Sunday, December 23, 2012

Album of the Year: Father John Misty "Fear Fun"

Fear Fun

It takes a lot for me to fall head over heels for an artist or album. Granted I obsess about things such is my nature. However I never thought I would become a caricature, a decidedly over-aged frenzied version of some tween girl at a One Direction concert screaming “NIALL! NIALL!” But in a way I became just that one very wet November evening in the Workman’s Club in Dublin when at the corner of my eye I saw Josh Tillman or Father John Misty to use his quirky new moniker. There he was, finishing a cigarette less than ten metres away and seemingly about to disappear downstairs to prepare for his gig we had come to see. I was overcome with the most visceral urge to scream out his name like someone seeing their child walking on to a railway line before a train. And I did: “JOSH! JOSH!” I didn’t want to run over screaming and pin him to the ground like some lustful teenager, but that could have easily happened. As I slowly walked towards him in some sort of trance I probably did look that way to him. There then proceeded the most excruciating conversation of my life where before I had out of control vocal chords I was now tongue-tied, hand out to shake his with the marbled-up line of “Manchester last night? Cold? Thanks, see you”. It was an awestruck stupor, something I had never experienced before. I’ll never forget the horror and bemusement on Josh’s face and if he ever reads this, forgive me. Next time if you don’t already have a restraining order against me, I will be much more relaxed, agreeable and buy you a drink.

It goes to say that something must have caused me to have been infected by this man and his music. I had listened to one or two of his albums he had done under his own name and they were intricate, heartfelt, really beautiful pieces. I had listened to the Fleet Foxes, the band he played drums for a few years until very recently. Then back in May I had somehow stumbled upon the album Fear Fun not knowing who the artist was. It was a Father John Misty and after one listen I was enveloped by this strange all-encompassing feeling. It was like I had fallen down a rabbit hole in to this new world of lush sounds and fabulous, eccentric characters, laced together by haunting pianos, yearning guitars and a voice that sounded like it could tell a thousand stories. You felt like Josh was taking you in his hand, with a Jameson in the other and walking you through this land he had created, introducing you politely to all these wonderful people he had picked up along the way, a family of beautiful oddities.
Josh Tillman a.k.a. Father John Misty

Josh had left the rain-sodden Seattle, packed his bags and headed south to the warmer climes of California, took a ton of mushrooms and pondered writing a book. I don’t know if he ever got around to writing it but this album certainly feels like a novel. It is positively exuberant in sound and imagery. The feeling of sunlight cakes it sonically. Like a flower he opened up and a new beauty was there for all to see.

I never seem to listen to lyrics. Maybe it is my seeming ADHD, being all about the beat, the beat, the beat but I was always drawn to the lyrics in this album; quirky, sincere with a strong hint of romanticism to them. Then there is the music, a constellation of emotions woven through twelve songs, each seemingly a unique chapter. The twinkling cymbals and eerie piano in “Nancy from Now On” tickle you like sunrays through the leaves of a tree on a warm summer’s morning. In “O I Long to Feel Your Arms Around Me” it is like you have entered a solemn wake with Josh pining for someone lost. There is the noir-ish moodiness of “This Is Sally Hatchet” and finally that guitar in his most noticeable song “Hollywood Forever Cemetry Sings” It calls you to attention from the first few strings at the same time slowly meandering through your mind. I was hooked.

I should not have fallen for this album. It just wasn’t me. It was like when you have a certain type of guy or girl you like, your eyes are always locked on to that person in a bar or on the street. Yet at times we all seem to fall for someone who we would never ever thought about. They come out of nowhere and just have something about them that grabs you and before you know it you can’t get enough of them. Fear Fun is that for me. It is stand alone a fantastic album that is wonderfully accessible but that something something I feel for it made it by a long stretch my album of the year. 

Film of the Year: The Queen of Versailles

The Siegels, David and Jessica

It was all supposed to be completely different, an insight in to trashy conspicuous consumption. The year was 2007 and it seemed we all had money, buying cars and second homes on almost limitless credit. Economists called it the Great Moderation as interests rates stayed low and banks lent money to everyone. But there was nothing moderate about how some of the wealthy blew their cash and this was to be story about one family, a billionaire David Siegel, his wife Jackie, their kids and their plans to build the largest private residence in the United States. It would be called Versailles, inspired by the great palace of Louis IV but this was to be no modern replica. At 90,000sq ft, it would be a grotesque monster, a temple of questionable taste and bling, smothered in gold paint, tacky chandeliers and marble, the latter totalling $5 million alone. We were to be regalled, horrified and have our suspicions confirmed that some people have more money than taste.

