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Tuesday, November 18, 2008


Back to working on the screenplay that opens with the long voiceover, not caring much for it . . . but at least I was able to crank out ten pages tonight.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Any Friend of Joe's . . . .

Hi Jerylann, welcome to the waiting room. I understand you're an Obama supporter. Good for you. Good for us.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Writer Wins Presidency

What a wonderful night. Many things in this country are rigged so as to screw the unknowing and credulous, but one somehow doesn't feel a presidential election can be rigged. It's too big a phenomenon, too many people are involved, it's not subject to being completely controlled or manipulated by the vested interests and plutocrats. One truly feels the common everyday people of this country had an opportunity to rise to their feet and speak, and they took it, effecting a fundamental and sorely needed change of direction for the nation. Three cheers for Obama and three cheers for the U.S. Constitution.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Another Delon Loser

Warning, danger, warning, danger! This DVD (1972, dir. Jean Pierre Melville) is so bad it's almost frightening. "Un flic" is a cop, Alain Delon. He chases gangsters. Awful awful awful. Tedious to an unbearable degree. Draggy, dull, bogus in every way.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

CIA Interrogation

London-based Pakistani P.I. Tommy Akhtar is the protag of Patrick Neate's novel City of Tiny Lights (titled after the Zappa tune) and he's being interrogated by CIA agent Chip Paradowski in an interrogation room in a UK police station and Chip keeps annoying Tommy by calling him "son."

"This wasn't the English version of the word as in 'my son' as in 'mate' as in 'like-minded individual,' this was the patronizing American version as in 'Just you remember who you're talking to, son.' 'Son?' I doubted the geezer was even as old as me and I knew he hadn't seen anything like the reality of yours truly . . . . Paradowski sighed. He adjusted his position and crossed his legs. 'Look, son, can I be straight with you?' 'Sure, Dad.' "

New York: Penguin, 2005, p. 203.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Paul Newman

Caught The Sting on TV yesterday and was annoyed by the goofy music and the editing--the wipes may be corny but at least they're intrusive--but I was charmed by the premise of non-violence and God wasn't Paul Newman a great actor, you look at him and listen to him and he makes you feel so secure. Reading Joan Didion's Slouching Toward Bethlehem this evening; found it abandoned in a box with some other books on Upton Street a few weeks ago, a paperback with one name written inside the front cover, along the top edge, in fountain pen, and another in ballpoint on the fore-edge; can't tell if I'm enjoying it or not, just reading along, it's a collection of magazine pieces, the last I read mentioning Newman. I had seen a photo of him on the cover of a tabloid some weeks ago, looking thin, so his passing didn't shock me. God what a wonderful actor. He could be so intense. And yet that smile; it made you feel everything was, unquestionably, going to be all right.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Existence Pain to Decrease?

McCain has no chance. The battle cry, the ideological core, the mantra, the cri de coeur of the Republicans year after year has been deregulation of industry and it is deregulation that has caused the present financial crisis. The top headline in today's NYTimes: "U.S. MAY TAKE OWNERSHIP STAKE IN BANKS TO EASE CREDIT CRISIS." Excellent. This could be the first step in a shift from capitalism to socialism in this country. Under socialism, industries are nationalized by the federal government and operated to serve the public interest rather than the bank accounts of ownership elites. Commodities are produced not for profit but for use. Social justice becomes a reality, not a dream, and the existence pain of the general population decreases. So if this financial crisis compels the U.S. to turn to socialism in order to survive, it is a crisis with a magnificent satin lining.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

More Health Care Idiocy

In Monday's NY Times (p. A25) Paul Krugman writes: "Several recent nonpartisan studies estimate that under the McCain [health care] plan [which would eliminate the tax break for employer-provided health insurance] around 20 million Americans currently covered by their employers would lose their health insurance."

Okay, PBS says there are currently some 40 million people in the US with no health care insurance. McCain would add another 20 million to the total.

Only the rectal-cranially inverted can support public policy this misguided. Oh when will an operation be invented to cure this stubborn and vexing condition?

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Irrationality of US Health Care

Wall Street has nearly self-destructed. Predictable, according to Marx. My question, my lamentation--why couldn't it have been the health care insurance industry instead? A show on PBS tonight claimed that the medically uninsured in the US, some 40 million people, cost the economy $130 billion a year in lost productivity--which is more than the cost of insuring them. Health care should not be managed as a for-profit business. Health care is a fundamental human right, not a privilege to be granted the sick based on their ability to pay or the insurance plan of their employer, if any. The Declaration of Independence states that each citizen has the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. When you're ill and can't afford to get health care, you have no happiness, your liberty is greatly impaired, and your life, well your life sucks. The Founders did not intend a country that would be populated by thousands of people roaming around on any given day saying, "My life is crap."

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Myth of CEO Accountability

A letter to the editor in the Sept. 19 NYTimes (p. A22) from a Sharon Bermon:

"Nicholas D. Kristof doesn't go far enough when he suggests that overpaid American CEOs should 'learn from Britain and Australia.' I would like to see some masters of the [financial] universe line up, bow deeply and apologize to their employees and shareholders--in the fashion of Japanese managers. And then give back the money they didn't earn."

Friday, September 19, 2008

No Pain at the Top

Three cheers for House speaker Nancy Pelosi who is quoted in today's NYTimes (p. A15) re the US financial crisis: "Let's hear from the private sector. How these captains of the financial world could make millions of dollars in salary, yet their companies fail and then we have to step in to bail them out."

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Vested Interests on Their Knees

All the full of sh*t conservative extremists and reactionaries and plutocrats and self-centered expropriators comprising a certain element of the investment class are looking more than usually asinine these days, as the great Wall Street firms go belly-up from excessive greed and short-sighted thinking, and it's amusing to think of the way they always claim government is the source, not the solution, of the periodic economic catastrophes that afflict this nation, because when the chips are down the Republicans are down on their knees begging Washington to save them from bankruptcy, at the taxpayers' expense. Yet, metaphorically speaking, they are my brothers and sisters, these a**hole investment high-rollers, and I extend my arms to them and would gladly take the time to explain to them the errors of their ways, if they would only find the time to fit me into their busy schedules.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Lynch & Stephen Daedelus Discuss Esthetics

From Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man:

"--I speak of normal natures, said Stephen. You also told me that when you were a boy in that charming carmelite school you ate pieces of dried cow dung. Lynch broke again into a whinny of laughter and again rubbed both his hands over his groin but without taking them from his pockets. --O I did! I did! he cried."

New York: Viking, 1964, p. 205.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Wall Street Self-Destructs

In response to the collapse of the high and mighty Wall Street firms it is essentially impossible not to think of Gordon Gecko (Gekko?) from Wall Street and his famous ipse dixit: "Greed is good. Greed works."


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Post Post

I read an amusing script on TriggerStreet and posted a review there today. Story about postal service investigative agents. They go to a house suspected of drug trafficking via post and show their badges to the suspect at the door and he says: "What did I do? Forget to put a return address on an envelope?"

