The River

Friday, July 30, 2004

ABB -- Anything But Bullshit, please

Am I too cynical for my own good?

Everyone wants to believe that John Kerry and John Edwards can make things better. The Democrats have spent four days trying to convince us of this. Send us in; help is on the way. Or is it hope? I guess there’s hope because they will help.

That pretty much sums it up. Anybody But Bush (ABB) will help. Once you get Bush out, you won’t have to abandon all hope, all ye who enter here.

Yet how are the Dems going to effect progressive social change while coming to power as the better war party? Like their adversaries, the Dems serve their corporate masters, masters who, were their practices exposed by a legitimately free media, would be popularly reviled as rulers of a totalitarian nature.

What is more cynical than attempting the highest office in the land without standing for anything? War is failure, the ultimate abrogation of human rights. But human rights and corporate rule are mutually exclusive, because in this type of system, human rights are calculated on a punch card. At least they were when IBM was helping Hitler manage the holocaust, as has been reported. Surely, it’s much more sophisticated now.

But war, corporate war for resources, is what we’ll get with Kerry. More of the same. Business as usual. Because beyond the nauseating platitudes, ABB translates to the continuation of wars of choice, imperialism with a “kind” face, the race to secure the planet’s dwindling industrial resources for the small percentage of “haves.”

Says Bob Dylan on the Masked and Anonymous soundtrack: “See it [the world] from a fair garden everything is cheerful. Climb to a higher plateau and you’ll see plunder and murder.”

And plunder is what the world’s largest and most powerful corporations do best. It’s pretty much their sole reason for being. That’s a huge story. The story of our times, because the corporation stands at the apex of world power, succeeding the monarchy and the church of earlier eras.

Propaganda keeps the masses from seeing it; in fact engenders their love and devotion for it. But the new documentary The Corporation provides a wide-angle view of the propaganda we’re fed from birth to reveal the dirty secret behind the happy talk: corporate practices of plunder and murder. The brutality and disregard for humanity on display in this film are stunning.

-- John Kerry reporting for duty --

Many of the people running these companies aren’t necessarily evil, of course. It’s just that corporations are created to produce only one thing without consideration for the harmful effects of the process. That one thing is profits.

In Our Pure War with Islam, Curtis White pointed out how CEOs are virtually helpless before this machine-like system. Because should a CEO object, they will soon be replaced, just as a faulty part of a machine would.

White writes:

Randy Hayes of the Rainforest Action Network once told me of a talk he had with the uber-CEO of the Mitsubishi Company. Hayes said he was able to convince this CEO that Mitsubishi's program of global devastation for short-term profit was not in the long-term interest of either the planet or the company. Hayes achieved this moment of clarity only to have it followed by a far larger and more monstrous clarity for both himself and the Mitsubishi head: Mr. Mitsubishi had no idea how to change the practices of the company because the logic that drove the company was both systemic and autonomous. This system at which even CEOs must look with apocalyptic horror is part of the ecology of Pure War and is not available for political discussion, let alone democratic debate. In short, it is not responsive to the will or the interests of the human beings living within it. Virilio calls this situation the "State as Destiny."

In seeing The Corporation, in watching the Democratic National Convention, I’m tempted to curl up in a ball – overdosed on reality and unreality.

But then I remember the heroes that the filmmakers thankfully included in their film. Because there IS a corporate CEO who is bucking the system, one who sees the wall we’re heading toward, and is determined to try to find solutions. That CEO is Ray Anderson of Interface, a global industrial carpet manufacturer. He relates in the film that he had an epiphany upon reading Paul Hawken’s book, The Ecology of Commerce. He says the phrase “the death of birth” pierced him to the heart, “like an arrow.” He came to see industrialization as stealing from future generations. It seemed to me a religious conversion, for he spoke with true and humble authority, unlike, say, John Kerry.

I think of the Dr. Vandana Shiva, who led a revolt in India against Monsanto’s terminator seeds, which are engineered so that their plants cannot produce viable seeds, thereby forcing farmers into dependency on corporations for crop seeds. Think of the mind, she says, that would develop a means of control by perverting nature’s basic drive toward regeneration.

And I think hopefully of Bolivia’s victory against the Bechtel corporation, which sought private control of the country’s water, including, according to the film, an attempt to stop people from collecting rain water. Who led the people? A politician? No, a 45-year-old machinist named Oscar Olivera. Their slogan? The people united will never be defeated.

There is indeed a war underway in various quarters of this green and blue ball, one that I think will come home to the cocooned citizens of wealth and privilege in the not-too-distant future. And John Kerry is on the wrong side of it.


We are daily reminded that the process of globalization is now in full swing. National economic functions are being absorbed into global economic institutions, public and private. These are controlled more and more by industrial oligopolies in the developed world and by their increasingly junior political partners. Some transnational corporations have assets and revenues that rival and even exceed those of many countries in the South. They can reach into the very heart and mind of nations, shaping decisions traditionally within the sovereign jurisdiction of states and their public or private institutions and organs. If economic pressures fail, powerful diplomatic and military options are at hand.

-- Mary Carras (from “World Affairs”, Oct-Dec 1999)


In 1998, the World Bank's structural adjustment policies forced India to open up its seed sector to global corporations like Cargill, Monsanto, and Syngenta. The global corporations changed the input economy overnight. Farm saved seeds were replaced by corporate seeds which needed fertilizers and pesticides and could not be saved.

As seed saving is prevented by patents as well as by the engineering of seeds with non-renewable traits, seed has to be bought for every planting season by poor peasants. A free resource available on farms became a commodity which farmers were forced to buy every year.

-- The Suicide Economy Of Corporate Globalisation, By Vandana Shiva


Everyday millions of people head of to factory plants, assembly lines and other institutions of production.

