Playing with Mirrors

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: After 1900' started by Expat, May 9, 2017.

  1. DocEssEnn Member

    Dec 20, 2015
    Holy cow, that crime one though. All it's missing is someone bellowing "And you try to get in the door but there's too much blood on the knob!"
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  2. Yes Safe, Efficient Airship Travel Since 1972

    Aug 8, 2013
    The Shire, somewhere in Cascadia
    "Isn't it about time we had a Senator?" is as loud as the dog whistle goes. (Especially when you consider that the not-Goodell senator from New York was Jewish...) There are dogs on Neptune whose ears are bleeding and who are barking about the Geneva Convention right now.

    Also it's high-larious when you see this Ur-Nixonian Hard Hat Let's Swing the Baton With Our Own Hands kind of advertising and then JimmehBuck breaks in with his Privileged Boi voice. I mean. Bill at least with his dulcet Anglophilic tones sounded like a charming, nay roguish, aristocratic reactionary. Brother James sounds like a boarding-school weenie with a first name that sounds like a type of furniture.
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  3. Expat Monthly Donor

    Oct 26, 2007
    Washington, DC
    That’s our next president you’re talking about there!

    (Oh sh*t, he’s kidding right?)
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  4. Yes Safe, Efficient Airship Travel Since 1972

    Aug 8, 2013
    The Shire, somewhere in Cascadia
    Hush your mouth :p
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  5. Threadmarks: Story Post XXXIX: First Presidential Debate 1984

    Expat Monthly Donor

    Oct 26, 2007
    Washington, DC


    Early Fall, 1984

    The first US presidential debate. Colorado governor Richard Lamm has the floor.

    “...And so I actually applaud the president’s effort to reign in the petroleum sector, but I do question his methods and conclusions. I mean we’re talking about a tax that is targeted squarely at consumers, at the American people. Why should they bear the brunt of this?

    “And if we’re going to be taxing gas, we should be doing it for the right reasons, focusing on the real problem. We should be trying to reduce consumption to avoid the catastrophic effects of global warming predicted by the scientific establishment. And there’s no reason the American people should have that on their shoulders, either. We need a tax on the real polluters out there, what the economists call a carbon tax, focused on the big corporate polluters. A measure that directly targets the heart of the problem and leaves the American people largely to get on with their lives.”

    “Mr. President, a brief response.”

    “I thank the Governor for his compliment, but he is conflating two very different policy goals. The purpose of the Emergency Gas Tax- and I want to stress that word, emergency- is entirely economic in nature. We had roughly a decade in this country of unstable pricing and efforts by certain sectors to destabilize the economy by attacking its bloodstream, that is, petroleum. We needed to get that in hand and we’ve done so and I hope to ask Congress very soon to take up a reduction in the tax.

    “Now, the effort to confront climate change is an important one, but the Governor’s proposal to do this with a tax is simply wrong-headed. We have other mechanisms that are far less disruptive to the business world than direct taxation. Not two months ago my administration released proposals for what they call ‘Pollution Markets,’ which if taken up by Congress will set limits on various types of pollution, including industrial carbon dioxide, and allow the market to manage itself in order to limit pollution going forward.

    “It is a complex world out there. The old methods we have for dealing with national problems often times just don’t cut it anymore. A tax looks simple, but what the problem needs is thought and subtlety.”

    “Senator Buckley, your brief response.”

    “Did you know that shortly after the Curies discovered radium, scientists were lauding it as the new miracle cure? They convinced thousands of people to drink water laced with radium as a cure for everything from arthritis to upset stomach. Of course when people started suffering from radiation poisoning, all science could do was apologize and make excuses about how discovering the truth is an ongoing process.

    “And there’s no reason to think we’re not dealing with that again here today. We’ve got a few scientists asking all of us to put our lives and livelihoods on the line for something that is not at all well understood. Why should we ask the American people to give up their birthright as Americans- that is, the pursuit of prosperity and happiness- when all the facts on so-called global warming aren’t even in yet?”


    Post-debate NBC News Special Election Coverage. Tom Brokaw, as usual, kicks things off.

