Friday, April 30, 2010

Thursday, April 29, 2010

You Think the Warren Commission Was Bad. . .

Wait 'til we get streamrolled by the Obama Commission.

Patrick Martin with the details.
The deficit commission is co-chaired by former Republican Senator Alan Simpson of Wyoming and Democratic former White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles of North Carolina, two individuals long identified with advocating fiscal austerity. Every one of the 18 members of the commission is a proven defender of the profit system, and nearly all are multi-millionaires, including the longtime president of the Service Employees International Union, Andrew Stern, the lone representative of “labor” on the panel.

The initial session of the commission featured a series of high-profile witnesses, beginning with Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke and White House Budget Director Peter Orszag, who both declared that the trillion-dollar federal deficits now projected by the administration are unsustainable. Bernanke said, “The reality is that the Congress, the administration and the American people will have to choose among making modifications to entitlement programs such as Medicare and Social Security, restraining federal spending on everything else, accepting higher taxes, or some combination thereof.”

Congressional Democrats sounded the same theme. Senator Richard Durbin, the Senate Majority Whip and a member of the commission, said that “bleeding heart liberals” had to be open to cuts in entitlement programs as part of a deficit reduction plan.

The most categorical call for austerity came from House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, in an op-ed column published Wednesday in the Wall Street Journal under the headline “Shared Sacrifices Will Solve the Debt Crisis.” Declaring that “the greatest driver of our long-term deficit is rapidly growing entitlement and health-care spending,” the Democratic congressman said the commission “could recognize that Americans are living longer and raise the retirement age over a period of years.”

Both Hoyer and Budget Director Orszag cited the budget crises in Europe—with Greece, Portugal and now Spain having their debt ratings downgraded and credit drying up—as a warning to the United States. Hoyer wrote, “Americans may be wondering whether the Greek financial crisis could happen here. It will—unless we change course.” Orszag said in his testimony to the deficit commission, “The goal is to get ahead of an adverse financial market reaction.”

This is part of a concerted effort to blame the ongoing financial crisis and economic slump on “excessive” and “profligate” spending on the needs of ordinary Americans, rather than on financial speculation and plundering by Wall Street. The Greek events are being used as a pretext to justify austerity policies within the United States that would supposedly preempt a similar crisis.

Obama sounded the theme of “equal sacrifice” in his own remarks to the commission, in which he blamed the crisis, in the final analysis, on the American people, citing “the reality familiar to every single American—it’s a lot easier to spend a dollar than to save one. That’s what, at root, led to these exploding deficits. And that is what will lead to a day of reckoning.”

The gargantuan federal deficit is not, however, the product of poor decisions by “the American people.” It is a product of the worldwide crisis of the profit system and the drive by the American ruling elite to secure its global domination, both against capitalist rivals in other countries and against the working class at home.

Hoyer was compelled to admit in his Wall Street Journal column that the rapid increase in the US national debt is the product of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (launched by Bush and continued by Obama), the bailout of Wall Street (begun by Bush and continued by Obama), and the ongoing recession (which began under Bush and continues under Obama). In other words, corporate America, not the working people, is responsible for this crisis.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Mister Costanza

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Revolt of the Angels

Haibane-Renmei (2002) is a 13-episode anime based on Yoshitoshi ABe's comic series "The Haibanes of Old Home." A collection of seemingly-teenage girls have died, unknown to each other, waiting in a kind of way-station, a protected city called Glie, somewhere between earth and heaven. Our main protagonist Rakka ("falling") is at first terrified of the light and the pale clarity -- a beauty that is something constant and star-like. Clouds fly fast overhead; and sharp and isolated come drops of rain. As it rises, the sun has a lovely strong winey warmth, golden over Glie, filled with the soft wind when the spirits of the dead fail, to make us feel their hurt. Space, and the frail vibration of space; the glad lonely wringing of the heart.

She turns. The past fades from consciousness. There are wisps of gleaming light ~ out on the streets, free from all the hemmed-in life ~ the horror of human tension, the insanity of machine persistence. And the long-drawn-out agony of life among tense, resistant people. All gone. And Glie has old stone so sound, so beautiful: rustless, as flesh is rustless, and happy-seeming as aluminum can never be. Rakka finds the Haibane lit up with love, and grief, and a ravage of sorrow -- angels for whom life is real only through feeling, who shine in all the glory of their love for each other: "I wanted to be with you much longer."

Episode 1 - "Dreams of Falling from the Sky"

Monday, April 26, 2010

Revisiting Dawn

Events go by with ever-increasing speed. The always-valuable Scott Horton takes a look back on Barack Obama's dumping of Dawn Johnsen.
Why did the Obama White House and Democratic Senate leadership allow the Johnsen nomination to die?

It seems to me that there are three explanations, each applicable to some extent.


1. Obama has largely adopted Bush-era policies in the “War on Terror.” True, Obama has distanced himself from torture, extraordinary renditions, and a handful of other extreme projects. But the broad expanse of Obama policy can hardly be distinguished from that of its predecessor. Johnsen was one of the principal intellectual authors of the critical views on legal policy that Barack Obama embraced and articulated on the campaign trail. This has produced a sense of awkwardness within the White House about the Johnsen nomination, a sense that has grown more acute with the departure of prominent figures like Greg Craig and Phil Carter, who were strong exponents of the official campaign-era Obama viewpoint. How would Johnsen view the deal that Rahm Emanuel is working out with Lindsey Graham about trials before the Guantánamo military commissions, for instance? It would be hard to imagine her advocating horse trading surrounding criminal prosecutions, and indeed, it would be hard to imagine any career Justice Department lawyer who wouldn’t be sickened by the whole approach. Yet at this point, the White House seems close to embracing it.