We proudly make cell phones, cars, calculators, television sets and many more technologically wondrous goods that after a few years of service land up in landfills polluting our air and water supplies. The facts are clear, we are proudly working and sacrificing endless hours of our own personal well being to make things that are having a detrimental impact on the planet.

According the the United Nations close to a million species of plants and animals could disappear from the face of the earth in the next 50 years.

There is only one solution to this disaster.
"Workers of the world - RELAX !!!!".

Its time for a change.
Its time to reduce the work week to 32 hours.
Its time for music, family, art, education, community, friends, adventure, sharing and sanity.

"Workers of the world - RELAX !!!!".
It is our only chance.

-- Work Less Party

Thursday, July 29, 2004

Kerry’s speech

If I had turned in a piece like that, my boss would have ripped it to shreds. Tighten it up. Too many vague generalities. What are you trying to say? Back up your benefits with facts. There’s no flow, no theme. What’s the take-away? What’s it clock in at? An hour? That’s too long. Even an hour of Bill Clinton gets to be a bit much.

Remember you’re working with Kerry. He can’t modulate; it’s all a dull drone with him. With a long speech, it will be obvious he’s up there just trying to get to the end.

Read Clinton’s speech again, that’s your template. Clear points, digestible sections, room to relax and breathe, show some humanity, before moving in for the kill.

C’mon. Think like a prize fighter. Lean and mean and a sweet smile. Don’t come in all flabby and worried they might not like you. Show up ripped and on your toes. They’ll thank you for it.

I’m sorry, but this is garbage. I know you can do better.

Text and video links for Dennis Kucinich's Wednesday night speech at the Democratic National Convention here.

--thanks for the tip to Curry St. John

Sorry, Lazy, Suck-ass Media

(but you knew that already)

NPR urged me to tune into PBS tonight for their "in-depth" coverage of the Democratic National Convention. I loved that. They train a camera on the stage in the Fleet Center and they train one on some talking heads in a studio and they call it "in-depth coverage."

The obscene Free Speech Cage is THE story of this convention. The idea of it, the fact that the democrats are silent on the issue. I don't watch TV too much, but I've seen a few speeches from Boston. I haven't seen anything about the caging of the public. Has it been on any TV? C-Span maybe?

Have the remarks from the Judge Douglas P. Woodlock, who heard the court challenge to the cage, been reported? "I, at first, thought before taking the view [of the site] that the characterizations of the space as being like an internment camp were litigation hyperbole. I now believe that it's an understatement. One cannot conceive of what other elements you would put in place to make a space more of an affront to the idea of free expression ..."

Even so, the judge denied the groups' challenge, claiming that the zone was necessary to ensure the safety of the delegates.

In a editorial, Michael Avery writes:
In his decision the judge said that he found it "irretrievably sad" that circumstances required the conditions in the demonstration zone. Of course, the court was free to decide that the government had not proven that the conditions were necessary and a more intrepid judge would have done so. What is genuinely "irretrievably sad" is that the judicial branch has accepted so uncritically the demands of the security arm of the state and that one of the lessons of this convention is that the First Amendment is now in urgent need of a life support system to survive.

(ed. note: post edited after publishing)

Curry St. John covers the convention

Dennis' goal has been to unify the Democratic Party, and to electrify it, and I really feel his speech tonight did all it could, and his delivery was the best I've seen from any politician, possibly ever.

Oh, Bill was suave on Monday night, and funny, and sexily charismatic, oozing his charm and wetting the panties of nearly everyone within sight or sound, but this was different with Dennis, this was the REAL "Keep Hope Alive", this was the COURAGE speech, the WE can DO it, speech, and it was brilliant.

She's an old friend from my Oxford days. She's new to the blogspot scene. She brought this cool flash to my attention. She rocks. Tune in to Curry St. John's Travels Abroad.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Boiling it down

Well, at this point it’s easy to see the main themes the dems want to hammer at the convention: we can fight wars of imperial conquest that everybody agrees on and with a commander in chief that everybody likes and takes pride in, as opposed to the other side which fights wars of imperial conquest with an arrogance that alienates and with a commander in chief who is widely recognized as an incompetent fool.

And we promise to hold the line on *some* of the rampant gutting of socially responsible policy. If we can.

I don’t know about you, but I’m inspired.

Monday, July 26, 2004

Hey, yesterday I passed my one-year anniversary at The River.

I'm gettin old.

Here's a compendium of The River, Year 1.


Seabiscuit, the movie

Movie Night (Tigerland)

A couple bloggers chat about Masked & Anonymous

21 Grams -- Heavyweight Contender

TV Nation (The Revolution Will Not Be Televised)

Takin it to the streets (Fahrenheit 9/11)

Hank if you love Bukowski (Bukowski: Born Into This)


It's never too late or too early for the Grateful Dead



What a long, strange trip it's been

Fire on a cold day

Stages of my blogger life


Kucinich campaign drops in on Georgia, Part I and Part II

Weird Scenes Inside the Gold Mine

The unBush Administration

The Times They are a'Changin

Morning Edition

Thanks for coming out

Conservative 2000


Year-end blogger awards

Media Stew

World's oldest curmudgeon tells all

Adverse reaction

Leveraging Market Innovation: A Case Study


What is America?

Wealth Bondage -- The Aftermath

Wealth Bondage hires a speech writer

UPDATE: new for my second year -- e-mail:

Art is the antidote to fear

No, it’s not Abraham Lincoln, Albert Einstein, or Maya Angelou, it’s the good people of the Irregular Times. And they’ve made it available on a bumper sticker.

If we’re going to get this culture war started (and I’ve been waiting a loooong time; finally I had to take up a blog, but that’s a different story) the nation’s bumpers are as good a place as any to start.

