Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Poor Little Lamb Who Has Lost His Way


In the run-up to the Demo Debacle of 2010, the White House fixers and liars have carted out a campaign to fool the Hope-a-Dopes (what few there are left) once more: gentle, peace-loving President Obama has been the victim of bad, bad people giving him bad, bad advice.

There seem to be takers.

Establishment gossip-monger and kiss-ass (and intelligent agent) Bob Woodward. (Russ Baker with some eye-popping Woodward background.)

William Pfaff.

The normally sane Bob Parry.

The rockin' and rollin' Uncle O. himself.

Robert Dreyfuss.

The ever-dumb Kevin Drum.

But not everyone.

Justin Raimondo, Tom Engelhardt, Andrew Bacevich, and Patrick Martin.

Meanwhile, Obama's FBI is rounding up anti-war activists, his Justice Department is defending his right to secretly murder anyone on the planet, and his National Security State is arguing for a takeover of all Internet privacy -- while militarily attacking US ally Pakistan.

Baa, baa, baa. . .

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Honor Man


In 1961, he turned down the movie role of James Bond because he thought Ian Fleming was a "talentless smut peddler." Then recommended best friend Sean Connery for the part. In his own masterpiece John Drake series trilogy, a trilogy about the intelligence world of the 1960s -- Danger Man, Secret Agent, The Prisoner -- he refused to shoot and/or kiss anybody. He was born in Astoria, Queens to Irish immigrant parents, quickly moved as a toddler to Mullaghmore, Ireland -- then to Sheffield, England as a boy. Married actress Joan Drummond in his early 20s, wrote love notes to her every day, and stayed with Drummond until his death in 2009, at the age of 80.

Patrick McGoohan is my favorite television actor -- no one else comes close. He is always the most intelligent, elegant, interesting, courageous, and thoughtful man in the room. And the least egotistical. Watch him here in a scene from "Identity Crisis," one of two Columbo appearances for which he won an Emmy. The great Peter Falk is closing in, suspecting that a man called "Steinmetz" is actually an invention, actually Patrick McGoohan himself -- the real murderer -- in disguise.



"The T-33. . . . Silver Star": the moment when McGoohan realizes he's done, that his protected life -- again here the life of a top intelligence agent -- is over, yet his voice and eyes become modest and respectful ("I'll get your coat"): the better man has won. McGoohan's devotion is never primarily to himself, but to something outside and higher.
*
Danger Man premiered in Britain in 1960 (with American financing), ran for 39 episodes at 26 minutes per, and -- in spite of its enormous popularity throughout Europe -- was canceled when the US financing dried up. McGoohan plays unarmed undercover agent John Drake, working at times for British intelligence, French intelligence, NATO, and CIA.

One of the first incarnation's earliest and best, "View from the Villa," from September 1960. (The villa's location, by the way, is Portmeiron, North Wales -- The Prisoner's goofball setting.) And as we can see, Mr. McGoohan was an amateur middleweight champion.



Drake would return three years later under the same series title in Britain, called Secret Agent everywhere else. The running time for each story was now doubled to 50 minutes (with many two-parters), but the most significant change would be Drake himself. Now more of a le Carré-type character -- sick of his "professionalism" and sick of what it is he's supposed to be protecting.

"You're Not in Any Trouble, Are You?" from October 1965 (with Susan Hampshire as the very fetching dish).



Then came The Prisoner. . .

For me, no. Despite McGoohan's elegance, fascinating confusion, and very good humor, watching it is like being forced to wear a Nehru jacket, listen to "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," watch Skidoo, and drink Tang all at the same time.

For a funny overview of every Prisoner episode, go here.


It is impossible to think of Patrick McGoohan without affection -- his ever-changing accents, his grace, his timing and non-chalance -- his wonderful pleasure in performance. His pride in craft. McGoohan embodies a vanished time when we had a more direct relationship to a performer. A generous-hearted actor (and man); a glamour without narcissism. He always seems to be in a blissful present, with an expression that says "You can’t imagine what it’s like being in this room and performing these words.”