2. The Obama White House knows its priorities. Rahm Emanuel and David Axelrod settle on them. The agenda started with health care reform, moved on to arms control on the foreign policy side, and banking reform on the domestic. Immigration reform is lurking in the background. But those big legal policy issues that were the center of such a flurry in the Bush years? Barack Obama may be a lawyer and a law professor, but his staff doesn’t reflect much attention to legal issues. It even shows some contempt for them. The Bush White House viewed the Justice Department as a vital political tool—it would protect controversial policy choices by issuing secret opinions, silencing would-be whistleblowers, going after political opponents, and suppressing votes—but the Obama White House seems to view most of these matters as a distraction.


3. But the Dawn Johnsen problem is not peculiar to Dawn Johnsen. Notwithstanding its historical majority in the Senate, the Obama team has been slow to push through nominees for appointed positions requiring confirmation, especially including senior posts at the Justice Department and judgeships. Normally, one would expect the push to come from the White House, well-coordinated with the Senate leadership. But Rahm Emanuel seems not to recognize that his job portfolio includes orchestrating the confirmation of nominees. They are apparently supposed to wade their way through the Senate on their own, and they are abandoned at any sign of resistance. The Bush team got its appointees in place, quickly, by hook or by crook. Indeed, whereas Johnsen had majority support in committee and perhaps 60 votes on the floor, her predecessor, Steven Bradbury, had a majority in opposition in committee and on the floor. But that didn’t stop the Bush team for a second. Bradbury was given an acting appointment and then kept in place through various acts of administrative legerdemain through the end of Bush’s term. Democratic attempts to obstruct other appointees were loudly opposed with appeals for an “up or down vote.” The era of Rahm Emanuel and Barack Obama seems surprisingly weak-willed and inept, on this score at least.


Each of these factors points to a White House staff with weak governance instincts balanced by a love for legislative intrigue. In both respects, it compares poorly with its predecessor in its understanding of the art of governance.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Hopes and Prospects

Noam Chomsky's new book is about to hit the bookstores, and the always hale and hearty TomDispatch has a brilliant excerpt: "Eyeless in Gaza."

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Chrisai

Floyd, Fujiwara, Hedges. Ports in the storm of American horse manure.

Next to Jim Douglass, Chris Hedges is the finest political theologian of our time. His book "Empire of Illusion" from last year is the kind of masterpiece usually ignored by such wastes of trees as the New York Times Book Review and the New York Review of Books. (And it was.)

Hedges spoke on April 10th before the Union Theological Seminary here in New York City.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Death State Update

House Overwhelmingly Votes to Advance Iran Sanctions

The prospect of the US moving forward with unilateral sanctions against Iran seems all but assured today, after the House of Representatives passed a bill that set up talks with the Senate on a finalized bill. The vote was 403-11.
The roll of honor (those voting "no" or "present"):

Baird
Baldwin
Blumenauer
Duncan
Flake
Jones
Kucinich (good to see you back, Dennis)
McDermott
Moore(WI)
Paul
Waters
Ellison
Lee(CA)
Stark

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

"Why the New York Times Deserves to Die"

So many daily reasons. A couple:

Two sniffy liars by the names of Medish & McLeary (of bootlegging fame) took this NYT dump last week, arguing that the assassinations of leaders and citizens (both foreign and domestic) is damn well okay, because after all JFK started it.

Jim DiEugenio with the facts.

This week, on the 15th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombings, mass-murdering dirtbag William Jefferson Washington Adams Lincoln Clinton (who still does not know who his daddy was) bleated against the use of violence. “We do not have the right to resort to violence — or the threat of violence — when we don’t get our way,“ wrote the man who oversaw massacres in Waco, Iraq, Somalia, Yugoslavia, and Sudan.

James Bovard with the real journalism.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Dropping Darkness

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer. . .
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand. . .
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun. . .
The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

Noam Chomsky's beautiful new piece: Joe Stack and rekindling the radical imagination.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Men

Peace be with you.

To all of those who were injured or lost loved ones during the July 2007 Baghdad shootings depicted in the "Collateral Murder" Wikileaks video:

We write to you, your family, and your community with awareness that our words and actions can never restore your losses.

We are both soldiers who occupied your neighborhood for 14 months. Ethan McCord pulled your daughter and son from the van, and when doing so, saw the faces of his own children back home. Josh Stieber was in the same company but was not there that day, though he contributed to the your pain, and the pain of your community on many other occasions.

There is no bringing back all that was lost. What we seek is to learn from our mistakes and do everything we can to tell others of our experiences and how the people of the United States need to realize what have done and are doing to you and the people of your country. We humbly ask you what we can do to begin to repair the damage we caused.

We have been speaking to whoever will listen, telling them that what was shown in the Wikileaks video only begins to depict the suffering we have created. From our own experiences, and the experiences of other veterans we have talked to, we know that the acts depicted in this video are everyday occurrences of this war: this is the nature of how U.S.-led wars are carried out in this region.

We acknowledge our part in the deaths and injuries of your loved ones as we tell Americans what we were trained to do and carried out in the name of "god and country". The soldier in video said that your husband shouldn't have brought your children to battle, but we are acknowledging our responsibility for bringing the battle to your neighborhood, and to your family. We did unto you what we would not want done to us.

More and more Americans are taking responsibility for what was done in our name. Though we have acted with cold hearts far too many times, we have not forgotten our actions towards you. Our heavy hearts still hold hope that we can restore inside our country the acknowledgment of your humanity, that we were taught to deny.

Our government may ignore you, concerned more with its public image. It has also ignored many veterans who have returned physically injured or mentally troubled by what they saw and did in your country. But the time is long overdue that we say that the value of our nation's leaders no longer represent us. Our secretary of defense may say the U.S. won't lose its reputation over this, but we stand and say that our reputation's importance pales in comparison to our common humanity.

