any medium become real, we live with them and die with them and feel their pain and occasional bits of joy. The settings are gorgeous, a civilization fallen and returning to nature. And the music…good lord, the music. My wife Nydia and I both tear up when we hear just a few notes of this game’s theme.

The Last Of Us, all by itself, entirely justified the money I spent on my PlayStation 4. All other pleasures I get out of it are gravy.

The Girl With All The Gifts just can’t compete. The only reason I’ll remember it is because it’s such a dull shadow of the game that got there first.

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Election 2016: How We Really Lost (By The Numbers, Part 3)

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(This is about the election. Because so many Democratic and progressive voters are still debating what happened, and because a forthright postmortem is essential to the Democratic Party moving forward effectively [and is, to all indications, something they don’t actually care to do], I’ve researched what the numbers actually tell us. I find it interesting. If you don’t, that’s fine. If your highest caliber response is to school me on paying attention to this when you want me to pay attention to something else I’m probably also paying attention to, just keep it to yourself.)

Would Bernie Sanders have won? Did Hillary Clinton lose because of Russia/FBI/Mercury retrograde? Was she a good candidate? Was he?

In a discussion elsewhere of factors which led to Donald Trump’s win, I pointed out that Clinton’s favorability ratings throughout her entire 2015/2016 campaign remained historically awful, never hitting a point where a majority of voters saw her positively. Someone asked about the polls before the election which seemed (unlike the polls throughout the months prior) to show her handily beating Trump. Nate Silver was mentioned.

The thing is, though Clinton enjoyed bumps in the polls toward the end, in most cases her edge remained within the margin of error. Real Clear Politics, which tracks and averages all the major polls, had her lead at only 3.2% going into election day. This was just slightly better than her polls against Trump had generally been all along (you might remember those weak numbers during the primaries because some people said they indicated she might lose).

The big numbers predicting her win were projections of probability of her winning according to the biases of those making the projections. Silver, for example, gave Clinton a 71.8% chance of winning (and he was actually accused of being too pessimistic). This didn’t mean he expected her to get 71.8% of the vote. In fact, he predicted she would get 48.5% and Trump would get 45%, a margin of only 3.5%, a number which was, you guessed it, within the margin of error.

But the polls pitting the candidates against each other were only part of the story. Just as, and possibly more, important were the candidates’ favorability polls which indicate how liked and trusted each was. This should have been an important consideration because no candidate had ever won the presidency with a net negative favorability with voters.

When she entered the race in April 2015, Hillary Clinton’s favorability/unfavorability rating was 44%/52%. A net negative of -8 points.

When he entered the race in April 2015, Sanders’s favorability/unfavorability was 20%/27%. Lower scores in both, and a net negative of -7 points. But 54% of voters had no opinion because they didn’t know him, compared to 4% for Clinton.

By November, 2015, Clinton’s favorability/unfavorability was 41%/52%. Net negative -11 points.

By November, 2015, Sanders’s favorability/unfavorability was 41%/37%. Net positive +4 points.

By the Democratic National Convention at the end of July 2016, Clinton’s favorability/unfavorability was 42%/56%. Net negative -14 points.

By the Democratic National Convention, Sanders’s favorability/unfavorability was 53%/36%. Net positive +17 points.

By the election, Clinton’s favorability/unfavorability was 43%/56%. Net negative -13 points.

By the election, Sanders’s favorability/unfavorability was 59%/33%. Net positive +26 points.

So what we see is that throughout the entire primary season and the general election, Hillary Clinton’s favorability scores remained roughly static. Nothing she did after November 2015, months before the email leaks or FBI fishiness, boosted her numbers. Likewise, none of the allegedly critical negative events of the election dropped her scores much further. She stayed at her net negative score, with a constant majority seeing her unfavorably, from DAY ONE up to her loss. Voters had pretty much made up their minds about Hillary Clinton before she even started running.

Would Sanders have fared better in the general, as so many of us think? He did, after all, go from a -7 net negative as a relative unknown to +26 net positive. And he managed to close Clinton’s initial sixty point lead to give her a very tense fight through the primaries.

Clinton, meanwhile, not only just got less popular, she, a globally renowned candidate with a huge war-chest of corporate cash and the support of the entire Democratic establishment, squandered a sixty point lead to a little known, grumpy old senator from a small state.

And, of course, Sanders always beat Trump in the polls by double digits, while Trump was the only GOP candidate whom Clinton would usually beat, though always by a narrow margin. Like that 3.5% Nate Silver spun into a 72% probability of victory.

