Saturday, August 15, 2015

We Get What We Want

    Your buddy, Dale, would make a better president than anybody who is currently running for that office. He doesn’t toe anybody’s party line. He looks at each issue on its own merits; uses logic and common sense to make his own decisions on those issues. He thinks, rather than simply putting the pegs into the holes where he is instructed to place them. This is why Dale would make a better president; and this is why he will never hold that office.

    Who can trust a guy like that? Who can afford to lay out all that money, just on the off-chance that every decision he makes will coincide with their financial interests? Purchasing the office of President – or any national office, really – is expensive business. Any potential contender who doesn’t have virtually unlimited cash behind him/her doesn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of winning.  With the restrictions on campaign contributions all but gone, it’s not the people of this country – you or Dale – who decide who’ll be at the helm, it’s the money. The money tells the minions what to think, and for whom they should vote. And the minions believe them – because what choice do they have? And when somebody gives you lots of money, they’re going to expect something in return. No. Not something. Everything.

    Corporations are people.  Young people – since their inclusion into that category only came about with Citizens United in 2010 – but people, just the same. So says the Supreme Court. These young people are very rich, which makes them very powerful in our current political system.  They pick candidates who can (and promise) do the most for them, and pour their money in behind those candidates.  It’s a bit of a gamble. If their guy wins, they’ll get their cash back, many times over.  If their guy loses, it’s not really a big deal because somebody else with money had to have made that happen. That other young person’s financial interests couldn’t be that much different.  Money wins.  Money makes more money.  Everybody’s happy. Well, except maybe the little guy, who aligned himself with one of these young citizens; fought in the trenches for them; gave them his vote, his blood, thinking, somehow, his life would be better for the effort. It rarely is.  So, not knowing what else to do, the little guy licks his wounds and tries to survive until the next election, when he will have an opportunity to make a better choice. He rarely does.

    Here’s where it gets complicated.  There are a whole damn lot more little guys than there are big corporations.  If all of the little guys banded together to watch out for their own interests, like the corporations do, their collective voice could be even louder.  But it’s hard being a little guy.  Somehow, somewhere up the food chain, practically all little guys are tantamount to servants of the corporations.  Little guy is afraid to step out of line for fear of retribution from his master.  He doesn’t have a golden parachute to break his fall, so he abides.  And the cycle continues.  And the rich get richer.  And the little guy ultimately accepts his role on the chess board and surrenders.

    Big money has many faces: business, religion, the war machine, to name a few. But, make no mistake, all of them are big money – the kings and queens and the bishops and knights who serve them directly – expecting, demanding, that you little guys get out in front of them and clear the way. When you fall, there will always be more little guys to take your place when the next battle commences. Even though you’re laying off the board in a little pile on the table, you get about a 50/50 shot at saying your side won. So, you’ve got that going for you. 

    There is no such thing as a democracy, in the context of world governments. We used to consider our form of government as a “representative democracy.” For quite a while, the United States has actually worked in what can best be described as a “constitutional republic.” The tint of that republic changes from election to election, as various faces of big money persuades the pawns to vote for big money’s benefit.  In the last few decades, we have moved closer to what could only be described as an “oligarchy” – where, in essence, a few (big money) govern over many (the little guy). Some big money is more transparent than others.  If Trump, or Walker (aka Koch Brothers) – the business face of big money - should win the next election, the republic will temporarily take a giant step toward a “plutocracy.”  This is a government controlled by a few wealthy people, and many will argue that we are already there. But with these guys, the mask is off, and we can quit pretending to be anything else.

    Huckabee and Cruz rely on another face of big money. Their election would undoubtedly move us toward a “theocracy.”  This is a government by immediate divine guidance or by officials who are regarded as divinely guided – meaning the Church (the Christian Church and nothing but the Church) would essentially be making our governmental decisions. After all, it would take a divine miracle for either of them to get elected. The question then would become which branch of the business of Christianity would make the calls. The answer would be Southern Baptist.

    Bernie Sanders is a self-described Democratic Socialist. That term scares the hell out of a whole lot of people in the United States who only hear the “socialist” part, bringing to mind the evil empires of Russia and China we all grew up learning to hate and fear.  Here’s the actual definition:  Democratic socialism is a political ideology advocating a democratic political system alongside a socialist economic system, involving a combination of political democracy with social ownership of the means of production. Sometimes used synonymously with "socialism", the adjective "democratic" is added to denote a system of political democracy similar to that found in existing Western societies.

    Take that as you will, but it means Bernie would move the country, if even slightly, toward that socialist boogeyman.

    Frustrated that nothing we’ve tried before has actually given us the government we think we should have, no matter which side we sit on, judging from the polls, Americans are faunching at the bits for some kind of dramatic change in our particular directions.  The right wants to go way to the right (Donald Trump, Scott Walker). The left wants to go way to the left (Bernie Sanders). Everybody pretty much assumes that the election of Hillary Clinton or Jeb Bush would just keep us in more or less the same place we are now.  The truth is, no matter which direction we go, we’ll come back toward the middle the next time, and we’ll remain a Plutocracy, ruled by one face or the other of big money.   This is, until the little guys rise up and demand that we reform our political system back to exclude big money; where each flesh & blood human’s vote actually matters and we’re not all bombarded by dollars on the airwaves and the newsprint and the internet telling us how to vote.