    “And that concludes the first of three presidential debates in this 1984 campaign season. A few surprises, a lot that was expected, and hopefully a clearer picture for the voters of the choice they have to make on November 6th. Roger, first impressions?”

    “I think in the most important way they all did what they had to do: they emphasized their differences. They stuck to substantive policy differences and...mostly avoided the kind of backbiting and bickering I think we were all afraid of, given how contentious the political situation is right now. It could have been a nasty night, but they mostly stuck to the issues.”


    “I agree, Tom. It’s an interesting tactical contest, and they’re all doing their best to keep it from becoming a strictly ideological one. The president emphasizing his firm hand on the tiller, the improving financial state of the country, the end of inflation, the return of growth, paying as we go, but also getting across a deep sense of the compassion and decency he tries to bring to government. Governor Lamm striking a much more populist tone perhaps even nativist at times, hitting at the wealthy as a protected class, calling the immigration system, quote, ‘a source of slave labor for corporations,’ and proposing New Deal level spending to improve health care and education. And even senator Buckley, hitting to the left of Lamm on immigration, while generally staying to the right on everything else, focusing on the quote/unquote law and order issues- his strong suit- and avoiding a lot of the more contentious aspects of the culture war.”

    “Buckley and Lamm have also in recent days sounded very similar in their criticism of Anderson’s approach to foreign policy, though it did not come up tonight- the foreign policy debate will be next week. It’s interesting to see the Democrats generally tacking to the left while still finding common cause with the Conservatives in some areas.”

    “And of course the president and Buckley hammered Lamm on free trade, and Anderson and Lamm ganged up on Buckley over civil rights and taxation.”

    “Well I think Americans are traditionally mistrustful of orthodox ideology in our politics; we have a history of compromise and a system that really has compromise built into its most basic functionality. While some political scientists are predicting that we’re headed to a more ideological brand of politics in the future, I expect the American people will be led there kicking and screaming.”
  6. Expat Monthly Donor

    Oct 26, 2007
    Washington, DC
    Well, no official announcements have been made yet- I think there were some categories that were posted later than others- but I think by now it's safe to say the Turtledoves have come and gone and Playing With Mirrors' glory was, as with most TLs, confined to vamping along down the red carpet in a handsome frock while trying to stay upright and conscious after three days of no solid food in order to fit into the damn thing in the first place, and so not noticing this is the line to talk to Ryan Seacrest, not Michael Strahan, and therefore just constantly repeating mentally, "don't look into his dead eyes or you'll be lost," and then getting into the theater and realizing this gown wasn't actually designed for sitting and that if one were to win an award, meaning leaving the seat, the fabric adorning one's back would probably resemble a pretzel humping a danish and so the thought emerges: "well, silver lining if I don't win, at least."

    Anyway thanks for those who supported the TL, I really do appreciate it. Hopefully a couple new readers found their way here. I'm inspired to keep the content coming and maybe we can build this up as time goes by and have another go down the road. In the meantime, there's only one thing to say, really:

    DocEssEnn, C. McKay, Zek Sora and 3 others like this.
  7. aperfectcabinet Member

    Apr 12, 2018
    Washington, DC
    The writing on that short opening section on William Buckley (that last line about the snake too) — so good.
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  8. aperfectcabinet Member

    Apr 12, 2018
    Washington, DC
    Also, the fact that global warming made it into the Presidential debate in 1984 is really interesting. (I assume that IOTL it was not nearly as mainstream a topic at all back then, at least not on the televised debate level?) Gives me hope for what better policies might make it in with that earlier start, so that by 2019 ITTL’s ice caps might be better off.... I know it’s gonna take a lot of events and time to get there though.
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  9. Expat Monthly Donor

    Oct 26, 2007
    Washington, DC
    Thank you! Ach, that spelling mistake on Defarge is gonna buuug meee! Is it too OCD if I go back and change it? ...I'm changing it.

    You're absolutely right that the policy debate wasn't at such an advanced stage. In my head they probably started off with a question on more timely issues like ozone depletion and toxic waste disposal, but this was an area where the three knew they could differentiate themselves to the voters and so pushed things in this direction, by unspoken agreement. This is good red meat for three different constituencies they each want to make happy.

