BREAKING: Incomprehensible Shouting Named Official U.S. Language

Full coverage tonight at 10/9c on IFC TV. Congress has deemed yelling and screaming as the nation’s official mode of communication.

“Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” Review

Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice is a superhero film that has been in production for several years, with its controversial cast being announced all the way back in the fall of 2013. Since then, due to the hiring of Chris Terrio to help write the screenplay, the film was pushed back a full year to fully realize the greatness that is America’s two biggest superhero icons duking it out to the death. The film is directed by Zack Snyder (Watchmen, Man of Steel, 300, Sucker Punch), written by Chris Terrio (Argo) and David S. Goyer (Batman Begins, Blade), and stars Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne/Batman, Henry Cavill as Clark Kent/Superman, Gal Gadot was Wonder Woman, Jeremy Irons as Alfred, Amy Adams as Lois Lane, and Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor. Laurence Fishburne, Diane Lane, and Holly Hunter play other characters. The story centers on the controversy in Metropolis surrounding the man-god Kryptonian savior Superman in the aftermath of the events of 2013’s Man of Steel, a film that was lambasted for compromising its protagonist’s heroic image with his blind destruction of the vast majority of the city in the name of beating up one dude he didn’t like, resulting in thousands of civilian casualties and probably a couple 9/11’s worth of property damage. This was a problem that Batman v. Superman promised to address, as Bruce Wayne/Batman, resident and vigilante protector of the neighboring and similarly crime-ridden Gotham City, sees the destruction firsthand, and thinks Superman is flaunting a lot of unchecked power and posing as a hero without understanding the consequences of his other-worldly power. The United States government seems to agree with Batman on this one, as a Kentucky senator is trying to propose (incredibly vague) restrictions on Superman’s hero activity. Superman has problems with the Bat as well, criticizing his vigilante justice practices. So, they have a little spat. Add a ton of other shit and you have this movie.

Batman v. Superman is an absolute mess. I want to make that clear from the get-go. Let me first, though, say the things that this movie does well (don’t worry, this won’t take long). First of all, the casting of Ben Affleck, which three years ago seemed to some as a sin against humanity, ends up being the most reliably good thing in this movie. Affleck brings his A-game, as does Irons as his assistant Alfred, who provides all two of the amusing parts of the entire movie. The cinematography has Zack Snyder’s signature touch, in that it’s dark and often very pretty, and yes, there is ample slow-mo. The action sequences are hit or miss (more on that later), but a number of them are fairly well-done, curiously all of them having Batman at their center. Not only is Batman an inherently more interesting and malleable character, but also seems to make for much more compelling action. The actual fight with Superman is suitably tense and pretty exciting, as are the scenes, both real and imagined, of Batman throwing down with armored baddies – even if they are a tad excessive in brutality. The score is also decent, even if the choir sections are pretty ridiculous.

The film, probably thanks to having one-half of its writing team be a pretty good screenwriter (Terrio), does have a story that lends itself to some themes that are interesting on paper, and are what primarily got me excited about the movie in the first place. The idea of essentially an indestructible god being among humankind and how mankind would deal with that is inherently intriguing, as is the theme of what limits should be placed on and what litigation should be allowed in regards to the activities of superhumans (although this idea was much better examined already in The Incredibles). Especially in the first half of the movie, these themes are given some light as we get to know the motivations behind Batman and Superman and try to understand their philosophical squabble. This is where the list of the good things about the movie ends. On to the excrement.

Now, like I just said, this movie’s story, when handled well, lends itself to some inherently very thought provoking themes regarding the relation between gods and men, conflicting ideas of justice, and the political implications of a superhero in the modern world. The first 100 minutes or so of this movie are largely action-free and are almost entirely devoted to setting up these ideas. The remaining 50 minutes are mostly allocated toward brainless, poorly put together action sequences underscored by character decisions that not only completely bury any semblance of cohesion or conclusiveness to the themes harped on so aggressively in the first act, but also actively make these themes make no sense at all.