Actually, watching him, we can.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Made in the USA

A bombing Wednesday at a martial parade in western Iran killed at least 10 women and a 5-year-old child, including the wives of two Iranian military commanders. The explosion struck amid a large crowd attending the event, which was intended to underscore the nation's battle readiness.

Another 35 people were injured, 12 seriously. No one immediately claimed responsibility for the bombing, which occurred in the restive ethnic Kurdish city of Mahabad.

According to Iranian media, the bomb struck pedestrians gathered along a Mahabad sidewalk to watch an annual Sacred Defense Week military parade commemorating the victims of the 1980-88 Iran- Iraq war. Initial news accounts described the attack as a suicide bombing. But state radio later reported that the bomb was placed in the branches of a pine tree.

The semi-official Mehr news agency said the 11 a.m. explosion took place 55 yards away from the podium where military brass were watching the proceedings and that two of those killed were the wives of senior military commanders.
The background.

Again Chris Floyd:
Even the perpetrators of these war crimes no longer to pretend that these conflicts have any real purpose; the War Machine’s own “intelligence analysts” regularly report that the wars are exacerbating the very problems they are ostensibly designed to quell: violent extremism, divisive tribalism, ignorance and poverty, repression of women, political instability in strategic regions, fear and insecurity at home, etc. But none of this matters – not to the Peace Laureate and his party of spineless corporate servitors, nor to the Republicans and their cretinous Tea Partiers, nor, it seems, to the vast majority of the American public who follow these blood-soaked factions of ruthless, third-rate gangsters, bagmen, morons and courtiers.

And now another election season is upon us. The massive acts of state terrorism committed by the United States will fall even further beneath the media radar (if that’s possible). “Progressive” forces will furiously debate the best way to rouse the “base” to support their admittedly disappointing champion, if only to keep the drooling hordes of zealous Know-Nothings at bay. They will put aside the daily murder of innocent people by their champion in order to play a few “savvy” hands of partisan politics – as if they were living in some kind of ordinary, open political system, instead of a phantasmagorical Grand Guignol of state terror, state murder and corporate rapine, a rigged game where the only outcome is more and more and more of the same.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Tea Party is Burning

And so is Chris Floyd.
The political-media-blogospherical establishment is currently working itself into a lather over the elevation of a "nutty" Tea Party woman to the Republican nomination for a Senate seat in Delaware. The selection of Christine O'Donnell by a tiny sliver of voters in a closed primary in a tiny state whose main claim to fame is its decades of whorish service as a protective front for rapacious corporations is, we are told, an event of world-shaking proportions fit for endless analysis and scary headlines all over the world.

It's true that O'Donnell has taken the politically risky step of denouncing America's national pastime -- masturbation -- and has, over the years, supported any number of positions that put her on the far side of common sense. But one struggles in vain to find that she has advanced anything remotely as radical -- or lunatic -- as the idea that the President of the United States is some kind of intergalactic emperor who holds the power of life and death over every living being on earth in his autocratic hands. Yet this is precisely the position proclaimed -- openly, before Congress, God and everybody -- by the highly educated, intellectually sophisticated, super-savvy Laureate of Peace currently residing in the White House.


This same president has also fought tooth and nail -- often in open court -- to shield torturers, escalate pointless wars of aggression, relentlessly expand a liberty-stripping Stasi-style security apparatus, give trillions of tax dollars to rapacious financiers, health-care corporations, insurance companies and bloodstained war profiteers, while launching cowardly drone missile attacks on the sovereign territory of close ally, killing hundreds of civilians in the process - and has just signed off on the biggest arms deal in history with one of the most viciously repressive tyrannies on earth.


So I'm sorry, but I just don't see how a putzy, klutzy, wilfully ignorant Tea Partier from perhaps the most corrupt state in the Union is somehow more dangerous than the people we have in power now -- including a Vice-President who for decades was the senator (and corporate bagman) from this very same most corrupt state in the Union, and used his power to advance a "Bankruptcy Bill" that was one of the most savage class-war attacks on working people -- and the poor, and the sick, and the vulnerable -- that we have seen in many a year. Then again, as far as I know, Joe "Bankruptcy Bill" Biden has never publicly condemned the practice of masturbation.