Friday, September 5, 2008

Nothing New Under Le Soleil

I borrow a DVD from the library titled Gabrielle, a French film by I can't remember whom, based on a Conrad work called The Return and how does it start? With the longest opening voiceover I've ever heard. I didn't get around to watching it till the night before it was due, so I wasn't able to watch all of it, because I was tired, but I'm going to borrow it again and see how many pages, or minutes, it runs. It was kind of a typical French film in that it had long, long conversations between two people, the kinds of scenes I'm not allowing myself to write. It deals with a well to do couple who live in an enormous townhouse in what I suppose is Paris and they have like four or five servants, it's true decadence, holds one's attention--the maids wear white gloves when serving dinner. To think that they might accidentally touch the food! Mon Dieu! I'm back to working on the script that opens with the long voiceover after having finished major alterations on Intent to Kill, now titled The Murder Portfolio, based on an excellent story conference with Joe the Conqueror, query letter and one-page synopsis, along with tag line and logline ready to go.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Best for Last

It's hard to believe, therefore I believe. It's easy to disbelieve, therefore I choose to believe. It's takes work to believe, daily prayer, daily trust, you gotta work at it, as you know. But hey when you take the big trip into the Sky, that's when it all pays off, for everybody involved. And there is a deep-seated instinct to save the best for last. Where does that come from, I wonder?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Caper Flick Flops

Watched David Mamet's caper flick Heist, which he wrote and directed, on videocasette and it was awful--phoney-sounding, stagy, heavy-handed and a terrible waste of the great Gene Hackman, the main problem lying in the directing, which compelled everyone in the film to talk like a Saturday Night Live caricature of a Mamet character, everything drenched in unreality; one felt as if the characters had invisible scripts in hand and were reading their lines, everything seemed fake, and there was a horrible sameness to all of them, each in effect saying, "Hey, fuck you, I'm tough as nails and sly as a fox," and the next, "No, no, no, fuck you, I'm tough as nails and sly as a fox," and on and on, the mood of the film unalterably monotonous from beginning to end, the heist itself, of gold bullion from an jet that is on take off and cut off by a car, implausible to an extreme, all this inferiority genuinely surprising because I found Glengarry Glen Ross magnificent. [Later: The Research Department reports that Glengarry wasn't directed by D.M. but one James Foley.]

Friday, August 22, 2008

Necessary Precautions

A character in Steve Toltz's novel A Fraction of the Whole is a career criminal by the name of Harry West who gives the following advice to an aspiring gangster: "If you're embarking on a life of crime, you never know when your enemies are going to attack. Knives, bullets, fists, they come out of the woodwork. Any place you go--the pub, the cinema, the bank, the dentist--as soon as you walk into a room, you better find a wall and stand with your back to it. Get ready. Be aware. Don't let anyone get behind you, you hear me? Even when you're getting a haircut: always make the barber do it from in front." Harry's world class paranoia followed him everywhere. "You couldn't get behind him! He'd slide against the wall and if he was ever in an open space, he'd spin like a top. He panicked in crowds, and when he was caught up in the throng, he'd really go into violent spasms. The funniest thing was when he had to take a piss outdoors. He wouldn't go behind a tree, because his back was exposed; Harry leaned against the tree facing out, one hand on his dick, the other holding a .45."

New York: Spiegel & Grau, 2008, pp. 52, 100-101.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Valediction to Liberalism

A note of some weeks ago to Joe the Conqueror on an article by a prominent playwright/screenwriter announcing that he was abandoning liberalism:

Jeaux the Conqueror,

Davey is writing from the lap of luxury, safely removed from the problem of the decline in real wages of the average worker over the past ten or twenty years, the workers slowly turning brain-dead from overwork and a sense of unending pointlessness and misery, the overlords going out to laugh at Davey's plays and films. He's abandoned the exploited. Well the exploited can return the favor and start reading someone else. The bushdoctor will take care of them. The bushdoctor honors labor. He sides with Blaise Pascal: "I only approve those who seek with groans."

Davey never groans, I can almost guarantee you.

As to teaching acting, remember Shakespeare's famous quote:

"All the world's a stage and the unemployment rate for the Screen Actors Guild is holding steady at 97 percent."

Get back,

P.S. Funny we should be talking about a brain-dead liberal just as Patty publishes the latest post on her Alzheimer's blog. As a wise man said: "Life is funny, only it's not funny enough."

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Story Conference

A thank-you note resulting from a beneficial story conference with Joe the Conqueror:

Absolute Sir,

I can't thank you enough for the story consultation on Intent to Kill, which I may retitle The Murder Portfolio. Our discussion and your enthusiasm for the project reignited my interest in the world of Mr. Stallworth and I am amazed at the bonehead oversights in the draft you read. Not only would Nick Donatello not have paid a house call alone on Reed, if he had he would have had people on the fire escape to block Reed's exit. And when he trashed the place, he would have stolen Reed's laptop in order to find out where he worked. I have Reed go back and pick up the laptop after the break-in. Where was my mind?

Well I've junked the break-in and I've junked the shouting match between Reed and the super about the broken windows (makes Reed too much of a hothead, not likable) and I've junked the liaison with Jamie because it was an inessential subplot that went nowhere, and I've made Reed much more leery about coming back to the neighborhood after the night he clipped Michael Donatello.

Your keen observation that as of page 40 all the story is concerned with is finding Sal Bianco made me want to shrink this, but I found I was unable to. It is the nucleus of too many scenes. I would have had to junk the entire first 40 pages, and a cut of that magnitude was too much for me. It still stands as a Winner Take Nothing plot element that at least has a hard-bitten realism going for it. And it is a way of showing the nature of the relationship between Eddie and Reed. But I've changed it from Reed asking for Bianco's phone number to Reed asking both Zanetti and Eddie to vouch for him with Bianco, so a meeting can be set up, which Eddie finally agrees to do, for the grand.

But mainly it was your enthusiasm that enabled me to go back and do all this necessary work and for that, once again, I thank you kindly.


Thursday, August 7, 2008

No Working Title

I've ended up having the voiceover taper off rather than end abruptly and I'm halfway through the first draft, so I guess I'm committed to this thing, Screenplay 3, no working title, eight pages produced tonight adding a major plot development, wishing I felt better about it but remembering it's only a first draft, this after having abandoned two earlier attempts, each thirty or forty pages, trashed because of the lack of an outline and a lack of confidence about the material.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Terrible DVD

This is a newly available DVD so lame that one struggles for words to express fully its awful terrible corny inexcusable nature. It is tedious, simple-minded, unconvincing, plotted like a cartoon and has truly annoying worn-out jazz for most of the sound track. Alain Delon, suffering from amnesia after a car crash, is the one sympathetic character but he moves in slow motion through a profoundly implausible murder mystery. The title calls to mind the fine thriller Diabolique and one is left marveling at how wrong a filmmaker, in this case one Julien Duvivier, whom apparently people take seriously, can go, no matter that he has an adequate budget, a gorgeous location and a capable cast. And the butler at the chateau is a creep. I don't think there was a screenwriter. I think somebody just assembled some loose papers found in a garbage dump. Do not view this DVD.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Screenplay 3

I changed the tense of the voiceover from present to past, and added a final "action" scene representing a projection of the speaker's, i.e. the protag's state of mind--there is nothing to distinguish the action scenes (there are four or five of them over the 16 pages of V.O.) from the scenes showing the protag in his actual everyday life, other than their shocking nature, which will lead I hope the average viewer to understand that they did not in fact happen and are only dramatizations of the protag's mental life. A V.O. in the present tense I think comes across as a screaming artificiality; strange that this is the case because in "real life" we think in the present tense, don't we, at least part of the time? But it just doesn't seem to "play" on screen, at least when I hear it in my mind. Though I would like to hear it on screen that way, just to be sure. As if that's ever going to happen. Movie sets in the sky. I hope I'm not charged rent.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Self Flagellation

It feels strange to be working from an outline but that's what I did tonight; makes one feel very much in command. But I'm having to whip myself to create the outline. A huge problem is that the primary antagonist in the story is the protagonist. One is supposed to devise multiple scenes where the antagonist and protagonist butt heads, in a carefully graduated crescendo, but but but but I can't. Maybe a solution will come to me tomorrow. I look forward to working with Joe the Conqueror on Screenplay 2, Intent to Kill. First step will be a plausibility check on each scene. It's gotta be real baby. It's gotta be as real as that saliva that's in your mouth all the time that you never notice but it's there.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Not Shakespeare

Tonight, thanks to Joe the Conqueror, I learned that blank verse was introduced into English by translator and poet Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, who first used it in a translation of the Aeneid. And introduced a subplot into Screenplay 3, having no sense whatsoever whether this was a good or bad move--it just happened.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Art Direction

