Archive for the These United States category

January 19th, 2011

Patriot Act in Great Kills:
Joyous Jets fan snow coasts down Cleveland to eternity

Posted in Death, These United States by ed

Minutes after the Jets shocking victory over the Patriots, he ran out in a fit of joy and took a leap with a snow coaster that seconds later had him skidding into heavy traffic on Cleveland Avenue, and there he died.

The Times recall the man:

Mr. Larsen was best known for things big — indeed, he did everything big. Big decorations at Halloween and Christmas. Big Sunday afternoons with big groups of friends watching the big games.

He would mount a 12-foot inflated snowman, wearing a top hat and a Jets jersey, on his truck when tailgating at Jets games.

“He was just always having fun.”

January 16th, 2011

True Grit rides anew and leaves Stanley in the dust

The characters in the Coen brothers film are geared to work against both the Old Testament bleakness of the novel and the Waynesian joie de vivre of the first film.

Mattie in the film, at fourteen, is a relentless robotic harridan-to-be, expressing thru caricature the bleak worldview that Stanley Fish here extracts from the novel and offers as the spiritual key to the new film.

Mattie’s been trained as a bookkeepper and, we find, knows nothing about life and justice on the great frontier. Most comico-tragically, she badgers the tumbleweeds of the prairie with threats or promises of treatment by her lawyer. Finally poor Ned shuts her up, for us all, by responding that what he needs is a “good JUDGE” — yearning, it seems, for the Good News god and His mercy as deadly accidents set in train by Mattie’s thirst for revenge snake about his neck like a noose.

Cogburn steadily provides the antidote of worldly experience to Mattie’s booklearning and naive rationalism. Eg, he instructs and insists that Ned Chaney hung in Texas for shooting a senator is as good as Arkansas for shooting Mattie’s pa — and that the financial benefits of the former settle the case. Let’s be reasonable.

The only bit of this Cogburn we see in Mattie is when she goes a bit soft on LaBoeuf, who, at the extreme from her take-no-prisoners egomania, espouses the chivalrous naivete of the Cavalier society that settled Texas. Cogburn, in between, does his best to moderate the romance, but Mattie’s headstrong stone-hearted quest for vengeance must leave Quixote in the dust. “Ever stalwart,” he sadly affirms, too late to be heard, as she rides into the sunset in search of her devil.

A quarter century thence, at film’s end, we see that Mattie’s blindered pursuit of her ideal brought her to a barren life. She is, at 40, an echo of Miss Gulch — from The Wizard of the Oz — an irredeemable witch peculiar to the frontier who demonstrates no more curiosity or compassion for things human than she did at fourteen. She strides through the colorful marvels of a city and a circus without a sidelong glance, and her very last line is an imperious insult — “Keep your seat, trash!” — to an old man who failed to rise in her bristling presence.

The film’s coda, then, cements the notion (which sprouted for me about halfway thru) that the last thing one must do with this story is respect the barbaric worldview of its motor-mouthed bookkeeping upstart protagonist.

Naturally, then, one looks elsewhere — to Jeff Bridge’s Cogburn, who shares the joy of John Wayne’s but whose every decision is shot through by social psychology, and who recognizes a good deal of himself in all the bad guys: “I know him!” he keeps moaning to Mattie as the hapless of the earth wander into his crosshairs.

In short: The last thing I see in this Cogburn is the amoral gunslinging paraclete that Stanley Fish is at such pains to paint.

Affinities between the Old Testament and the amoral Predeterminism of certain Christian schools are oft remarked. And it’s a familiar turn in American letters to use the Old Testament to gloss the New World.

Alfred Kazin was a master of this, and his essays on Lincoln — whom he finds caught between the South’s fundamental sin and the relentless paracletes of Abolition — are among the assessments of the American character that I treasure.