Then in 2008 for most of us, the world went belly-up and even some of the super wealthy lost everything as lifestyles, built on shoddy foundations of loose money came crashing down. The Siegels, whose fortune was built on the somewhat dodgy business of timeshares saw their fortune virtually depleted by over-spending on a product people no longer had the money for. Drowning in debts, it became a contemporary story many of us today suffer of having to cutback on expenses and the possible loss of the roof over our heads. Versailles would become locked in by banks, left to stand an empty shell, a sad, empty shell.

We were supposed to hate the Siegels, like we take pleasure in reviling reality TV show stars. The larger than life Jackie (in more ways than one after obvious plastic surgery) would be the obvious victim of scorn with her trashy perma-blonde hair and trips to McDonalds drive-tru’s in her limo. Yet somehow The Queen of Versailles became a tragicomedy, almost heartfelt as the Siegels coped with losing virtually all their nannies for their army of children and pets. Soon pet lizards were dying from neglect, forgotten for days by a troup of children used to having everything done for them. Having taken private jets for years, their is excitement and bemusement at flying coach on a normal flight to visit family. At a Hertz stand in the airport Jackie asks “where is the driver?”, much to the shock of the Man behind the counter.

Jessica outside the unfinished Versailles
It is not just the story of a rich person over-leveraging, we hear of their driver owning nineteen homes and faced with banrupcy. As Jackie returns to her hometown to visit a friend she hasn’t seen in nearly twenty years, she is struck by the fact her friend is about to have her home foreclosed for a menial amount of money. She privately makes a cheque to the bank to help her old friend keep her house while she herself could lose hers.

The star of the film is most certainly Jackie with the looming, ghostly edifice of Versailles lurking behind. For a person who can so easily be caricatured, we find a woman who actually really loves her husband thirty years her senior, who cares for her family and even though threatened with losing everything, this apparently intelligent woman with an engineering degree just keeps on smiling, musing of the benefits of a smaller home and more normal lifestyle, one she was born in to. It is with this gusty, friendly aspect to her that we learn to love her.

Even though we are witnessing here in the Western World the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression, there are strangely very few films, fictional or otherwise that relate to it. There have been some that tackle the issue of banking and its part in creating the recession. Unlike films from the 1930’s there are not many films that consider the hardship people are under these days. Maybe we are a lot more insulated by better welfare and anaesthetized by distractions such as Facebook and X Factor. The sight of economic hardship such as hungry masses queing up for soup is not as prevalent a sight as it was eighty years ago bar say the tragedy unfolding in Greece. While many of us live through financially existential threat, The Queen of Versailles is an entertaining and at times heartfelt story of our time. For that reason I have voted it my best film of 2012. 

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Shocking Delusion of the NRA

NRA's Vice Executive Chairman Wayne La Pierre

Even in light of the tragic events that struck a primary school in Connecticut last week, the media and America were not expecting from the National Rifle Association’s first public statement since the atrocity to result in a major change of policy for the gun lobby. Some had hoped that the overwhelming anger of the nation in reaction to the barbarous massacre of over twenty children would in some way pull them towards a somewhat more conciliatory stance about the issue of gun control. Indeed several hard-line gun supporters in Congress, some even in the past the recipients of campaign money from the NRA had sensed the fury in the media and the streets. Greater gun control would be an immediate issue for legislation by virtually all politicians. Instead there was bemusement and horror at the strong defense of the NRA by its Executive Vice President Wayne La Pierre in a tough statement to press Friday afternoon that was not proceeded by any questioning by the media.

In essence it was a cold condemnation of a constellation of maladies in American society, from violent video games, the care of mentally ill people to the media and political groups in Washington. Guns were only a factor in that there were not enough armed people in the primary school to defend against a mad man bent on murdering children. It was an astonishingly deluded set piece from a well-paid suit in the safe confines of a Washington office. It was far removed from the outpouring of grief taking place only a few hundred miles away as some of the victims in their tiny white coffins were laid to rest after having lived only a fraction of the time Wayne La Pierre has.