With such pain, friendship might be too much to ask. Please accept our apology, our sorrow, our care, and our dedication to change from the inside out. We are doing what we can to speak out against the wars and military policies responsible for what happened to you and your loved ones. Our hearts are open to hearing how we can take any steps to support you through the pain that we have caused.

Solemnly and Sincerely,

Josh Stieber, former specialist, U.S. Army
Ethan McCord, former specialist, U.S. Army

Friday, April 16, 2010

Occupied Territory

First, the letter.

At the moment, 76 United States of America Senators (in a Demo-dominated body) and over 300 United States of America Representatives (in a Demo-dominated body) have signed it. And this is the week Bloody Barack threatened to nuke Iran.










Blink, blink.

Meanwhile, a supremely brave Israeli journalist has taken his cue from Daniel Ellsberg. Internal government documents listing dozens of specific war crimes committed by Israeli Defense Forces were leaked to Israel's leading newspaper Haaretz. A majority of the Knesset has called for the closing of the newspaper. And the journalist has been forced to flee to London.

Just another day in the democracy-loving Holy Land.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Fujiwara

Does anyone read a movie better than this guy?

Lang and Mabuse.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Here Come Da Judge

Does anyone doubt Barack Obama, in the face of this,


will replace the great John Paul Stevens with yet another center-right mediocrity?

Not Glenn Greenwald or Amy Goodman.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

W.

Chris Floyd's latest: The American Way - In Defense of George W. Bush

Monday, April 12, 2010

We Were Soldiers

A few years back, Chris Floyd wrote an astounding essay about the "evolution" of the U.S. military's savageness and effectiveness. Surprisingly, there is no positive connection between the two -- in fact, the very opposite.

How strongly has that savage incompetence grown since?
America calls its soldiers who fought in World War II "the greatest generation." They are hymned by Hollywood, celebrated by publishers and politicians, hailed at every turn. And for their troubled descendants, whose military misadventures stretch from My Lai to Abu Ghraib, the clean-limbed victors of the "last good war" do indeed shine out like heroes from a lost golden age.

Yet despite the vast tonnage of celluloid and printer's ink devoted to their praise, what is perhaps the truest, highest measure of their worth has been almost universally neglected. And what is this hidden glory, which does more honor to the people of the United States than every single military action ordered by their corruption-riddled leaders during the past fifty years? It's the fact that in the midst of history's most vicious, all-devouring, inhuman war, only about 15 percent of American soldiers on the battlefield actually tried to kill anyone.

In-depth studies by the U.S. Army after WWII showed that between 80 to 85 percent of the greatest generation never fired their weapons at an exposed enemy in combat, as military psychologist Lt. Colonel Dave Grossman reports. Many times they had the chance, but could not bring themselves to do it. They either withheld their fire altogether or else shot into the air, to the side, anywhere but at the fellow human beings – their blood kin in biology, mind and mortality – facing them across the line. This reticence is even more remarkable given the incessant demonization of the enemy by the top brass, especially in the Pacific, where the Japanese – soldiers and civilians – were routinely portrayed by military propaganda as simian, sub-human creatures fit only for extermination.

Yet even with official license given to the most virulent prejudice, even with the sanction of a just cause (self-defense against aggression), even with the incitements of mortal fear, of grief and anger over slain comrades, even with all the moral chaos endemic to warfare, American soldiers, as a whole, killed only with the greatest reluctance, in the direst extremity. These were not "warriors," bloodthirsty automatons with stripped-down brains and cauterized souls, slavering in Pavlovian fury at the bell-clap of command. No, they were real men, willing, as Grossman notes, to stand up for a cause, even die for it, but not willing, in the end, to transgress the natural law (implanted by God or evolution, take your pick) that says: Do not kill your own kind – and every person of every race and nation is your own kind.

You would think that this apotheosis of human transcendence, this Emersonian ideal achieved, in the best democratic fashion, by ordinary conscripts – farmboys and dock workers, factory hands, bank clerks, guitar players, teachers, cab drivers, hobos, card sharks, college men – would have been inscribed on plates of gold and fixed to the walls of the Capitol for all time, a blazon of national greatness. Just think of it: soldiers who hated to kill, who went out of their way to avoid killing or even firing their weapons, who held on to their essential humanity in the face of the severest provocations – and yet still won battle after battle in history's greatest war.

But far from celebrating this example of genuine glory, the military brass were horrified at the low "firing rates" and anemic "kill ratios" of American soldiery. They immediately set about trying to break the next generation of recruits of their natural resistance to slaughtering their own kind. Incorporating the latest techniques for psychological manipulation, new training programs were designed to brutalize the mind and habituate soldiers to the idea of killing automatically, by reflex, "at the bell-clap of command," without the intervention of any of those inefficient scruples displayed by their illustrious predecessors.

And it worked. The dehumanization process led to a steady rise in firing rates for U.S. soldiers during subsequent conflicts. In the Korean War, 55 percent were ready to pump hot lead into enemy flesh. And by the time the greatest generation's own children took the field, in Vietnam, the willingness to slaughter was almost total: 95 percent of combat troops there fired with the intent to kill.

And today in occupied Iraq, the brutalizing beat goes on. "Kill, kill, kill, kill, kill, it's like it pounds in my brain," a U.S. soldier told the Los Angeles Times last week. Another shrugged at the sight of freshly slaughtered bodies. "It doesn't bother me at all," he said. "I'm a warrior. My soldiers, they are all warriors. They have no problems. There's no place in this Army for men who aren't warriors." Said a third: "We talk about killing all the time. I never used to be this way…but it's like I can't stop. I'm worried what I'll be like when I get home." A few military officials are beginning to worry too, noting the high rates of suicide, mental damage and emotional torment among combat veterans.

But the warlords of the White House – notorious battlefield shirkers who prefer to do their killing by remote control – have little regard for the cannon fodder they churn through in their quest for dominance and loot. "Training's intent is to re-create battle, to make it an automatic behavior among soldiers," says Colonel Thomas Burke, Pentagon director of – what else? – mental health policy. Any efforts to mitigate the moral schizophrenia induced by this training would undermine "effectiveness in battle," he adds.

