Thursday, February 22, 2018

The Russian attack

I feel like such a dope. Through a bit of online sorcery, thirteen Russian agents tricked me into not voting for Hillary Clinton in November of 2016. There’s some solace in the fact that I wasn’t alone in my confusion. Tens of millions of other Americans also filled out ballots for other candidates. Twenty-six years of Clinton in the public spotlight, and we still didn’t have a good idea what to make of her. That’s where these agents found our blind spot and manipulated it. Though I wasn’t one of them, most voters that shunned Clinton chose a candidate who had been in the public eye for on or about forty years.

Borrell Associates, an agency that tracks and forecasts spending for the advertising industry, reports that $1.415 billion was spent on online advertising by local, state, and national campaigns in 2015 and 2016. Two out of every five of those dollars-- so almost five hundred million-- were spent on social media sites. Ten billion dollars were spent overall during the election season on media advertising of all kinds. The Russian “bots” spent $100,000.

The indictments of these Russian agents by the Robert Mueller team will likely have about the same resonance as those of foreign countries when their judicial systems indict agents of the U.S. government for interfering in their political process and in their elections. The difference is that those indictments are often written up for crimes such as an overthrow or assassination. Here, foreign agents allegedly buy ads online and develop memes that reflect political partiality. As long as these Russian agents don’t plan to live in the U.S., our courts likely won’t be able to hold them to account. Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger has been indicted in at least five different countries. So when you hear American politicos discussing the best way for us to retaliate for interference, know that in other nations, these sorts of actions are considered the retaliation.

This distraction from the real issues of the day causes great harm to everyone, including Democrats, who are so beholden to corporate interests that they are truly incapable of accepting responsibility for their corrosive actions and devastating failures during the ’16 electoral cycle. It’s not even a question of political courage at this point. Their representatives are so intrinsically cuffed to their corporate paymasters that the bond can certainly not be broken. Since the fall of ’16, when their underhanded actions in relation to the Bernie Sanders opposition campaign in their own primaries were revealed by an email leak, they have, in their defense, done the only thing their compromised predicament allows them to do-- distract through an investigation into the leak.

Is the loud public investigation into Russian meddling helping to fuel the Trump opposition? Of course not. His approval ratings are up five points-- to 40%-- since December. A POLITICO/Morning Consult poll released eight days ago shows that for the first time since November 2016, more registered voters say they would support the Republican candidate for Congress in their district than the Democrat. The Democratic Party, with its nearly preternatural ability to project hyper-partisanship while standing for absolutely nothing, threatens to once again fumble away the gift of Donald Trump that was handed to them by Republican primary voters right at about two years ago.

As one of the most important examples, the President and the Republican Congress passed a crippling tax bill a few weeks ago, one that provides unprecedented cuts for the wealthy, and which will then translate into a disproportionate burden for working people and the defenseless. In December, 49% of Americans opposed that Trump tax plan with only 29% in favor, according to Public Policy Polling. Now those numbers are virtually even—41% opposed, 39% in favor. And why wouldn’t it be that way? There are no Democrats making the political case against these crushing cuts in revenue that will be made up out of the pockets of those of ordinary means. The subject came and went while politicians and the media were focusing on Vladimir Putin. The national anthem performance at the NBA All-Star Game has had a longer life in the news cycle than the tax cuts.