The simple fact is that in the United States over 12,000 people die every year due to guns, from misuse of the weapon to cold-calculated massacres. In some states it is frighteningly easy to walk in to a shop and buy guns that have no purpose in defense and are designed solely for effective destruction of a target or targets. No matter how one can argue that a gun is a means of defense, it is in the exact same amount a means to maim and kill. The NRA on Friday even advocated for the introduction of armed guards in to all schools in America.

Let’s just take a moment to think of this stupidity. First of all, not all massacres occur in schools, although the most shocking of them have occurred in places of education, such as Virginia tech and last week in Sandy Hook. However this past year saw mass murders in a shopping mall, a cinema and in recent years in work places. No place is safe when there is a high prevalence of gun ownership. Second of all, even with armed guards, there is no guaranteeing children will be safe when confronted by people brandishing multiple assault rifles. In 1999, two students embarked on a shooting spree in a high school in Columbine, a school that had armed law enforcement agents on call at the time. The presence of armed guards failed to prevent the death of over a dozen people that day.

It’s almost funny if it wasn’t for the context of the statement that a lobby with strong links to the tax-cutting and government-slashing Republican Party that the issue of cost and who would pay for armed guards in places of education, estimated by some to be almost $7 billion a year was not even considered in that statement. Nevertheless maybe it is my own feeling, writing here in the safe surroundings of Ireland but a school, especially a primary school should be a sanctuary. It should be a place where children are not instilled with fear by armed guards every morning. That a culture even has to consider such an issue is a sign of moral failure.

As a person who has dedicated eleven years of my life to people with intellectual difficulties I was horrified by the statement that the government should create a database of the mentally ill in some sort of twisted attempt to prevent mass murders. We may never know what exactly went on in Adam Lanza’s head that morning but to correlate massacres to the mentally ill was extremely blunt and disgusting. Not all multiple gun murders are caused by people the NRA would classify the mentally ill although the biggest have indeed been the result of people of questionable mental health. But that ignores the multiple murders on a Baltimore street corner over drugs or the murders caused by someone just blindly angry and taking it out on someone like their boss or spouse. It only takes one person, insane or otherwise to turn a gun on someone else.

Implying the need of a national database for the mentally ill is a gross stigmatization of people who truly need our help. To put mentally ill people in to a database like criminals or pedophiles is a horrifying concept smacking on fascism and a breach of fundamental privacy of innocent individuals.

That the NRA took issue with violent video games was bizarre. Those games they castigated are festooned with mass murder by the things they hold so dearly: guns. If guns were not so prevalent to begin with, the close correlation between fantasy and real world would not be there. Furthermore one must look at the society at hand. Video games are played universally but it is only in some societies that the debate concerning violent video games and murder is a major concern. In Japan, a nation whose explicit porn and violent video games are well known, there is virtually no gun crime. When you allow easy access to guns, it is then when the bridge between fantasy and real life comes close to allow things to get out of hand.

Many were left speechless by Friday’s press conference by the NRA. For a moment I certainly was, it was truly that breathtaking. Whenever a massacre occurs in the United States caused by guns, the NRA is cocooned in the surreal land of lobbying, far removed from the scene of the crime. It is not Wayne La Pierre’s six year old daughter being laid to rest this week, a few days before Christmas. It was not his son maimed and paralyzed for life while watching a film with friends. It was not his wife or child caught in the crossfire of a drug war. It was a shocking speech laced with arrogance and denouncements. “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun” he said. No, the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is to never give him access to the gun in the first place. 

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Instagraming Privacy

Once there was a time when people bought records and CD’s. We slaved in lowly part time jobs to earn the cash to go to that temple we called Tower Records and buy that album we had lusted over for many a week. Then came this anarchic upstart the Internet and it gave us new tools with which to slowly break down barriers and do things such as share music with each other without paying. Soon a whole generation was brought up imbued with the sense that music should be free. The music industry, lobbyists and politicians scrambled to keep up with the blinding speed that the Internet was changing our lives. The world wide web, just a little over twenty years old now still to this day challenges engrained rules and perceptions.

What were once walled edifices of copyright content and privacy have come crashing down or have slowly eroded away. While it refashions beliefs and organically creates a new culture around it we are challenged by rules and assumptions fashioned from another time. Things we took for granted are no longer there or have mutated. The crisis the music industry first had to contend with wrought on by the Internet ten years ago is similar to the crisis of privacy individuals have today. Copyright content we once paid for was given away for free through file-sharing. Now personal content that we created ourselves freely would be sold to make money and with it questions of privacy and what is considered private content not to be sold to individuals and groups wanting it.