But Mr Fish, falling short of Kazin, offers an impoverished reading of the new film, whether out of doctrine (his distinctive nihilism) or innocently, as it were, I don’t know. What seems clear is that the Coen brothers set out to Deconstruct the novel’s heroine, as a spiritually barren witch — and it’s odd that Perfesser Fish of all people would not notice.

By film’s end I even wonder if she was telling the truth about her devil Ned Chaney.

However that may be, it’s odd to find her, twenty-five years later, venerating Cogburn’s memory and yet so unchanged, so blindly made of stone after all these years. T’would seem that authentic veneration might have tenderized her hide a hair. Perhaps we are to sense that subterranean guilt, for having dragged Cogburn and the rest into her hell, is the real reason she transports his grave to the barren hilltop where her parents lie.

In any case, I mourn for this Cogburn as he tries to rest in peace with Mattie Gulch’s blank stare and recitations from the Bible falling upon his bones.

January 13th, 2011

Leader of Spanish communists mad that FBI used his photo
to concoct Most Wanted pix
of Osama Bin Laden

You can’t make this stuff up.

Or …

January 9th, 2011

Tombstone
Arizona

Admiral Mike Mullen, the Pentagon boss, whom I admire, is worried about the declining character of the armed forces:

“We’ve learned a lot about ourselves in the last decade; some of it’s been pretty unpleasant stuff,” Admiral Mullen said in an interview. “I want us to understand what we’ve seen, to a depth that we can ensure that our moral compass stays true, our ethical compass stays true.”

Mullen’s worries bear relation to the mass assassinations yesterday in Tucson, in that across the past decade the society has being trained to accept perpetual war as a way of life.

Our kids, our soldiers, growing up, are trained to envision life as a video game. And Obama’s Secretary of Education spent most of the past decade turning five Public Schools in Chicago into military academies.

The Spectre of the Gun haunts the society’s blood, born as we were coeval with Industrialism, with no time, as in Europe, to prepare for that onslaught, in a protracted war for control of the continent against nature and its natives.

Armies destroy countries — often their own.

Japan and Bismarck’s Germany — reduced to cinders by 1945, having provoked with their martial successes and crimes the remainder of the industrialized world into alliance.

The Russian empire in its Soviet phase — an elephantine Military-Industrial Complex riding the backs of an impoverished and well policed working class, an inverted pyramid, an unstable equillibrium nevertheless held in place for several generations by secret police, radio and television.

For people like Gore Vidal, whom I admire, it’s a given: the American empire was born in 1898 with our adventurism contra Spain in the Philipines and the Caribbean. We then built a huge permanent army to help win the world wars. That work done, the monster turned upon Dr Frankenstein. The republic’s cancer exhibited itself in 1963. We’ve been watching it die all our lives. The installation of Bush-Cheney, in retrospect, seems the end. The full-page tombstone in the New York Times.

However one might parse our history, no Western society could withstand in perpetuity the things we’ve done here and abroad for the reasons we’ve done them since October 2000. Mullen seems to sense this, and indeed, almost to be saying as much out loud.

And the eloquent Sheriff Dudnick of Pima County yesterday echoed him:

“This has not become the nice United States of America that most of us grew up in and I think its time we do the soul-searching,” he said. “The anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this country is getting to be outrageous and unfortunately, Arizona has become the capital. We have become the mecca of prejudice and bigotry.”

January 8th, 2011

Abraham Bolden, Secret Service agent of JFK’s day

Hero Mark Lane will have a documentary this year featuring hero Abraham Bolden, former Secret Service agent and author of THE ECHO FROM DEALEY PLAZA, who was imprisoned for trying to publicize the story of the attempted assassination of JFK in Chicago in early November 1963.

Here’s the two of them speaking.

And here — perhaps more informative — is Mr Bolden with Thom Hartmann (three clips total there on youtube).

And here’s a panel with James Douglass, author of the excellent JFK AND THE UNSPEAKABLE – Why He Died and Why It Matters (2008), with Oliver Stone and Lisa Pease (latter whom has dropped here a few times in the past …) Five clips total.