Sanders now has 56% favorability (32% unfavorability; Clinton has 40% favorable, 54% unfavorable). Among Democrats, he has 80%. Among Republicans, he has 31%; that’s right, nearly a third of GOP voters actually like and trust Bernie Sanders. Among Trump voters, 27% favorable. You know, those voters we’re told would never have crossed over to vote for him?

And how does he score with Clinton voters? 86% favorable. That’s twice Clinton’s favorability on election day, while the majority of her voters (54%) said they were voting for her only to vote against Trump.

A lot of people run with that line about how the Republicans would have attacked Bernie in the primary, and maybe his numbers would have fallen to Clintonesque levels as a result. They never seem to grok the fact that Clinton was already down there, and Bernie would have had to fall thirty-one points in the short time after the convention to sink to her level.

I think the numbers tell the tale. I tell you only because I’m sick of seeing Clinton fans slander Sanders and blame her loss on him (one I saw just before starting to put this post together said, “OMG Bernie people, just STFU and think about how you ruined everything!”). All the data indicates that Bernie had a big chance of winning, while Hillary had a slender chance and was so relentlessly unpopular that the slightest puff of ill wind (an ambiguous FBI announcement, evidence of unethical collusion with the DNC, refusal to take a stand on the Dakota pipeline…) might destroy her shot.

The fact is, Hillary Clinton ended her race as she began, the single most unpopular Democratic candidate in history, while Bernie Sanders started as a relatively unknown, impossible long-shot and finished as literally the most popular politician in the United States.

Anyone who thinks that wouldn’t have (probably) made all the difference is in denial.

By The Numbers, Part 1: How Democrats Continue to Lose

By The Numbers, Part 2: Who’s Our Champion Now?

By The Numbers, Part 2: Who’s Our Champion Now?

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(This is the second of three posts regarding Democratic attitudes and performance, both in the election and at present. Part 1 showed how the Democratic Party  has rapidly shrunk, even after the election, and showed the public attitudes toward its leaders and their GOP counterparts. There will be some overlap in my references to certain data through the three posts.)

I’m often accused of “relitigating” the Democratic primaries because I still vocally support Bernie Sanders (who is now in Democratic Party leadership and is their frontman in most of their actions against Trump) and I occasionally still criticize Hillary Clinton (who is now…uh…tweeting sometimes, I guess).

The main reason I do this is because I am, like many progressives, fighting to strengthen the party through reform, trying to force a failing party away from the corporatist policies and out of the calcified bubble of privilege which led to its catastrophic failures in the past quarter century. Part of that is very much a frank look at where it failed in the last election, both with its presidential candidate and with its national strategies.

Another part is actively countering those who do not want the party to change, or who are themselves still litigating the primaries. While I may post things like, “Hillary Clinton not only didn’t even go to Wisconsin to campaign, she bought seven times more TV ads in Los Angeles than she did in Milwaukee,” I see other folks post things like, “I fucking hate Bernie Sanders, Trump is his fault.” I hope you’ll recognize that my posts are generally a sharing of information, not invective, while much of what I see from those standing in defense of Clinton and the entrenched party establishment is pure venom. I often feel my skin crawl after reading through a thread from these folks.

Mind you, #NotAllClintonistas. I’m not saying no Clinton supporters offer reasoned arguments, nor am I saying all Sanders supporters avoid nasty invective. There is a lot of anger out there, and a hell of a lot of people are blinded by it and, often, not actually as informed as they should be. There are a few lefty folks in my feed who are my natural allies, who share very good information, but will often veer into crazy land and make their posts unshareable because I don’t want to be associated with irrational nonsense, even if offered up with otherwise sound info.

While many on the left who disagree with me seem to detest progressive voters, I harbor no ill will toward Clinton supporters, though I do think all of the data we have available strongly indicates that the Nader effect during this election wasn’t a third party vote in the general, it was a Clinton vote in the primaries. I understand why some folks thought she was the better choice even though I don’t agree. Those voters voted for her because they believed in her, or at least believed in her greater electability. And to whatever degree they support a Democratic party which serves the actual needs of the American people, they are my allies.

As for the folks who spew hate toward Bernie and toward the left, I am relieved to discover that, though very loud, they are in a nasty little minority, even among Democrats (just as the nasty Bernie supporters are a sliver of the community, just as they always were, no matter how much the DNC and Clinton campaign tried to insist otherwise).