The trading of personal information, from web-browsing patterns found on cookies to created content is a huge business. For over a decade Google has been at the forefront of this, using the information of users to fashion advertising more related to the person using their search system. During the recent presidential election, huge sums of money was spent by both campaigns to what they termed “data-mining” to micro-target possible voters. Your Internet usage is now a commodity that many people unwittingly know is being traded.

However it is in the realm of social media where the biggest consternation is unfolding. Websites such as Facebook and Twitter are closed environments, restricting the information that can be accessed and sold to prospective data-miners. That is not for want of trying as this week’s events prove. Earlier this year prior to its flotation, Facebook bought Instagram for a cool one billion dollars. The price seemed like one picked out from the sky, such was its stratospheric valuation for a company that allowed people to take photos in different styles and hues. Facebook has given a reason somewhat for the high price by announcing an update to the photo-sharing company’s privacy policy allowing it to sell users’ photos to advertisers without notifying them. Facebook has been under pressure from investors and shareholders to ramp up revenue from advertisers since its flotation and the popularity of Instagram and the data reamed from interactions with users seemed like a sure bet. That is until questions of privacy blew up in their faces as social media went in to a frenzy over the possible use of personal content and threats by many to boycott Instagram until the changes in privacy policy were revoked.

The issue at hand is that the Internet has broken down barriers and a new environment where things once private could be disseminated and thus fair game for people who make money from that information. The old walls of intended or unintended privacy have been pried open by the Internet and created a strange new world. While people feel they have a right to send and disseminate certain material without prosecution, information they thought was private before due to circumstance was now through simple, hidden things such as cookies, available to others and sold for a price.

There is no doubt that the issue of privacy is central to the debate about the good and ills of the Internet. Where legislation has failed to catch-up, it has been left to companies themselves to manufacture what they consider private or public, thus creating confusion and at times fear of personal violation whether justified or not. Companies themselves have created an environment of what they consider to be fair game in the selling of personal data that is in conflict with what individuals consider, just as Internet users changed their opinion about the rights and wrongs of sharing of music online ten years ago. Many jurisdictions have been moving towards creating regulations in respect to Internet privacy with the European Union and its multiple political organs mainly at the forefront. Earlier this year saw the passing of the Data Protection Directive regulating what data can be processed and sold to other parties. However the process is a slow one and considering very few people saw the power of social media five or six years ago, the issue of internet privacy will continue to be debated as the evolution of the Internet continues and permeates our society even more. The fear is that before strongly enforced data privacy laws are fashioned, a new culture of acceptance of data-mining and the misuse of personal information becomes so commonplace that a new culture where the majority don't consider it a major issue. Just as people in some countries resign themselves to the fact that their politicians are corrupt, the lack of enforcement will reduce people's desire to fight back in the future. If that is to occur basic privacy is diluted for the next generation. When that happens, industry rather than the individual will benefit. 

Monday, December 17, 2012

A Quiet Evening in Belleville, Paris

Cafe Cheri(e)
For thirteen years I had failed to return to Paris after a family holiday as a teenager in 1999. In fact it was the last time I stepped foot in the most-visited country in the world. It wasn’t that I really didn’t want to return to the City of Light. As a sixteen year old and to this day still an avid lover of history and architecture I was mesmerized by Paris, with its elegant uniformed Haussmann boulevards peppered with instantly recognizable sights such as the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre. However as I grew up, what I wanted from a holiday changed and with it my perception of the city. In my 20s I began to see Paris as a desiccated museum, scrubbed clean of the grime and proletarian fervour that shaped its history. In my mind it didn’t have the creativity of London or underground excitement of Berlin. It was an overpriced confectionary for American and Japanese tourists to excitedly digest.

If it wasn’t for a chance to go to a music festival and stay for free in the city, it could have been another thirteen years before I returned. Having already ticked off the major sights all those years ago and now an adult, I decided to branch out. On the one evening I had free I took the opportunity with a Parisian friend to visit Belleville. Historically a working-class district whose residents were fervent but tragic supporters of the Paris Commune of 1871, the area has become more heterogenous, home to artists, hipsters and a large ethnic community. It is a refreshing break from the sterilized central arrondisements of the city.