    So IOTL in the mid-80s we weren't exactly at the acrimonious place we ended up by the 1990s in terms of environmental issues. Reagan certainly forwarded a familiar brand of skepticism on a lot of environmental policy (while maintaining nature-friendly rhetoric best compared to a John Ford establishing shot in Monument Valley). He did a few things right, and didn't push as hard as he possibly could in the wrong direction in other places, but that's as far as I'm willing to defend him.

    ITTL the "responsible stewardship" idea that you'd hear Reagan bring up IOTL is starting to get codified in the GOP as less of a doublethink concept and closer to the intended spirit of the words. Staking out this ground kind of naturally pushes the Democrats to the left, and there's plenty of policy ground there to cover. It also pushes the ACP to the right, where we find OTL's hard-edged dissonance coalescing several years earlier in Buckley's "scientists can be wrong, too" fallacy.

    Readers can judge for themselves, but to me, Buckley clearly wins this exchange. His arguments are more elegant, he's not asking for any heavy-lifting from voters, he's chomping down on meaty concepts like the American Dream, and probably most crucial, he's calling for the status quo. Like picking white in chess, you just always start off with an advantage if your solution is "no change."

    Now, there probably aren't many voters who are going to base their decision on anti-environmentalism. But this could be indicative of a media-savvy candidate ready to take advantage of the tightening news cycle and run a national media campaign (i.e. this could represent the Reagan media revolution for TTL).
  10. Bulldoggus Rum, Romanism, and Rebellion

    May 9, 2016
    Fordham (In Tha Brawnks) via Boston
    I'm pretty sure the free-trade thing would be a real divider in the ACP, between the Chamber of Commerce-right types and the I DON'T WANT NO FOREIGN CARS crowd...
    Expat likes this.
  11. Expat Monthly Donor

    Oct 26, 2007
    Washington, DC
    For sure! Though Buckley knows how to take advantage of the high-information CoC/low-information nativist voter divide. He's a free trade booster who can handle himself at a Hyundai-burning. For the national debates he's best served by avoiding the topic, if possible. When Connie mentioned that he dodged some of the more divisive culture war issues, this was probably a big one.

    The Democrats also have a growing division on free trade they may have to contend with soon. After all, organized labor is stronger than IOTL (by dint of slowing the bleed).

    The GOP are solidly neo-liberal on the issue.
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  12. Threadmarks: Story Post XL: Conservatives Machinate

    Expat Monthly Donor

    Oct 26, 2007
    Washington, DC


    Late Fall, 1984

    Conservative Party Headquarters. Offices of Lee Atwater. In walks Rick, technically a junior staffer but being groomed for bigger things. He’s got a message for Lee.

    “We have a problem.”

    “Look, it was just a few Confederate flags, we’re fine.”


    “We’re talking about Florida, right?”

    “No. We have a bigger problem.”

    “Oh, is this about that House candidate from Maine? No one can prove that’s him on the recording, and even if it was, the first amendment-”

    “No, not that.”

    “The riot in Jackson?”


    “The riot in Santa Fe?”


    “You know, maybe you should just tell me.”

    “The strategy memo? Roger didn’t destroy his copy and now he says it’s missing.”

    Atwater takes this in.

    “So you’re telling me Roger Stone got careless.”

    “That’s what he says.”

    “By accident.”

    “That’s what he says.”

    “The secret we’re not even sharing with the candidate, the one Bill Buckley told us to hide from his brother, that’s out there now.”

    “Looks like it.”

    Atwater starts laughing.

    “He sent it to be shredded, it was put aside by mistake, now it’s gone.”

    Still chuckling: “No clue where, I take it?”

    “None. Should I start beating the bushes?”

    “No. We have a contingency for this, but we have to act fast. If we investigate that just gives whoever’s got it more time to work it into a story. If the Times has it they could be ready to publish...I’d guess we have to the end of the week. We have to get in front of it.”

    “Do what, exactly?”