Yet strangely enough, this new model army, imbued with eager "warrior spirit," has not produced the kind of lasting victories won by the reluctant fifteen-percenters of yore. It was stalemated in Korea, defeated in Vietnam, chased out of Lebanon and Somalia, balked in Afghanistan (where 40,000 Taliban troops slipped away to fight again and drug-dealing warlords rule the countryside), while its two excursions into Iraq have ended first in irresolution (with "worse-than-Hitler" Saddam still on his throne) and now in bloody quagmire.

Could it be that the systematic degradation of natural morality and common human feeling – especially in the service of dubious ends – is not actually the best way to achieve national greatness?

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Daily Massacre Bulletin

Isahqi, Haditha, Fallujah, Abu Ghraib, New Baghdad, Baquba, Marja, Bagram, Nisour Square, Helmland, Paktia, Kunar, and this weekend:
Civilians Killed as U.S. Troops Fire on Afghan Bus

KABUL, Afghanistan — American troops raked a large passenger bus with gunfire near Kandahar on Monday morning, killing as many as five civilians and wounding 18 and sparking anger in a city where winning over Afghan support is considered pivotal to the war effort.

The American-led military command in Kabul called the killings a “tragic loss of life” and said troops fired not knowing the vehicle was a bus and believing that it posed a threat to a military convoy clearing roadside bombs from a highway.

The killings triggered a vitriolic anti-American demonstration, infuriated officials and appeared likely to harm public opinion on the eve of the most important offensive of the war, in which tens of thousands of American and NATO troops will try to take control of the Kandahar region, the spiritual home of the Taliban, this summer.

Hundreds of demonstrators poured into the area around a station where the damaged bus was taken on the western outskirts of Kandahar. They blocked the road with burning tires for an hour and shouted “Death to America” and “Death to infidels” while also condemning the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, according to people in the area.

The Kandahar governor, Tooryalai Wesa, called for the commander of the military convoy who opened fire to be prosecuted under military law.

“If you want to stop the bus, it should be shot in the tires,” Mr. Wesa said. “Why shoot the people inside?”
Remember those sensitive types 40 years back who got their panties in a twist over William Calley and My Lai? Sure glad we've evolved beyond that. 'Course all these dreamy soldiers will be running around our streets for years to come, no doubt as part of Heinrich von McChrsytal's S.S.

Sometimes, though, the bear eats you.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Dawn and the Dead

While the Dwarf says "up yours" to the Wimp, the Wimp wimps out again. (Check out those comments.)

Some inspiring reasons (1, 2, 3) why Johnsen was dumped. (And like the coward Obama is, it happens over the weekend.)

And does he know what he's doing, or what?

Friday, April 9, 2010

Yes, We Can! (Murder American Citizens)

Chris Floyd is burning.
Let us hear no more excuses for Barack Obama. Let us hear no more defenses, no more special pleading, no more extenuations. Let us have no more reciting of the "pressures" he is under, of the "many obstacles" that balk him in his quest to do us good, of the "bad advisors" who are swaying him to unworthy acts against his will. Let us be done at last with all these wretched lies, these complicitous self-deceptions that are facilitating atrocity and tyranny on a monstrous scale.

Barack Obama has ordered the murder of an American citizen, without trial, without due process, without the production of any evidence. All it takes to kill any American citizen in this way is Barack Obama's signature on a piece of paper, his arbitrary designation of the target as a "suspected terrorist." In precisely the same way -- precisely the same way -- Josef Stalin would place a mark by a name in a list of "suspected terrorists" or "counterrevolutionaries," and the bearer of that name would die. This is the system we have now, the same as the Soviets had then: a leader with the unchallengeable power to kill citizens without due process.

That this power has not been used on the same scale in the American system as in the Stalinist state -- yet -- does not alter the equivalence of this governing principle. In both cases, the leader signs arbitrary death warrants; the security services carry out the task; and the 'great and good' of society accept this draconian power as necessary and right.

This is what you support when you support Barack Obama. It does not matter if you think his opponents in the factional infighting to control a bloodsoaked empire and its war machine are "worse" than he is in some measure. When you support him, when you defend him, when you excuse him, it is arbitrary murder that you are supporting. It is the absolute negation of every single principle of enlightenment and human rights professed by liberals, progressives -- indeed, by honorable people of every political stripe -- for centuries.

There is nothing particularly remarkable about Obama's order to kill an American citizen without trial or evidence, of course. George W. Bush claimed the same powers. As I have noted here and elsewhere for many years, our American presidents now claim the right to kill any person on earth whom they arbitrarily designate as an enemy -- or even a suspected enemy -- of the United States. Barack Obama embraced this power as soon as he took office, ordering a "surge" in the "targeted killings" on "suspected terrorists" in Pakistan. Hundreds and hundreds of innocent human beings have been murdered in these drone attacks; many thousands more have been driven from their homes, and terrorized into lives of mental anguish, their psyches lamed by trauma, upheaval and the ever-present dread of death raining down on them from the skies.

And of course, thousands of innocent people continue to die in the wars of dominion and profiteering that Obama has so eagerly embraced. In Afghanistan, they die directly at the hands of American forces -- including secret assassins who raid villages by night, often slaughtering civilians, even those cooperating with the military occupation. As Obama's hand-picked commander in the region, Stanley McChrystal, has openly admitted: “We have shot an amazing number of people [at checkpoints and on the roads], but to my knowledge, none has ever proven to be a threat." And in Iraq -- the scene of the abominable, Nazi-like war crime of military aggression whose continuation by Bush's "surge" was hailed by Obama as "an extraordinary achievement" -- innocent people continue to die in droves at the hands of the vicious and violent forces unleashed and empowered by the American invasion and occupation, while they wait to see which brutal "hard man" will seize power over their riven and ruined society.

