Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Consistent Delusions, Necessary Illusions

Philip Weiss, of the blog Mondoweiss, comments on the near-total absence of reporting or commentary on the Israeli murder of 19-year-old American-Turk Furkan Dogan on the Gaza flotilla in May. The memory-holing of Furkan Dogan by American mythologists at The New York Times, CNN, NPR and others is another in a long line of deliberately forgotten Israeli attacks on Americans.

The murder of Rachel Corrie received little but dismissal — or even contempt — until the play My Name is Rachel Corrie, first, proved to be excellent and moving, and, second, bigots in New York City and elsewhere tried to get the play effectively banned. Then some of the fence-sitting variety of bigots raised some concerns about censorship.

The treatment of — or indifference to — Furkan Dogan is a predictable consequence of the same ‘thinking’ that ‘justifies’ giving 10 times as much coverage to Israeli victims of Palestinian attacks as to Palestinian victims of Israeli attacks.

Jeffrey Dvorkin, NPR ‘ombudsman’ (read, “Defender of the Faith”), exemplified American bigotry when he expressly defended NPR’s grossly skewed coverage on the grounds that Israeli deaths are “more newsworthy”. More astonishingly yet, he stated explicitly that he felt that NPR and American media treated Palestinians more favorably than Israelis. One has to be genuinely delusional to believe that US mainstream coverage is skewed in favor of the Palestinians. There is absolutely no measure on which that could be rationally concluded.

It is for reasons like this that Chomsky and others have noted that the US steadfastly refuses to offer a formal definition of “terrorism”. Any reasonable, plausible definition would undoubtedly sweep up Israeli and American crimes. That leaves glaringly unbalanced accounts like that of Michael Isikoff of Newsweek who offered an account on which American Christians and Jews, strictly as a matter of language, could not be terrorists.

Dogma must be circular. By its very nature it lacks sufficient rational or factual support. Thus it must rely on some internal framework to justify itself. And that framework must justify dismissal of inconvenient facts. From the delusional perspective of editors at CNN or The New York Times or NPR, it really is perfectly reasonable to ignore Furkan Dogan or Rachel Corrie or Emily Henochowicz or any of the other westerners injured or murdered by Israeli terrorists.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Power of Movies, Even Crappy Ones

Salon has an essay, or slideshow, summarizing some filmmakers' memorable moments at the movies, in the audience. At first I was stumped.

I'm sad to say that this essay chronicles a really sorry set of movie experiences. The letter writers in this comments section are better and more moving. Dances with Wolves??? Bill and Ted? (Actually, I know I'm wrong on this . . .)

Surely, to be a moving movie experience, the movie itself must have some semblance of quality — of some kind . . . any kind. All with moments, The Moments, that say, "Remember this. . . ."

I saw Lawrence of Arabia on a 75mm screen in Boston -- jaw dropping, and I had already seen the film several times, but never appreciated the monumental cinematography until I saw it on a big screen.

Star Wars — saw it at age 12 and knowing from the first commercial that I saw (with R2D2 zapped and falling forward) that it was going to be great, something the studio was too stupid and money-grubbing to know. We had to travel 20 miles to see it because it was expected to fail at the box office.

Alien. The first film that truly terrified me.

Terms of Endearment. Not a great film, so maybe my opening claim is just wrong. I was with a girl I liked a lot. When the nurse wakes Jeff Daniels to say "She's gone" I was shocked: "What?" — as Tsar Nicholas supposedly on hearing that he and his family were to be executed.

Au Revoir les Enfants, Celebration (Festen), Wild Strawberries, The Searchers, Unforgiven, Crimes and Misdemeanor, Full Metal Jacket, Spartacus — my list is long. Each with the moments, The Moment, that says, "Now. . . . Remember this . . . ."
          Till the Spinner of the Years
          Said "Now!" And each one hears,
And consummation comes, and jars two hemispheres.
This is the moment.
The power of movies.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


The Shape of Things to Come — some expressions just have overwhelming force (for me, anyway), and this one from H.G. Wells has moved me since I was a kid. Some writers have a gift for this, not always matched in the body of the work that follows. You see the same thing in music. Compare how Beethoven follows up the Da Da Da Duhhhh at the start of his Fifth Symphony with the music most widely known for its use in Kubrick's movie 2001 — Strauss's Also Sprach Zarathustra. Beethoven sustains it, Strauss doesn't.

Same thing in politics. Reagan, regardless of our opinions of him (I despise him — the conspiring with the Iranians to undermine Carter was treason) . . . Reagan sustained it. Obama has failed utterly, and not because of the appalling situation he inherited (and he inherited the worst situation of any president since FDR — worse for Obama, with two wars). Obama hasn't even shown an inclination to try to sustain what he generated during the campaign.

And that, in no obvious way at all, brings me (and probably only me) back to what is to come — The Shape of Things to Come. . . . Beats me. I have no idea. But I'm a pessimist, a radical pessimist. Some observations on our current state that leave me feeling bleak about our future:
  1. Republicans are willing to torpedo the economy for mere political gain.

  2. The only thing setting the Democrats apart is that they are incapable of action

  3. Obama failed utterly at Copenhagen to advance any environmental agenda, even the half-hearted one he tentatively advocated.

  4. American politicians are unwilling or unable to do what politicians might be able to do to improve the economy but

  5. These same politicians are both willing and able to advance the cause of the wealthiest Americans (among whose number these politicians increasingly count themselves).

  6. The vast majority of the very wealthy show, not only indifference to the well-being of the far less fortunate majority, but outright hostility to it.

  7. The US has 'progressed' from (a) an ethos that embraced some (a very little some) redistribution of wealth from the richest to the poorer to (b) the Reagan era dogma of criminalizing poverty and allowing the rich to benefit without limit must benefit the poorer to (c) Bush era faith that the poorer just don't matter at all to (d) the current credo of criminalizing lack of wealth and redistributing wealth from the lower classes to the rich.
  8. In other words, the US is rapidly embracing a neo-Aristocratic model — plutarchy.
  9. After years of the US pressing Europe to stop providing a model of social and civic awareness that undermines American dogma, right-wing European governments are capitalizing on fiscal woes to destroy decades-old social programs.
  10. The world as a whole is making little if any progress on environmental issues.
  11. News on environmental issues continues to get worse. To put it another way, projections on many environmental issues, like global warming, have repeatedly proved to be too optimistic.
More soon.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Interns — The New Indentured Servants

The New York Times has a good essay on the problems facing college students seeking summer internships. Good as it is, the piece only addresses part of the problem.

There is another dimension to the internship problem — non-student workers who are taking internships, often entirely unpaid, because they cannot find any paid work. I have seen jobs listed as \"internships\" that _require_ extensive experience, 40 hours per week (or more), on-site, with not even a stipend for lunch. Unscrupulous, unethical employers are using the term \"intern\" to justify what is effectively indentured servitude. At least a couple of specialty job listing sites I know have stopped accepting listings for internships because of employer abuse.

All this takes places in a terrible labor market after years of growing employer dependence on contractual or temporary workers who receive no benefits or job security.

Without organized intervention (by government or organized labor) at least some of these trends will persist even once the economy improves (if it does).