The electoral interference that actually took place was between the DNC, pockets of the Intelligence State, and a colluding news media. It was actually done to elevate Trump, who was the Democrats’ preferred opponent all the way up to Election Day, but also to sabotage progressives like Sanders and Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein. For eight years, President Obama made the case that Russia was our ally while Republicans attacked him for it. Now, in left-wing circles, you get called "comrade" if you demand that the National Security State show evidence of their charges. In order to survive, the primary goals of the Democratic Party must always be the elimination of opposition voices and convincing progressive and moderate voters that the Democratic Party is their only option. What better way to sabotage and censor than to sidetrack from the stories of their own misdeeds and spin a story instead of how the oppressor has supposedly been wronged? The only alternative option would be to repent, give back the corporate bribes, replace the compromised with new leaders, and go to work for the people, and that's not going to happen.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Yankee, go home

If you know a military member that's been stationed overseas at any time during the last ten years... or twenty years... there's a good chance that that person has been deployed to Afghanistan or the Persian Gulf as part of a war operation. We hear a lot about those assignments. But there's also a good chance that that man or woman has lived for a time in one of two other countries-- Germany and South Korea.

World War II ended in 1945. Documents were signed. It was in all the papers. But American military forces have maintained major military footprints since at the locations of both the old, dismantled Berlin Wall and throughout the Pacific. We're still holding back Communism on the Korean Peninsula even since the "police action" in Korea paused in a cease-fire in the summer of 1953. That truce represents the moment when most Americans-- because they have been continuously told-- came to believe that a three-year and never-declared "war" between North and South Korea came to an end. But its Cold War, complete with defense build-ups, trade sanctions, undercover ops and targeted violence, has continued. Thus, the presence of the American military at the edge of the Korean Demilitarized Zone for the last 65 years. We are still 23,000 servicemembers strong in South Korea. The peninsula has been more or less out of the mindset of Americans since 1953 (except for the eleven seasons M*A*S*H was on the air)-- but America, as you could probably guess, is still a major presence in the lives of North Koreans. The USS Pueblo naval ship, captured by the North Koreans in 1968 and never decommissioned by the U.S. Navy, still sits docked along the Potong River in Pyongyang, a daily reminder from the North Korean government to its people of United States ongoing war games in their backyard.

Does it ever strike you as strange that your country's military has a presence in foreign countries, but other countries don't have a similar presence in ours? We certainly do harbor fears about a lot of different peoples. We are armed under the U.S. banner inside hundreds of countries. Nothing of the military apparatus has been dismantled since the time of the early build-up of the Cold War. Nothing has even checked the growth. We have bases in Germany and South Korea, but also in Niger, Djibouti, Italy, Greece, Japan, and Kosovo, and even in countries like Cuba with which we don't offer diplomatic relations. Conversely, the Italian military is not based in part here in the U.S. The National Army of the Republic of Djibouti does not house its North American Command within our borders. The Greek armed forces don't have an installation in, say, the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex. Isn't that odd to you?


This has been an extraordinary weekend in geo-politics. The Olympics are on-- and during this round they're actually serving the larger purpose for which they are routinely marketed-- that is, thawing the often-chilly relationships between countries. This one could be historic. North and South Korea are joint participants in the winter games at Pyeongchang. The North-South Korea women's hockey team has game. The respective leaders in the North and South, Kim Jong-un and Moon Jae-in, agreed to have the two countries join forces on the snow and ice. Kim's sister, 28-year-old Kim Yo-jong, the first member of the ruling Kim family to cross the border into the South since 1953, was seated with the South Korean hosts at the opening ceremonies, a lunch was shared the following day, and a summit might be in the works for later this year after Kim Yo-jong passed a note to Moon on behalf of her brother.

And the United States is having none of it.

U.S. Vice President Pence was at the opening ceremonies also-- seated just a few feet away from the Koreans. He stayed seated for the passing of the North and South Korean athletes. On Wednesday, in Tokyo, he vowed renewed U.S. sanctions for North Korea. (New sets of embargoes are arriving now about once a month. The most recent were three weeks ago.) On the topic of warming relations between these ancient Asian siblings with shared customs and history, North and South Korea, the guy from Columbus, Indiana weighed in with this, "I'm announcing that the United States of America will soon unveil the toughest and most aggressive round of sanctions on North Korea ever, and we will continue to isolate North Korea until it abandons its nuclear and ballistic missile programs once and for all." Then after touching down in Seoul for the ceremonies, his message drew upon the symbolic, cooperative spirit of the locking Olympic rings: "We will not allow North Korean propaganda to hijack the message and imagery of the Olympic Games. We will not allow North Korea to hide behind the Olympic banner the reality that they enslave their people and threaten the wider region." Take that, Kim Jong-un. And take that, Moon Jae-in.