    “We own it. Honestly I was always ambivalent about hiding the strategy in the first place. There’s a lot to be said for making this a central message of the campaign. Roger knew I was on the fence and I’m guessing he decided to make the decision for me, the little bastard.”

    “ want to tell the public our primary goal is to break the electoral system? That’s nuts.”

    “It’s who we are already.”

    “We’ll be crucified in the press!”

    “Let them. Our voters will find us.”

    “This is crazy!”

    “Look. You want to win a conventional election? I’ve got four school board candidates in Rhode Island who need a hand. But this campaign was never going to be about following the standard playbook. There’s a lot of people out there who are...frustrated. Frustrated with a world that’s getting away from them. Everything they knew, everything they were comfortable with, it’s disappearing, being replaced by...monsters and degenerates. Things are getting tougher. All the old certainties don’t seem so certain anymore. If they could think of a way to solve their problems they would, but they can’t. So they come to us for the next best thing. They want to scream out a big fat ‘NO!’ from the mountaintops. They want to shout it at the world. Say no to the new, say no to change, stop the clock and maybe turn it back. It’s impossible and on some level only the most delusional fail to realize that, but it feels good to try and it’s what they want us to help them do. So that’s what we need to give them.”

    That sinks in for a good solid beat.

    “So what, we hold a press conference? Tell them our goal is to hang the electoral college and make democracy look like a sham? They’ll call us nihilists.”

    “I’m okay with that. Our people won’t know what the fuck a nihilist is. We can let the coasts have that squabble. In the meantime, we get to rally around ‘NO!’ It’s the simplest, clearest campaign message ever conceived.”

    “ me a second, I’m trying to wrap my head around this. Hanging the electoral college...that’s a pretty specific outcome. If we keep things vague we can spin a lot of outcomes as victory, but as soon as we tell them we want one thing, that’s what we have to achieve.”

    “You’ll help me work on the spin. We’ll phrase it some way that gives us leeway, but make it known our optimal outcome is proving that the system is a sham and that it no longer works for, you know, the true Americans.”

    Rick mulls that over.

    “I guess we can take a swing at it. So then what happens if we do win?”

    Lee gives him a look that tells him what he thinks about that prospect.

    “Fine. But how do we spin this to the party? I mean we have to have some kind of story to tell our people.”

    “First we tell them about the war they need to fight. Later we tell them what the peace looks like.”


    7th and Euclid

    “EXTRY! Read all about it! EXTRY! Latest presidential polls! Buckley and Lamm tied for second at 26% apiece! Anderson two points ahead! 20% still undecided three weeks before the election! EXTRY!”

    “I’ll be glad when it’s all over.”

    “Everybody always says that, but me? I love the horse race.”

    “You love selling papers.”

    “You know what? I really do love selling papers. So come on, Hashim, who you voting for?”



    “Who else? You want me to vote for Buckley?”

    “Well he’s got a nice smile. You like a nice smile.”

    “Yeah but you know, it’s only second on my list of qualifications for a president behind ‘will they put me in a concentration camp if elected.’”

    “Fair enough. So what about Lamm?”

    “He creeps me out. Too many weird, semi-racist undertones. You’ve heard the way he talks about immigrants. My parents were immigrants.”

    “Yeah, I heard him the other night. Said the country was full up. No more room at the inn.”



    “Do you have any idea what the population density in this country is?”

    “...I mean, of course I do, ha!, what kinda question is that.”

    A customer stops to buy a paper.

    “Hey Charlie, you know what the population density is, right?”

    “Uh, yeah, it’s like how many people live in a city block isn’t it?”

    “Exactly. Sure. Yeah. So. What Charlie said.”

    Charlie leaves, Hashim shakes his head.

    “The US has something like 64 people per square mile. But a country like France has 250 per square mile.”

    “Woah. That’s a lotta coq au vin.”

    Hashim gives Al a look.

    “What? I like Julia Child. She's a national treasure.”

    Hashim nods an admission of shared sentiment.

    “Anyway, that’s all well and good for the French. But, you know. They’re French.”

    “What’s that supposed to mean?”

    “I mean they’re French, you know? They need space. There’s a lot more...canoodling going on over there.”