No, the only remarkable thing about Obama's direct order to murder his fellow American citizen, Anwar al-Alwaki, is its openness. A few weeks ago, he sent his intelligence chieftain, Dennis Blair, to Congress to openly proclaim the president's "right" to kill American citizens arbitrarily. Bush had kept this claimed power obscured, letting it out in dribs and drabs of directed leaks, and hints and winks in public statements; but Obama has taken us beyond that, to the open declaration and institutional entrenchment of the principle of death without due process for citizens. This indeed is "change" -- with a vengeance.

(And to think that only a few years ago, capital punishment -- with its vast and cumbersome legal machinery -- was banished in America as too unjust and arbitrary in its application; now a president need not trouble himself with the slightest bit of legal process if he wants to have someone killed. I suppose this too is "progress": more streamlined, more efficient, quicker, more modern -- like wireless broadband. It's simply there all the time at the president's pleasure.)

Now, there can be no shuffling, no waffling on the matter. Obama has made it crystal clear for even the most avidly self-duping progressive: He will murder his fellow citizens without trial or evidence if he sees fit. The state can murder whom it pleases. This is the system we have. This is what you support when you support Barack Obama. You cannot escape this logic, this judgment. If you support Obama now, in this, then there is no crime he can commit that you will not support.

And thus you become one of those people that we all used to puzzle over, the accomodationists to brutal tyranny: "How did all those people go along with the Nazis? Why wasn't there more opposition to Stalin? How could they countenance all those obvious abominations? What kind of people were they?"

Now you know. They were you. You are them.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Tolling

WikiLeaks.



Dave Lindorff.
After initially claiming that two pregnant women and a teenage girl killed in a US Special Forces raid on an Afghan home in Khataba in February had been discovered bound and slain by the Americans, the US military has admitted that they were actually shot and killed by those US troops--who then tried to cover up their “mistake” by carving the bullets out of the bodies with knives, removing other incriminating bullets from the compound’s walls, and then washing away the bloody evidence with alcohol.

In this new grisly version of the story issued from the US command in Afghanistan, it was a case of the Special Forces Unit lying to superiors about what had transpired in their botched raid, which also killed an Afghan police commander and a government prosecutor.

The only reason we know all this today is because of the intrepid digging by a relentless reporter from the Times of London, Jerome Starkey, who, unlike the hacks in Kabul passing themselves off as journalists from American news organizations, didn’t just accept the press release on the incident put out by Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s office, but instead did his own investigation, talking to Afghan and UN investigators, as well as local people where the incident happened.

For his efforts at getting to the truth, Starkey was attacked by the US military, accused of lying and misrepresenting US statements.

Now that Starkey has been fully vindicated, there has been no apology from McChrystal’s office, or from the military public relations operation. Nor have US reporters and editors, who left Starkey undefended while his credibility was being attacked by the US, said anything about his role in bringing the truth to light.

The New York Times, in an article today by Richard A. Oppel, Jr., datelined Kabul, said that the US military, “after initially denying involvement in any cover-up in the deaths,” had “admitted that its forces had killed the women during the nighttime raid.”

The paper also credited the Times of London (without mentioning Starkey), with, a day before the military’s about face, disclosing that American forces on the scene had “dug bullets out of their victims’ bodies in the bloody aftermath” and then “washed the wounds with alcohol before lying to their superiors about what happened.”

What the paper didn’t mention is that Starkey had broken the story weeks earlier, only have his exposé ignored by the US media, which allowed him to be slandered by the American military.

This story is not over yet, either.

The US military, incredibly, is still claiming that despite an official investigation by US/NATO personnel into the incident, “Nothing pointed conclusively to the fact that our guys were the ones who tampered with the scene.” As Oppel demurely observed, “However, given that Special Operations forces killed the women, it was not clear why anyone else would have a motivation to remove bullets from the bodies or tamper with evidence at the scene.”

It would appear that a cover-up is still underway.
Amy Goodman.



Chris Floyd.
While I am certainly no prophet, I think I am safe in saying we will see a similar reaction to the gut-wrenching footage unearthed by Wikileaks. The American people are simply too good, too just to let stand such a foul besmirching of their national honor. After all, didn't they rise up as one after the Abu Ghraib atrocities were revealed in 2004, and boldly oust the architects of these crimes in the ensuing presidential election? Didn't they take to the streets in their millions when first Bush and then Obama claimed the right to have any citizen put to death without charges or trial simply by declaring the victim a "suspected terrorist"? Didn't a great groundswell of public ire force Congress to open impeachment proceedings against George Bush and Dick Cheney for their Soviet-style gulag of concentration camps and systematic tortures -- and threaten similar justice for Barack Obama's continuation and cover-up of this system? Didn't the American people demand a national day of mourning and atonement when they realized that hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis had been murdered in a war based on false pretenses and cynical manipulation?

So let us have faith in the American people. They have proven time and again in this last decade that they will not countenance crimes and atrocities being committed in their names. They will not abide leaders who unleash a war machine of blood money and blind fury against innocent people. When push comes to shove, when the truth is revealed to them, they will always -- always -- do the right thing.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Passion of Rose Balestrero


"He knew how she was, didn't he?
 Sure, he knew how she was. . ."