Check out the collection. Can you imagine the whitie tightie rigthies coming up with anything half as clever? Would they produce a “Question Authority” bumper sticker? Would they think you should “Question Yourself” or “Question Your Assumptions”? (that applies to the far left as much as the far right, but that’s yet another story).

How about "Cod Lips America"? Sing it with me.

Or a flag sticker that says, “Disagree With Me? Well, FLAG, FLAG, FLAG, FLAG!!!!!!"

So when you see those stickers that say “I’m Patrioticker than YOU!” and “My Flag Has Way More Ripple Things Than Yours!” just shrug and say “I’ve been down so long, down don’t worry me.”

Then vote for Kerry just to piss ‘em off.


Hey readers, what's on your bumper?

Friday, July 23, 2004

Don't forget to vote

I hate it that I have to hold my nose and vote for Kerry, but this is why it has to be done:

W.'s Second Term: If you think the first is bad...

Some breathing room before all hell breaks loose (that is, if it doesn't beforehand, in order to ensure a victory).

via Public Domain Progress

Thursday, July 22, 2004

What's my line?

He mocks the reasoning that has tied us in circles and does what he wants. He stands up for the oppressed, for the left of flesh and blood: prick us do we not bleed, tickle us do we not laugh? And he farted in the general direction of the liberal order of fair play, reasoned debate, and open covenants openly arrived at, because he felt wronged and he took his revenge.


P.S. this really is the best writing I've seen on this person and his work, minus one or two minor caveats.

via scratchings

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Talking to God with ye olde messenger client

The Torture President

I thought the below, taken from the comments to an piece, a nice summation of the links between George W. Bush and torture.

If you can't find a "link" between the Bush Administration and the Abu Graib atrocities you aren't looking very hard.

One way to "link" Bush to the "abuses" is to listen to what Bush says, like when Bush bragged in a speech that the U.S. had deliberately placed terrorist suspects in the hands of foreign governments with an affinity for torture and that those suspects have been "taken care of." In other words, Bush expressly brags about placing terrorist suspects with foreign governments knowing full well that the suspects will be tortured and murdered.

Another way to "link" Bush to the atrocities is to look at the texts of the internal memos that the DOJ solicited in 2002 and compare the suggestions in that text with what actually happened at Abu Graib. For example, take a look at the DOJ memo written by Jay Bybee which suggests that high value detainees need not receive the protections of the Geneva Convention if the military denies the detainee's existence at a detention facility. Now look at what actually happened at Abu Graib: high value targets were personally ordered by Rumsfield not to have any records of their existence at the detention facilities and to deny Red Cross workers access to these detainees. In other words, the government actually did exactly what the DOJ torture memos suggested.

Another way to "link" Bush to the atrocities is to take a look at the suggestions for torturing suspects that were personally approved by Rumsfeld. In fact, Rumsfeld personally modified the protocol to allow detainees to be kept in "stress positions" for 8 to 10 hours. That same protocol allows the detainees to be kept hooded, naked, scared by dogs, kept in stress positions, etc. If you take a look at the photos that were released, you will see that the detainees were subjected to all of these interrogation methods.

Another way to "link" Bush to the atrocities is to look at the corroborating circumstantial evidence: 1. Summer 2003: The administration believes that the insurgency in Iraq is led by a few Saddam loyalists. The administration believes that the way to penetrate the insurgency is to step up intelligence gathering at detention facilities. 2. Summer 2003: A prominent general who developed the interrogation protocol at Guantanamo Bay is sent to Iraq to train intelligence officers in integrating torture into interrogations. 3. Fall 2003: Rumsfield personally approves an interrogation protocol that allows torture of detainees. 4. Fall 2003: Red Cross begins to notice that torture at detention facilities is systemic and out of control.

Another way to "link" Bush to the atrocities is to look at the statements of the soldiers currently charged with abuse: in summary, many of the soldiers talk about an unofficial policy of obtaining information from detainees by sexually humiliating them, taking pictures, then showing the pictures to other detainees during interrogation to make them talk. The soldiers talk about how the woman soldiers were specifially placed in the photos in order to heighten the sexual humiliation.

Another way to "link" Bush to the atrocities, is to look at all of the admissions by administration officials that the soldiers guarding the detainees had no training, or even knowledge of, the requirements of the Geneva Convention. The failure to properly train and supervise your agents renders you liable for foreseeable consequences of their actions. The administration should have known that without oversight and proper training the soldiers would have free reign to commit atrocities.

Another way to "link" Bush to the atrocities is to look at the scope of the prison abuse problem which has now been documented in Afganistan, Iraq and Guantanamo Bay.

Another say to "link" Bush to the atrocities is for the administration to do the right thing and release the remaining photos and videotapes depicting the extent of the atrocities. The photos themselves will add important information about the extent to which the chain of command should be held responsible for these obvious war crimes.