January 5th, 2011

The Village Voice loses
its voices

The VOICE will now be nothing but Special Lefty whining, petty bickering for crumbs, as the fascist shift accelerates.

It’s a generational thing as much as anything. American society no longer breeds Universalists.

“The left has disemboweled itself,” Nader said. “It doesn’t even have a strategy every four years like a good poker player. The best example is Richard Trumka and the AFL-CIO. Obama has given them nothing. Therefore, they are demanding nothing. … And now wait till you see what they will do to the public employee unions. … Everybody is ganging up on them. You have new class warfare. It is non-unionized lower income and middle class taking it out on the unionized middle-income public employees. It is a classic example of oligarchic manipulation.”

One irony is that the undermining of Universalism in American society was the work of people in Academia calling themselves Leftists: Feminists. Progressives. The theorists of the war on the White Male Hegemony.

This new struggle replaced, in hearts and minds Left of center, the traditional class struggle, central to modernity, which was basically about money. Thirty years on, the working class cannot afford to educate or medicate its children and the slide into the Third World seems at this moment inexorable.

The Progressive campaign not only splintered the Democratic Party, taking it out of power in Washington and the state capitols, but also diverted and diluted education. People raised on television and Identity Politics are now shaping the society. The results are plain: 96% of the population is politically powerless.

“We’ll GIVE them civil rights,” Midge Decter once said in my cab, in the late 80s. “But not economic rights. Economic rights are not civil rights.”

So-called Progressives continue to play right into that hand.

January 5th, 2011

Wikileaked: Israel told US it would keep Gaza on brink of economic collapse

Out of the darkness thanks to Mssrs Bradley, Assange & co:

Israel told U.S. officials in 2008 it would keep Gaza’s economy “on the brink of collapse” while avoiding a humanitarian crisis, according to U.S. diplomatic cables

Arabs in rubble. That’s the policy.

Meanwhile Netanyahu calls on Obama to release from prison the Israeli spy Pollard.

January 4th, 2011

?? Russians say Wheeler assassinated re US chemical weapon disaster in Arkansas ?

Ed Note: See comments below to follow this strange story as it evolves — or more likely disappears in a cloud of web nonsense and, perhaps, professional disinformation.

JOHN WHEELER was the leader of the Vietnam Vets Memorial movement, among other things.

Career Air Force with sensitive assignments.

Showed up murdered in a dumpster the other day.

Meanwhile thousands of birds have been dropping dead out of the sky in Arkansas.

Now Inteltrends publishes a report that claims to have seen a Russian intel report saying that Wheeler was killed, by the Americans, because he

threatened to expose a U.S. Military test of poison gas that killed hundreds of thousands of animals in Arkansas this past week.

January 4th, 2011

Wikileaks

“The whole universe or the structure that perceives it is a worthy opponent, but try as I may I can not escape the sound of suffering. Perhaps as an old man I will take great comfort in pottering around in a lab and gently talking to students in the summer evening and will accept suffering with insouciance. But not now; men in their prime, if they have convictions, are tasked to act on them.”

– Julian Assange, 2007 blog entry

Having looked into the Wikileaks a bit, one sees that Julian Assange is a new-age hero, and reaffirms that the American republic is dead.

New Yorker profile of Assange from earlier this year — must read.

Ron Paul’s reaction on the floor of the House — hear, hear him.

The great cache of pieces at The New York Times

Hackers of the World Unite in attacks on corporate and other sites in reaction to harassment of Assange

An overview of the American Empire’s lying machine

Upcoming data dump will focus on one of the big banks, perhaps the great zombie Bank of America:

“It will give a true and representative insight into how banks behave at the executive level in a way that will stimulate investigations and reforms, I presume,” Assange said in the November 2010 interview with Forbes. “For this, there’s only one similar example. It’s like the Enron e-mails.”