Do I want to see Christine O'Donnell in the Senate? No, of course not. Not only because in her freely chosen ignorance she has embraced the most primitive, bleakly reductive understandings of religion, politics, power, sexuality and human reality in general, but also -- and mainly -- because she will support all of the policies delineated above: the imperial wars for loot and domination, the presidential power to kill and incarcerate at will, the slavish support for Big Money in all of its destructive manifestations, the perversion of every single public program into an engine of private profit for the elite, and so on down the line. But as her Democratic opponent will do the same thing if he is elected, I don't see why we should be all het up about O'Donnell's corporate-funded victory in the teeny-tiny Republican primary in little bitty Delaware.


But hey, it's all good fun, right? The tribal partisans get to jerk their knees in orgiastic spasms, drawing oceans of newsprint and TV airtime, while the real business of empire -- slaughtering, torturing and repressing human beings -- goes on unnoticed and unabated.
Much more.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Journalist

Jeremy Scahill:
Over the past several years, entities closely linked to the private security firm Blackwater have provided intelligence, training and security services to US and foreign governments as well as several multinational corporations, including Monsanto, Chevron, the Walt Disney Company, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines and banking giants Deutsche Bank and Barclays, according to documents obtained by The Nation. Blackwater's work for corporations and government agencies was contracted using two companies owned by Blackwater's owner and founder, Erik Prince: Total Intelligence Solutions and the Terrorism Research Center (TRC). Prince is listed as the chairman of both companies in internal company documents, which show how the web of companies functions as a highly coordinated operation. Officials from Total Intelligence, TRC and Blackwater (which now calls itself Xe Services) did not respond to numerous requests for comment for this article.

One of the most incendiary details in the documents is that Blackwater, through Total Intelligence, sought to become the "intel arm" of Monsanto, offering to provide operatives to infiltrate activist groups organizing against the multinational biotech firm.


Governmental recipients of intelligence services and counterterrorism training from Prince's companies include the Kingdom of Jordan, the Canadian military and the Netherlands police, as well as several US military bases, including Fort Bragg, home of the elite Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), and Fort Huachuca, where military interrogators are trained, according to the documents. In addition, Blackwater worked through the companies for the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency and the US European Command.
The rest of Scahill's very important piece can be found here.

Amy Goodman spoke with him this morning on Democracy Now!:

Monday, September 13, 2010

Neo Conman

Coming off of Our Dear Leader's Friday economic press conference -- only the 5th held by Obama in prime-time, the fewest of any President since they invented prime-time -- Barry Grey makes the points.
Obama and his handlers have evidently decided that the best way to confront rising anger over the administration’s refusal to provide jobs or serious relief for the unemployed is to use the Big Lie technique—presenting pro-corporate policies as their opposite, touting deepening crisis as “recovery,” and citing the reactionary nostrums of the Republicans to justify the White House’s own right-wing program. The assumption that underlies this cynical public relations campaign is that the American people are infinitely gullible and suffer from collective amnesia.

One can only wonder whether Obama believes that the American people have forgotten the actual record of his administration: his multi-trillion-dollar bailout of Wall Street, his intervention to block legislation limiting bankers’ pay, his insistence that newly hired General Motors and Chrysler workers’ pay be cut in half, his refusal to bail out bankrupt state and local governments, his rejection of any public works programs to actually create jobs, his health care “reform” that slashes hundreds of billions of dollars from Medicare and rations services to working people, his attacks on teachers and public schools in the name of education “reform,” his banking “reform” that strengthens the grip of the biggest Wall Street firms and sanctions the forms of swindling that led to the crash, and his efforts to run interference for the corporate criminal BP.

The most revealing moment in the press conference came in an exchange with reporter April Ryan, who asked: “On the economy, could you discuss your efforts at reviewing history as it relates to the poverty agenda, meaning LBJ and Dr. King?”