In short, there are many "links" between the Bush administration and the Abu Graib atrocities. These "links" add up to much more than just a "suggestion" that the Bush administration is personally to blame for the atrocities.

david anthony • 7/16/04; 12:48:23 AM

The Ghost of Tom Joad

(Bruce Springsteen)

Men walkin' 'long the railroad tracks
Goin' someplace there's no goin' back
Highway patrol choppers comin' up over the ridge
Hot soup on a campfire under the bridge
Shelter line stretchin' round the corner
Welcome to the new world order
Families sleepin' in their cars in the southwest
No home no job no peace no rest

The highway is alive tonight
But nobody's kiddin' nobody about where it goes
I'm sittin' down here in the campfire light
Searchin' for the ghost of Tom Joad

He pulls prayer book out of his sleeping bag
Preacher lights up a butt and takes a drag
Waitin' for when the last shall be first and the first shall be last
In a cardboard box 'neath the underpass
Got a one-way ticket to the promised land
You got a hole in your belly and gun in your hand
Sleeping on a pillow of solid rock
Bathin' in the city aqueduct

The highway is alive tonight
But where it's headed everybody knows
I'm sittin' down here in the campfire light
Waitin' on the ghost of Tom Joad

Now Tom said "Mom, wherever there's a cop beatin' a guy
Wherever a hungry newborn baby cries
Where there's a fight 'gainst the blood and hatred in the air
Look for me Mom I'll be there
Wherever there's somebody fightin' for a place to stand
Or decent job or a helpin' hand
Wherever somebody's strugglin' to be free
Look in their eyes Mom you'll see me."

The highway is alive tonight
But nobody's kiddin' nobody about where it goes
I'm sittin' downhere in the campfire light
With the ghost of old Tom Joad

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

We Hate Truth

by Richard M. Dolan
June 21, 2004


I grew up believing all the typical things about my country. That America was the world’s land of "freedom." That America’s wars were all just. That people naturally seek truth and freedom.

Most Americans still tell themselves these things. How many people really want to know what their society is doing? Who wants to put the pieces together and question whether the entire social and economic structure of ... well ... our civilization is not only suicidal (increasingly, a few of us are figuring that one out) but also immoral?

That the shallowness and emptiness of American culture is itself largely to blame for the horrific and apparently widespread instances of torture of (innocent) foreign civilians? That the constant spread of faux-grand mansions in our never-ending suburban sprawl (complete with double-wide driveway and SUV) is an affront and assault on what was once a beautiful natural world? That by dropping our kids off in daycare or even many (most) of our public schools, we abdicate the job of parenting? That by spending our entire lives deluged with poisonous advertising and commercial culture, our commitment to things has outweighed our commitment to people?


For more truth, see also Dolan's The Unveiling of the National Security State

Memo to the Media

Truth Out. Now.

Torturing Children

By William Rivers Pitt,


We invaded a country based upon the false claim that Iraq was allied with al Qaeda. We invaded a country based on the false claim that there were weapons of mass destruction which needed to be destroyed. We promised freedom and democracy, and instead installed a CIA-trained strongman named Allawi who has all but created a dictatorship in Iraq, and who has been accused of killing Iraqi prisoners by his own hand. 896 American soldiers have died so we could do this.

We took thousands of innocent civilians off the streets in Iraq and threw them into hellhole prisons, where they were beaten, raped, and killed. This story has faded from public view because no new pictures of the abuses have come out in the last several weeks. Those pictures are out there, and they show the rape and torture of children. The international media is reporting on it. Coalition ally Norway may be preparing to flee Iraq because of the allegations regarding these children.

Where is the American news media? Where are the pictures? Who is responsible for this abomination? Torturing children in the name of freedom? Is this what we have become?


This Land

I don't know which I like better, This Land, the satirical cartoon that blasts Bush and Kerry, or the blog post from the creators talking about their Internet hit.

Monday, July 19, 2004

Debunking '59 Deceits in Fahrenheit 9/11'

On July 1, Dave Kopel, research director at the rightwing The Independence Institute, published a critique of Michael Moore's movie called "Fifty-nine Deceits in Fahrenheit 9/11."

Now, Anton Sirius of The Daily Kos is debunking the debunker. This is good stuff, folks. Check it out.

America’s Vichy Left vs. Michael Moore
By Mark Ames, The eXile, a Moscow-based alternative newspaper
Much has been said over the past week about the final collapse of the Russian Left-opposition. Even a neo-con like Michael McFaul publicly lamented (through crocodile tears) the weekend split of the Russian Communist Party opposition, charging that "democracy as a result has suffered."

But the fact is that the Russian Left died a long time ago -- in the mid-1990s, when they agreed to collaborate with the powers-that-be, and to destroy anyone within their ranks who tried breaking free from their sleazy arrangement with Yeltsin and the oligarchy. The Communists didn't want to win power, in fact they were terrified of taking power -- they were safer, and better-off, as a toothless, fake opposition, which served Yeltsin well because he could whip up Return of the Red Scare fever any time he needed more IMF funds or any time Clinton's people threatened to make a stink about the corruption and genocide that Yeltsin was responsible for.

This is roughly the same wretched story of the American Left ever since Reagan quashed it. For years now, America's Leftists have been flogging themselves to death wondering why it is that they remain so weak and disenfranchised. Most Leftists agree that it's all the fault of the right-wing dominated media, and the Republican-infested corporate conglomerates that control the major media outlets. Others blame religion, or advertising, or popular culture, or something inherently base within the genus americanus. Sometimes they even blame themselves, though only in a safe, disingenuous, fake-self-loathing way: we're out-of-touch, too serious, too high-fallutin', we need to get with the times, etc.

In fact, the main cause for the demise of the American Left is much more sinister than that. The American Left is responsible for destroying the American Left. I don't mean that metaphorically. I mean quite literally that anytime the Left starts to get somewhere, you can be sure that a vigilante mob of other Leftists will rise to the occasion to crush it, to make sure they stay as marginalized and ineffective as always. It's a kind of ghetto envy endemic to the Left - the Right is always rooting for its heroes to succeed. Not the Left. The key for them is to sound Virtuous - and oftentimes that means eating their own in order to promote themselves.

Nowhere is this more clear than in the American Left's envy-fueled lynching of Michael Moore, the only Leftist to make it out of the ghetto. I cannot think of a single American Leftist in my lifetime as effective as Michael Moore, and if Fahrenheit 9/11 is objectively anything at all, it is objectively effective. Bravery is fairly cheap on the Left exchange -- you have to be brave to be Left in this Reptilian Age -- but to actually get out of the Left's ghetto, into the debate, and to strike and strike hard...only one managed that, without going soft or becoming "balanced" and "realistic."

