Where House of Cards Falls Down


WARNING: Contains Spoilers.

My dear friend and occasional platonic gay lover, Patrick Galey was the last in a long line of recommendations that led me to download the political drama House of Cards. My expectations were quite high, not only is Patrick one of only, perhaps, five other people on earth to love The Wire as much as I do and truly understand the gravitas of its social commentary, but the show starred Kevin Spacey as Francis Underwood, the democratic party whip and would be king-maker in Washington. He is a captivating and well portrayed character, as is his wife Claire, played by Robin Wright. Unfortunately I feel both actors exceptional talents are underplayed by a script featuring far too many shots of Claire gathering her-secretly-emotional-self between steely encounters. We get it. She wants a baby and stuff. The same goes for the shots of Kevin Spacey’s fake smile falling away to deadpan as the suckers turn their backs. These repetitions aside our leading couple, positioned somewhere between the Kennedys and the Sopranos, are as seductive to me as they are to their “I work in the media and have a great body” lovers on the side.

Most of the credit for this has to go to the actors and shooters. As so often with movies and TV of late, the delivery outstrips the quality of the writing it is delivering. This makes sense.

Writing is the master art, the biggest rosebush in the garden, bursting forth from right beneath the rock from whence spring flows. As the flow from this spiritual and intellectual fountainhead of modern genius weakens, it is the first to wither.

The weak points in House of Card’s writing, specifically, come, as is so often the case, at the juncture of personality and sex. Kevin Spacey’s character tossing his lovers iPhone into the glass of water, saying he would buy her a new one, because he’s a big important man and that means you get to ruin other people’s stuff and not say sorry.

This isn’t as bad as the honey-trap-hooker sent to as part of the plan to bring down Senator Peter Russo (Corey Stone) in Episode 10. She says “I get drunk… then I get undressed”. We’re really at “it’s getting hot in here, so take off all your clothes” levels of subtlety and suggestion.

This is also the second time in the series where an immensely powerful and charismatic man, who would have a smorgasbord of sexual options in the real world, gets nervous and jealous like a 13 year old with a crush because a pretty girl flirts with them.

Russo’s relapse generally was – despite a chillingly executed murder scene- overall lazy writing. It was the easiest possible take-down, and, just like the dog Underwood kills in the series’s opening scene, Russo goes down without a real fight. Once again the vagina serves as a deus ex machina. Similarly, the drunken disaster interview goes to absurd lengths, just as with the “vowel movement” scene, it is a case where more is less.

At times, however, the plot’s failures go beyond merely lazy writing and reflect a deep misreading of the political zeitgeist.

When the lobbyist for the teachers union punches the congressman in the face during an argument, as far as the public knew, over collective bargaining, he would have become a cult hero. He would have had his own hashtag, t-shirts and a web-hosted express meme generator.

What’s more, when he needed a picket-line of a few hundred teachers he could have got them, and they would have cared about eating tomorrow as well.

Perhaps most galling was the portrayal of female journalists, one of whom we see, and the other of whom we hear about, using their feminine wiles, rather than investigative grit or even sycophantic “networking”, to get ahead in the industry. While it might be interesting and worthwhile to examine how journalists, especially women, are enticed to prostittute themselves, this is basically all we see of them until more than halfway through the series. Soon after their actual journalistic work becomes the focus, I also noticed, a male colleague turned lover shows up and takes a leadership role. One wonders if the writers have even heard of Helen Thomas, who – despite having a vagina – was known as one of the toughest reporters in Washington for decades.

There is of course much to be said for the show’s thrust at Washington’s dark heart, but it seems to me their angle is slightly off.

Perhaps the second thrust will hit the mark. Season 2 begins early 2014. I’ll be watching.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments

Puppy bomb hoax: Mainstream media biased towards the Brotherhood?

I only reblog the very best…

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Why I am so angry.


Firstly, yes, obviously, in a sense, you’re all right. The problem is me. But it isn’t (just) that I’m an angry personality. Don’t mistake cause and effect here.

The cause of my anger is my cowardice and the constant tugging desire to succumb, to fold, to make peace with the existing order and sink beneath the fucking waves. To give in. To get a “real job” (doing useless or actively harmful work) and avoid starting fights.

It is this cowardice in myself which is the real enemy, and at whom my wroth is mostly directed.

I remembered recently watching Peter Manning interview Antony Loewenstein back in Sydney, around the release of the second edition of his book “My Israel Question”.

Manning had asked him, if he really, truly honestly, didn’t believe in a Jewish state.

Mannings charming, almost pleading nature seemed cut through, and for a second I saw Loewenstein’s face go soft. His eyes glazed over. I could see in his eyes the warm love of the Australian Jewish Community, or the dream of it at least, rising up in his chest, lapping against the bottom of his heart. Then a crease broke across his forehead, a sad hardness came into his eyes, followed by a mild facial contortion. He physically sat forward. “No! and not a Christian state or an Islamic state!”

Loewenstein’s positions on this have evolved as it happens, as explored in a book he recently co-authored.

But they have evolved independently, not as a result of caving in to the forces of the mental and moral assimilation which in our society that reside like a V8 engine, under a cheap aluminium bonnet of consumerist “diversity”.

The point I was exploring here anyway, was one of character, not position.

The hypothetical person who never has never experienced these moments of internal conflict would have to be 100% brave or 100% a coward. Which do you think is a greater statistical likelihood?