    “Maybe we could learn something from them. This country’s too uptight about public affection.”

    “You saying you need a hug because-”

    “Stay on your part of the sidewalk, please.”

    “EXTRY! Orioles top Padres! It’s a World Series sweep! Orioles win it all! EXTRY!!”
  13. Threadmarks: Story Post XLI: Second Presidential Debate 1984

    Expat Monthly Donor

    Oct 26, 2007
    Washington, DC


    Late Fall, 1984

    Foreign Policy Debate.

    “It’s scandalous! The president is letting communists run rampant across the globe. No meaningful response from this administration- or the last- on the invasion of Afghanistan. Communist aggression un-checked as Soviet allies in Syria invade their neighbors. Nothing but talk as Angola seeks to wrest Southwest Africa from the hands of our allies. And nothing short of collusion in Latin America. Argentina now fallen to a leftist revolution. All of Central America ceded to Cuban influence, you know it is really more than scandalous, it is borderline treasonous.”

    “Mr. President, you may respond.”

    “First of all, the good senator isn’t fooling anyone by calling the end of the Argentine junta a leftist revolution. President Alfonsin was democratically elected more than two years ago, I’ve met with him several times, and I’m proud to call him a friend of the United States and a partner in making Latin America a more prosperous and democratic region.

    “Second, dismissing the improved situation with the Cubans is what I would call scandalous. We tried the blockade for a generation and it got us exactly nowhere. There’s a word for repeating the same strategy over and over and expecting different results: insanity. The efforts of my administration have de-escalated tensions in a dozen countries, from El Salvador to Angola, and I am proud of the results.

    “Then we get into this statement that South Africa is our ally. Mr. Buckley would certainly like to make the Apartheid regime our ally, but speaking it- thankfully- does not make it so.”

    “As for the Middle East, I’m perplexed as to what the senator believes we should be doing there. Have we interests in Beirut? Have we interests in Tehran? This Soviet-backed aggression is deplorable, and we’re working within the framework of the international community to stop the violence and bring refugees safely to our shores-”

    “Mr. President your time is-”

    “-But I will not unilaterally commit our boys to a ground war in the service of no particular end.”

    “And Governor Lamm, one minute to respond.””

    “Look, I applaud the president’s desire to ease tensions with the Soviet Union, and I applauded him when he promised us a new arms reduction treaty back in 1980. But where is it? He just hasn’t delivered.

    “Instead he’s engaged in a round of nation-building and nation-destroying all across the globe that has destabilized large swaths of the planet, leading to a refugee crisis on our borders. Under President Carter the US let in about 92,000 refugees a year. Under President Ford it was even lower. Last year America took in over 150,000 refugees from Latin America alone and almost 400,000 total. This is just not sustainable.

    “And it comes at the cost of not delivering on real, concrete steps on arms reduction, on missile reduction, on improving the fighting qualities of the armed forces rather than just putting a new coat of paint on the barracks and making a few edits to the training manual, and I want to stress that these-”

    “And I’m afraid your time is up, Governor. We’ll now move on to closing remarks.”


    Later that night.

    “What the hell was he doing out there?”

    “It’s bad, I know. It’s just the time pressure, he does better when he’s in full control of the clock.”

    “He sounds like George Wallace or something. ‘Watch out for the immigrants! They’re after your daughters!’”

    “You’re not wrong. That’s why I’m here.”

    “It’s a little late in the day to come to us now.”

    “I just hope it’s not too late. So Miss Huerta, I’m going to put the pen in your hand. What can we do to fix our image problem?”

    “First, it’s Mrs. Huerta, I remarried last year. Second, I don’t need your pen. We’ve been shopping policy for years in my circles. Here’s what you’re going to do…”


    7th and Euclid

    “EXTRY! Read all about it! Lamm lays out vision for labor and agriculture policy! Cesar Chavez endorses! Read all about it!”

    “I can’t believe you’re talking about agricultural policy when the Conservatives just basically admitted they want to bring down the government.”

    “All news is important, Hashim.”

    “They’re trying to bring down the government!”

    “That’s a little harsh.”