Obama responded by ruling out any government anti-poverty programs. In words that could have been uttered by Bush or any other “free market” ideologue, Obama said, “Now, I think the history of anti-poverty efforts is that the most important anti-poverty effort is growing the economy and making sure there are enough jobs out there—single most important thing we can do. It’s more important than any program we could set up. It’s more important than any transfer payment we could have. If we can grow the economy faster and create more jobs, then everybody is swept up into that virtuous circle…”

The meaning of this repudiation of past reform measures is clear: nothing is permissible that does not directly contribute to enhancing the profits of corporations and the fortunes of their executives and major shareholders. Above all, no steps can be taken to reduce the staggering concentration of wealth at the very top of the economic ladder.

Obama went on to declare, “That doesn’t mean that there aren’t some targeted things we can do to help communities that are especially in need… And I am very proud of the efforts that we’ve made on education reform—which have received praise from Democrats and Republicans.”

Here Obama revealed the actual nature of his so-called “targeted reforms.” He is “very proud” of spearheading an unprecedented assault on public education, scape-goating teachers for years of government neglect of the schools and promoting quasi-private charter schools while encouraging the closure of thousands of public institutions.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Magisterial

The man who would later be the victim of a Wasp-mafia/National Security State execution tells the "Greater Houston Ministerial Association" where to stick it, 50 years ago today.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Requiem for the Real

Looks like NBC has re-rebooted the vomit-inducing idea of a NEW "Rockford Files," formerly with some oatmeal face by the name of Dermot Mulroney, now with Hugo Boss model Josh Holloway.

The real thing. One of the great episodes of this or any other television series, "Requiem for a Funny Box":

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Beginnings


My daughter starts elementary school today. She's pretty scared. Me, too.

In her honor, Part V of Haibane Renmei: "The Beginning of the World"



Other parts, go here.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Kunteki

Our best movie critic Chris Fujiwara has a new interview up, more comprehensive and illuminating than just about any movie class you can take.


Then read everything at his brilliant (and newly-designed) website.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Mighty Like a Rose

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Friday, September 3, 2010

Cut Throat

The midterms approach and the jobs situation gets worse and worse. What will President Barack Obama do now? Perhaps a massive new Federal jobs program dedicated to rebuilding our schools, roads, bridges, libraries, energy and water grids, subways; dedicated to preserving the great old American houses and squares and parks of our national past; or building handsome and balanced cities for our future.

(As promised in '07 and '08.)

No, this.
With just two months until the November elections, the White House is seriously weighing a package of business tax cuts - potentially worth hundreds of billions of dollars - to spur hiring and combat Republican charges that Democratic tax policies hurt small businesses, according to people with knowledge of the deliberations.

Administration officials have struggled to develop new economic policies and an effective message to blunt expected Republican gains in Congress and defuse complaints from Democrats that President Obama is fumbling the issue most important to voters. Following Obama's vacation and focus on foreign policy in recent weeks, White House advisers have arranged a series of economic events for the president next week, including two trips to swing states and a news conference.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Repost: Con Men

In light of the recent Emmys sweep -- a brave and brilliant voting organ that's never given a single Best Show award to the likes of Have Gun Will Travel, The Fugitive, Columbo, Bob Newhart, Rockford, WKRP, SCTV, Miami Vice, Seinfeld , Curb Your Enthusiasm, or The Wire(!) -- a repost.


Look at this asshole. Does this feel like 1963 to you? Or, does it seem like a shot from a Sex and the City out-take wherein the cast all dressed up for a Days of Wine and Roses party?

Mad Men – a perfectly shallow and narcissistic show – bears as much relation to the emotional, psychological, moral and political moods of the early 1960s as does Twitter, So You Think You Can Dance? (no you can't), the iPhone, and places like Salon.com. Far more a version of Sex and the City with much cooler clothes and cars and music (and girls), what's left out of this piece of plastic is everything we truly know about the time, which is everything its smarmy Yuppie audience has had a major hand in exterminating in our current culture: earnestness, optimism, a sense of community, grace, complexity, self-deprecation, hatred of the rich and big business, a refusal to demonize others and puff up ourselves, and (perhaps most important) the assumption that people are basically good.