Friday, July 16, 2004

Out of the Past
Looking back on it, during my younger days I was quite an accomplished loafer. For example, I once pursued with great zeal a quest to see every film in "The Devil Thumbs a Ride", a book of short essays on some 100 or so films in the noir genre.
I’d only run across the book because it was authored by a recently discovered -- and still greatly admired -- writer, Barry Gifford.
My friends and I called it “The Book.”
“Hey, Charley Varrick’s gonna be on AMC tomorrow night. It’s in The Book.”
The Book never let us down. Not once.
Charley Varrick, the film, is from 1973, directed by Don Siegel and starring Walter Matthau. See it if you get the chance. Says Gifford, “This movie is dusty and low-rent, a late 20th century western with no generous souls. We admire Varrick for his cleverness, his ability to slide by, but his horizon is a colorless L.A., a low-profile one-eye-over-the-shoulder existence. Guys like him drive past you on the freeway every day.”
I stayed up late one night because AMC was airing Detour. Gifford had informed me that it was “dashed off” on the cheap in 1945 by Edgar G. Ulmer, who he calls the prince of under-noir. “Ulmer’s master was F. W. Murnau (Sunrise, Nosferatu), and those Prusian shadows shriek throughout his work,” writes Gifford.
Like so many, this film follows a poor sap who never saw it coming, steamrolled by his own misapprehension, disadvantaged circumstances, inability to conform, desire and bad luck. Hell, my life was a Detour as well. I’d left journalism for bookstore retail, fighting my own sense of Impending Doom and No Way Out.
The book concentrates on the great noir period of the late-30s through the mid-50s, but also recognizes films from later decades. And it points to a few outside the genre that contain the noir feel.
Says Ed Gorman in the introduction: "Barry is not strictly speaking a critic (and this book is not in any formal way criticism) but rather a novelist and cultural observer who has written well and variously about the American scene of his times. He brings to these pages his gifts – tapped-out humor, dignified anger, an ear for the subtlest and most valuable kind of gossip – that can illuminate not only the movies but also our own experience.”
Barry understands “that noir is the cinematic fever chart of the American dream in this century, from the doomed teenagers of Rebel Without a Cause to the middle-class concerns of Mildred Pierce.”
We thumbed that book incessantly back then. I must have read each essay several times, and at least once before and after a viewing. My edition, published by Grove Press, is out of print, but it’s still available from University Press of Mississippi as “Out of the Past.”
I picked my copy up at the bookstore I worked at, not realizing it had been signed by the author. Its pages are coming loose from the spine now. Regardless, it’s one of my most treasured possessions.
It was brought to mind again the other night. I don’t know why, as I rarely turn the thing on, but I was looking at the TV listings in the paper. It happens that Turner Classic Movies is having a “crime week” and Out of the Past was on, and 30 minutes in. The kids were in bed, so I sat on the couch and watched the rest. Barry says the 1947 Jacques Tourneur film is one of the best noir melodramas, and I agree. It exudes what so many of the films in the book, and the book itself, possess – soul, integrity, realism, truth.
As Gifford says in The Book’s dedication to his daughter: “Even though life isn’t all black and white, it often looks better that way.”

From "The Devil Thumbs a Ride & Other Unforgettable Films", by Barry Gifford. Copyright 1988, Grove Press, pages 82-83. 

Invasion of the Body Snatchers. 1956. Directed by Don Siegel. Screenplay by Geoffrey Homes (Daniel Manwaring). Starring Kevin McCarthy, Dana Wynter, King Donovan, Carolyn Jones, and Larry Gates.
This science-fiction noir is a crossover masterpiece. Written by the author of Out of the Past and directed by the maker of Charley Varrick, The Big Steal, and numerous other crime classics, it could hardly miss. The remake by Phil Kaufman was unnecessary – not terrible, just not worth the bother; the original is perfection, and why anyone would want to mess with that is beyond me. (Kaufman, by the way, co-directed a strange and wonderful little non-noir movie called Goldstein, starring Lew Gilbert and Ben Carruthers, made in Chicago in the mid-60s. It’s seldom seen these days, but well worth the effort if you can find it.)
The idea of aliens from outer space taking over the earth is one that can never lose currency. Human-sized pods, like pea or bean pods, appear everywhere and reproduce within them the physical bodies of earth residents, transplanting alien minds for human. Only Kevin McCarthy, a doctor, manages to escape the takeover of his small California town, and then can only warn others of their – as well as his own – impending doom.
It’s easy enough to see this movie as an object lesson: Don’t let others do your thinking for you. And it’s as relevant today as it was during the McCarthy era and Cold War panic, when it was first made. It’s not that they’re coming – they’re already here, and always have been. Keep your eyes open or you’re a goner. In the movie the aliens take over your mind when your body falls asleep. This is one of the most serious, realistic movies ever made. Don’t ever forget it. 


Thursday, July 15, 2004

30 blogs is too many

So I was sitting here reading my 30th blog of the day, and my eyes, they jumped right out of my head, grabbed me by the ears and wrenched my face up and over the cube wall and in the direction of the window.

“There’s more to life than blogs, nitwit!” they screamed. “Besides, we are effing exhausted and you are going down if you don’t chill. Remember the commute? We might just have to pull the shades down mid lane-change if you don’t straighten up. And make Verdana your default typeface in Word. Much bigger.

Gaahhh! Why do we bother?”

They jumped back in, leaving me gazing at the tops of trees.