    “Not from where I’m standing. They’re telling these nativist racists out there that if they can win just enough leverage over the government they can make sure it doesn’t work for anybody. They’re poisoning the well. You should tell people.”

    “Really? You mean you actually want me to…”

    “This time, yes. Shout it from the rooftops, my friend! Everyone needs to know what they’re up to!”

    “Wow. Okay. Big day. I wasn’t prepared for this, but here it is.”

    “Sure, do your thing.”

    “I knew I’d win you over.”

    “Right. Whatever. Just this time.”

    Al beams, but slowly his face turns serious. Then a little nervous.

    “EXTRY! Uh, New York City breaks ground on fabled Second Avenue Subway line, first proposed in in 1920! YYYYYEXTRY!”


    “I was working up to it. There’s a rhythm to this business, Hashim. You can’t just do all the hits at once. You know, you can’t be performing up here all the time-”

    Al waves his hand above his head.

    “-You gotta build. From down here-”

    Al waves his hand below his knees.

    “-And then you gotta modulate.”

    Woh-woh-woh goes the hand through the air.

    “Is that so?”

    “Yeah, it’s like a symphony. Or a really good burp.”

    “You are a maestro in so many ways.”

    Both are quiet for a minute. Al starts to work himself up to another round of hawking, catches Hashim’s eye, hesitates, then tries again.

    “EXTRY!....Um....Wedding bells for Brooke Shields and JFK Jr! Read all about it!”

    “Now you’re doing it on purpose.”

    “Well you’re making me self-conscious.”
  14. mymatedave10 Well-Known Member

    Nov 8, 2013
    London, UK
    Delightful. Hashim and Al I mean, but I'm not sure who Mrs Huerta is and she appears to be someone I should.
    Expat likes this.
  15. Expat Monthly Donor

    Oct 26, 2007
    Washington, DC
    You're not alone. And she's pretty impressive! It's all right there in the wiki, but it's almost a stereotype how hard she worked alongside Cesar Chavez and how much of the credit for everything just flowed to him. (Not to belittle Chavez and his contribution.)

    I think there's an opening by this point in history for her natural charisma (and here I really will give her significant points over Chavez) to find her an audience for herself. Though for now she's still more behind the scenes, helping solidify a resurgent American left.

    My first draft was Chavez, but then I did some research and realized she's the person to get into the weeds on policy. I also found that boss 80s style picture of her and that sealed the deal.

    So here's my thinking, bringing up the UFW:
    First, their left-wing credentials are unassailable, and yet they're also historically voices for curbing illegal immigration as a foe to the labor rights of agricultural workers. It's really a sweet spot Lamm needs to hit right now.
    Second, there are two big forces in American social justice politics, the more well-known African American civil rights movement, which at the moment is pretty effectively represented by Jesse Jackson, and the somewhat less known fight of the UFW, led by Chavez. But since it's less well-known, there's an opening for other voices to tell the mainstream what they can expect in the future, and that's where I want Huerta to step in.
    Third, I just don't think I've talked enough about the left yet ITTL. It's something I'm trying to remedy at the 11th hour before I wrap up the election and go into a (hopefully brief) retreat to iron out 1985-89. Expect even more leftiness in the next post!
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  16. Yes Safe, Efficient Airship Travel Since 1972

    Aug 8, 2013
    The Shire, somewhere in Cascadia
    My sheer excitement about this development (D O L O R E S) is matched in full by my chagrin that I didn't think of it myself. Which I think is kind of the ultimate AH sweet spot for success :p
    Sam R. and Expat like this.
  17. Expat Monthly Donor

    Oct 26, 2007
    Washington, DC
    As far as I'm concerned "borrowing" is the ultimate form of flattery. If you see anything you like, by all means run away with it!

    Which by the way, I never would've written Ben Mankiewicz into the TL if you hadn't featured Papa M in yours!
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  18. Threadmarks: Story Post XLII: Third Presidential Debate 1984

    Expat Monthly Donor

    Oct 26, 2007
    Washington, DC



    The Silver Screen Channel

    “Good evening, I’m Ben Mankiewicz here for the Silver Screen Channel, thank you for joining us. Every Tuesday this month, we’ll be exploring some of the classics of the concert film genre. Last week we brought you The Band’s farewell concert in The Last Waltz, directed by Martin Scorsese. This week we have another Scorsese film: 1985’s RAP.