    Until then, we get what we vote for. Meaning we get what we want. What do you want? You’re not as radical as you’ve been told you should be.

        ©2015   Rick Baber

Tuesday, August 04, 2015


    Nothing’s really easy. There’s a revelation!

    Lots of people who read my first novel, Purity, told me they thought it should be made into a movie – because they “watched” it as a movie as they read it.  This, of course, pleased me, because I saw it as a movie as I wrote it. Truth is, I don’t read all that much for entertainment, but I do watch a lot of movies.

    The comments from readers started me thinking about who would play the role of the protagonist if Purity actually was a movie. I, certainly, would be perfect for the role, if only I could get past a couple of barriers. I look like a fat Skeletor on camera. I can’t act.

    Who then? 

    It was (Famous Actor) I kept seeing wiggling out of difficult situations as the hero, Jeff Davis, even as I wrote many of them.  He could do it.  How hard would it possibly be to get the script to him? He’s an Arkansas boy, after all.  The script is set in Arkansas. I know lots of people in Arkansas, and each of them knows somebody in Arkansas that I don’t. My mind was made up. (Famous) was going to make my movie.  Done deal.

    I put the word out.  Astonishingly, I was contacted by a sweet lady from Batesville who actually knew (Famous’) lawyer.  I won’t give her name here, because I haven’t asked her for permission, but she knows who she is (insert heart icon here). She gave me the Los Angeles lawyer’s contact information and I sent him an email, dropping her name.  It worked!  He got right back to me. He read the book. He liked it a lot, and asked me if I could adapt it to a screenplay.  “Sure!” I told him, “No problemo!”  Then, I frantically searched the internet to see what a screenplay looked like; downloaded some for reference; bought the appropriate software; and figured out how to write a script.

    Meantime, the lawyer tells me (Famous) is tied up with several projects, and he thinks another one of his clients might be able to do something much sooner with my story.  I jumped on that opportunity and worked with that Executive Producer, over a period of about 1 ½ years, using his notes to tweak the script into a pilot for a TV series. Dude kept telling me “The wheels of Hollywood move very slowly,” but he had me convinced that, eventually, we’d have the script packaged with “talent” and a director, then he would pitch it to one of the major studios.  We had numerous conversations about me writing the TV scripts once that became a reality – a gig that pays about half my yearly wages, per week!

    Well, now, I’m practically a bigshot. I ask Lawyer Dude if he thinks I need to get an agent. He says to me, “You’re already talking to me. Why would you need an agent?”  That made sense. I never even looked for an agent, considering that I was higher up on the food chain than some struggling writer looking for somebody to read his script.

    Time passes. I’m all hoity-toity, Mister soon-to-be Screenwriter, wondering if I should invite J.J. Abrams to my next party. He seems cool enough to hang out with me. EP Dude calls, periodically, discussing our options.  (Famous Actor) is apparently out.  Who could star in the lead?  Jeff Daniels took a gig with “The Newsroom,” so he’s out. What about Kevin Costner?  Jeff Bridges?  Jeff Bridges! Are you kidding me? The Big Lebowski playing the lead role in MY movie?  I’d sell previously-valued body parts to make that happen. Well, that’s just like, your opinion, man.

    These guys I was dealing with weren’t some jackleg shysters looking for some rube from Arkansas they could swindle money out of. They never asked me for a dime. They were the real deal with impressive credits to their names.  The deal was, we would all be Executive Producers, attempting to “package” the product (the script), and then pitch it to the money guys – the studios. If that never came to fruition, we’d all just walk away and no harm would be done.

    No harm done.

    About a year and a half into working with EP Dude, he calls me one late summer day and tells me that he is not having any luck getting those Hollywood wheels to turn.  The industry, it seems, isn’t interested in pursuing original material at the moment. They’re sticking with tried-&-true themes: Re-makes of previous hit movies; Sequels of previous hit movies; Comic book movies.  He has now teamed up with a very famous producer and a very famous actor to do just that – make a comic book movie – and he’s not going to have the time to continue to try to package my script. He wishes me luck. He’s walking away.  No harm done.

    So … it’s over? Nothing is over until I say it is! Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell no!  (If you’re a reader and not a movie-goer, you won’t get that. Just trust me with the quote.) We’ll endeavor to persevere, back at Square One, sending PMs to people I know on Facebook – and people I don’t - who might have a connection to the big leagues; posting my scripts online for anybody to read with the click of a mouse. Scratching. Clawing. Going the extra … uh … sorry. Lost my train of thought.

    Nothing’s really easy.

    ©2015   Rick Baber