They popped out again. “And you might want to put us to actual work. Stomach says it’s important.” Pop. Back in. I rubbed my temples. Moved the re-installed eyeballs from side to side. They still worked, and no co-workers seemed to have noticed.

“Hmm…maybe another vacation…they, er I, really liked staring at the bottom of the swimming pool while floating on a raft,” I mused as I sat back down in front of the computer.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Dispatch from the future

courtesy of wunderdog

November 2nd, 2008
Crawford, Texas

Tomorrow will mark the first American presidential election in eight years. FOX News polls project a 72% lead for President George W. Bush, most likely attributable to his promise to cut taxes for the middle class.

A legal challenge to the constitutionality of President Bush’s re-election in 2008 was quashed by the Supreme Court earlier this week, which refused to hear the case. Speaking to reporters, Chief Justice Roy Moore said: “All facts directly contradict the claims of the plaintiff. There is no basis whatsoever for this case to proceed.”

The detonation of a nuclear warhead at the Chicago rally for Democratic candidate John Kerry, one week before the 2004 election, forced President Bush to declare martial law in the United States.

The attack bore all the trademarks of Osama Bin Laden, who had narrowly escaped Task Force 5 in Afghanistan. TF5, a crack Special Forces unit, was redeployed after it became clear that Bin Laden was no longer in Asia and that those who had aided his escape were in Iraq.

When rioting broke out across the United States in the aftermath of the bombing, President Bush promptly called U.S. troops home from Iraq to deal with the domestic situation. The chaos created by the blast, as well as the loss of a majority of the Democratic Party’s leadership, necessitated postponement of the election. Those protesting the declaration of martial law were detained, and the nation began its march towards recovery.


UPDATE: Cyndy informs us that Margaret Atwood saw this coming about 20 years ago.

Friday, July 09, 2004

On Vacation

Be back July 13. Have a good one.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

Orwellian Times news

BuzzFlash has published Part II of an interview with Robert Kane Pappas, director of the documentary Orwell Rolls in his Grave. You can read Part I here.

Heads up for those attending Phil Cubeta's Open Space Giving Conference in Chicago: there's a screening of the movie on July 11 at 8 p.m. at The Gene Siskel Film Center.

Friends don't let friends type complascent

We actually make friends here in the blog world. For my money, it's one of the best aspects of blogging. The South African Blogger, Mr. Lake of Fire, he of the unrivaled PageCount, Mike Golbfinger himself is one such friend.

YBLOG GOLBY? If you have to ask you'll never know.

Then he went and did a silly thing. He went and attacked my hero! -- a champion of the little guy, the American public, and my friends and neighbors who are so thouthlessly exploited by the collusion of corporate, media and governmental power. Yes, I'm referring to this blog's favorite subject of late, Michael Moore. Golby has some problems with Moore and the media hysteria surrounding the new movie, Fahrenheit 9/11. He couldn't believe I'd publish such a gung-ho and uncritical review. Well, hell, I'm a populist at heart, and so is Moore. So I'm glad he's doing well with his populist messages.

Anyway, I can be critical, but I'm usually one to gloss over the problems in a work in favor of promoting the successes. Such has been the case with F911.

But I think Golby and I will find common ground in a good, critical review of Fahrenheit 9/11, which I found yesterday thanks to new-to-me blogger The Thistle.

Below is a fairly long snippet, but I hope readers check out the whole thing.

No question, Moore has hit on a winning formula, and after the Academy Award he won for Bowling for Columbine, not to mention a box-office haul unprecedented for a non-fiction film, Moore has absolutely no reason to change his m.o. Unless, of course, the different stakes and scope of the new picture demand a different or more sober approach. Bowling for Columbine, like almost all of Moore's work, drew reams of criticism, not just from NRA allegiants and political conservatives but from scrupulous, fact-oriented critics across the political spectrum, for occasionally embroidering the realities and episodes on which the film is based, and for barreling through a discursive and broad argument with such high-velocity aplomb that key distinctions and caveats got lost, and for making Moore himself so conspicuous and grand at the forefront of the picture that it almost served as an extended advertisement for his own brand of snarky baseball-cap activism (undergirded, of course, by deep pockets and a seemingly endless network of inroads, connections, and accomplices). A good deal of this criticism seemed fair, and it is occasionally downright embarrassing how reductive Moore can be in presenting the facts of a case, so superseding the notion of editorial bias as to seem flippant about genuine complexities and/or as ideologically motivated as his habitual targets in the political right and corporate élite.

At the same time, Bowling for Columbine plays as a highly personal essay on a unique problem of the American cultural imaginary, the paradox by which one of the "freest" societies on the globe is inveterately receptive to all kinds of social paranoias and hegemonically imposed fears—often culminating in the kinds of policy legislations, civil-liberty restrictions, and actual violence that give a film like Columbine its primary impetus and its air of moral gravity. When venturing such an argument about national temperaments and national prejudices, considerable leeway remains for concerted exaggeration, tone-setting illustration, and jaunty, opportunistic connections. The omnipresence of Moore himself within Bowling for Columbine's mise-en-scène—especially aggravating when he escorts children to KMart Headquarters on a diplomatic appeal but then immediately hogs the spotlight once their requests are approved—is nonetheless a constant and honest reminder that Columbine really is a personal film rendering personal hypotheses about a set of cultural symptoms.