This is what the U.S. does-- and it didn't start with the Trump administration. We are not neutral players, as we often profess. In this case, we are not even weighted allies of one side against another. We are saboteurs. The military industrial complex, the one famously warned by President Eisenhower that certainly grew in size beyond even his wildest imagination, is a tiger in the basement that needs to be relentlessly fed, hemorrhaging the budget while putting us all in danger. The news media plays along as propagandist. Dennis Rodman was pilloried-- universally-- for traveling to Pyongyang and meeting with Kim last June, but now his visit looks prescient. This blog was probably the only place you read praise for Rodman at that time. His diplomatic trip, which curiously did not carry the blessing of anyone in the official American diplomatic community, did not carry that blessing because it ran afoul of our perverse motivations. Rodman did not attempt to dehumanize. He did not misrepresent. He did not traffic in paranoia. He was not intruding there on behalf of American business.

Well, now Moon Jae-in, the president of South Korea, is Dennis Rodman, and what choo you all got to say about that? Pence looked the fool sitting there in the front row of the Koreans' box-- disengaged, arrogant, ignorant, sullen and severe. You can find plenty of images of this online to chuckle over. He looks like he's photo-bombing the rest of them. The Japanese president-- no fan of North Korea-- said hello to Kim Yo-jong. Pence refused to speak to her. (So he's not even a gentleman-- and he's embarrassing Midwestern Americans.) He looked like an ungrateful guest-- and probably at a certain point he was an unwelcomed one. As he left South Korea, he told reporters, "there's no daylight between the United States, the Republic of Korea, and Japan on the need to continue to isolate North Korea economically and diplomatically." But the reality seems to be that there's quite a lot of daylight there. The Koreans were literally passing notes to each other behind his back.

Sunday, February 04, 2018

Lies My Blogger Told Me

Do ever find yourself in this situation? Here's you: I would like to read the Chris Moeller Blog, but my home PC and/or lap top is too difficult to manage when I’m on the move, unlike, say, a 330 page book that catches snugly in the crevice of my underarm while I'm carrying groceries. Do you ever catch yourself muttering under your breath and to nobody in particular-- I have a smart phone, but I’m dangerously low on data this month, and/or concerned that, despite the absence of supporting scientific data, the radiofrequency energy and non-ionizing radiation from my cellular phone is increasing my risk of a cancerous tumor? And does this ever cross your mind-- I like the Chris Moeller Blog, but only about 1 in 15 posts have actual merit and have been worth reading? Or maybe you’ve been confronted with the following dilemma-- I’ve never been able to read the Chris Moeller Blog because maybe I’m a Neo-Luddite and I don’t have a computer and I have no way of reading this now.

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, or your reaction to the ones that aren’t actually questions is confusion, problem solved. I want to interest you in a book. It’s called Lies My Blogger Told Me: The Best of the Chris Moeller Blog 2004-2017, and it’s being released by Lulu Publishing in February 2018!

All your favorites are here. The politics, the baseball harangues, the celebrity obituaries. Blog posts like "Fogel fresh," "I don't like soccer and you can't make me," "The roots of Ben Affleck and a nation," and "Letterman Tribute #8." Many of the blog posts are presented with new introductions that update the topic or change the gist of the original completely. This is a high performance book with a V8 engine, an eight-speed automatic transmission, and a satin-black hood. It corners like a snake in a rat hole.