January 2nd, 2011

Happy New Year:
Orwell succeeds Huxley

It’s a familiar question — Who was right, Orwell or Huxley? 1984 or Brave New World?

And the answer “both” is familar.

Here Chris Hedges updates the view for the new year.

December 13th, 2010

Guys from nine big banks control derivative trading

I didn’t know this committee existed.

Interesting.

November 22nd, 2010

JFK dead 47 years

Deputy Sheriff Roger Craig is a good way to begin to remember.

November 22nd, 2010

Chalmers Johnson dies

Alas.

The author of Blowback in 2000, The Sorrows of Empire in 2004, and Nemesis in 2007 — all about the death march of American militarism.

And, just this past August, Dismantling the Empire, a collection of half hopeful essays about how the worst might yet be averted.

Here’s a good and comprehensive chat, from 2007 or so it seems:

Speaking Freely – Chalmers Johnson on American Hegemony from Ice Goldberg on Vimeo.

November 9th, 2010

Lindsay Graham wants war with iran

From Roger Cohen at the Times:

Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, immediately put President Obama on notice.

Resurgent Republicans would be looking for him to “be tough with Iran beyond sanctions.” If it came to war, the United States should “sink their navy, destroy their air force and deliver a decisive blow to the Revolutionary Guard, in other words neuter that regime.”

Sure, Graham conceded, “you can expect, for a period of time, all hell to break loose.” Another war is the “last thing America wants.” But a nuclear-armed Iran was unacceptable and containment “off the table.”

This follows upon David Broder going on in the Post recently about how war with Iran would stimulate the economy.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/10/29/AR2010102905810.html

November 3rd, 2010

Michael Moore
talks turkey Election Night

Wow. The gosh darn truth, it seems to me.

He’s talking late night election night (November 2010) at Democracy Now, with John Nicolls and Laura Flanders in the studio with Amy Goodman.

He touches on the blackout, during the autumn campaign weeks, on the wars — indeed, foreign policy in toto. This was the first thing that came to mind as Jon Stewart concluded his interview with Obama two weeks ago. Not a word about Pakghanistan, Iraq or Israel. Not a fucking word. Clearly Obama demanded that silence in exchange for the appearance.

It’s also noteworthy, when he speaks of the Left’s guilt for its early support of the Iraq war, 2002-04, and names a few names and nods at institutions, that what he’s pointing to are prominent Jews of the Left, who supported the war persuaded in good part that it served Israel’s interest, and then recanted.

But Michael daresn’t say that to Amy. Not right out.

The recantation of Tom Friedman of the Times suddenly comes to mind as one of the most spectacular. But he was nothing like alone within the New York media. The New Yorker itself, of Remnick and Hertzberg. Perhaps I’ll find links.

Most broadly, the so-called Left here will never mount the kind of power challenge its constituency needs until it faces the huge ideological chaos within its ranks.

I mean, in nutshell: Identity Politics vs (marxian!) Universalism.

This came to mind again yesterday watching a group of three at Busboys & Poets Cafe in DC on Democracy Now. Nothing but racism. Seeing everything thru that narrow lens. Calling themselves Progressives even yet, after 30 years of getting fucked in the ass by the rich.

But … their ideas are so rooted in Academia, where so many people of lefty persuasion retreated after the assassinations, Vietnam, Watergate, that what seems necessary also seems all but impossible. At least in my time.

But … it’s no wonder the Left is so powerless. Most Americans listening to the guys at Busboys & Poets would just shake their head and vote no.

Laura Flanders, following Moore, is also good. Maybe go buy her book (she gives the website during the chat — not available at Amazon etc):

And here’s something re his most recent — and, he suggests, his last — documentary, Capitalism: A Love Story.

November 3rd, 2010

Coming Soon:
The Social Security food fight

Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson — the chairs of Obama’s Debt Commision — talk in February 2010 about the clear and present options for the future of Social Security:

– Increasing the utterly regressive and already onerous (15% or so — or has it crept well beyond that?) SS tax.