Not so, or at least less so, when the subjects at hand are the conduct and shadowy infrastructure of an existing administration and the motivations for their involvement in a costly, inhuman, and ongoing martial conflict. At an auteurist level, Moore seems to understand this need for a shift in tone and approach—hence his uncharacteristic and thus much-ballyhooed decision to mostly absent himself from the second hour of Fahrenheit 9/11, as the purview of the movie expands and the fates of its participants and interview subjects grow darker. Oddly, while congratulating Moore for tactfully reducing his own role in the movie, many of Fahrenheit 9/11's staunchest supporters are simultaneously allowing him free-rein to assemble whatever argument he wishes—even the most loosely composed aggregate of "evidence" and circumstantial logic—as long as the film succeeds in stoking anti-Bush sentiment and, in the most optimistic prognoses, contributes to his downfall in the November elections.

I don't think Moore presents a coherent thesis on what's behind the (phony) "war on terror" and its champions in the White House. As I said in my review, he puts out a lot of info, with his obvious slant/opinion attached, for you to consider, to scratch your head and go, "holy shit, it's never been presented to me like that before (this would be non-blog readers). What the hell IS going on here?"

Anyway, if you haven't seen Mike Golby's takedown of F911 and Moore, here's the link again.

I sent him an email with my response, paragraph-by-paragraph. He then summed up what I sent (beautifully), and published it on his blog as ...

An Alternative View

Criticism of the above post added July 8, 2004

Bruce Partridge, the famed Atlantan blogger who makes The River flow, has taken time out to trash my above entry by e-mail. That's after doing so in the comments feature below. As a journalist who cares little for anything remotely "fair and balanced", I suppose I should take umbrage and wipe the blogs with Bruce, a liberal-pinko-commie terrorist who'll get his comeuppance spending Christmas in an Atlanta concentration camp.

But, what the hell, he has seen the movie and is entitled to his principles. For what it's worth, they're principles I admire and he uses them to balance my take-down of Michael Moore and his film. Bruce is fair and balanced and he counters every point I make with a valid counter point. Because of this, and because there are two sides to every story, I asked him if I could summarize his mail and append it to this post.

I didn't wait for a response as I had to get this in before work, so I hope I do justice to what is a thoughtful rejoinder.

For my entry on F9/11, I use a couple of quotes to illustrate the pervasive rot trotted out second nature by the U.S. media. Partridge gets straight to it, addressing the first piece of propaganda issued by Associated Press. He points out, quite correctly, that it's written from within the media-manufactured socio-political context that Fahrenheit 9/11 seeks to obliterate. Nothing like going for the jugular at the outset eh, Bruce?

As for my scene-setting introductory paragraph, in which Moore's rabid fans march on Capitol Hill (there to ensconce their hero in public office), Partridge offers an off-hand "Would that it were so." Can I argue with that? Moore in office? Hell, I wouldn't want to argue with that. Most anything's better than Bush and the likes of Moore are infinitely better than the dirt-brains currently cluttering the Beltway or beating at the White House Door.

I then equate Moore to Hannity and Limbaugh. This upsets Bruce because "...the level of dishonesty in their rhetoric is so far from equal." Stay upset, Partridge, they've been around longer than Mikey and know what it takes to succeed. I'm not a great fan of 'moral equivalence' or whatever it would take to measure the quantity and quality of mud slung or rolled in. I more readily accept that one should point out that, in F9/11, on TV, and in public life, Michael Moore retains his obvious humanity. The Limbaughs, Coulters and Hannitys of the infotainment circus do not.

How could they. They had none to begin with.

I'll also readily agree with Bruce that, if Moore is playing catch-up, he's doing so in a market ripe for exploitation. Like it or not, Moore's business (making movies) is either about giving the audience what they want or making them believe they want that which you're giving them. Infotainment might be fast-food data poison, but if Americans want it, why should the right hog manufacturing rights? Besides, Hannity is trailer-trash humor. At least Moore is capable of both nuanced humor and cogent argument, no matter how circumstantial his evidence (and most of it is more than circumstantial).

Denigrating the movie by associating it with the general media's reaction to it? Okay, that's unfair. As Bruce asks, what did I expect of the media? Well, let's not start... Why is he so keen on the film? Simple. It's a "...powerful anti-war, anti-war-cheerleading statement, based on a true story." As for it being a mockumentary ("What's wrong with that?" asks Bruce), it does offer (or hide) good journalism " the sense that there is information here, some of which can be read in NYT, much of which has never been presented, and none of which has ever been put out with the questions/interests of everyday people as its foundation."

Fact is, as far as Bruce is concerned, this thing is unique. "This ain’t Sam Smith, John Pilger, or Greg Palast, it’s Michael Moore, and that’s OK." What does Moore deliver? A "...powerful anti-war, anti-Bush, anti-media movie..." I think part of Moore's attraction for Bruce, and his need to refute my entry, derives from the way Moore actually engages his characters and his audience. I can't argue with that. "Hey, it’s not what Moore says, it’s who he talks to. Poor kids, peace activists, senior citizens, recruiters, military officers, and Lila Lipscomb. Plus authors, FBI agents, ex-congressmen..."

Backatcha, as it were. Humphhh...

Will F9/11 have lasting effect? To my mind (and because the average U.S. citizen appears to have none), a movie released in July will be erased from memory by November. Yeah, well, Yankees may be dumb but they're not stupid. Bruce tells me the DVD will be released November and, unlike this neck of the woods, most people in the States are in a position to watch DVDs. Why keep it in memory if you can save it to disk? Indeed. Why? It'll be around at the end of the year.

But this is where, for a foreigner, things get interesting. Bruce says "...much of [this material] has never been presented." He further avers that the movie is generating praise because it allows Americans to see "...real people talking about the war, they’re seeing a little bit of what the war looks like, and plenty of other things they should have seen on the news..." Given what I think of the U.S. media, why am I not surprised they don't see these things on network TV?