One of the most intriguing things about BvS’s premise was its seeming legitimizing of the mind-numbing pointless cataclysm at the climax of Man of Steel. It almost covered up for one of that movie’s biggest flaws by making it the starting point for the entire plot, seeing as how Batman sees that destruction as reason enough to try and destroy Superman. Unfortunately, the ethical codes of these characters are completely muddled and nonsensical in the last two-thirds of the movie. Batman suddenly becomes a vicious, remorseless murderer despite his claims for superhero accountability for collateral damage, and Superman (with the help of Batman and the two minutes Wonder Woman pretends to matter on screen) causes and/or facilitates arguably even wider destruction and casualties in his “heroic” efforts, yet these are conveniently glossed over. Lex Luthor had the opportunity to have an interesting motivation regarding his borderline atheism and fear of a godlike creature, but it ends up getting lost in Jesse Eisenberg’s weird, twitchy monologues that end up coming off goofy instead of menacing the majority of the time. When your main villain’s haunting final scene gets laughs from the audience, your villain is not working.

All of these motivations and themes are completely devoid of cohesion, and the film instead elects partway through to pull a complete 180 from a tense, dark, outwardly political (not necessarily good) superhero movie to a loud, obnoxious video game. My mind has become completely numb to almost all computer generated imagery, and yet these superhero movies seem to be having a contest to one-up each other with how many virtual fireworks displays they can shoehorn to the film’s climax. The already pretty muddled and empty attempts at depth made in BvS are made even more shallow and pointless as the third act tries scene by scene to best itself by how much shit it can clutter the frame with. The inky Instagram filter lighting, break-neck editing, and smudgy punk rock color palette turn the majority of the latter half’s action sequences into pure sensory overload, and by the end the action had become so tensionless and numbing to me that I was really just waiting for the credits to start because I’d already basically decided how I felt about the movie.

If the irksomely under-realized thematic material wasn’t enough to drag the already thin plot to its knees, there’s also the fact that Snyder’s self-indulgent slow-motion and inclusion of repeats of pretty imagery we saw before bloat the already insultingly huge running time even further, and the one potentially risky story move toward the end (and also the only thing about the entire movie not shown in the trailer) is completely negated in the sequel-guaranteeing final shot. Oh yeah, we also have some sequels to set up for, which results in a number of incredibly rushed, forced, and groan-inducing flash-forwards to the Justice League that honestly felt really hammy. Remember how Age of Ultron was like the middle-point movie for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and had to kind of move all one thousand of its characters’ stories along by like an inch so they can each have their own movie, and as a result it was kind of a big jumbly mess? Yeah, well the DC Cinematic Universe has already had that movie now and we’re only two movies in, which is not a promising foundation for your dozen-odd-film meta-franchise.

Speaking of the Marvel movies, let’s use them as a means of illustrating what is probably the biggest surface-level problem with this movie – it’s not fun. At the very least, Age of Ultron was quippy, fast-paced, and had some characters we liked. Even if the action grew tiresome, the thought-provoking themes weren’t explored very well, and it was kind of overstuffed and overlong, at the very least I can say it’s a fast, fun movie to sit through. Batman v Superman tries to take a page from the Nolan Batman trilogy and take superhero stories more seriously, but somehow translates that into making the film overly grim, dark, and completely devoid of fun – yes, Batman v Superman makes Christopher Nolan seem subtle by comparison. Besides some small quips by Alfred (which seem super out of place within the rest of the movie), the only fun things are the cool action bits the trailers spoiled for us and unintentionally funny lines by the villain. Especially after seeing a movie like Deadpool, it’s really hard watching a superhero movie that doesn’t just take itself seriously, but is just brooding and dull and dreary. It’s dudes in spandex punching a swamp demon. You’re not directing fucking Hamlet, Zack Snyder. Have some fun with it.

Overall, Batman v Superman raised my expectations in its first act with some clever writing and themes and even some good action sequences, then proceeded to instead deliver exactly what the trailers made me believe beforehand that I would get, and also usurped all fun and advertised future movies in the process, all while completely ditching its potential to be powerful and drowning it in an incoherent, inconclusive 40-minute eyefuck. This movie isn’t complete shit. It’s just a blockbuster that tries to be ambitious, gives up, then tries to go by the numbers, and then gets the numbers wrong. Good thing I’m not a comic book fan so I only see this as a shitty movie and not some kind of act of sacrilege.