Added some brief shock-effect action scenes to the opening voiceover, and they're not wholly gratuitous, I believe, each shot composed and lit like a Rembrandt, LOL. But a massive amount of thinking remains to be done and I keep putting it off and putting it off. Switching one's orientation from theater of the absurd to the naturalism serious film demands is a truly wrenching experience, I don't recommend it, it's like asking a tiger to change its stripes to polka dots. How is it possible to have access to the "creative process" of a doomed screenwriter one has never met? It's because life with an internet is weird.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Defying Convention for Depth of Character

Starting a screenplay with a 12-page voiceover from a single character is risky but a V.O. done well--à la Guy Pearce in Memento--is a beautiful, beautiful thing, and adds true depth of character, if not exhaustive depth of character, and when a gifted actor is reading or reciting something, someone with a gorgeous timbre and all the right inflections and perfect tone, you don't want it ever to end; though for the sake of the medium the one-page opening scene is an action scene, a shocker actually, and over the course of the V.O. the character is depicted in multiple locations, it's not like he's sitting in a chair staring into the camera, one views him in a variety of situations that summarize his "lifestyle," if you can call it that, he doesn't have a lot going for him, a classic case of "If it wasn't for bad luck, I wouldn't have no luck at all."

Tuesday, July 8, 2008


A number of things have gotten in the way of one's work . . . ah well . . . reread Pinter's The Proust Screenplay, which is a ridiculous piece of trash that fails in almost every conceivable way (primarily by not even attempting to portray Marcel as a writer), and that got one to pick up the Tadié biography, of Marcel, which is at times a chore to read . . . but it has its moments . . . for instance Marcel's inscription of a copy of Les Plaisirs et les Jours given to a friend: "The things which make us weep change, but the tears remain the same." A fine portrait of Proust is presented by two feature films, Celeste, and Time Regained, the former in German, the latter French.

Thursday, July 3, 2008


Oh God, it's turning into an Eric Rohmer film. Tomorrow night it will probably be the Marx Brothers. If this keeps up, I may sink to the level of Godard.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Speech as Incantation

Twelve pages of continuous voiceover from a single character, now that's totally off the wall, beyond the pale, unproducible, unmarketable, out of sync, manifesting a profound ignorance of the fundamentals of screenwriting--I love it!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Gleam of Light

Tonight, for the first time in more than two months of trying, I had a non-disastrous night working on Screenplay 3.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Biography vs. Autobiography

Gitta Honegger's Thomas Bernhard: The Making of an Austrian is a decent competent interesting biography. Its atmosphere clashes radically with the desperation of Bernhard's own account of his childhood and teens in Gathering Evidence. In the biography, all is controlled and calm and reasonable, and one starts to impute these qualities to Bernhard; then one reads his autobiography and the atmosphere is one of suicidal despair brought on by shocking hardship and a mind strained to the snapping point--and the figure in the biography vanishes completely.

Friday, June 13, 2008


I reread Robbe-Grillet's Djinn, a first class work of metafiction, which is to say a novel about the false, the artificial, the misleading, the phony, the bogus, the specious, which is to say fiction itself. This is the subject matter. It's a novel about fiction. Entrancing. The form is the content, as in the case of music. Highly recommended.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Sartre on the Family

Sartre maintains that the family is the key mediation between the individual and "the general movement of history" and yet is experienced by the child "as an absolute in the depth and opaqueness of childhood." Mom, Dad, brothers, sisters, and History Itself in the same house. Somehow I never noticed History. Though there was a set of encyclopedias. And stories of combat in World War II and the conditions of life during the Great Depression.

Thursday, May 22, 2008


Bernhard's novel Ja, or Yes, is a beautiful cruel melancholy work, not unlike his Concrete. I finished reading the TriggerStreet screenplay this morning and wrote the obligatory critique and used up my full day's supply of energy in doing so, which is like shoveling it down a hole, but the author will be diverted by reading it, so there's that.

Staring Into a Void

Feeling void of ideas tonight I went to Trigger Street and started reading a screenplay (yes when I'm feeling desperate I go to Trigger Street and read screenplays) and actually enjoyed what I read, after having been dragged to the bottom of the ocean by Bernhard's Ja earlier in the day, I can't wait for tomorrow to come so I can start staring into the void again . . . which I can only take for so long, then I go to Trigger Street, it's slightly sickening to have no ideas of any kind, why does that have to happen? It has to happen because one cannot live continuously with one's soul at the utmost peak of intensity . . . or something like that.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

China Earthquake Victims Need Help

This is to urge all visitors presently seated in the Waiting Room to help the victims of the earthquake in China, where Mother Earth became insane and furious and cruel beyond reckoning or understanding, by making a financial contribution to the Red Cross at

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Bernhard's Ode to Salzburg

From his memoir Gathering Evidence (pp. 78-79):

"My own unaided resources were no match for the petty bourgeois logic which prevails in this city as in no other. Everything here is opposed to whatever is creative; and it remains true, no matter how vehemently the contrary is asserted, that this city is built on hypocrisy and that it greatest passion is hatred of the intellect and the spirit: wherever imagination is so much as glimpsed, it is rooted out. Salzburg is a deceitful façade, a monument to the world's mendacity, behind which creativity and the creative artist are doomed to atrophy, disintegration, and death. This city of my fathers is in reality a terminal disease which its inhabitants acquire through heredity or contagion. If they fail to leave at the right moment, they sooner or later either commit suicide, directly or indirectly, or perish slowly and wretchedly on this lethal soil with its archepiscopal architecture and its mindless blend of National Socialism and Catholicism."

A moment of amusement in an otherwise bleak and wholly unproductive day. Last night I dreamt I set up my drumset in the parking lot of a restaurant as members of a band waited for me to finish but we didn't get a chance to play any tunes. This is a frequently recurring dream. One comes right to the verge of playing--and the dream ends, or shifts scenes, as it did last night, to a bus or trolley, I couldn't tell which.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Chicago School Economics as War

More from the wealth of material in The Shock Doctrine (p. 405):

"Everywhere the Chicago School crusade [of "free-market" Friedmanite economics] has triumphed, it has created a permanent underclass of between 25 and 60 percent of the population. It is always a form of war. But when that warlike economic model of mass evictions and discarded cultures is imposed in a country that is already ravaged by disaster and scarred by ethnic conflict, the dangers are far greater."

A note on Peter Joseph's not-for-profit Zeitgeist: The Movie: it is available for rental on DVD at Hollywood Express. [June 2015: Now on YouTube.]

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Theater of Nothing

Extraordinary rendition screenplay has collapsed, subject seems too big, I'd have to fake too much. When I'm between projects I feel as if I've never written anything at all, that I in fact do not know how to write. And if one is asking oneself Am I a writer? the next step on the downward slide is Am I anything? When a project is underway one is under a kind of spell and when the spell has disappeared one feels like a passenger thrown over the rail of an ocean liner and one treads water watching the liner get further and further away, wondering how one managed to get oneself into this predicament. Or as Truman Capote put it: "Finishing a work of art is like taking a small child into the back yard and shooting it." The other new project I tried was an absurdist comedy, wrote maybe 30 pages, all the while knowing that Hollywood has no time whatsoever for Theater of the Absurd material, so that too collapsed. And when one is not writing one's day revolves around--nothing. I suppose I'll go up to Barron Plaza and people-watch, buy a paper, read more about the supremely idiotic Democratic brawl. I'm sure both candidates get a good 8 to 10 hours of sleep a night and probably spend every other afternoon napping; I can't buy into the myth that they "work hard" or "work non-stop"; there's no way they could keep up the pace of making a speech or two a day for months on end without substantial rest to keep their strength up, so they can look fresh and energetic--as they always do--when they're behind the podium. When I see one of them nodding off at the podium and fumbling their way through a speech, then I'll know they're "working hard."