Again, Partridge delivers: "We don’t have a free press; it’s completely beholden to the corporate dollar. We do have the Internet. Unfortunately, that ain’t nearly enough." It ain't and, as he points out, we do not live in a perfect world "...that would see Bush and other war criminals in the dock. Would that America withdrew troops and sent out diplomats, would that power didn’t corrupt and absolute power didn’t corrupt absolutely."

Why's this guy not working for Michael Moore? Sorry, I forget. He is. And he accuses me of "...attacking the American public..." rather than the schools, the media and the world we live in. God, they don't come more patriotic than that. Mind you, such patriotism is so rare and irrefutable, it's bloody refreshing.

Does Bruce hold out much hope the movie will achieve what it sets out to do? In large part, yes. But, as far as he's concerned, it's not up to the movie to do that. It's up to the American public to eject Bush from the White House in November. After that? Well, I guess that's when the struggle really begins...

Indeed. Thanks, Mike.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Steve Gilliard on F911

People have said that someone should make a right wing counterpart to this film, but they can't. The facts are against them. The best they can do is either attack Moore personally or make lame films like America Heart and Soul. There is no response they can make and stay with the truth.

This is also the rarest of films, one which can change minds and make you think. Because it doesn't come to conclusions, it takes you to the edge, but then lets you connect the dots. Which is much smarter than saying things like Bush was beholden to the Saudis. However, if you conclude that,'d be crazy not to.

It's the kind of movie which people will see and if they didn't know what Moore is saying is true, when they go online to find out, they'll be stunned at what he didn't say.


(the fact that Steve and I recently switched to the same template is coincidental; I switched yesterday, visited Gilliard for the first time in weeks today and, well, damn, I'd never seen anyone else with this template.)

Friday, July 02, 2004

F911, one more time

I'm tired of politics. It's been all "Fahrenheit 9/11" around here this week, you may have noticed. I've been reading up on the reaction around the blogs. Bleh. Tiring. Although inspiring too, especially in the comments of weblog readers. Heck, thanks to Moore's movie, I felt moved to give to John Kerry's campaign (through, thereby marking my funds as in support of progressive causes) because, in ways small or even large, he can and will help.

As you can see from the somewhat bitter tone of the post below, I'm tired of all the harping that faults Moore for what he didn't do, rather than recognizing what he did.

I’ve been reading on the Net that Moore should have talked about Israeli influence of the White House and the (phony) war on terror. To which I would say: one step at a time. I think Moore wants to deal with the issues that are on the American radar, most of which have simmered at an almost subconcious level. Thanks to his popluar and powerful movie, they are now being brought into a white hot glare.

This writer says Moore is blaming the Saudis for our problems. He even accuses Moore of borderline racisim because of a rapid montage showing Bushies with Saudis. Why it’s not equally racist regarding Caucasians I can’t say.

Maybe I should see it again, but I think Moore, like a journalist, was reporting that…

a) The official story is that 3/4s of the hijackers were Saudi Arabian

b)Yet the Bushies are big pals with the Saudis, do big business deals with them, many of them involving arms through the Carlyle Group

c) the Carlyle Group is doing very well thanks to the obviously phony war on terror

d) the Saudi regime is a brutal dictatorship

e) Saudis have a lot of money invested in this country

f) all this money (he makes a big deal out of the influence of money) seems to influence an administration to the point that although the official story has Saudi Arabians directed by a Saudi named Osama attacking the U.S., we haven’t done much police work or diplomatic work to prosecute the crime, re: Saudi Arabia

g) nor have we apprehended Osama

h) this does not mean the U.S. should engage in military action against the country because

i) he does not say the Saudi *leadership* directed an attack

Hell, the main point is our leaders have no clue, lie like hell, don’t give a damn about everyday Americans, and are rushing around bombing, invading, fighting, CREATING enemies because it’s good for business. And in the long run, it’s not going to be good for regular people anywhere, not the Middle East, not Israel and not America.

He gets some great quotes, and this one, about invading Iraq, sums it up: “it’s good for business, bad for the people.”

Thursday, July 01, 2004

“Fahrenheit 9/11” Critics

From the left:

It’s incoherent because he tried to cover too much.

He didn’t cover enough. He didn’t talk about PNAC!

He didn’t make the film I would have made. He didn’t tell the American people EVERYTHING, like I would have.

Don’t make FUN of the Bushies, just give people the facts – that’s entertainment. The BBC would have been a useful guide here.

This (phenomenally successful) film didn’t tell ME anything new, so it failed.

From the far left:

What? Like Gore wouldn’t have invaded Iraq?

From the center:

No criticism. Don't plan to see it; it’s leftist propaganda. I’ll stick to the evening news for my unbiased, propaganda-free information.

Dodgeball was good.

From the right:

This isn’t a documentary, it’s a (gasp) polemic!

Well, Christopher Hitchens nailed it. What a brilliant writer.

I…I…I …SAW it! It’s HORRIBLE! It is just so venal, so driven by hatred of Bush. And Bush is just trying to protect us from the terrorists.

Editing, trickery..he’s just like Limbaugh, only worse (but Limbaugh's a good entertainer and makes some good points).

He messed up on the Saudi flights! He messed up on the Saudi flights!

From the far right:

When the world is ruled by the Islamofascists, I’ll know which traitor to blame the most.

From a humble weblog writer:

Michael Moore has made a film suggesting the Bushies are anti-democratic warmongering profiteers and the wars on Afghanistan and Iraq are complete fuckups, mass murder for money, oil, and power lust, covered over in transparent lies enabled by the media.

Good on ya, Mike.

Oh, and the Saudi flights…probably some of Mike’s patented fast and loose editing is leading people to believe they flew out while all other planes were grounded, although he apparently says they left "after September 13." If we can all agree that video/film (and film editing) is potentially the most powerful form of lying ever invented, no matter who uses it, we might get somewhere.