    “Now, Scorsese never intended to make another concert film after The Last Waltz. The project he was working on at the end of 1983 was The Last Temptation of Christ. A surge in both production costs and attacks from right-wing groups led to Paramount Studios abandoning the project in early 1984. Last Temptation would come to haunt Scorsese over the next 20 years, and he would make five further attempts at the project before finally completing it in 2007, giving Michael Fassbender his breakthrough role as Jesus of Nazareth, with Penelope Cruz as Mary Magdalene, and a career-altering turn as Judas from Adam Sandler.

    “But back in 1984 Scorsese found himself in need of work with little notice and little desire to deal with a studio. He flirted with a few projects that led nowhere, until one day he was approached by the musician Sting, who had been tentatively cast to play Pontius Pilate in Last Temptation. Sting had just signed on to a new kind of super-tour, the kind that would come to define the later 1980s. This was RAP: Radical Action for the People.

    “There were many stellar performers at the heart of RAP, including Willie Nelson, Marvin Gaye, and Joan Baez. But the unquestioned father of this series of gargantuan, politically-charged concerts was John Lennon. At the time he was just returning to the public eye after a years-long recovery process, having been shot in the back by a deranged fan in early 1981. Now confined to a wheelchair, lacking fine motor skills, and barely able to sing, Lennon emerged with an invigorated commitment to making the world a better place through political action and music.

    “RAP merged several left-wing political causes and their supporters in the music industry to capture the energy and mood of a movement that, at the time, didn’t really have any concrete political leaders. Several figures vied in the Democratic presidential primaries that year for the favor of the resurgent left, but the field remained divided by the time the campaign was over.

    “And so activists sought to grow the movement without a political figurehead, and to direct its energies to other causes besides the presidency. Early meetings suggested a festival-style benefit concert for victims of urban poverty, or for small family farmers. Soon other suggestions were made- the environment, the labor movement, public health, education. It was Lennon’s idea to perform a series of concerts across the country, each one with a different message to raise awareness for an entire slate of issues. Radical Action for the People was born.

    “Each RAP concert would raise money for a different cause- the labor movement, the environment, for minority causes, and even for general public health and education projects. The concerts were put on across the country from July 4th to Election Day, 1984. And Martin Scorsese would be there to film it all.

    “The film features many memorable sequences, from the debut of future superstars Run-DMC, to the epic eleven-minute guitar duel between Prince and Jimmy Page, to the much longed-for reunion of The Beatles, performing All You Need Is Love in the finale. This would be the final performance of the Fab Four as it would turn out, with Paul McCartney’s tragic death in a car crash occurring on Christmas Eve of that same year.

    “Now without further ado, from 1985, directed by Martin Scorsese, here is RAP.”


    Back in 1984

    Conservative Party Headquarters. Atwater’s lair.

    “You know how sometimes I think something’s a problem and then you tell me it’s actually good news?”


    “We’ve got another one of those.”

    “Let’s have it.”

    “Our beloved vice presidential nominee was home for the weekend when a dozen or so protesters showed up on his property. He chased them off with a shotgun. He says he fired over their heads, they say he fired at them.”

    “No one was hit?”

    “No one was hit.”

    “Where was the secret service?”

    “Don’t you remember, he declined protection, called it a form of welfare.”

    “Okay. Nobody was hurt. They were trespassing. Was his family around?”


    “Damn, that would’ve played better. Still, this is castle doctrine, we can definitely spin this.”

    “There’s more.”

    “Sure, yeah, I mean why wouldn’t there be?”

    “So the protesters went to make a complaint to the local cops and were arrested. No charges given. Ten of them went in, unhurt by all accounts- except the cops. And later-”

    “Okay I see where this is going.”

    “So. Is this a problem, or is this good news?”

    Lee gives a slow smile.

    "I think we can work something out.


    Late Fall, 1984

    Economic Policy Debate.