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Tidal Wave and The Birthday Party

The combined effect of reading Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, Naomi Wolf's The End of America and viewing Peter Joseph's documentary Zeitgeist Movie has been, like a tidal wave, to sink one's screenwriting canoe, to smash it to splinters, I'm treading water amidst the wreckage wondering what happened to my interest in writing for the screen, I mean these are emotionally wrenching and intellectually overpowering works; so since I couldn't write I read and happened across an interesting article about Pinter's The Birthday Party this afternoon on a literary weblog in which the author maintained Pinter had confirmed to someone that McCann symbolized repressive Roman Catholicism and Goldberg repressive Jewish orthodoxy, which was gratifying to read after all these years of uncertainty about just what the hell went on in that work, which one has read any number of times without approaching this interpretation; one is expected of course to fall down and worship uncertainty, and plays that don't resolve the issues they purport to examine, but secretly one enjoys knowing what's what.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Ambushed by a Paperback

For no particular reason, no, that's not true . . . in order to avoid reading Robbe-Grillet last night I picked up M. Yourcenar's Coup de Grâce, which I first read in 1986, and it was so insightful and charming that it totally undermined my self-confidence today and it was only with the greatest effort I was able to turn to my new screenplay this evening and advance it a couple scenes, rage once again playing a determining role in the development of the plot. Reading fiction is a dodgy business, you never know what it's going to do to you. I may have to pick up guidebooks to Vienna, Poland and Romania as I am, at least for the moment, dealing with extraordinary rendition, though with a twist of course, and will have to do some more weapons research. Watched the DVD Rendition on Saturday night, it's a good film dealing with a down and dirty subject, lost a substantial amount of money in the US, I think the budget was $27 million, and it only made $9 million or so at home, but that's consistent with an opinion expressed by N. Chomsky on CCTV last night that the educated and indoctrinated upper 20 percent of the population is manipulated by the ruling elite into spending its time, at least those in the corporatized media, making sure the remaining 80 percent spend their time thinking about sheer fluff from morning till night.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Is the Human Race Rational?

In today's NYTimes, columnist Nicholas Kristof writes (p. A25):

"Somewhere in the world, we humans cut down an area of jungle the size of a football field every second of every day, and deforestation now contributes as much to global warming as all the carbon emitted by the United States."

Klein: Birth of a New Economy

Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism (p. 381):

"So while the reconstruction of Iraq was certainly a failure for Iraqis and for U.S. taxpayers, it has been anything but for the disaster capitalism complex. Made possible by the September 11 attacks, the war in Iraq represented nothing less than the violent birth of a new economy. This was the genius of Rumsfeld’s ‘transformation’ plan: since every possible aspect of both destruction and reconstruction has been outsourced and privatized, there’s an economic boom when the bombs start falling, when they stop and when they start up again—a closed profit-loop of destruction and reconstruction, of tearing down and building up. For companies that are clever and far-sighted, like Halliburton and the Carlyle Group [now defunct], the destroyers and rebuilders are different divisions of the same corporations."

Monday, April 28, 2008

Legality of Iraq War & Occupation

In a post dated May 6, 2003 on, Bette Stockbauer wrote:

"When the Bush administration started lobbying for war with Iraq, they used as rationale a definition of preemption (generally meaning anticipatory use of force in the face of an imminent attack) that was broadened to allow for the waging of a preventive war in which force may be used even without evidence of an imminent attack.
They also were able to convince much of the American public that Saddam Hussein had something to do with the attacks of 9/11, despite the fact that no evidence of a link has been uncovered. Consequently, many people supported the war on the basis of 1) a policy that has no legal basis in international law [emphasis supplied] and 2) a totally unfounded claim of Iraqi guilt."

If the US occupation is illegal, why haven't any Iraqis, to the best of my knowledge, filed charges against the US in the International Court of Justice at the Hague? Maybe some have. I should try to research this.

Friday, April 25, 2008

A Voice for Equality

A note from the October 2007 issue of Harvard Magazine on H.U. Professor Howard Gardner, brought to my attention by Joe the Conqueror:

"In the magazine Foreign Policy, he argued in the spring for upper limits on the amount of income an American should be allowed to keep and the amount of wealth that can be passed on to beneficiaries ($4 million a year and $200 million, respectively). 'It makes sense to be moderate politically only if there are two sides willing to engage,' he says. 'The right wing isn’t just taking over the country, it’s shanghaiing all our values. If there’s a Republican administration after the next election, I would join in efforts for some sort of secession. It’s not the same country anymore.' "

Secession is unrealistic and doesn't pass the giggle test, but limits on income and a radical revision in the estate tax could transform this country into a nation where the concept of equality is honored, not thrown on the trash pile.
Liberté, Fraternité, Egalité. Obama, as previously reported here, has said that income inequality in the US is now the greatest it's been since the Great Depression. A recent profile of corporate raider Carl Ikan (sp?) on Sixty Minutes revealed that his net worth is more than $8 billion dollars. One man. Worth 8 billion dollars. Is there any one person whose skills are so great that s/he's entitled to possess that kind of money? When the dropout rate in public high schools is an average 33 percent, and in some areas of the country 50 percent? And the US has the highest percentage of its population in prison of any industrialized nation? And the US health care system ranks last among those of industrialized nations in terms of access, quality and efficiency, according to the Commonwealth Fund?

Another note on the Federal Reserve System. Since the US is no longer on the gold standard, the power to regulate the money supply is the power to regulate its value, according to Peter Joseph's documentary Zeitgeist
. (Though of course international currency exchange rates also play a role.) In any case, the Fed has fundamentally awesome power that should be subject to close oversight by the legislative branch of government, not left to a cabal of millionaire bankers.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Klein: The Mercenary Factor in Iraq

You ask: What about the mercenary soldiers that Blackwater and other firms supply in this new and heavily privatized warfare that characterizes the US occupation of Iraq? Good question. Ms. Klein reports that in February 2007 "the Associated Press put the number of contractors in Iraq at 120,000, almost equivalent to the number of U.S. troops . . . The UN's budget for peacekeeping in 2006-2007 was $5.25 billion--that's less than a quarter of the $20 billion Halliburton got in Iraq contracts, and the latest estimates are that the mercenary industry alone is worth $4 billion . . . During the April 2004 uprising of Moqtada al-Sadr's movement in Najaf, Blackwater actually assumed command over active-duty U.S. marines in a daylong battle with the Mahdi Army, during which dozens of Iraqis were killed." The Shock Doctrine, pp. 378-80.

So here's a way to augment troop levels in an unpopular war, or occupation--pay people to come in and fight on your side. You don't hear the press reporting on the number of mercenaries in Iraq, so the American public gets a distorted picture of the level of overall "US forces." Does Congress have oversight of mercenaries such as Blackwater? Not that I know of. Seems to be an executive branch/Pentagon kind of thing. Yet these mercenaries are fighting in our name. Shouldn't the voting public have some kind of say in this? The billions of dollars the mercenaries are being paid comprise US tax dollars.

Sometime, when you're in the mood to have your mind blown out the window, and you have two hours to spare, go to and take in the video, holding on hard to your sense of skepticism--if you can. (It plays better during the day or late at night than it does at prime time when apparently video traffic on the Web is heavier.)

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Klein: Bush Admin. Oil Law for Iraq a 'Disgrace'

As to Iraq's oil reserves, Klein writes that the Bush administration drafted a new law that the Iraqi cabinet adopted in February 2007. The law "placed no limits on the amount of profits that foreign companies can take from the country and made no specific requirements about how much or how little foreign investors would partner with Iraqi companies or hire Iraqis to work in the oil fields. Most brazenly, it excluded Iraq's elected parliamentarians from having any say in the terms for future oil contracts . . . It's hard to overstate the disgrace of this attempted resource grab. Iraq's oil profits are the country's only hope of financing its own reconstruction when some semblance of peace returns. To lay claim to that future wealth in a moment of national disintegration was disaster capitalism at its most shameless." The Shock Doctrine, p. 377.