-- Katharine Anne Porter

25-year-old Vera Miles signed her non-exclusive personal services contract with director Alfred Hitchcock in the spring of '55. Born Vera June Ralston, she was crowned "Miss Kansas" in 1948 and took off for Hollywood in 1950. After lots of cheesecake and a handful of meaningless bit parts (and a wedding to Hollywood Tarzan Gordon Scott), she signed with Hitch. But their professional relationship would be limited to The Wrong Man (1956), Marion Crane's sister Lila in Psycho (1960), two episodes of the Alfred Hitchcock Hour and Hitch's 1955 television debut "Revenge," which kicked off the premiere season of Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

For all the myths of cold-hearted calculation, hatred of women, and audience manipulation, Alfred Hitchcock gave us a three-decades embrace of female agony, caused (intentionally or not) by cold, manipulative, sex-hating men. Most intensely: Joan Fontaine in Rebecca (1940), Ingrid Bergman in Notorious (1946), the butchered wife and Miss Lonelyhearts in Rear Window (1954), Barbara Bel Geddes in "Lamb to the Slaughter" and Vertigo (1958), Vertigo's Novak, Eva Marie Saint in North by Northwest (1959) (a lighter version of Notorious), Marion Crane, Suzanne Pleshette and Tippi Hedren in The Birds (1963), Tippi Hedren as Marnie (1964). A list worthy of Ophüls, Dreyer and Mizoguchi. Yet unlike the warm sorrow of Ophüls, who seems to see Time and the Light of the World as the source of female suffering; or Mizoguchi who places it within patriarchy and an overall emotional Japanese repression -- it is Dreyer who comes closest to Hitchcock, in projecting the heart of the pain: sexual longing and its denial by failed men.

Regarding Miss Lonelyhearts, here's my choice for the coldest moment in movie history -- James Stewart's "toast."



(We're supposed to root for this guy?)

Personal services contract signed, Hitchcock chose the untrained and inexperienced actress to lead one of the strangest (and nastiest) half-hours in television: "Revenge," beginning with John Russell's (Psycho's) ominous beachfront stillness.



At this point Miles is not much of an actress, as she's used here by Hitchcock more as a Bressonian "figure," yet what does he highlight within her figure? Miles's debauched insanity. Elsa Spann is a newlywed, a retired ballet dancer, and a breakdown victim. She and husband Karl Spann (Ralph Meeker, literally just off the Kiss Me Deadly set) have arrived in Southern California because they have "moved away" -- we sense to escape the consequences of her derangement (and perhaps not for the first time). He begins a new job in the exploding armaments industry of SoCal, leaving his young wife to the warmth of the sun (and the lustful ogling of Aunt Bea).

Karl returns from his first day at the bomb factory to find his wife "raped" and broken-down.  A man came up from the beach: "tall and dark." Watch her eyes and hear her voice as she says: "He killed me... he killed me. . . he killed me!" Fear; or ecstasy? (Dreyer would use the same split to deeply erotic effect the same year: the sounds of Inger's childbirth from Ordet could just as well be cries of orgasm as they are shrieks of pain.) How many men have "killed" this newlywed? Husband Karl is on the case: "Would you know him if you ever saw him again?" The lights come on again in her eyes: "Yes! Oh... yes. . . ."

Elsa Spann is a sex maniac, a very practical girl, and a murderess. As she and Karl search for the tall dark man who came up from the beach, she -- in full black widow mode -- wants the one who "killed" her to become dead, for real. When we see the man whom Elsa picks out on the street, he turns out to be a poop-a-doop: beautifully dressed, soft all over, stupid mustache. Four pops in the head with a small wrench -- and he's dead? What kind of beach stud is that?

The husband murders for her, and the natural born killers move on. (Is this their thing?) Elsa is Rose Balestrero with a sex life and a real man (even the name "Spann") as husband. But this only seems to lead to the same suffering shared by Rose. . .

*

As we know, The Wrong Man is based on a real case: Christopher Emmanuel Balestrero is falsely accused of armed-robbery because he looks like the real criminal. And the critical takes on the work invariably focus on questions of guilt, Catholicism, miracles, the police and justice system, bureaucracy. The "social issue" focus always underlines the victimization of the wrong man, and indeed -- from that POV -- he is victimized. But never so intensely as by the director himself.

Hitchcock takes the always hale-and-hearty Henry Fonda and weakens him in every way. Beginning with the diminutive "Manny" (Mann-eee); Fonda's intimidated stoop and strange, delicate way of walking; his defensive voice; his mealy and closed public face, quarter-smile, pursed lips, unfocused wandering eyes, meaning nothing. A degraded and clogged personality.

Near dawn, carrying in bottles of milk, the husband comes home into a hallway draped with Caspar David Friedrich prints. (In mid-50s Jackson Heights?) (Is Hitchcock thinking of "Woman at a Window"?) First we're with Manny at The Stork, where the house combo plays beneath a grapes-like conglomeration of balls, and where the sense of the club is that the future hangs over Manny like a great sullen hopeless sky. It's four o'clock in the morning and he stops off for tea and toast. (Has any other movie captured so well the cold dreariness of New York subways at night?) For all his lankiness, Manny's consistently reduced in scale by Hitchcock, before the arrest -- with angle and placement, similar to Hitch's own tiny figure in the movie's prelude. (Bogart in The Big Sleep to poor Elisha Cook Jr: "You aren't big enough for her.")     


He enters her room as if entering the Bates Mansion. He sits and looms above her, as she complains of a tooth-ache (in a work about erotic frustrations, everyone seems to have impacted teeth), the husband looking from behind like nothing human: we seem to be looking into a gashed, hollowed-out skull. She is always at odd angle, as if about to fall out of the frame (or out of Manny's life). As he moves toward her through the scene, then away again, the cuts make it seem as if there's great distance between them. The way Rose looks at Manny as he says: "Sure we are (lucky). We're in love." Doesn't he see what we see in her eyes? And she's so frightened of him coming home -- frightened of what? Perhaps his arrival. They are on separate moons, only Manny doesn't know it. As he kisses her, she hears five bells: 5:00am. Then turns away from his kiss, to sleep. She asks him: "Will you sit here for awhile?"