Being France I had to start my little wander with a late afternoon glass of wine in Le Chapeau Melon. During the afternoon it is a wine shop and a place to quietly drink a glass. The selection was decent but at night the place switches over in to a restaurant with a delightfully eclectic four course menu which at €32.50 is a steal for pricey Paris. Booking is essential as it is popular and there is only one sitting.
Le Chapeau Melon

Upon finishing my glass of wine it was time to meet my Parisian friend. A wander around the streets we encountered a constellation of characters, from immigrants in their phone shops that doubled up as local meeting places, hipsters, young families and prostitutes. The architecture is bland bar the random flourish of graffiti, some of which was pretty good. However for architecture fans there is one little gem to be found. It only seems right that the Communist party of France would have its headquarters in this traditionally working class district. Commissioned by lifetime Communist and at the time living in exile in Paris Oscar Niemeyer, it displays his characteristic brutalism with flourishes of pure beauty, especially in the glistening auditorium whose bright ceiling is as inviting as the gates of heaven. One can make an appointment to visit the inside but alas my time was constrained and I could not visit. With the recent passing away of Niemeyer this month, my lost opportunity now has an added poignance to it.

Communist Party Headquarters by Oscar Niemeyer
In Paris it can be at times hard to find a decent bistro. They are either good quality but expensive or tourist tosh. There appears to be very few middle ground places and certainly so with a bit of character. Le Sainte Marthe on the street with the same name is an exception. Located on a part of the street where it  recedes to create a quaint little square covered by trees, in the summer I heard it is one of the most pleasurable places in Belleville to eat and drink. Since it was early November the weather was not exactly conducive to sit outside so we dived in to the bosom of this red-painted bistro. It felt like a truly local place where young twenty-somethings drank wine while on another table a gaggle of grannies ate traditional French food while their grandchildren scribbled on paper. Indeed it felt very cozy and we were willing to stay for it not for the pangs of hunger emanating from us. While we could have enjoyed the food here we felt that it was only fair that in this home for multitudes of immigrants that we try something ethnic.

Le Sainte Marthe
“You see the person behind me” whispered my friend Antoine as we were about to dive in to a noodle soup in Pho Dong-Huong, the lively Vietnamese restaurant on Rue Louis Bonnet; “he’s in gay porn”. Not the typical conversational topic you would have over food but it was an example of the eclectic crowd to be found in this delicious restaurant. All the kinds of people you would expect to find in Belleville were devouring freshly-cooked food in this lively place, plus your local porn star. The food was very reasonably-priced where a big bowl of noodles, a side dish and a beer left change from a €20 note. The beauty of Vietnamese food is that it always fills you while making you feel refreshed and it certainly perked us up for the five minute walk to a bar in the night where the temperature bobbed just over freezing.

Our destination was a low-key local bar called Café Cheri(e). Situated on the corner of Boulevard de la Villette, it seems to be a mash-up of a typical contemporary Parisian café and a dive bar and for that reason seems to attract a crowd of artists and students. It was a Thursday night at 10pm and the place was busy but not full, however Antoine had informed me that on Friday and Saturday nights it can get quite rammed. To take the opportunity to see my friend I had decided to skip the first night of the music festival but was happy to be here where the DJ was playing music by the bands I could have be seeing at the festival such as the Chromatics and Twin Shadow. The crowd was decidedly mixed with a smattering of artists, gays and hipsters. It nevertheless felt warm and welcoming and conversation flowed as easily as the beer that was cheap for Paris. However it was a school night and by 1am we were beat and time to sadly leave this great bar.

On my first night in Paris in thirteen years I had finally seen another side of Paris that felt a world away from the romantic film-set ideal that most tourists seem reluctant to leave. Venturing to Belleville was a refreshing and rewarding experience that defied the stereotype of Paris being an expensive and unimaginative city while showing hints of the old city of past. 