I've got to research the United Nations charter. For the life of me I can't understand how what the U.S. is doing to Iraq can be legally permissible. It's legal for the US to occupy a sovereign state for as long as it feels like it? To stay in perpetuity? I mean is the US just stealing another country? What's next? Will the Bush administration annex Iraq? Propose that it become the 51st state? wtf ! ! !

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Klein: Status of Iraq Occupation

How is the occupation of Iraq going, you ask? Naomi Klein writes that between 2006-07 "all the major U.S. reconstruction contractors pulled out of Iraq, their billions spent, the bulk of the work undone. Parsons was handed $186 million to build 142 health clinics. Only 6 were ever completed." And the treatment of suspected insurgents? Klein writes: "In the first three and a half years of occupation, an estimated 61,500 Iraqis were captured and imprisoned by U.S. forces, usually with methods designed to 'maximize capture shock.' Roughly 19,000 remained in custody in the spring of 2007. Inside the prisons, more shocks followed: buckets of freezing water; snarling, teeth-baring German shepherds; punching and kicking; and sometimes the shock of electrical currents running from live wires . . . The Red Cross has said that U.S. military officials have admitted that somewhere between 70 and 90 percent of the detentions in Iraq were 'mistakes' . . . In January 2005, Human Rights Watch found that torture within Iraqi-run (and U.S.-supervised) jails and detention facilities was 'systematic,' including the use of electroshock . . . Iraqi jailers were also using the ubiquitous symbol of Latin American torture, the picana, the electric cattle prod . . . [Paul] Bremer was sent to Iraq to build a corporate utopia; instead, Iraq became a ghoulish dystopia where going to a simple business meeting could get you lynched, burned alive or beheaded. By May 2007, more than 900 contractors had been reported killed and 'more than 12,000 wounded in battle or injured on the job,' according to a New York Times analysis." Shock Doctrine, pp. 357-74.

Can this possibly constitute moral behavior by the United States? Is it legal for a state to persist in an occupation that is inflicting such widespread suffering, with no end in sight, other than the promises of Obama and Clinton to end the war? Imagine the psychological state of the average Iraqi when s/he hears Bush or McCain saying there is no timetable for withdrawal of U.S. forces. Mental cruelty is a recognized offense in marital relationships. Should not mental cruelty inflicted on one state by another be regarded as a contravention of the laws of human decency? Why aren't any Iraqis initiating legal proceedings in the Court of International Justice at the Hague? All the prosecution would have to do would be to hand the judge The Shock Doctrine.

One wonders what the future holds. I heard soft-spoken historian and social activist Howard Zinn on CCTV the other night say (and I have not corroborated this) that the U.S. has military bases in 100 countries. Is this empire-building? I thought that era was over. And I thought US military capacities were such that we could project military force, via aircraft carriers and long-range bombers, to any area of the world within a short timeframe. What gives with all these bases?

One hears these things and thinks about these things, and the act of screenwriting, at least screenwriting about gangsters, strikes one as the height of frivolity.

Thursday, April 17, 2008


In the recent post titled "Connecting Dots" one cited a PBS broadcast indicating the percentage of the country's wealth possessed by the richest 1 percent of the nation--and, through inadvertence, reported the wrong figure. The correct figure is 38 percent.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Selling of Iraq

Okay, what does Naomi Klein have to say about US economic actions in Iraq? Consider this (p. 345): "Before the invasion, Iraq's economy had been anchored by its national oil company and by two hundred state-owned companies, which produced the staples of the Iraqi diet and the raw materials of its industry, everything from cement to paper to cooking oil. The month after he arrived in his new job [as director of the ruling Coalition Provisional Authority], [Paul] Bremer announced that the two hundred firms [excluding the oil company] were going to be privatized immediately . . . . Next came the new economic laws. To entice foreign investors . . . Bremer enacted a radical set of laws . . . . One law lowered Iraq's corporate tax to a flat 15 percent (straight out of the Friedman playbook). Another allowed foreign companies to own 100 percent of Iraqi assets . . . . Even better, investors could take 100 percent of the profits they made in Iraq out of the country; they would not be required to reinvest and they would not be taxed. The decree [not voted upon by the Iraqi people] also stipulated that investors could sign leases and contracts that would last for forty years and then be eligible for renewal, which meant that future elected governments would be saddled with deals signed by their occupiers." What this means to a journalist is that Bremer laid the groundwork for the floor of Iraqi industry to be sold out from beneath the feet of the Iraqi people. Whatever happened to due process and fair play? Chucked out the frickin' window.

Klein goes on to write (p. 360-65): "The 'fiasco' of Iraq is one created by a careful and faithful application of unstrained Chicago School ideology . . . . [I]n November 2003, after he canceled local elections, Bremer flew back to Washington for huddled meetings at the White House. When he returned to Baghdad, he announced that general [i.e., national] elections were off the table. Iraq's first 'sovereign' government would be appointed, not elected . . . . Had the Bush administration kept its promise to hand over power quickly to an elected Iraqi government, there is every chance that the resistance would have remained small and containable, rather than becoming a countrywide rebellion. But keeping that promise would have meant sacrificing the economic agenda behind the war, something that was not going to happen--and that is why the violent repercussions of America's denial of democracy in Iraq must also be counted as a form of ideological blowback . . . ."

Is a Moral Occupation of Iraq Possible?

Having trashed Iraq, we now have an obligation to help, somehow, the people still alive there. But we can't reconstruct the country till the sectarian fighting is over and done with. Our troops, as I've said earlier, need to be pulled out of harm's way, greatly reduced in number and repositioned in the desert, along with the embassy operatives and all other US personnel, the numbers of which should also be greatly reduced, and we need to be on call to help the Iraqis rebuild their shattered nation--once they have worked the sectarian hostilities out of their system. If partitioning the country is the only answer, or if UN peacekeepers are necessary, so be it. But that's the Iraqis' decision, not ours. A withdrawal to the desert in reduced numbers would signal the beginning of a moral, rational occupation by the US. We should not be using US troops as policemen in the middle of a civil war. Yet if our very presence in the country is an insult to the Islamic way of life and it is unrealistic to think the Iraqis will ever accept our help in rebuilding, and if the Shia-Sunni conflict is going to turn into an Arab-Israeli-type opposition . . . God it's hard to figure this thing out. If only we hadn't invaded!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Iraq & Illegality

An article in Saturday's NYTimes (p. A8) stated: "Mr. Bush this week accused Iran of arming, financing and training what he called 'illegal militant groups' [in Iraq]. " wtf ! ! ! We're accusing the Iranians of illegality when we're in the middle of an immoral occupation of a sovereign state? This is propaganda that crosses the line from misleading to deranged. This is an area where the Times itself falls down on the job. It will refer to the Iraq occupation as "misguided" or "disastrous," etc., etc., but I've noticed that it does not use the one word that is perhaps most accurate and most devastating, having the potential to lead to the initiation of proceedings before the International Court of Justice at the Hague--"illegal." As one embittered observer put it: "The Times is somebody's bitch." But perhaps it isn't. Though a preemptive US invasion without UN authorization of a sovereign state, and an occupation that, according to Naomi Klein, resulted in an estimated 655,000 Iraqi deaths and created 4 million refugees as of July 2006, together would appear to represent a violation of international law, one is not an attorney and cannot state unequivocally that this is the case, legal technicalities and hair-splitting being what they are. (The invasion and current occupation are certainly an outrageous insult to a civilized conscience.) Be that as it may, one's preliminary legal research has turned up the following statement by the Global Policy Forum, an organization monitoring the United Nations: "In his legal advice [given in March 2003] to British Prime Minister Tony Blair on the legality of the Iraq war, Attorney General Lord Goldsmith describes regime change in Iraq as a disproportionate response to Saddam Hussein's alleged failure to disarm, illegal in the eyes of international law. Goldsmith stresses that in terms of legality, 'regime change cannot be the objective of military action.' "