The extent to which a person is characterised by this kind of personal torment, I feel is often a good indicator of the extent to which they have breathed life into this more moral self, which is latent in us all, behind the default functional personality society requires we construct, which is cowardly and banal to the point of evil.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Capitalist Corporate Collectivism

The first minisode from me and Dr Joe’s “Very Serious Cats” talks, which we intend to continue. In this one Joeexplains what capitalists already know, that collective action is the key to success. He cites John Stuart Mill’s position on labour unions to flesh the point out.

Video | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Two tiny rappers who broke my heart.

If I had to guess I’d say the boy was four, the girl six. I’m not good with ages though, and am new at navigating these strong Andean faces. I assumed they were brother and sister but I didn’t check.

They got on at the same stop as me, and off when I did too. The whole time they kept looking at me, especially the girl. I was the only white guy on the bus, and they knew I’d probably have a larger wad of folded notes in my pocket than the average passenger on Quito’s public transport. They were right, not only that I had my smaller, cheaper camera, which only cost as much as their whole family saw in several months, hanging on a short strap over one shoulder, inside my jacket like my mate Giovani taught me in Cairo. They have to get the jacket off you to steal it that way.

I couldn’t understand the Spanish, so when they got on behind me and the girl started talking to the passengers as if addressing a school assembly hall to introduce a Christmas play, I assumed she was just giving them all a sob story about how her brother and her needed money to get home to their village or whatever.

Then the beat started, booming out of a tiny little square speaker box, slung over her shoulder in much the same manner as my camera. It was something from a commercial hip hop track that was big a year or two ago, but I couldn’t quite place it. Then the four year old started rapping. It was in Spanish, so I couldn’t follow it, but he was fucking tight. So was she when she joined in doing back up vocals and then the second verse, which I could tell involved a joke about the stingy gringo at the back, after a long and probing state from her calm, intelligent, hardened, beautiful little black eyes failed to produce the intended result.

My first instinct was to pull the camera out of course, this was gold. I could drop them five bucks and have an absolute stunner of a -check out this authentic third world awesomeness- youtube video. People would love it. But suddenly I felt sick and wanted to cry. These kids should be in school. Instead they were out, dirty faces, tired eyes, hopping from bus to bus performing not for joy or creative personal development but for my spare change. I could throw them $5 for a 2 minute video, or $20. or $100. They could easily have ended up being the money shot for a piece about the street performers of Quito that my wife and I have been looking to sell for a while now. But in this case showcasing their incredible little talent would have been cashing in on their suffering.The kids were like coal turned into diamonds, crushed into perfect sparkling form by the mountainous weight of society above them, pushing down.

To keep operating as I have been, and as is the mode of most journalists, would have been to focus on these shiny little diamonds, these incredible examples of human beings’ creative ability to survive.

Not me, not any more. My story is about the mountain, about what it is they have had to survive.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Noam Chomsky on Egypt’s Coup

Below is a short email interview I conducted with Noam Chomsky regarding the coup in Egypt.

Q. Are you pleased or upset by the events in Egypt over the last month or so?

 A. Upset

How have these events changed the outlook for Egyptian democracy and the Arab Spring generally?

A setback, in my opinion, though many of the gains remain.

How would you characterise the relationship between the US, Israeli and Egyptian military/intelligence communities?

As far as I know, nothing significant has changed.  The US provides Egypt with substantial military aid, in the hope and expectation of having influence over its actions.  We have no detailed information about intelligence relations but they are doubtless close.  The Israel-Egypt security arrangements seem not to have changed materially.

How would you compare this to the relationship between the Muslim Brotherhood and any allies they have in Washington?

The Obama administration was mildly supportive of the MB government, which maintained the neoliberal programs that the US favors and the existing security arrangements, but the MB does not have close allies in Washington.

Do you see the events as a coup?


What actions specifically, if any, do you think Mohammad Morsi or the brotherhood took which justify the intervention by the military?

There have been “bills of particulars” offered by June 30th supporters, of varying credibility in my opinion. But I’ve seen nothing to justify calling in the military to overthrow the elected government, however flawed the elections or objectionable the post-election policies, and I expect that the faith now often expressed in the benign intentions of the military will prove severely misplaced.


Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 16 Comments

Egypt: A Terrible Old Joke


I have been reminded recently of an awful joke about Egyptians that I cannot help but share.

It’s back in the days of Mubarak, and the US is worried about looking bad funding a dictatorship, so they tell Mubarak he needs to show everyone how tolerant he is of dissent. “But how?” he asks.

“Simple”, the envoy informs him,”just give some ground to a protest movement”.

“But there are no protest movements in Egypt!”, complains Mubarak.

“Well you’ll have to find a way to create one,” says the envoy with the finality of empire.

Mubarak and his aids decide, once the envoy has left, to put a toll on every bridge across the Nile, a pound every time people travel from East to West.  Nothing happens. So they raise the toll to 2 pounds, and charge it going both ways. Still nothing.

“Right,” says Mubarak “enough of this, we’ll put a soldier on every bridge, and as well as paying the toll, you have to get fucked in the arse by him before you can cross. Surely that will get them protesting.”

The next day, sure enough, a crowd forms outside the palace, demanding attention. Mubarak asks for a delegation to be sent in. They arrive, major secular leaders, Azhar Sheikhs and Coptic priests amongst them.

They are ushered in and take their seats before Mubarak’s desk. “Well?” he says,”What’s the problem”

The delegations spokesperson, in this version an established expert on nuclear diplomacy, speaks firmly, with all the conviction of a true Egyptian liberal:

“We demand more soldiers on the bridges. The traffic is moving too slowly.”

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment