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Hollywood A-list films are not just movies, they are accompanied by large-scale propaganda campaigns that often cost more than the production of the movie itself and reach a far greater number of people through unsolicited commercials, talk-show interviews, media buzz, awards bullshit, etc. etc.
The campaign is bigger than the movie. It also conveys a message. We all know how to read commercials, which contain content. The message in the case of the propaganda campaign for "American Sniper" is crystal-clear. It's fair game for discussion, regardless if one has seen the movie.
In this case, the commercials also happen to suggest an incredibly maudlin and disgusting movie, one that I would not choose to pay for from among the hundreds of movies released each year. But that's a minor matter.
More relevantly, we are talking about a monster engaged in a monstrous war. Kyle's life and words are part of the public domain. For example, his hallucinations of murdering black people in New Orleans from the top of the Superdome are well-known.
If they released a movie called "Ted Bundy: Teen Hero," and paid $100 million to advertise it during NFL playoffs, you'd be entitled to have an opinion on it without needing to see the film.
Posted by JackRiddler | Tue Jan 20, 2015, 04:41 PM (0 replies)
Poor guy, he "has to" kill a child resisting the invasion of a foreign empire that has already destroyed his country. He has no choice!
It's important a great artist like Eastwood is here to remind us poignantly that war is hell and comes at great cost to the warrior, because otherwise we would have not noticed several thousand years worth of art in precisely this vein.
Does the film's propaganda campaign (quite apart from what I'm sure is a wonderful work) contribute to the rehabilitation of the most obviously criminal war of aggression in recent history? That's secondary to the greatness of the art! I'm sure it's the movie itself is not at all the disgusting maudlin celebration of murder and hypocrisy depicted in the commercials. Those are false advertising to work the box office, you know? Nothing wrong with that. All hail the dollar. Long as the movie allows critical minds like yours to detect/construct/fantasize a beautiful artistic context critical of war, who cares what the yahoos packing the theater think?
Tell me, how beautifully are the Iraqis humanized? I'm guessing maybe there are two spoken roles for them? That's usually how it works in this kind of highly subtle art work. From this film's most important recent predecessor in the cinema of American sociopaths engaged in imperial genocide, "Hurt Locker," we know Iraqis are only ever likely to say one of two things: "Help me, American!" (just before being blown up) and "Allahu Akhbar!!!" (just before blowing themselves up).
Here's another great movie that also teaches, among other things, that War Is Hell:
So unfair that this was ignored in the awards. I'm sure the Academy will stand tall and honor the great American sequel.
Posted by JackRiddler | Tue Jan 20, 2015, 08:31 AM (0 replies)
A mildly reassuring sign.
Posted by JackRiddler | Tue Jan 20, 2015, 12:48 AM (9 replies)
Posted by JackRiddler | Mon Jan 19, 2015, 12:02 PM (10 replies)
There hasn't been enough pepper-spray, mass arrest, billy-clubbing, curb-stomping, use of ear-piercing Pentagon crowd-dispersal weapons, etc. Not that there hasn't been some of the above, just slightly less than under Bloomberg. The openly fascist leadership (and apparent majority) of the NYPD, like Lynch, have this idea that Bloomberg or Giuliani would have allowed them to do a lot more stomping on the protesters, whom they see as lawless anarchist cop-hating criminal dangerous un-American foreign sub-human etc. To them, anything less than a heartily-endorsed police state and utter demonization of the protests is capitulation to communism. Long before the protests got big, De Blasio actually held a press conference in which he allowed the cops to mock-arrest him -- with real handcuffs -- in showing how an obedient citizen never "resists arrest" (as if the coppers always give you a choice -- in reality, they're stomping people long before there is any chance of "resisting arrest," like with Garner). So there it was: The Mayor, cuffed, being put into a paddy wagon. Not even this symbolism is enough for the pig majority among the cops, however.
De Blasio could march out in front of the cops swinging the lead billy club and they'd still think him soft. Cops are hands-down the most fascist demographic employed in New York City. Not that most of them actually live in New York City, since they do not. They commute to a job they perceive as keeping the lid on a zoo of violent, dangerous animals. They think they're universally hated -- not quite true, though they try hard to alienate everyone they deal with -- despite the endless propaganda telling them how they are the greatest bravest most wonderful people doing the most important service in the world, etc. etc., and despite about fifteen hours of prime-time programming every week devoted to the same message, espcially about NYPD. Still they think you hate them and they hate you. And you voted for De Blasio instead of some guy who was more obviously a bootlicker.
Posted by JackRiddler | Sat Dec 27, 2014, 02:41 PM (0 replies)
is devoted to absolving the administration and the Democratic leadership of their role in this. The bait-and-switch of liberatory rhetoric during campaigns followed by total obedience to corporate capital once in power, causes many people to turn to the snake oils of the paleocons and ostensibly anti-statist libertarians.
People are disaffected with repression and the surveillance state, war on drugs, militarism and imperialism, and the general kowtow to bankers and corporations and neoliberal policy. Seeing what the Democrats do, they fall for the rhetoric of the libertarian salesmen.
In response, instead of calls for the Democrats to finally start doing the right things on these issues, you have all the posts here demonizing, not just the Pauls (and rightly so, for the most part) but also attacking anyone who is concerned with these issues. Altogether superfluous "Fuck Paul" threads become a daily, ritualized two-minutes hate.
The point, again: to absolve Democratic leadership of their role, to present them as blameless and entirely good. It must be screamed and repeated that Democrats are actually extremely progressive and getting all they can against the Republican opposition on all these issues (within the realm of the possible, you understand, don't be naive and don't be asking for no ponies, kay?). Anyone who says otherwise (even if from a leftist critique) is secretly or unconsciously WORKING FOR PAUL!!! A total dichotomy is set up. Its logic is team fandom: Are you with us, or are you with Rand Paul?
One wishes this kind of dichotomy would be reserved (and actually used) where it makes sense: For example, Are you for the survival of the human species, or are you with the fossil fuel industry? Are you for human rights, or are you for a surveillance state? Are you for human rights and justice, or are you for continuing drug prohibition? Are you for reality, or do you think permanent-growth economics can be sustained in the long term?
Instead we're asked if we fly a blue flag or a red one.
Posted by JackRiddler | Mon Sep 1, 2014, 09:07 AM (1 replies)
Key words: Bush Regime, Obama response to Bush Regime crimes, John Yoo, Westfall precedent, curious argument that Obama has "not granted immunity" for criminal activity by Bush-era officials.
In 2001, a regime came to power following a highly public electoral fraud. As the fraud began to unravel, a judicial fiat suspended the rule of law in determining the true results of the 2000 presidential election. The Court stepped in, stopped the constitutional process, and appointed the loser as the winner.
The cabal who had thus seized the United States executive branch prepared and launched a long-planned war of aggression, employing a fabricated and fabulated pretext. There followed the deaths of hundreds of thousands of civilians and the destruction of more than one nation. The direct consequences remain with us today.
Among many constitutional violations, breaking of laws, obstructions, obfuscations, atrocities and war crimes, officials of the Bush Regime also ordered and oversaw the imprisonment without charges and in many cases the torture of an unspecified number of persons - dozens, hundreds, thousands - who were held at illegal and often secret sites in many countries around the world.
In creating a framework against future prosecution, the main conspirators of the Bush Regime circulated secret memoranda among themselves, deploying spurious legal arguments to justify their lawbreaking. In any serious criminal case against the cabal, the lawyers who issued these enabling memos would have been a prosecutor's first targets, because their role had been to provide legal cover for the entire criminal enterprise.
In 2008, a successor administration was elected legitimately under the terms of the U.S. constitution. The winning candidate had issued promises that charges of wrongdoing by the outgoing government would be investigated.
However, the personnel of the new government chose to ignore the overwhelming prima facie evidence of criminal conduct by their predecessors. The Obama team made a series of decisions not to investigate, not to prosecute, and not even to reveal the full extent of the Bush Regime's criminal activity. On the contrary, with regard to the national security and surveillance state, they oversaw an expansion of this activity and sought to render it retroactively legal.
It should be noted that while the majority of Democratic voters had not (or only rarely) supported Bush Regime actions, indispensable collaboration was given at key points by Democratic Party leaders and politicians.
In the most egregious example, one-half of the Democrats in the Senate - including Hillary Clinton, John Kerry and Joe Biden - voted for the 2002 motion enabling the announced plans to invade Iraq. This granted invaluable political legitimacy to the subsequent war of aggression.
When the Democrats regained control of the Congress on a wave of antiwar sentiment in 2006, their leadership promptly announced that impeachment was "off the table," in Nancy Pelosi's words, and they accommodated the continuation of the Bush-initiated wars.
In 2008, key Democrats including the presidential candidate, Senator Obama, voted for the FISA amendments granting retroactive immunity from prosecution and civil liability to phone companies that had participated in the illegal Bush eavesdropping program - in effect, ending any chance that Bush officials would be held accountable for their massive expansion of domestic spying.
Now, starting in 2009, the new chief executive did not just fail to prosecute but morally exonerated the Bush-era perpetrators. Obama kept Bush's secretary of defense, Gates, in office for several years. He appointed the war criminal, Petraeus, to head the CIA. He bestowed medals on members of the Bush gang. Most recently, he trivialized torture as something "we" did to some "folks" out of understandable fear and patriotic over-reaction.
At the beginning of the Obama administration's public and legal efforts to exculpate the Bush regime - and thus, effectively, to cover up its crimes before history - use was made of a legal device known as the Westfall exception, which provides the government with the option of giving legal representation to former employees who are accused in criminal or civil cases.
Rather than bringing charges for legal misconduct against John Yoo - the former DOJ counsel who wrote memos to justify torture - the Obama government instead provided Yoo with a government lawyer when the latter was sued by one of the Bush Regime's many victims.
The practice of issuing Westfall certifications is based on a judicial precedent, not on legislated law. The Obama administration could have chosen to declare Yoo's Westfall certification null and void, because his actions had involved the witting commission of crimes - in fact, constitutional violations.
As I wrote here years ago:
Yoo's legal opinions served as the basis for clearing illegal actions by the executive. If your lawyer advises you that you may commit an illegal act because in his opinion it is actually legal, he makes himself liable to prosecution, and you are still subject to prosecution for your crime. Both of you may face an additional conspiracy charge for your collusion in justifying that crime.
The difficulty is in demonstrating any one individual’s witting intent, although as a group they obviously set out to break the law and then did so. (This is why lawmakers invented RICO for going after organized criminal activity in which a refined division of labor and code of silence helps to shield individual conspirators.)
This is how it works: Yoo can issue a secret opinion that Cheney has the right to shoot you in the face. Gonzalez (or Ashcroft) then secretly but officially certifies that Yoo issued this opinion as part of his official duties at OLC. (This may later entitle Yoo to government defense under a precedent known as Westfall). Now Cheney can face-shoot you. Everyone's in the clear. Except you. As the face-shot victim, when you sue for damages (like Padilla has sued Yoo), Yoo's hope is that all future executive branches will not join the suit, but on the contrary must represent him in court thanks to his "Westfall certification." The Obama Justice Department, which should be hauling Yoo (and the rest) off in shackles, has in fact provided representation for Yoo. Cheney theoretically will get representation also, if his turn comes, thanks to Yoo's legal malpractice in issuing the memo that made a secret exception to the laws against face-shooting. Is Gonzalez in the clear? I'm sure somebody in the round-robin of preemptive exoneration issued a memo that covered his ass, too.
The latest argument therefore that the Obama administration has "not granted Bush immunity" is an example of completely irrelevant, legalistic hair-splitting. A cheap diversion. The administration paid for a lawyer to defend Yoo. Under these circumstances, what does it even mean to "grant immunity"?
Clearly, the Obama position is that nothing the Bush organization did even rises to the level of an offense actionable enough to bring immunity up as an option. To grant immunity would admit that something wrong may have been done. Obama administration officials instead chose to justify, to heroize, to valorize, and to follow in the footsteps of their criminal predecessors on many issues, including mass domestic surveillance and secret and unsanctioned military actions around the world.
Posted by JackRiddler | Sun Aug 31, 2014, 10:06 AM (84 replies)
This is an industry. It requires some level of actual warfare to keep itself going.
Besides, to its constituents it's not just a scam. They've built the goddamn hammer and they want to flatten some nails!
This is why there's always a next war starting before the last one winds down. The excuse is increasingly irrelevant. Last year we were supposed to bomb Syria to stop Assad, this year we will bomb the same country, in some cases the same targets (since ISIS has gained territory), so as to stop anti-Assad extremists. Long as we're bombing Syria, it's all good.
Nowadays it's always several wars at once, each tuned to different levels of media attention and public consciousness. If there's six going overtly, there's no doubt several covert (to be revealed) or fully deniable ones running at the same time.
These actions technically are built to advance the interests of various sponsors: resource-grabbers, debt peddlers, ethnic lobbies, drug profiteers, money launderers, mafias, etc. But not all of the schemes work out, and it doesn't matter. Blowing up a billion in ordnance is its own reward, especially to the contractor that replaces it.
If the wars can be fit into some faction's demented geostrategic "realist" imperialist vision, then it's gold, because, again: the militarists like to believe in themselves. They're not militarists, they're humanitarians. We're redrawing the borders of the Middle East for peace and freedom and prosperity and security and blah blah blah, ka-ching ka-ching.
Posted by JackRiddler | Sun Aug 31, 2014, 12:35 AM (0 replies)
How did I miss this?
What does the great man say? I'm dying to know!
Okay, so Gates gave four million dollars to American Enterprise Institute! So what? He's just buying the entire "legit" political spectrum, from "conservative" all the way to sort-of "liberal." So the money's raining down on everyone, long as they're part of the status quo. That's his god-given right as a rational maximizer of utilitarian benefit. And it will help create the consensus behind sensible policy we need so badly in this time of awful, awful polarization. (Cue shudders & eerie music.)
If you don't like that he has all this money, or how he's spending it, then it is because you are JEALOUS. And LAZY. And not smart like him, but STUPID. Or CRAZY.
But I know a lot of you here agree that our new Gilded Age's most successful robber baron and unconvicted antitrust violator is a great guy!
Billionaires are generally wonderful people, always saving the world, giving away their billions for philanthropy, making new billions to give away, feeding people... Except for the Kochs! Those are some very bad brothers. (Insert two minutes' hate here.)
But Gates? What a wonderful man! Bill Gates is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being I've ever known in my life!
His foundation is saving Our Children by waging war on the bad teachers in the Bad Teachers Union. They're saving the Africans by using just a small fraction of them in Big Pharm medical experiments. They're saving the Indian farmers by forcing them to use GMOs or get off their lands. That lets more productive entities produce the food we need to feed the whooooooole world.
Now yes, he's saving a lot in taxes by transferring a portion of his wealth to the foundation, which of course he still controls. And yeah, the main action of this foundation is to use its awesome endowment as a hedge fund, investing in corporations that generally benefit from the research that the charitable side funds.
But this is also good for everyone, because it means Gates will have even more money to save the world even more!
The charitable side, meanwhile, does not just fund R&D for applications that the endowment side can later invest in. As the 400-pound gorilla in any room, the Gates Foundation sets the agenda for policymaking and philanthropy. For example, Gates decides that deficient schools are the cause of inequality and the economy isn't, and its money is enough to determine how these issues are covered. By offering to finance shares in projects, Gates determines how other charitable as well as public money is spent in the United States, Africa and India. Its reach thus goes far beyond the already considerable funds that it commands. It can control how your own taxes are spent.
The Gates Foundation is so fabulously charitable that under its charter it is required to give away all of its money within a mere fifty years after Bill and Melinda have both died.
Really that makes me sad. I hope the successors can find a way to roll that endowment over into another foundation, so that they can keep giving away their always-growing fortune - forever!
Hopefully some of that medical research can bring us closer to the day when the rich can really start dreaming of immortality. With some luck, Bill and Melinda may still be blessing the young of the future with their kindly presence and beneficient influence in person, in 2100!
There is a really great comic in Truthout now about the Gates war on the schools. Excellent research tool as well:
And to think how you hated this guy for being a wealth creator - Gates could buy out his whole fortune about 400 times, I think?
(Sadly I couldn't find one of Romey speaking with an AEI backdrop!)
Posted by JackRiddler | Sat Aug 30, 2014, 09:52 PM (10 replies)
The question must always be what the total required material resources and energy for manufacture are. How does this thing work?
The TLSC consists of organic salts that absorb specific non-visible wavelengths of ultraviolet and infrared light, which they then luminesce (glow) as another wavelength of infrared light (also non-visible). This emitted infrared light is guided to the edge of plastic, where thin strips of conventional photovoltaic solar cell convert it into electricity.
It sounds promising, but these salts: are they rare? What kind of process are they put through? How much energy does making the final product require? Installing it as windows? At what point has it produced enough energy to replace the energy of resource extraction, manufacture, delivery, installation? How long does it last, how disposable is it, etc. etc. Once all that spells feasible, it's still a big question where on the efficiency range the actual mass product will land (they mention anything from 1 to 7 percent), which is a huge difference in how much it actually produces and thus whether the results are going to make a significant difference or amount to little more than 2-3 minutes extra on your cell phone power. (Things like the latter could encourage people to be more wasteful and have a net effect of zero in saving on non-renewable forms of energy.)
But yeah it's totally cool!
Posted by JackRiddler | Sat Aug 30, 2014, 01:53 AM (0 replies)