The law has a long arm. Chile's Pinochet was on trial for murder at the time of his death, according to Naomi Klein.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Connecting Dots

Let's connect some dots. A recent PBS broadcast stated that 1 percent of the US population possesses 38 percent of the country's wealth. In The Shock Doctrine Naomi Klein writes (p. 444) that "In December 2006, a month after [Milton] Friedman died, a UN study found that 'the richest 2 percent of adults in the world own more than half of global household wealth.' The shift [in income patterns] has been starkest in the U.S., where CEOs made 43 times what the average worker earned in 1980, when Reagan kicked off the Friedmanite crusade. By 2005, CEOs earned 411 times as much." The NYTimes recently reported that the Commonwealth Fund indicated that the US ranks last among industrialized nations in the accessibility, quality and efficiency of its health care system. An article by David Leonhardt in the NYTimes of April 9 (p.C4) cited a US Census Bureau report stating that the median annual family income in the US declined by 1 percent between 2000 and 2007 (to $60, 576.00, this figure of course inflated by that upper 1 percent of wage earners who rake in the 7-digit incomes). NBC news recently reported that the dropout rate for public high schools in multiple areas of the country is at or near 50 percent. Public reports have indicated that the US has the highest percentage of its population in prison of any industrialized nation. The Federal Reserve Board is not immediately and directly accountable to the executive or legislative branches of government in its day-to-day operations, to say nothing of the voting public. And we are undertaking, at the cost of $12 billion a month, an immoral occupation of a sovereign state. Connecting these dots creates the outline of a monstrosity. Am I anti-American? Absolutely not. I am pro-equality (as in Liberté, Fraternité, Egalité) pro-democracy, pro-humanity, and I am an unwavering supporter of transparency in government and campaign finance reform. I also support nationalization of the Federal Reserve System.

No kidding it's time for change.

The Fed Called "As Federal as Federal Express"

One's local community-access cable TV channel broadcast the show about the US banking industry again on Thursday night and the show made the point that the Federal Reserve Act of 1913 was drafted by a group of ten bankers who met in secret at Jekyll Island off the coast of Georgia, traveling to the site under assumed names. Their bill was passed by Congress and signed into law by Woodrow Wilson who, near the end of his term in office, went on the record with his misgivings and regrets for having allowed the creation of the Fed. The show went on to say that "The Federal Reserve System is about as federal as Federal Express."

The uncertainty as to whether "private aspects" or "public purposes" guide the Fed is unacceptable. Regulation of interest rates and the money supply should be in the hands of an institution that is wholly and explicitly dedicated to serving the public good. There should be
no possibility that private interests rather than public guide the Fed's decision-making. The economy is created by the labors of the public. It is self-evident that the public interest should determine regulation of interest rates and the money supply--not a cabal of bankers working in secrecy and accountable to no one in their day to day operations.

Human Sacrifice for Profit in US

In yesterday's NYTimes columnist Paul Krugman, in an article headlined "Health Care Horror Stories," reports that the Urban Institute estimates that a "lack of health insurance leads to 27,000 preventable deaths in America each year." Health care should not be treated as a for-profit industry. Health care is a fundamental right of all Americans under the Declaration of Independence which states that all citizens have the right to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." Krugman points out that "every other advanced nation has some form of universal health insurance." The grip of insurance industry lobbyists on Congress is despicable and must be broken. Their lack of respect for human life is appalling. Thank God in democracy change is possible.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The Fed Should Be Nationalized

Further to one's April 8th post on the Fed, one notes that Wikipedia states that: "The system [i.e., the Federal Reserve System, established by the Federal Reserve Act of 1913, which stipulates that its chairman and board of governors are to be selected by the president] is organized much like private corporations so that it can generate revenue independently without the need for congress [i.e., congressional authorization]." The Fed itself says in its Frequently Asked Questions [FAQ] document: "It [i.e., the Federal Reserve System] is considered an independent central bank because its decisions do not have to be ratified by the President or anyone else in the executive or legislative branch of government, [and] it does not receive funding appropriated by Congress, and the terms of the members of the Board of Governors span multiple presidential and congressional terms." Question--if the Fed isn't funded by Congress, who does fund it? But more importantly, the fact that the Fed, by its own admission, is not directly and immediately accountable in its day-to-day operations to the executive branch or the legislative branch or the public electorate makes it an intrinsically anti-democratic institution. Its power to raise or lower interest rates has a profound effect on the economy and the lives of the wage-earners who comprise it, yet when was the last time a collective of economically savvy wage-earners was asked what its view was on interest rates?

The Fed goes on to say, in the FAQ document, that the nation's currency must be "elastic." It defines "elastic currency" as: "Currency that can, by the actions of the central monetary authority [i.e., the Fed itself], expand or contract in amounts warranted by economic conditions." A decision to expand the money supply by printing more currency or to shrink it by taking currency out of circulation has an
enormous effect on the overall economy. The CCTV show one watched the other night quoted a banker as saying: "Give me control over a nation's money supply, and I don't care what its laws are."

The Fed's FAQ document goes on to say: "It [i.e., the Federal Reserve System] is not 'owned' by anyone . . . . [I]t is an independent entity within the government, having both public purposes and private aspects." The Fed well knows who "owns" the system, that is to say the country. A show on PBS the other night about health care stated that the top 1 percent of the American population possesses 38 percent of the nation's wealth. And the crucial question of the proportion of "public purposes" to "private aspects" is left in the dark. Not being directly and immediately accountable to the president, congress or the public in its day-to-day functioning, the Fed has no reason to be transparent in its deliberations or decision-making protocols. Secrecy is often the enemy of democracy. The recent bailout of Bear
Stearns was brokered by the Fed with no opportunity for public input. Could it be that "public purposes," the safeguarding and promotion of the public good, predominate over the "private aspects," i.e., the self-interest of the bankers who run the Fed and their constituencies? Or do the "private aspects" predominate, say by a ratio of 90 to 10? With the current system, we'll never know. In today's NYTimes, Michael Grynbaum (p. C4) quotes an expert on Fed policy saying: "It's a club, and the members of the club tend to be supportive of a club, and particularly of the chairman. It's not popular to dissent." And they deliberate behind closed doors. Why isn't there a Federal Reserve Record, comparable to the Congressional Record?

The Fed is described as a "quasi-public" entity. It's important to realize that that which is "quasi-public" is also "quasi-private." Which ideology predominates during the Fed's deliberations, the public element or the private? It would take a credulous person indeed to imagine a roomful of bankers abandoning the ideology of self-interest and self-aggrandizement that defines the essence of a capitalist banker as they decided on economic matters that had a bearing on their personal assets and class affiliation.

Conclusion--the Federal Reserve System is an anti-democratic institution with near totalitarian control over the nation's banking and economic policies. It should be abolished as soon as possible and replaced by a national banking commission characterized by transparent protocols and public deliberations. An institution that would be immediately and directly accountable to congress and wage-earner collectives, the new People's Reserve System would be explicitly dedicated to serving the public interest.

And so the statement, posted here on April 8th, by one's local community-access cable TV channel that "The Fed is a private corporation" was inaccurate, and I am grateful to the careful reader who led me to look into this matter. The Fed is a "quasi-private" entity. But since the extent to which the public interest predominates in its operations cannot be known, it may in effect be a private corporation.

The Fed Should Be Reconstituted

Through a keyboard error, one has just lost at least a 2,000-word post on the Federal Reserve System, the conclusion of which was that the Fed is intrinsically anti-democratic and should be reconstituted as soon as possible, for that which is quasi-public is also quasi-private, and we have no know way of knowing which aspect predominates.