According to a recent poll by YouGov and The Economist, Bernie Sanders has:

56% favorability among all Americans
(higher even than Obama’s 53%)

80% favorability among registered Democrats

85% favorability among liberals

31% favorability among Republicans
(that’s right: almost a third of Republicans actually like Bernie)

53% favorability among all men

58% favorability among all women
(note that’s higher than among men because, you know, “Bernie Bros”)

52% favorability among all whites

64% favorability among all Blacks
(note that’s higher than among whites, and most “Bernie Bros” are supposed to be white)

58% favorability among all Hispanics
(ditto)

61% favorability among “Other” races
(ditto)

86% favorability among those who voted for Hillary
(note that on the day of the election, Hillary had 43% favorability, exactly half Bernie’s number here, not even a majority, and 56% unfavorability)

27% favorability among those who voted for Trump
(you know, all those voters we’re told Bernie absolutely couldn’t have gotten; Trump, by the way, had 39% favorable/60% unfavorable on election day)

Bernie Sanders finished the primaries as the most popular politician in the country, and he remains so. So don’t be surprised when people champion him for continuing to champion us, or when they voice regret that he didn’t get the chance to beat Trump, or when they simply say good things about him. He isn’t old news, he is, arguably, the current leader of the Democratic party, at least to the American people. And to the degree the Democrats embrace him and his policies, they have a greater chance to prevail.

(Oh, and in case you’re interested, Elizabeth Warren has a 34% favorability among all voters. Just so you know where the other “progressive champion” stands.)

And as for those acid-spewing Bernie haters on the left, I assume they’re in the “very unfavorable” category which makes up a pathetic 6% of Democrats. Nurse that grudge, you’re so insignificant you’re basically the margin of error.

By The Numbers, Part 1: How Democrats Continue To Lose

By The Numbers, Part 3: ELECTION 2016: How We Really Lost

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By The Numbers, Part 1: How Democrats Continue To Lose

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(This is the first of three posts regarding Democratic attitudes and performance, both in the election and at present. I think it’s vital that the party recognize what really went wrong, and where they continue to fail. There will be some overlap in my references to certain data through the three posts.)

Some interesting polling figures from Gallup:

Since the election, national party affiliation for Republicans has gone up slightly, from 27% to 28%.

National party affiliation for Democrats has gone down more significantly, from 31% to 25%. This is a record low in the past seventy-five years.

National party affiliation for Independents has gone up even more significantly, from 36% to 44%.

I suspect that the tiny bump for the GOP is more from the excitement of retaking power from the other party (or, in this case, pretty much nearly obliterating the other party) than it is a referendum on Trump. For comparison, Democrats jumped from 33% to 36% between Obama’s initial election and his inauguration.

But the Democrats have lost FOURTEEN MILLION members since the election. To get a sense of this number, in the Democratic primaries last year just under thirty million votes were cast; the Democratic party has lost nearly half as many voters as participated in its primaries. This is pretty fucking incredible considering how appalled, enraged, and terrified the left has been about Trump’s victory over Clinton. The left may be woke, but it ain’t happy with its presumptive champions, at all.

Meanwhile, establishment Democrats seem largely committed to falling in line behind, rather than challenging, the existing power structure. Nancy Pelosi’s declaration “I don’t think people want a new direction” is their guiding star.

Progressive Democrats, and left-leaning independents, want to seize the energy of the populist wave that formed around Bernie Sanders and reform the party or, failing that, to topple it and replace it with an actual progressive party. In spite of establishment resistance, they are making some progress. For instance, Bernie Sanders is now part of Democratic leadership (a nice gift to all those who keep saying that the DNC was justified in unfairly favored Clinton, in spite of its own regulations and public declarations to the contrary, because Bernie isn’t a Democrat) and is in many very visible ways leading the charge for the party against Trump. And the Democratic party in California was recently taken over by progressives inspired by and endorsed by Sanders, with similar battles being waged across the country.

Whatever side folks fall on, it’s clear that the Democratic party isn’t doing itself any favors with its strategy of general capitulation to Trump with intermittent bits of ineffectual political theater to show how tough they are. If they stood united and uncompromising, even as they inevitably lose the fights because they lack the numbers, they would probably at least slow the emaciation of their party. And if they started making more sincere moves away from corporatism and toward progressivism, they’d likely start regaining some of those lefty independents they’ve lost.