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Curious Case of Cristina and Clarin: The Making of Enemies

President Cristina holds up a copy of Clarin

Last week as a toxic cloud billowed up from a burning tanker in the port, smothering the central business district, floods in the barrio (neighborhood) of Belgrano and tornadoes dancing menacingly on the outskirts of the city, one could be forgiven for believing that Buenos Aires was witnessing the end of days. For a city prone to drama and a population who at times almost masochistically revel in it, it was an eventful week for the Argentine capital. However as much as Mother Nature conspired to dominate the headlines, the real drama was unfolding in a courtroom in the city as former allies now bitter foes, the administration of President Cristina Kirchner and the media conglomerate Grupo Clarin fought bitterly over a new media law. Drafted in 2009 by the administration as a means to break up the perceived monopoly of Clarin, to others it seemed an insidious tool to silence a powerful dissenting voice against the government. For three years both sides battled in the courts with the climax to occur on December 7th when the law was to come in to force. However such as it is common in legal cases, the courts granted an injunction thus staying the execution or more appropriately the amputation of a number of Clarin’s limbs.

The story of an affair gone sour between a government and a powerful media company is nothing new in the history of politics. One just has to look at recent events in the UK. However the case of Cristina and Clarin has a particularly Argentine hue for there is never a middle ground in politics in Argentina. It becomes frighteningly easy from the simplest of disagreements to become diametrically opposed. Support and largesse can be unceremoniously whipped away with the political guns pointed at your head at the slightest hint of dissent. With the Kirchner administration and supporters, individuals or groups who oppose them become existential threats to be removed at all costs, using whatever methods of the political and legal machine that are at hand peppered with sneering insults and insinuations. It is the fuel for a movement that increasingly looks embattled by an economy spluttering under choking inflation, increasing crime and an emboldened yet still disparate domestic opposition.

This year the Kirchner government has lashed out at multiple real and perceived enemies, at times viscerally waving the bluntest of weapons while throwing immature insults. Discretion and consensus are two words that are alien to Cristina and her supporters. Last month witnessed a court case in the US in which the government was a defendant against hedge funds that refused to take part in Argentina’s restructuring of debt after its default. It was a case that the government had a very strong chance of winning handsomely, however the Kirchner government lost the respect of the judge and thus the case by its insubordination and insulting ignorance of the jurisdiction of the court. Instead of attempting to garner support from the court and other nations battling these so-called “vulture funds”, it decided to shore up its domestic supporters in a populist attack on the case and court at hand. After the granting of an injunction in the case against Grupo Clarin, several ministers insinuated about impeaching the judges who didn’t rule in the government’s favor. When border police went on strike over pay, supporters of the government alluded to the threat of a coup, no minor provocation in a country with a bitter recent history of military dictatorship.

Cristina with her deceased husband and former president, Nestor
It is this need to formulate existential threats that shores up support for the current government. Added with largesse for supporters, it is potent material to maintain power. The history of the Kirchner movement and Clarin is a perfect example. When Cristina’s deceased husband and former wearer of the presidential sash was elected in 2003, Clarin rightly supported the government’s hard-line stance against bondholders after the Argentine default. In 2007 it was awarded with presidential approval for a merger allowing Clarin to take control of one of the region’s biggest cable companies. In essence this was creating the monopoly the current media law wants to remove but it was all fine in the minds of the Kirchners because it was for a supporter of the government. What resulted in both sides falling out and becoming bitter foes was when Clarin did not side with the government of Cristina in a dispute with farmers protesting a windfall tax on their booming products. Within months the government went on the offensive, digging up documents relating to the owners of Clarin and their involvement in the military dictatorship and especially in relation to the distressing issue of children forced in to adoption by the military government. The media law was to be the final nail in the coffin for Clarin’s dominance, allowing for the forced divesting of radio and TV licenses.

While as a firm believer in the need for a plurality of media in a country, one must question the motives of the current bill being debated in the courts. The timing is suspect and politically motivated. Furthermore while intending to broaden the access to media it will only transfer dominance in this field from an independently owned organization to the government that will have direct or indirect control of over 80% of Argentine media, a much larger share than Clarin ever had. State media has proven itself subjective recently with the president commandeering the airwaves more often for increasingly random speeches and news coverage that failed to adequately report the recent large anti-government protests of the past few months. The media law is only another means to remove an enemy that the government has built up to be an existential threat and probably would never have been formulated if it was not for Clarin siding against the government.

Recent protests against Cristina's government 
All this drama has masked the fact that the government should be spending more time battling issues that citizens feel more pressing, such as inflation, crime and government restrictions to hard cash. Like the Republican Party in the US, it has preferred a policy of galvanizing its core supporters at the expense of consensus and others by pandering to fear. It is a recipe for failure in the long term but is too blindly enamoured with the simplicity in the instrument of creating enemies rather than governing for all. It might be better for all if one left the drama for the weather.