Where's he going? To a separate bedroom. The husband rises from the rejection, sullen and peeved. He glances at the racing sheet: This is what she's turned me into, a tout with no money. He swoops down on her neck like a vampire, as we fade on what is surely one of the most unsettling husband/wife scenes ever filmed.

Before his arrest.

*

Manny is a good father. Rose doesn't care. Next morning, the telephone rings and as soon as Rose realizes he's talking to his mother, she walks toward the conversation like a revenant moving toward doom. Manny leaves the house announcing his "errands" and she calls out "good!" -- but Hitchcock undercuts her approval with the sounds of a raging El-line.

He walks into a den of hysteria. The most hysterical being an obvious spinster, but surrounding her is a bevy of choice 1950s gals: the blue-eyed brunette who greets Balestrero; the sleek office manager with the pulled-back honey-blonde hair; the sassy fox with glasses fresh from a Monk set (and whose eventual aggressive identification hangs Manny). My! how Balestrero brings out the loathing in lonely, sexually-frustrated women. They conspire after he leaves, and bring in the two "men" of the den: Mannys both. Then the girls bring in the pigs.



Out of the den, Manny's picked up by the police, taken on a tour of some of the grungiest liquor stores in Queens (why would a robber target these places?), brought in to precinct for booking, then locked up for the night (with Detective Jack Ruby giving the arrest order). But not before he's accused of having a high old time at the fertilizing Stork: "women, drinks, dancing!" "I don't drink," Manny proudly proclaims (as he later boasts of never having any money). And he doesn't dance. Left out of his denials is the women charge. Is Manny a Man at the Stork? Does his possible extra-marital satisfactions deepen his wife's torture? These scenes, apart from Rose, are truly terrifying and have monopolized critical attention. Fonda is particularly special here, a movie actor containing within him both Manny Balestrero and Wyatt Earp.

At last, Rose gets the call, and we see -- before the brother-in-law announces what has happened -- she is already holding and comforting her left arm.



Rose leaves the first meeting with Frank O'Connor (beautifully underplayed by Anthony Quayle) relieved about Manny's case; and clearly attracted. And the tall, dark, dignified, and handsome attorney watches her walk away. But not before he says, with a glance at Rose: "Let's not think about [money] right now." What does he have in mind? And why is this couple trusting such an important matter to a lawyer with little trial or criminal experience (and who does wind up making a boob of himself in court, to the point where a juror stands up and yells at him, causing a mistrial)? Perhaps the strangest moment in the scene is the way Rose seems when she forcefully announces: "[Manny and I] haven't been separated for more than two days at a time."



They revisit their "vacation": the rain and cold and drabness; a dilapidated inn; playing cards with strangers on the porch. Suddenly, the head and hands of this lovely young woman (Miles was 26, Fonda 51) are covered, as Rose gives comfort to her left arm. And as the arrest intensifies the memories and experiences of her life with Manny, she begins her descent -- represented by looming waterfront bridges and ships. (A patterning: Stewart 46, Grace Kelly 25; Grant 51, Kelly 26; Stewart 50, Novak 26; Grant 55, Eva Marie Saint 35.)



Again with O'Connor, Rose gazes at the lawyer with open, terrifying eyes. She is all his -- he doesn't notice (or doesn't care to show it). When we see her again, when she realizes her longing again is blocked, she is gone.

O'Connor: Is this usual?
Manny: No, I don't understand it.

This man was on the landing with her when they learned of Molinelli's death. He was in the kitchen with Rose as she blamed herself for everything. And he was just sitting next to her throughout enormous pain. I don't understand it. . . .

One of the most moving scenes -- and perhaps the strangest -- in all of Hitchcock.



(Hitchcock and lamps.)



Manny comes home again at pre-dawn, carrying milk -- impervious to the collapsing world around him -- and enters her haunted room. She is still now, exceedingly, like a flower that’s blossomed in a shadowy place, her voice sounds as if she were speaking across to the spirits. The world hangs livid round her, a level sheen of silver light, black clouds across white sky. The darkness is falling like a shutter. The world is now a ghostly shadow.

The mirror cracks. He looks at her with disgust. When she needs him the most, he puts her away.



The real robber, it turns out, looks little like Manny; more like a masculine version -- leaner, tougher, stronger -- of the husband. Manny barks out at him: "You realize what you've done to my wife?" Or what you have not done, Mr. Balestrero.

 
The final Stations of Rose's Cross are some of the most painful scenes in American cinema. What is she trying to confess to the shadowed doctor? As she follows her madness, Manny stays the same: weaker and weaker, more and more prosaic, as she wants blood; she wants everything. (Manny drops her off at the sanatorium as if taking her to the dentist for a monthly check-up.) From where is Vera Ralston/Miles retrieving her pain? From which Kansas memories? Or is it all Hitchcock? And how incomparable is he? Getting greatness from Miles, otherwise an emotionally dull actress (Ford got nothing from her); and then -- in the happiest accident in movie history -- igniting Kim Novak's natural greatness. Back-to-back.