How much would you pay for such a book? Sixty dollars? Sixty-five dollars? You're not even close. Seriously though, how much? Prices are still being determined. I think it's a book you'll like it. It's going to be available in both hard cover and paperback. There's a lot more about me in it than there is about you, but you might be name-dropped in the back somewhere. It will make you forget how lonely you are and how meaningless life in America has become. And here's the best part. I didn't know this about the publishing business, but apparently it's true: It doesn't matter how many of the books you buy for yourself and for your friends and family, Lulu will just print more. The more you buy, the more they'll keep printing new copies with essentially no upper limit. So don't hold back. We're not at that magic release date quite yet, but it's around the bend, and you'll be able to purchase through me and this site. The proofs are approved. The presses are heating. Prepare your checkbooks.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

A People's History of Moeller Television Festival XVI

How did the TV Festival go on Saturday? It's easier if I put it in the words of the participants. What follows is a collection of some of the comments that were hand-scribed onto index cards and submitted into the meticulously-decorated comment box (i.e. a re-purposed tissue box). It could have been during any one of the 14 TV show viewings that took place on Saturday while the no-talking rule was in strictest order. This is not all of the comments, but plenty of them to be sure. I present to you my favorites, that is, the ones that lack the context of the moment when they appear here three days after the fact but still hint at the brilliance of the authors. We commence. Next year in Jerusalem!!


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Don't forget to turn off cell phones and beepers.

Thanks especially to Tim for coming from Peoria and Jamie from Schaumburg, IL.

So this is what happens at your wing night Wednesdays

Saul Star is looking good for his age

I vote hot enough for television. Signed Groucho

What no love for Tootie?

This is why TV is better than the internet

How much did Blake Shelton pay for this product placement?

The recent focus of public discussion on the systemic barriers faced by literally all women is starting to feel like special pleading. Enough already #NotAllMen

G-C add 9 - A-D on a 12-string Martin = Gold!

Why is there a salon hair drying chair?

Susan Anton hot enough for network TV
 
I propose we bring back the sweater vest.

Did Aaron and Chris come out in formation?

Waiting is the hardest part, but every minute Moeller reads another card.

Tom Petty has a face like an eighteenth century paper boy

White tights are a daring fashion choice for giving birth

I think of this episode every time a "normal guy" tries to engage me in sports-type talk.

Why do British shows look different?

I like how the kissing scene wasn't just fan service, but was worked into the plot.

I can't see the TV. Signed Groucho

If you like Flight of the Concords, you will love Rattlesnake Master

Bowie rocks

Aaron Moeller, you have got it going on

In addition to our shout out to those who came the furthest, a shout out to the guest who supplied our charcuterie plate

Who's going to be the lighting director when Emily leaves?

All these Open Remote shows with foreign actors and accents is a real slap in the face to the Moellers and their usual Trump-like America First TV Festival

This is one weird Munsters episode

I have heard termites are high in protein and taste like mint

Gunther needs a website that translates Leonard Bernstein

Fact: In 1962 cars only drove in straight lines. No turns

Aardvark before Aaron. The great book tells us so. The dictionary.

But, I think you're nonchalant

Good thing it wasn't a Jamaican garden, it be nothing but weeds... ba dum bing!

This is what the first fests were like. All the VHS shows had commercials.

Next year's charcuterie special-- Chad's world famous hog face

Weird violin music equals student film

Brian Urlacher played middle linebacker for the Chicago Bears. Hopefully, he will be voted into the Hall of Fame next week.

Aubrey Plaza is the most nonchalant actress I've ever seen

Lying naked on concrete has got to be hard on the pecker

Watching Rachel Ray while doing heroin sounds pretty great

What's a juice cleanse? Also, from the last show, I forgot to ask, what's a text alert? Signed, Groucho

If you come to US Cellular Monday morning with your Moeller TV Festival program, get 30% off Nest home security camera.

Best bass line in a theme song

"Can you give me a break, Tom, for old time's sake?" "Afraid I can't do that, Sal."

Jack Soo's name is in all my crossword puzzles.