Facts Without Understanding

One spent some time listening to the testimony of General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker on the status of the illegal US occupation of Iraq on TV today and it struck one as a classic case of a preoccupation with facts coupled with an indifference to truths, the latter not achievable without reference to the concepts of Naomi Klein in The Shock Doctrine, in my opinion. One can be blinded by facts if one refuses to place them in a contextual framework that simplifies and interprets them. One must look deeper than the facts. Percept vs. concept. Both must be brought to bear if understanding is to be achieved.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Astonishing Fact Reported by CCTV

According to one's local community-access cable TV station, the Federal Reserve Board is a private corporation ! Yeah. The Fed. Not part of the US government ! The entity that sets interest rates and controls the money supply, i.e. the printing of money, and therefore has an enormous effect on the economy and the lives of every wage-earner in it is not an institution democratically administered in the public interest, if this broadcast has the facts right. Why wasn't I taught this in high school? How could I as a newspaper-consuming adult not be aware of this? (And I'll hazard a guess that the network of Federal Reserve banks, which I always assumed was part of the federal government, consists of private institutions as well.) Is it appropriate in a democracy that the central banking institution in the country is not the accountable to the electorate? The central banking institution in a democracy should first and foremost serve the public interest, not private interests. In all the coverage of the Bear Stearns bailout that I've read, not once was the fact that the Fed is a private entity (and could therefore have an agenda other than promoting the public good, since it is not accountable to the voting public) mentioned. The increase in the bailout price from $2 to $10 a share had ramifications measured in the millions for Bear holders, its management not excluded. Did the public have a say in this little detail? Is a minimally regulated investment bank such as Bear entitled to the kind of federal protection that a highly regulated commercial bank is? Did the public have a say in this? Would bankruptcy by Bear have sent a corrective and beneficial message to other investment banks with respect to leveraging their assets rather than causing a market panic and systemic disintegration, as the Fed maintained? Did the public, or the public's elected representatives, have a chance to weigh in on this? And one last point--why is it called the securities industry? Where's the security? Friday's NYTimes reported (p.C5) that during its precipitous decline Bear lost $10 billion in a single day. Why isn't it called the risk industry? Why does Wall Street start misleading people at step A, the name of the enterprise? A knowledgeable reader of this weblog has questioned the factual basis of the CCTV broadcast and as soon as current pressures allow one will look into this.

Bush Sr.'s father, one Prescott Bush, was a New York banker who colluded with the Nazis during WWII and was caught, creating a front-page scandal, according to the same TV show.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Bronx Gangsters Claim Victim

I'm ready to tear my hair out, all these gangsters and their vendettas and their tough-guy talk, it's driving me up the wall, it must be because it's the end of the week and I'm out of juice--if I have to listen to one more threat I'm gonna freak. I need a weekend off. During which of course I will watch more gangster DVDs. Anyway, at his low point, where the protag is supposed to experience a dark night of the soul and total hopelessness, he starts shouting at the top of the lungs . . . wtf?!!!?

Friday, April 4, 2008

Detaining the Innocent

How efficient are the mechanisms of the War on Terror? In yesterday's New York Times, Jeffrey Rosen wrote, in a review of Eric Lichtblau's Bush's Law: The Remaking of American Justice, that Lichtblau alleges that of the 2,700 individuals locked up after 9/11 by American authorities, "[M]ost of those men were never shown to have connections to terrorism." Imagine a line of people 2,700 long. Most long movie lines comprise maybe a hundred or so at most. So a line of 2,700 people would be more than 25 times as long as a long movie line. Each to be locked up. Cheney's "law," according to Klein, is that if a person or situation represents a 1 percent potential terrorist threat, authorities must respond as if a 100 percent certainty of attack exists. That makes for a lot of interrogations and detentions, lucrative business for the myriad security contractors the government employs at taxpayer expense.

However, if just one of them had a micro-nuclear bomb in his knapsack . . . .

Hmmmn . . . .

Experience over time will enable us better to judge the probability of this. At this point it's hard to see how standard cost-efficiency models can be applied to the threat of mass destruction. What's the dollar-value of 10,000 lives? Or 100,000? Or one-eighth the population of New York, which would be 1,000,000 lives. How much damage would a micro-nuclear bomb do? Should we detonate one in the Nevada desert to try to gauge this? One always hears about nuclear suitcase-bombs but has anyone ever set one off? Do they work?

Ten Days of Shock

Had to return Shock Doctrine to the library, it's on a request list and I was only permitted to have it for ten days and an amazing ten days it was. I'll request it again and take up where I left off but I need a break from it, having gotten as far as a chapter titled "Iraq Erased." Back under the spell of the cinema tonight, but feeling irritable as I worked because Screenplay 2 seemed lacking in every conceivable respect, and I'm finding no opportunity to make the protag more likeable, or to give any of the supporting characters more depth as I had vowed to do, and feeling annoyed that there is next to no opportunity to get any wit into the dialogue, unlike the case with a stage play, where all one did was bounce from one springboard of "cleverness" to another, the language of the screen being so stripped down. Ah well.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Terrorism & Profit

According to Naomi Klein's Shock Doctrine, the economic aspects of the Bush administration's War on Terror are not negligible. The profit opportunities it provides to private industry are enormous and appear to be unending (p. 301):

"Through all its various name changes--the War on Terror, the war on radical Islam, the war against Islamofascism, the Third World War, the long war, the generational war--the basic shape of the conflict has remained unchanged. It is limited neither by time nor space nor target. From a military perspective, these sprawling and amorphous traits make the War on Terror an unwinnable proposition. But from an economic perspective, they make it an unbeatable one: not a flash-in-the-pan war that could potentially be won but a new and permanent feature in the global economic architecture. That was the business prospectus that the Bush administration put before corporate America after September 11. The revenue was a seemingly bottomless supply of tax dollars to be funneled from the Pentagon ($270 billion a year to private contractors, a $137 billion increase since Bush took office); U.S. intelligence agencies ($42 billion a year to contractors for outsourced intelligence, more than double 1995 levels); and the newest arrival, the Department of Homeland Security. Between September 11, 2001, and 2006, the Department of Homeland Security handed out $130 billion to private contractors ... In 2003, the Bush administration spent $327 billion on contracts to private companies--nearly 40 cents of every discretionary dollar."

Privatization of government functions is, along with deregulation of private industry and cuts in government spending on social programs, one of the key principles of Milton Friedman's economic ideology, an ideology that has demonstrated its brutality and savagery in country after country around the world, as amply documented in Klein's overwhelming and shattering work.

Protecting the US from the threat of terrorism is a necessary enterprise, but the thought that in fighting terrorism it is better to spend too much than too little makes the public vulnerable to allowing the War on Terror to turn into a cash cow of insane proportions, siphoning off money from social programs like public education--last night on NBC News it was reported that the drop-out rate from public high schools in numerous areas of the country is in the neighborhood of 50 percent.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The IMF & Mass Unemployment

More from Naomi's Klein's Shock Doctrine:

Between 1996 and 1998, $600 billion disappeared from the stock markets of Asia in a financial panic stemming from a rumor that Thailand did not have enough dollars to back up its currency, most of it withdrawn by corporate traders and international financial institutions in 1997. This economic crisis led countries from Thailand to South Korea to Indonesia to turn to the International Monetary Fund for financial aid. The IMF granted the aid, but on the condition that these countries restructure their economies in ways that, among other things, facilitated investment in or the sale of their indigenous industries by offshore investment firms and multinational corporations. Klein writes (pp. 263-278):