Not only were slick and shiny dime-a-dozen ad-men no one's idea of a role model in the early-1960s, they became the embodiment of everything corporate, compromised, materialistic and oh-so-1957. ('Course one of the wonderful things about that time is no one thought along the lines of "oh-so-1957".) Take a look: Breakfast at Tiffany’s, The Dick Van Dyke Show, Lilies of the Field, the Beach Boys, Stanley Elkin, David Janssen, Jasper Johns, the 1962 Dual-Ghia, Steve Allen, Ornette Coleman, Rosemary Clooney, The Hustler, The Ladies Man, the TWA Terminal at Idlewild, and of course Jack Kennedy himself.

What we get here, rather, is the same old campy, self-referential "I gotta go right out and buy that tie!" mutant elite ass-kissing. Creator Matt Weiner tries very hard (and very successfully) to pull the wooly over the eyes of the self-enchanted mind-travelers who read/watch/listen in order to feel even more self-enchanted, for this glamorama soap opera has all the subtlety of a Bloomingdale's store window. (Come to think of it, Mad Men is the ultimate Bloomingdale's store window.)

Just take the role models. We have the ubercompetent corporate drone. The hysterectical stay-at-home worthy of Desperate Housewives. The frail, tremulous heroine buried under an avalanche of agency problems. (With the coming gravy of sexual harassment ladled over her. Abortion anyone?) The porcine connected jerk invulnerable to retribution because of his seniority. The burnt-out case, with bad job, bad marriage, stacks of unpaid bills. And everyone always chirp-chirp-chirping at those oh-so-important client meetings. (My kingdom for a cell phone!)

Sure smells like 1963 to me. Or is that the Starbucks down the block?

What’s most repulsive about Mad Men is how this time (the “last time before America became a slave to anxiety,” as Mailer put it) is seen through the Weiner-ish prism of contemporary Yuppoid self-congratulation. Yeah, sure they had the music and the cars and a real man as President. But we’re so much smarter now. So much more dedicated to our work, our appearance, our health, our environment. So much more civilized about race, and gender, and sexual preference. So much more educated with so much more knowledge right at our fingertips. And how ‘bout that clunky and pathetic old technology?!

An incredibly stupid show for its appropriately stupid audience. How is it possible to make a series about a time that seems more golden as the years go by, especially from the POV of the emotional and cultural cesspool America has now become, without so much as a glimmer of regret, sadness, or melancholy toward what's been lost? But then, what narcissist is capable of regret?

Back to the top: which one feels like 1963 to you?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

American Psycho

On Tuesday night, Barack Obama gave a speech from the Oval Office on Iraq that was almost as full of hideous, murderous lies as the speech on Iraq his predecessor gave in the same location more than seven years ago.

After mendaciously declaring an "end to the combat mission in Iraq" -- where almost 50,000 regular troops and a similar number of mercenaries still remain, carrying out the same missions they have been doing for years -- Obama delivered what was perhaps the most egregious, bitterly painful lie of the night:

Through this remarkable chapter in the history of the United States and Iraq, we have met our responsibility.
"We have met our responsibility!" No, Mister President, we have not. Not until many Americans of high degree stand in the dock for war crimes. Not until the United States pays hundreds of billions of dollars in unrestricted reparations to the people of Iraq for the rape of their country and the mass murder of their people. Not until the United States opens its borders to accept all those who have been and will be driven from Iraq by the savage ruin we have inflicted upon them, or in flight from the vicious thugs and sectarians we have loosed -- and empowered -- in the land. Not until you, Mister President, go down on your knees, in sackcloth and ashes, and proclaim a National of Day of Shame to be marked each year by lamentations, reparations and confessions of blood guilt for our crime against humanity in Iraq.

Then and only then, Mister President, can you say that America has begun -- in even the most limited, pathetic way -- to "meet its responsibility" for what it has done to Iraq. And unless you do this, Mister President -- and you never will -- you are just a lying, bloodsoaked apologist, accomplice and perpetrator of monstrous evil, like your predecessor and his minions -- many of whom, of course, are now your minions.
More from Chris Floyd on Obama's moral vomit.