On my way out of the theater, I saw a 12-year-old girl walking out next to me that had a Batman shirt on that said, “That was probably the best movie I’ve ever seen.” And that’s a pretty good way to look at it. This movie will probably satiate the hunger of the least demanding of die-hard comic fans, and will probably give Zack Snyder fans a huge boner to add to his trophy room, but if you don’t fit in one of those categories, I don’t think it’s worth the trip to the theater. Just wait for Civil War like I’m doing.

Grade: C-

The impeachment crisis and US war plans against Russia

With each passing day of the impeachment crisis, the distance between the official reasons for the conflict in Washington and the real reasons grows wider.

It has become increasingly clear that the central issue is not Trump’s attempt to “solicit interference from a foreign country” by “pressuring a foreign country to investigate one of the president’s main domestic political rivals,” as alleged in the whistleblower complaint that triggered the impeachment inquiry.

Rather, the conflict raging within the state centers on Trump’s decision to temporarily delay a massive weapons shipment to Ukraine.

The ferocity with which the entire US national security apparatus responded to the delay raises the question: Is there a timetable for using these weapons in combat to fight a war against Russia?

A New York Times front-page exposé published Monday, coming in at 5,000 words and bearing six bylines, makes it clear that Trump’s decision to withhold military aid—over a month before his phone call with Ukrainian President Zelensky—triggered the conflict that led to the president’s impeachment.

As the Times reports, “Mr. Trump’s order to hold $391 million worth of sniper rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, night vision goggles, medical aid and other equipment the Ukrainian military needed to fight a grinding war against Russian-backed separatists would help pave a path to the president’s impeachment.”

The newspaper states that Trump decided to hold up the distribution of military aid to Ukraine on June 19 after he read a news article saying that the “Pentagon would pay for weapons and other military equipment for Ukraine, bringing American security aid to the country to $1.5 billion since 2014.”

Trump’s action sparked a “fiery internal debate,” according to the Times, leading to an intervention by the “national security team” arrayed in a “united front” around National Security Advisor John Bolton, an architect of the Iraq war.

After Trump rejected the officials’ calls for the aid to be released, saying, “We are pissing away our money,” details of the hold on the military assistance were leaked to the press and a high-ranking CIA official submitted a “whistleblower” complaint accusing Trump of soliciting “dirt” on his political rival.

The CIA spun up its “Mighty Wurlitzer.” The intelligence agencies and the media began promoting the narrative that Trump held up the military aid to hurt his political rival, even though Trump made his decision on the aid package a month before he asked Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden.

These actions would ultimately lead to only the third impeachment of a president in the history of the United States, throwing the country into a constitutional crisis with an unknown outcome.

All of this begs the question: Given the enormous political cost of impeachment to those who initiated it, what could possibly explain the urgency and ferocity with which the entire national security establishment responded to a delay in the distribution of weapons to Ukraine?

Is there a timetable for using these weapons in combat? Is the United States planning a provocation that would thrust Ukraine into a major new military offensive?

The Russian military is certainly drawing such conclusions. In a statement earlier in December, the chief of the Russian General Staff, Valery Gerasinov, said the increased tempo of US exercises in Eastern Europe indicates that the US is making plans for “using their forces in a large-scale military conflict.”

“Military activities are increasing in the Baltic States and Poland, in the Black and Baltic Seas,” Gerasimov said. “The intensity of the [NATO] bloc’s military exercises is growing. Their scenarios point to NATO’s deliberate preparation to use their forces in a large-scale military conflict.”

In February, the United States will ship some 20,000 soldiers to Europe to participate in a military exercise that will be the largest deployment of forces to the European continent in a quarter-century. The exercise, dubbed Defender 2020, will include 17,000 European troops and, according to Breaking Defense, see NATO forces “extend their logistics trains and communications lines from the Baltic to the Black Seas.” The exercise will cost $340 million.

The National Defense Authorization Act, passed with overwhelming bipartisan support within days of the House vote to impeach Trump, includes an additional $300 million in military aid to Ukraine as part of a record-shattering increase in US military spending.