    “I happen to agree with Governor Lamm, there is too much immigration in this country. We have to impose stricter controls on the kinds of people who enter. They come here and immediately begin sucking at the teat of big government, it’s a drain on our resources and a corruption to our culture. Where the governor and I disagree, however, is on workers visas. These are the backbone of American agriculture and construction, and if Mr. Lamm had his way you’d be paying five dollars for a head of lettuce, and five hundred thousand dollars for a starter home.”

    “Governor Lamm, your response.”

    “The senator thinks he’s being funny, trying to tar me with that brush on immigration. Anyone who has listened to a single speech I’ve given over the past six months knows that I am proposing no changes to the level of legal immigration. I am simply proposing that we more strongly favor applicants who can fill current deficiencies in the workplace, so that new arrivals are not competing with citizens for jobs.

    “As for the visa program, I have said it before and I’ll say it again: as it stands it is little better than slave labor. We are abetting the exploitation of our vulnerable neighbors to the south and contributing to the hollowing out of the American working class at the same time. It goes hand-in-hand with the entire culture of current labor-management relations, and when elected I promise you we will see a redress of this imbalance.”

    “Mr. President, a brief response?”

    “Once again my opponents are approaching this issue from the wrong direction. This is an issue of free trade more than it is of labor policy. If we were to enact the continental free trade zone proposed by my administration, that would put us and our neighbors on an entirely level playing field. The value of a dollar would go farther for our guest workers, as well as for American consumers at home. This is a win-win proposal.”


    7th and Euclid

    “EXTRY! Late surge from the left buoys Lamm! Pulls even with the president in latest poll! Buckley four points behind! 10% still undecided! EXTRY! EXTRY!”

    “Did you catch the last debate on the news last night?”

    “...What did you just ask me?”

    “The debate, did you see it?”

    “You’re asking me if I got my news...from television?”


    “Wait. Just wait a minute. Hashim...are you telling watch the news?”

    “Um. Yes? Who doesn’t?”

    “Et tu, Brutus?”

    “What’s happening?”

    “It’s like an arrow to my heart. My best friend-”

    “That’s- we’ll circle back to that.”

    “-My best friend! In bed with the enemy!”

    “Al, everybody watches the news. It doesn’t mean we don’t read newspapers.”

    “Is that what you tell yourself when you’re having a cozy night in with Peter Jennings?”

    “They’re complimentary.”

    “Complimentary!? They’re nothing alike! The paper is, is...classy, civilized. The magic of the written word. Your eyes, you know, they find what’s interesting and you make the decision to take it in. It activates the brain, the gears start turning. With television you just have some loudmouth idiot, blabbing out to the world what he thinks is important without anyone’s say-so, and it…um...”

    “Oh keep going, please.”

    “You know maybe Peter Jennings has his place.”
    Last edited: Mar 19, 2019
  19. Expat Monthly Donor

    Oct 26, 2007
    Washington, DC
    Okay. Okay. OKAY. I know. I know. I did it again. I keep resurrecting musicians. It's becoming a crutch. But I swear this is the last time. I can stop whenever I want, I don't need all musicians to live. See this Paul McCartney I've got here? I don't need this, I'll get rid of it right now. I'm fine. I'm in control. It's fine.



    Is it too late to do something about John Bonha-NO! No, not gonna do it. Cold turkey.

    For serious, I do feel a little sheepish doing this twice in a short period of time, but it's the 1980s and the left's about to blow up. I needed some backup! Seemed like a good idea to preempt the mega-concert, make it more explicitly political, and give it a god-like figurehead who, through trauma, has finally decided to take up the reigns of the movement he could've had at any point in the last 20 years, but who also is kind of never going to be interested in holding office. The boomers caused the rift between cultural leftism and political leftism in the US, and I can't think of a better person than Lennon to try to heal that rift.
    mymatedave10 and Yes like this.
  20. mymatedave10 Well-Known Member

    Nov 8, 2013
    London, UK
    An alive Lennon and a later dead Paul, you give with one hand and take with the other. I do like seeing Al being hoist on his own petard though.
    Yes and Expat like this.