– Reducing SS benefits across the board.

– Reducing benefits on a sliding scale need-tested basis. Ie, the better off you are, the less SS you collect. Seems rather reasonable. Don’t it? But to enforce …

It’s interesting, to say the least, that the Final Solution will be wheeled out during these coming two years of, ahem, shared responsibility, given yesterday’s elections.

Within GOPher ranks alone a food fight of epic proportions seems likely, given the ideas and emotion separating Speaker Boehner from Senate minority leader McConnell (who more than once has expressed disdain for the rising Boehner) and of course the new Tea Party kids.

Did Team Obama lure the GOPhers into this snake pit?

M

November 3rd, 2010

For Files:
Jesse Ventura re 9/11

The former SEAL and Governor of Minnesota speaking about Huffington Post pulling his story re Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth. Simple things. Well worth watching.

November 3rd, 2010

2010 Midterms:
No big deal

If one turns off the idiot box one sees it was not such a bad night for the Donkeys. The Tea Party in the House will make the GOPhers look like assholes for two years, and will hurt Palin 2012.

2009 and 2010 were clearly going to be nuclear winter after the Bush-Cheney bomb. It seems the Donkeys have survived it, with the ability to continue to govern.

If only the president had the vision and will of Michael Moore, speaking here late night of election night to Amy Goodman and friends.

Obama’s attitude upon ascension 22 months ago — scolding the people of the Congress as “children” (which he repeated later in 2009) — bespeaks a kind of Beautiful Soul naivete that has no place in DC. Getting his nose broken by Boehner a few times may learn him some Lefty values and in any case will make him a better president.

It occurs to me that Obama has probably never been in a fight.

And gee, men in splendid uniform and pin-striped suits have always treated him so well …

It’s time indeed he gets kicked in the balls.

Jeb Bush will be very hard to beat in 2012 if the GOPhers have the wisdom to nominate him.

Ralph Nader talks a lot of sense election day. He seems certain that Bloomberg will run as an Independent.

If Palin were to somehow get the GOP nod, Bloomberg would run Independent to the wire, my own crystal ball says, and thus help return Obama to office. Much like 1992 with Ross Perot in the mix. But would he bow out if Jeb came out of the convention the nominee?

November 1st, 2010

Knesset member shot by Israeli police: “No chance for two states”

Posted in Israel, Sorrows of Empire by ed

A Halloween video interview with Haneen Zoabi, the first woman representing an Arab party to be elected to the Knesset — two days after being fired upon by Israeli police in Umm al Fahm.

And here’s an earlier print interview from the summer, shortly after her Privilege in the Knesset was revoked, rather violently, because she had participated in the Gaza Flotilla.

The headline over the video interview reads No Chance for Two States.

This follows, of course, upon the Great Finger that Avigdor Lieberman, the Israeli Foreign Minister, gave the UN General Assembly in September: Peace with Palestinians? Let’s talk in 20 years after we deal with Iran.

Team Obama, meanwhile, as supine as ever in the face of renewed East Jerusalem construction despite public requests to the contrary from the White House.

If the president who gave the Cairo speech does nothing, what hopeless enmity shall follow? World war over there (with Israel our Syracuse) and real terrorism over here (none of this Gang who Couldn’t Bomb Straight stuff) seems more likely than ever, post Lieberman.

Shocking thought: Might one vote for Jeb Bush in 2012 simply because his father (with whom he bears much more in common than his dopey black-sheep brother) was the only US president to have disciplined Israel since advent of Reagan?

October 31st, 2010

Serfdom in Spain /
Ralph Nader finds US
not far behind

Thisis how the serfs of Russia were created, by bank debt and law.

Ralph Nader sounds the same theme, quoting Dreiser among others: “The government has ceased to function. The corporations are the government.”