3rd best bass line in a tv show theme. Seinfeld gets second

Markie would give any man a post

Took us 16 years to get to Night Court

2018 to-do-- learn the Curb Your Enthusiasm tuba line

"Bad chicken-- mess you up"

I'm glad to see the Jewish culture has become the mainstream. Signed, Groucho


Sunday, January 28, 2018

Moeller Television Festival XVI- The greetings

Another Moeller-fest has come and gone and I'll just say that we broke a few windows. It's traditional to post the two greetings that Aaron and I write for the festival's program. Here they are a day after the fact. If you couldn't make it, you were missed.

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A Western Union telegram sent from Chris Moeller to his brother, Aaron, prior to the world's first television festival in 2002:


YUR IDEA IS GENIUS STOP  SO IMPRESSED STOP  WITH YUR BRILLIANCE REFLECTED IN COLLEGE TV CRITICISM CLASS AND NATURAL FLAIR 4 PARTIES COMBINED WITH MY 2ND BANANA ABILITIES AND SKILLS CHANGING REMOTE CONTROL BATTERIES THEY WILL NEVER FORGET THIS EVENT STOP  PLY THEM WITH ALCOHOL FOOD PENS BLANK COMMENT CARDS THEY WONT WANT TO LEAVE STOP  PLUS ONLY WEIRDOS USE THIS NEW INTERNET THING AND PEOPLE STILL HAVE AMAZING ATTENTION SPANS STOP



An email sent from Chris Moeller to his brother, Aaron, a few weeks ago:


Boy, I was right all those years ago stop. your idea was definitely genius stop.  I think we have a great lineup this year comma, but remember to keep reminding people I have a book coming out colon: a collection of scripts for a Taxi remake set in an Uber garage stop. We've kept this thing going from its earliest days where everything was on home videotape comma, thru the era of DVDs comma, thru a year with every episode culled from 8 tracks comma, the year we acted out an entire Perfect Strangers episode comma, parentheses (you were right you should have been Balky closed parentheses) thru the streaming age and beyond stop. Let's keep plying them with alcohol and other sedative laden foods comma, they won't want the great television to ever stop stop.

Aaron Moeller


---

 

Micah Finley has to take four different metro Philadelphia buses to get to school each day. The 17-year-old travels from the Glenwood neighborhood, an area on the city’s near north side identifiable by the block upon block of boarded-up rowhouses and storefronts, to the all-boys, college preparatory Haverford School, located 10 miles west of the city center. He can usually get a ride home at night from the sister of one of his classmates.


Micah’s mother Trudy works three jobs, all three for little more than minimum wage. Since Micah’s father died in Vietnam (in 2014), it’s just the two of them now inside this tiny flat on Percy Street. So when Micah returns from Haverford each afternoon, he’s alone for several hours . Back in Trudy’s day, Micah would have been called a latchkey kid, but today, a lot of the traditional door locks have been replaced by those hotel room swipe cards, or they can probably unlock the door with a Smartphone app or some Star Wars shit like that. Often times there’s also a four-person film crew at the house led by a Drexel University grad student with an NEA grant that has shot over 250 hours of footage of Micah’s life.

Trudy’s meager income would not go far in paying for Micah’s tuition at the Haverford School, an academic institution that sees fit to list the entire list of its headmasters throughout history on its Wikipedia page. Tuition and fees for a high school student runs annually to more than $38,000. Instead, a wealthy elderly patron and Haverford alum pays Micah’s way. Micah, you see, has a talent that Haverford desires—one that the world desires. Micah plays table tennis. He plays it well. Very well. He’s really quite good at it.

