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NOTE: This post draws on my new book's research into the deep connections between the Pentagon and the entertainment industry - connections that intensified in the 1980s and still shape our culture today.

All the buzz in the entertainment/tech world about the blockbuster new video game Homefront brings back memories of the 1984 film Red Dawn - and rightly so. The creator of Homefront is none other than John Milius, the writer/director of the 1984 film that later became the deliberate namesake of the most famous operation in today's Iraq War. But it should also bring back memories of the larger militarist themes that continue to define our entertainment culture - themes that ultimately bring up the direct but little-examined connections between the Pentagon and the entertainment industry. It is the legacy of those connections, first intensified in the 1980s, that continue to embed militarism in seemingly non-political products like video games and action movies.

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"For me, but not for thee" - this could be the motto of 21st century elitists, or Republican politicians (which are more or less the same thing) and two stories this week show how that mantra works in practice.

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As Tron: Legacy becomes the top grossing movie in America this weekend, we need to ask a seemingly trivial but oh-so-important question: What's with our newfound 1980s fetish? Though the original Tron has a loyal following (of which I include myself), it was a commercial failure. And yet it was updated in blockbuster $170-million-dollar fashion. Clearly, in light of that history, the driving force behind it being remade is the ascendant 1980s zeitgeist, especially considering that it was the latest in a Hollywood series of 1980s remakes. So, again, what's with our 1980s fetish?

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Over the past day, the mediasphere has been ablaze with talk that Republicans and their insurance industry backers supposedly won a huge victory with a Virginia court's ruling that the mandate to buy private insurance is unconstitutional. On the policy merits, this seems to make no sense. At all. In fact, the Republicans pushing this court case may have inadvertently helped America take a progressive step on health care, if progressives can actually take advantage of the situation. Hear me out.

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Like many of you reading these pixels, I've found myself in the last year burnt out on American politics, mostly because it has become a glorified red-versus-blue summer camp color war devoid of most substance and logic. That kind of thing, which might have been fun as a kid in summer camp, is neither enjoyable nor mildly interesting as an adult muddling through day-to-day issues here in the real world. Sure, political junkies on cable TV, in the blogosphere and in the halls of power think the world revolves around political palace dramas, but as Jon Stewart so aptly put it, "Most Americans don't live their lives solely as Democrats or Republicans or conservatives or liberals - most Americans live their lives that our just a little bit late for something they have to do."

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There is no shortage of disturbing/depressing meta-messages from last night's election results.

There was the "What's the Matter With Kansas" message of populism being channeled into the cause of elitism and aristocracy: For example, we saw an anti-Establishment/anti-corporate/anti-NAFTA/anti-government Tea Party electing to the Senate a Congressman's son (Rand Paul), a senator-turned-Washington-drug-lobbyist (Dan Coats) and George W. Bush's Trade Representative (Rob Portman).  

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Fri Oct 22, 2010 at 10:06 AM PDT

The Tea Party Test Case

by davidsirota

What is the Tea Party? Many have tried to answer that question ever since CNBC’s Rick Santelli first launched the backlash with his trading-floor rant against the poor.

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On Wednesday night, I debated KHOW's Peter Boyles and 850 KOA host/Denver Post columnist Mike Rosen in front of a sold out audience in Centennial. During a question about whether an Islamic Center should be allowed to be built in Lower Manhattan, Rosen said that if one is built, he supports terrorists blowing it up.

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Last week, I wrote a post examining the ideological corruption and cronyism that so destructively hobbles the progressive movement. I looked at this persistent problem through the prism of AFSCME president Gerry McEntee's full-throated endorsement of Rahm Emanuel's candidacy for Chicago mayor.

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Over the last few months, we've seen some serious - and potentially groundbreaking - fractures in the old consensus over defense spending. In particular, we've seen the rise of rank-and-file conservatives who have been more willing to connect their deficit grievances with the bloated Pentagon budget. Indeed, I saw this firsthand when I interviewed top-tier Republican congressional candidate Ryan Frazier on AM760 - a veteran, he said that we need to look seriously at defense spending cuts.

Now, though, the blowback is starting.

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Rahm Emanuel was the chief legislative proponent of the North American Free Trade Agreement under President Clinton. As an investment banker, he publicly campaigned on the pages of the Wall Street Journal to give China Most Favored Nation Status. Under President Obama, he was the chief architect of the deal that coddled insurance and drug companies by negotiating away the public option - a public option that union leaders said was crucial for their support of health care legislation.

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In two separate newspaper columns over the last many months, I've argued that we are witnessing an intense assault on one of the most fundamental tenets of our constitution: the principle of the nation's civilian elected leadership having command control over the military. Today's revelations from the Washington Post's Bob Woodward proves that exactly what I predicted is happening is, in fact, happening.

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