Overall, the United States and its NATO allies have provided more than $18 billion in military and other aid to Ukraine since the 2014 US-backed coup that overthrew the pro-Russian president, Viktor Yanukovych, and installed the current pro-US regime. This was on top of what Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland bragged in 2013 was “over $5 billion” in aid to “ensure a secure and prosperous and democratic Ukraine.”

The bags of money handed out by the CIA via various “civil society” pass-throughs in Ukraine helped overthrow its elected government and bring to power a US proxy regime supported by the extreme right.

In 2013, the US supported a measure that would integrate Ukraine into a political association and trade pact with the EU. This was intended to pave the way for Ukraine joining NATO. When the Yanukovych government opposed the agreement, the US launched the 2014 coup, installing a puppet regime viciously hostile to Russia.

The 2014 coup was a pivotal point in the efforts of the United States to militarily encircle and ultimately carve up Russia. Since the dissolution of the USSR, the United States has led a systematic drive to expand NATO right up to and beyond the borders of the former USSR.

As Foreign Affairs notes:

In March 2004, NATO accepted into its ranks the three Baltic states—Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania—which were once part of the Soviet Union, and four other states. The accession of the Baltics signaled that NATO enlargement would not halt at the former border of the Soviet Union. The EU followed suit in May 2004, extending its border eastward to include a number of former Soviet republics and allies, including the Baltic states, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia.

But the US was taken aback by Russia’s determined response to the Ukraine coup. Russia annexed Crimea following a referendum in which the overwhelming majority of the population of the enclave supported leaving Ukraine. Moscow at the same time backed a secessionist movement in the country’s east.

Given these circumstances, Foreign Affairs writes:

In fact, that Ukraine is at the center of this storm [the impeachment crisis] should not be surprising at all. Over the past quarter-century, nearly all major efforts at establishing a durable post–Cold War order on the Eurasian continent have foundered on the shoals of Ukraine. For it is in Ukraine that the disconnect between triumphalist end-of-history delusions and the ongoing realities of great-power competition can be seen in its starkest form.

Despite the unforeseen and disastrous consequences of the CIA-backed coup in Ukraine, the United States is determined to continue its efforts to militarily encircle Russia, which it sees as a major obstacle to its central geopolitical aim—control of the Eurasian landmass, which would give it a staging ground for a conflict with China.

The relentless drive for military escalation has brought the Democrats into an alliance with the fascistic right in Ukraine, which has held street demonstrations to pressure President Zelensky to continue and escalate the US-backed proxy war against Russia.

One thing is clear. If there is indeed a timetable to use the hundreds of millions of dollars in weapons being transferred to Ukraine, such a war risks a nuclear escalation. In 2018, Elbridge A. Colby, one of the principal authors of the National Defense Strategy issued by the Pentagon in January of that year, published an article titled, “If You Want Peace, Prepare for Nuclear War.”

He wrote:

The risks of nuclear brinkmanship may be enormous, but so is the payoff from gaining a nuclear advantage over an opponent.

Any future confrontation with Russia or China could go nuclear… In a harder-fought, more uncertain struggle, each combatant may be tempted to reach for the nuclear saber to up the ante and test the other side’s resolve, or even just to keep fighting.

Amid a growing upsurge of the class struggle all over the world, the Trump administration, representing a despised and isolated capitalist class, can see in war a means to tamp down, as one comment in the Financial Times recently put it, the “class war” at home, and “make domestic antagonism seem beside the point, if not unconscionable.”

But it is the international growth of the class struggle that provides the means to oppose the war drive of the ruling elite. As mankind enters the third decade of the 21st century, the advanced stage of war preparations on the part of the ruling class makes it all the more urgent, in the immortal words of Leon Trotsky, to counterpose to the “war map” of the capitalists the “map of the class struggle.”

This means unifying the growing struggles and forging a common movement against war and attacks on democratic rights, as an essential part of the struggle for socialism.

The 6,000

High above the Manhattan skyline, in the early 70’s, over 6,000 of these prefabricated floor sections were hoisted by construction cranes and then set into place by union steel workers fabricating the World Trade Centers. On Sept. 11th 2001, according to the official record of that day, they simply fell and in so doing, disappeared into the history books as if they never existed.