Some other interesting numbers, these from a recent poll by YouGov and The Economist, give us an idea how our leaders are perceived:

BARACK OBAMA
Favorable: 53% Unfavorable: 43% Net: +10%

NANCY PELOSI
Favorable: 25% Unfavorable: 47% Net: -22%
(Yep, the party figured someone with numbers like that should be in charge of the minority in the House. “I don’t think people want a new direction” indeed.)

CHUCK SCHUMER
Favorable: 23% Unfavorable: 29% Net: -6%
(Better than Pelosi, at least. And he’s been making some statements in support of Bernie Sanders and a more progressive direction for the party, but time will tell how sincere he is…)

DONALD TRUMP
Favorable: 42% Unfavorable: 50% Net: -8%
(and his numbers are, of course, falling. Because fascist shitbag.)

PAUL RYAN
Favorable: 33% Unfavorable: 41% Net: -8%

MITCH McCONNELL
Favorable: 20% Unfavorable:42% Net: -22%

BERNIE SANDERS
Favorable: 56% Unfavorable: 32% Net: +24%
(Bernie’s numbers have always been great in his state, and by the end of the primaries he was, and remains, the single most popular politician in the country. His favorability among registered Democrats is 80%. The only other member of our little group who has majority favorability is Obama, and he has both a lower favorable score and an 11% higher unfavorable score than Bernie.)

ELIZABETH WARREN
Favorable: 34% Unfavorable: 34% Net: 0%
(Warren’s numbers will likely spike, at least for a short time, due to her capitalization of Mitch McConnell’s tactically stupid dis of her this week. But as progressive warriors go, she’s still far behind Bernie, likely because of her sitting out the primaries and then boldly endorsing the winner. That wasn’t exactly a profile in courage or principle and it really pissed off a lot of people.)

HILLARY CLINTON
Favorable: 40% Unfavorable: 54% Net: -14%
(This, of course, is largely how Hillary did from the time she entered the race to today. There are lots of things that contributed to her loss, but no one can honestly deny that her historic unpopularity was one of the biggest. She had been “tested,” we were told, but all that ultimately meant was that she was so deeply flawed that she had no business at the top of a national campaign. I mean, c’mon, Trump is a monstrous buffoon crapping all over the world and she’s still less liked than he is.)

So, make of all that what you will. To me, it all points to a Democratic party that does indeed desperately need to go all in both on solid obstructionism (at least symbolically) toward Trump and on the pursuit of truly progressive policies. And they need to look to progressive leaders like Bernie Sanders to lead them back out of the wilderness instead of maintaining a status quo that is just running them deeper and deeper into oblivion.

By The Numbers, Part 2: Who’s Our Champion Now?

By The Numbers, Part 3: Election 2016: How We Really Lost

Are You A Rational Republican…?

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Are you a rational Republican who gets annoyed at all the invective and satire and fiery rage directed at your party simply because of the actions and policies of an enormous majority of your fellows?

Stop. Just stop. Stop being defensive and butt-hurt. More importantly, stop being a Republican.

I know, I know. You’ve always been a Republican. You believe in fiscal responsibility and blah blah blah. Your friends are Republicans.Your daddy and mommy were Republicans. Your great grandpappy and grandmaw were Republicans. Hell, Abraham Lincoln was a Republican.

Republican. You keep using that word, I don’t think it means what you think it means. Not any more.

The Republican party is not the party of Lincoln. Not any more. And if you don’t support the actions of this monstrous Republican president, or the goose-stepping boot-licking quislings that make up the entirety of the existing Republican power structure (as has been the case for many years), or the unfettered ignorance and bigotry of the overwhelming Republican base, then maybe it’s not the party of you any more either.

You identify as Republican because you think being Republican means a lot of things that it probably actually does not any more, if it ever really did. That’s a lie you’re telling yourself. Stop it. Why lie to yourself and cast your lot with horrible people who are very actively destroying everything good and noble and beautiful about our country? Why do that to yourself? Why do that to the rest of us?

Stop. You don’t have to be a Republican. You don’t have to be anything but an American. Party loyalty can be a poison. Don’t be a part of a big ignorant herd, giving loyalty and power to those who do not deserve it. Just stop.

At the very least, you won’t have to keep getting your feelings hurt by people speaking truth to fascism.

NOTE: This goes for Democrats too. The Democratic party isn’t the party of FDR any more either, not by a long goddamned shot, though at least it’s not a burning church of hatred, ignorance, and authoritarianism. But blind, uncritical loyalty to them can be just as poisonous and unproductive.