"As far as the IMF was concerned, the crisis was going extremely well. In less than a year, it had negotiated the economic equivalent of extreme makeovers for Thailand, Indonesia, South Korea and the Philippines . . . The human costs of the IMF's opportunism were nearly as devastating in Asia as in Russia. The International Labor Organization estimates that a staggering 24 million people lost their jobs in this period and that Indonesia's unemployment rate increased from 4 to 12 percent. Thailand was losing 2,000 jobs a day at the height of the "reforms"--60,000 a month. In South Korea, 300,000 workers were fired every month--largely the result of the IMF's totally unnecessary demands to slash government budgets and hike interest rates. By 1999, South Korea's and Indonesia's unemployment rates had nearly tripled in only two years . . . As is always the case, women and children suffered the worst of the crisis. Many rural families in the Philippines and South Korea sold their daughters to human traffickers who took them to work in the sex trade in Australia, Europe and North America. In Thailand, public health officials reported a 20 percent increase in child prostitution in just one year--the year after the IMF reforms . . . The Korean titan Samsung ... was broken up and sold for parts: Volvo got its heavy industry division, SC Johnson & Son its pharmaceutical arm, General Electric its lighting division. A few years later, Daewoo's once-mighty car division, which the company had valued at $6 billion, was sold off to GM for just $400 million . . . Other big players who got a piece of the Asian distress sale included Seagram's, Hewlet-Packard, Nestlé, Interbrew and Novartis, Carrefour, Tesco and Ericsson. Coca-Cola bought a Korean bottling company for half a billion dollars; Procter and Gamble bought a Korean packaging company; Nissan bought one of Indonesia's largest car companies. General Electric acquired a controlling stake in Korea's refrigerator manufacturer LG; and Britain's Powergen nabbed LG Energy, a large Korean electricity-and-gas company . . . Bechtel got the contract to privatize the water and sewage systems in eastern Manila . . . Motorola got full control over Korea's Appeal Telecom. The New York-based energy giant Sithe got a large stake in Thailand's public gas company, the Cogeneration. Indonesia's water systems were split between Britain's Thames Water and France's Lyonnaise des Eaux. Canada's Westcoast Energy snapped up a huge Indonesia power plant project. British Telecom purchased a large stake in Both Malaysia's and Korea's postal services [ ! ]. Bell Canada got a piece of Korea's telecom Hansol . . . Employment rates have still not reached pre-1997 levels in Indonesia, Malaysia and South Korea . . . The truth is that Asia's crisis is still not over, a decade later. When 24 million people lose their jobs in a span of two years, a new desperation takes root that no culture can easily absorb . . . The layoffs have continued, with new foreign owners demanding ever-higher profits for their investments. The suicides have also continued: in South Korea, suicide is now the fourth most common cause of death, with thirty-eight people taking their own lives every day . . . And [NY Times columnist] Thomas Friedman . . . declared that what happened in Asia wasn't a crisis at all. 'I believe globalization did us all a favor by melting down the economies of Thailand, Korea, Malaysia, Indonesia, Mexico, Russia and Brazil in the 1990s, because it laid bare a lot of rotten practices [such as capital controls that would limit investment by offshore predators in national industries!] and institutions,' he wrote, adding that 'exposing the crony capitalism in Korea was no crisis in my book.' "

As a Republican, John McCain would of course support unregulated corporate globalization, irrespective of the cost in human suffering.

Monday, March 31, 2008

The IMF & Rivers of Blood

Naomi Klein's shocking and overwhelming work The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism continues to shock and overwhelm. The suffering wrought throughout the world by the "free market" ideology of the late University of Chicago economist Milton Friedman is almost incalculable. Klein documents how the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund have served as primary agents of the Friedmanite ideology, along with Columbia University professor Jeffrey Sachs, formerly of Harvard University, the latter serving as advisor to the governments of Bolivia, Poland and Russia at times of crisis, with devastating results for the citizens of these nations.

Klein cites (pp. 261-62) an open letter of resignation from the IMF written in 1988 by long-time staffer Davison Budhoo, a London School of Economics-trained economist. In his letter, Klein writes, Buddho "characterized the IMF's entire program of structural adjustment [for crisis-torn nations] as a form of mass torture in which ' "screaming-in-pain" governments and peoples [are] forced to bend on their knees before us, broken and terrified and disintegrating, and begging for a sliver of reasonableness and decency on our part. But we laugh cruelly in their face, and the torture goes on unabated . . . . Today I resigned from the International Monetary Fund after over twelve years, and after 1000 days of official Fund work in the field, hawking your medicine and your bag of tricks to governments and to peoples in Latin American and the Caribbean and Africa. To me resignation is a priceless liberation, for with it I have taken the first big step to that place where I may hope to wash my hands of what in my mind's eye is the blood of millions of poor and starving peoples . . . . The blood is so much, you know, it runs in rivers. It dries up, too; it cakes all over me; sometimes I feel that there is not enough soap in the whole world to cleanse me from the things that I did do in your name.' "

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Bear Stearns Bailout Illustrates Klein Thesis

In The Shock Doctrine Naomi Klein states (p. 140): "[I]f an economic crisis hits and is severe enough--a currency meltdown, a market crash, a major recession--it blows everything else out of the water, and leaders are liberated to do whatever is necessary (or said to be necessary) in the name of responding to a national emergency. Crises are, in a way, democracy-free zones--gaps in politics as usual when the need for consent and consensus do not seem to apply." In today's New York Times, Andrew R. Sorkin writes (p. C10): " [T]he Fed's fingerprints were all over the new pact [by means of which JPMorgan would acquire Bear Stearns for $10 per share rather than the originally announced price of $2 per share]. In an action almost unprecedented in takeover history, JPMorgan bought 39.5 percent of Bear on the spot to ensure that it would have close to a majority of the [shareholder] votes to approve the deal. That agreement completely disregards New York Stock Exchange rules that prevent anyone from buying more than 20 percent of a company without a shareholder vote. Other parts of the new agreement either stretch the rules or disregard years of precedent in Delaware, where both banks are incorporated. Of course, all this rule-bending was done with the tacit, if not outright, approval of the federal government."

Ford, General Motors & Terrorism

In The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism Naomi Klein goes on to write (p. 108):

"Foreign corporations did more than thank the juntas [that carried out coup d'etats in Chile, Argentina and Brazil in the late sixties and early seventies] for their fine work; some were active participants in the terror campaigns [against pro-democracy dissidents]. In mid-1969, just as the junta [in Brazil] entered its most brutal phase, an extralegal police force was launched called Operation Bandeirantes, known as OBAN. Staffed with military officers, OBAN was funded, according to Brazil: Never Again [the title of a Brazilian human rights group report], "by contributions from various multinational corporations, including Ford and General Motors." Because it was outside official military and police structures, OBAN enjoyed "flexibility and impunity with regard to interrogation methods," the report states, and quickly gained a reputation for unparalleled sadism. It was in Argentina, however, that the involvement of Ford's local subsidiary with the terror apparatus was most overt. The company supplied cars to the military, and the green Ford Falcon sedan was the vehicle used for thousands of kidnappings and disappearances."

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Report of Murder Directive for CIA

In The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism (New York: Henry Holt, 2007), Naomi Klein writes (p. 67):

" The U.S. and British governments were determined to end Sukarno's rule [in Indonesia], and declassified documents show that the CIA had received high-level directions to 'liquidate President Sukarno, depending upon the situation and available opportunities.' "

Sources cited by Klein are William Blum's Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since WWII (Monroe, ME: Common Courage Press, 1995), p. 195; and the Times (London), August 8, 1986, "Times Diary: Liquidating Sukarno."

Monday, March 24, 2008

Sheer Tragedy?

Sigh. In today's New York Times columnist Paul Krugman wrote (p. A23):

"Now, the securities and investment industry is pouring money into both Mr. Obama's and Mrs. Clinton's coffers. And these donors surely believe that they're buying something in return."

I thought Obama wasn't accepting corporate contributions. If I can find another report corroborating Krugman's, I'm probably going to resort to not voting, adding my number to the millions who do not vote, in my case attempting to undertake an act of protest against a political process that has become so corrupted by money it doesn't deserve one's participation. Campaign finance reform is crucial to the well being of this country. A reasonable level of public funding of US presidential and congressional elections is the only way the undue influence of wealth and unearned income can be removed from the electoral process.

Cf. N.O. Ting: "If a little bit of learning is a dangerous thing, immense learning is sheer tragedy."