I for one, would like to know how that is possible.

They were prefabricated elsewhere and lifted and set in place by the construction cranes, as pictured.

Some consisted of 3 trusses but most were made up of 4.

18′ wide by 60′ long, they were welded together along with the transverse mounted trusses (3 Bridging Trusses you can see in the picture) and the corrugated metal floor pans that the concrete for the floors was poured on top of.

“Two or more beams will be preassembled with steel decking and erected as a unit, to save erection time…” Engineering News Record

I reported yesterday that the trusses were made of A-36 structural steel. I was wrong. The columns were made of A-36 structural steel. The trusses were made of High-strength low-alloy (HSLA) which is quite a bit stronger than even A-36 structural steel, with a yield strength of up to 80,000 psi as compared to the 35,000 psi of A-36.

“Clear span of the floorbeams is as much as 60 ft. They will be fabricated of high-strength low-alloy steels.” Engineering News Record

“Their (HSLA steels) yield strengths can be anywhere between 250–590 megapascals (36,000–86,000 psi). Due to their higher strength and toughness HSLA steels usually require 25 to 30% more power to form, as compared to carbon steels.” Wiki

So in fact, the trusses themselves were made of stronger and harder metal than the columns were.

We know that the floors were brought in an set in place in sections, not just because the article from Engineering News Record says so, but also because we have photographic evidence that supports the claim.

In the photograph above, you can clearly see the floor sections are being set in place and one of them is laying on the lower floor (left side) waiting to be lifted installed.

From this other photo, we can see the same process.

When they were lowered into place as a prefabricated unit, they were bolted then welded to both the interior core columns and the exterior columns at the spandrels.

Then the next section would be brought in and it would then be bolted and welded in the same manner, but also then welded to the previous floor section at the floor pan and the transverse mounted trusses.

The end result, per floor, would look something like this prior to the pouring of the concrete floor.

Now why is all of this important?

According to the official explanation of the collapse of these two buildings, the upper section fell down on the lower, intact building, crushing the concrete into dust, and destroying the structural integrity of the building.

But no amount of pressure that could possibly have been generated by the upper block, or “piston”, can explain the virtual disappearance of the floor systems you are now looking at.

So what you should see, if nothing else, is at least several thousand of these lying scattered about the Ground Zero debris field.

Allow me to put this another way.

The standard size of these was 18′ x 60′. That equals 1,080 square feet of surface area for the floor pan.

A football field is 360 feet by 160 feet. That equals 57,600 square feet of surface area.

With those dimensions, it would take only 53 of these floor sections to cover an entire football field.

There were about 4,400 of these 60′ floor sections used to make the 220 floors of the Twin Towers.

That means that with just the 60′ sections alone, there were enough of these floor sections to cover 83 football fields. 83.

And again, I ask you, do you see anything that even resembles the floor sections (much less, 83 football fields worth of them)?

With 20 60′ prefabricated floor sections and 8 35′ sections per floor times 110 floors of each of the two World Trade Centers, that comes to over 6,000 welded floor sections that had to have “fallen” to the ground on Sept. 11th 2001.

I ask you to find one. Just one.

I can find them for you. Steven Jones already found them for you (he just called them something else) as did the RJ Lee study and the FEMA report.

They just look a little different now.

Now the question is, what could have turned the prefabricated floor systems into tons of “iron-rich” spheres in the blink of an eye?

My guess would be this.

Peter Kuznick on Untold History of the United States

American University historian Peter J. Kuznick talks with David Swanson of Talk Nation Radio about the 2012 documentary series directed, produced, and narrated by Oliver Stone.

The documentary miniseries for Showtime had a working title Oliver Stone’s Secret History of America. It covers “the reasons behind the Cold War with the Soviet Union, U.S. President Harry Truman’s decision to drop the atomic bomb on Japan, and changes in America’s global role since the fall of Communism.” Stone is the director and narrator of all ten episodes. The series is a re-examination of some of the under-reported and darkest parts of American modern history using little known documents and newly uncovered archival material. The series looks beyond official versions of events to the deeper causes and implications and explores how events from the past still have resonant themes for the present day.