Before we enter her final agony, we should ask: how would Vertigo have been different if Miles had not backed out due to pregnancy? Having seen Vertigo dozens of times, my initial reaction is: it would have been much less. Since the movie -- one of the great works of 20th Century art -- depends on a reversal of identification midway through, what would we enter if Miles were Judy? When we enter Kim Novak's Judy, we enter a world of longing, loneliness, sorrow, guilt, and a consuming desire to be with Scottie. Coming off "Revenge" and The Wrong Man, it is not possible to imagine Hitchcock using Vera Miles in that way. At least not toward James Stewart. For isn't Stewart a more cosmopolitan, comfortable, and relaxed version of Manny Balestrero? There is no sexual chemistry between Stewart and Novak in Vertigo. (Even though she had the body and the reputation to match, Novak's movie presence is a sweeter and more innocent one than is Miles's.) Once getting "her" back, Scottie's only physical attitude toward Judy borders on revulsion. His only thing is possession; and after he realizes the plot against him -- revenge. It is Novak who is the true romantic. Miles as an earnest romantic toward this elderly and rather dry man? No. (See The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.) So Hitchcock may have gone in a radically different -- and lesser -- direction: something more along the lines of Fritz Lang's Scarlet Street: Stewart in the Edward G. Robinson cuckold role; Gavin Elster as Johnny-the-stud (and what a performance in SS by Dan Duryea!); Miles as Joan Bennett's bitch. This may have opened Hitchcock up to all sorts of misogynist avenues, rather than creating one of the most intense anti-misogynist statements in art. But that depended on Novak. Or on Ingrid Bergman in Notorious: Cary Grant's despicable torture of her in that film, leading to his final redemption (unlike Manny -- "I was just a stupid guy, full of pain"), emerges from a similar three-way emotional relationship. Even if Vertigo were re-cast along those lines -- Madeleine/Judy forced to be with Scottie, with Elster highlighted, hovering and directing things from the shadows -- it still would have depended on Miles. And would James Stewart let himself play Claude Rains? (It's funny. His rage at the end of the real Vertigo suggests he thinks he was played that way. He doesn't even see Novak.) Or switching Stewart to the Elster role. But again -- where's the sex, especially with Miles around? Perhaps we can imagine Sean Connery's Mark Rutland as Elster: Miles caught between a rejecting young and ripe Connery, and the dry and middle-aged obsessed Stewart; Miles using Stewart to try and move Connery. It is still less.



At the end, Manny comes to her uncomprehending, totally complicit in her agony, babbling on about moving, the boys, the Stork Club and Sherman Billingsley, he being "not guilty" and what is he going to do without her? Her face in the light of the sanatorium room is now almost phosphorescent, eyelids heavy, voice half-averted and unconscious. In spite of the unfortunate "happy ending" title card, Rose Balestrero will always remain in that room, gazing out her window, holding herself steady in the striped cloth of her dress, inaccessible forever to Manny,
the wrong man.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Sacred Heart

Is this the only avenue of devotion left in our current capital-imposed world of terror?
Russia Says Suicide Bomber Was Militant’s Widow

MOSCOW — Investigators believe that one of two female suicide bombers in the subway attacks that killed 39 people in Moscow this week was a baby-faced 17-year-old girl from a Muslim region who was the widow of an insurgent leader, officials said on Friday.

The teenager, Dzhennet Abdurakhmanova, had been married to the insurgent, Umalat Magomedov, who was slain by Russian forces last December. The Kommersant newspaper showed a photo of the two, both holding weapons, her head covered in the traditional dress of a religious Muslim woman from the Caucasus Mountains in southern Russia.

Ms. Abdurakhmanova, whose last name has also been reported as Abdullayeva, is believed to have carried out the first suicide blast on Monday during the morning rush hour at the Lubyanka subway station, which is near the headquarters of the Russian security services, reports said.

She was from Dagestan, a Muslim region near Chechnya, and supposedly first established contact with the insurgents on the Internet, Kommersant reported. It said Mr. Magomedov was killed in a security operation on December 31, 2009.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

As the Rattlesnake Turns

There's been a silly dust-up recently about the ex-communication of David Frum -- idiot speechwriter for Bush/Cheney -- from the hallowed halls of bought-off right-wing think-tank pimpery.

Justin Raimondo with the rim shot.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Gangster State

Matt Taibbi's astounding new article.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Leave the Gun, Take the Cannoli

As far as I'm aware, no part of the Catholic Church is currently engaged in the destruction of Palestinian culture, homes, women, children or old men. Nor is the Church part of the Holy WASP Capitalist Crusade -- led by a Jeremiah Wright-debunking conman -- against the world in places like Yemen, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan or Pakistan.


Still ~ the charges being made in the US media! (primarily by half-pimp, half-bitch and always illiterate Christopher Hitchens): truly worthy of some KKK pamphlet from the 1920s. Homosexuals and pederasts are in charge of the Catholic Church. "No official records exist," says Hitchens, "but informed speculation" (no doubt coming from the same speculators who wrote "Protocols of the Elders of Zion") "tells us":

Homosexual priests make up more than half the church
Men become priests in order to cornhole each other
Most priests are misogynists
Almost ALL OF THEM are drunks

I see.

Well, this sort of buggery has gone on forever, has it not? In the highest reaches of Zionism, Islamism, Hitchens' closet, and most certainly among:

Yale Skull & Bones
Oxford & Cambridge
The Council on Foreign Relations
The TriLateral Commission
Sullivan and Cromwell
CIA
The Carlyle Group
Lutherans, Calvinists, and Presbyterians
Methodists, Anabaptists, and Anglicans

And all the other WASP bloodsuckers who have caused the deaths of billions of people over the past few hundred years.

To define the Catholic Church by the likes of the current Nazi Pope and his fellow pederasts is like defining togetherness along the lines of the Manson Family. Why no mention of Liberation Theology and all the suffering it has tried to comfort these past 40 years? (In the face of virulent attacks from Rome.) The magnificent liberations throughout South and Central America are all Catholic-based, as is the continuing model of the Cuban revolution. The only administration in US history which stood up to the WASP National Security State was Catholic-based.

And the timing of this has always smelled. It reminds me of Chomsky's defense of government: "There's a lot of things wrong with government, but what the US Elites hate about it is what is right: that government is reachable and controllable by the people, that is it the only weapon available against increasing privatization and inequality." And the attempt to destroy the public face of the Catholic Church — a jihad coincidentally begun under the most extreme WASP war administration in US history, Bush/Cheney — emerged to try and destroy what is RIGHT about the Church: its remaining preference for the poor, its involvement with anti-war, anti-globalist, anti-capitalist movements across the world.


The differences between Christopher Hitchens and our current Rat Pope is that only one is a public drunk and only one bathes.