During the summer, on playgrounds throughout Philadelphia’s so-called “badlands,” young boys with no other way off these drug-infested streets play table tennis. There are no Asians around to voice an objection when Micah and his friends refer to the game, in their politically-incorrect street patois, as “ping pong.” Talent scouts from suburban private schools, and even some colleges, stand along the chain link fences on the playground and watch the paddlers compete in high-intensity pick-up table matches. These informal public showcases draw large crowds of observers, and for the players, are often as much about impressing the neighborhood girls—or the neighborhood boys, if the player is homosexual, as about securing a future for themselves away from this economically-impoverished community.

Micah doesn’t have time to do much else besides play table tennis. Haverford provides him with a private tutor for his studies, but his time at school is spent mostly inside one of the academy’s three gymnasiums devoted to table tennis. The “Fords” of Haverford Prep are hoping to ride Micah’s Seemiller grip and rapid reflexes to a win over their arch-rivals at Episcopal Academy this spring, and ultimately, to the Pennsylvania State Table Tennis Championship at Bethlehem. His time after school, likewise, is spent leaning over the lopsided tables with the make-shift nets in these Glenwood parks. Here he polishes his game. At home, he practices his backhand chop by throwing the salt and pepper shakers into the air and striking them as hard as he can into the kitchen backsplash tile. He masturbates every two hours to strengthen the tendons of his flexor muscles. He dreams about his future whether he’s asleep or awake. He rehearses his victory smile in the bathroom mirror, his arms outstretched in triumph.

The Summer Olympic Games of 2020 beckon just beyond that horizon.

Chris Moeller
Co-founder, Moeller Television Festival



Sunday, January 21, 2018

Moeller Television Festival XVI-- The schedule

MTF 16 is in the can. No, it hasn't taken place yet. That will be this Saturday at noon at Aaron's home in Cedar Rapids (you're all invited-- email me). But copies of each of the TV shows have been found and you'll find the schedule revealed below. We had four episode suggestions from you and they're each included as well. Ten of the fourteen series have never been featured before. We're really proud of this one, and want to hear what you have to say about it. But now is not the time. Save it for the comment box.


THE SCHEDULE

"12 Angry Men Inside Amy Schumer" Inside Amy Schumer #23 COM 5/5/15

"No Baby, No Show" It's Garry Shandling's Show #18 SHO 11/6/87

"Are We Not Men?" The IT Crowd #14 British Channel 4 11/28/08 Submitted by Jenn Shaeffer and Chad Chopard

"Bowie" Flight of the Conchords #6 HBO 7/22/07 Submitted by Cory Grundmeyer

"How Smart Can You Get?" Car 54, Where Are You? #23 NBC 2/25/62

"The Butler Did It" Police Squad! In Color #3 ABC 3/18/82

"Hey, I'm Solving Here!" Angie Tribeca #26 TBS 5/15/17

"Package Thief" Easy #9 Netflix 12/1/17 Submitted by Jamie Marchiori

"Keys Open Doors" You're the Worst #3 FX 7/31/14 Submitted by Rob Semelroth

"Bail" Baskets #13 FX 2/2/17

"Rand Report" Barney Miller #49 ABC 1/20/77

"Fortune and Men's Weight" Cheers #39 NBC 2/2/84

"Another Day in the Life" Night Court #95 NBC 2/18/88

"Palestinian Chicken" Curb Your Enthusiasm #73 HBO 7/24/11


Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Hugh Wilson 1943-2018

Hugh Wilson died on Sunday, but word of his passing did not hit the web until today. That fact fits the man's outsider status throughout a long career working in Hollywood. He lived in Charlottesville, Virginia the last 26 years of his life, teaching screenwriting at the University of Virginia, even as he continued to be active writing and directing.

Wilson created a damned good TV show called Frank's Place, starring Tim Reid, that lasted only the 1987-88 season but was nominated for a Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Comedy Series. It was the writer's follow-up to his creation of WKRP in Cincinnati, which ran from 1978 to 1982, earned two Outstanding Comedy nominations, and is the greatest television show in history. Here's what I wrote about it when I counted down the 50 greatest shows back in 2009.