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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."

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Poor Writing, Napalm & Iraq Casualties

First typescript of Screenplay 2 is finished, characters suffering from a bad case of shallowness which I meant to correct as I started marking it up but I got caught up in the mechanism of the plot and it wasn't until around page 60 of the mark-up that I thought, "Damn, I was supposed to be thinking about adding depth to the characters." I forgot my primary objective. Plus I need to make the protag more likeable. It's just a plot wind-up toy at the moment, felt irritable when I finished the typing and dove into Apocalypse Now for some movie pleasure, a kind gift from Andrew, and was impressed by the opening shot where there's the long delay before the eruption of the colossally tall plumes of flame among the trees in the b.g., napalm being one of the most heinous instruments of war since the invention of gun powder, plain gasoline bombs not deadly enough because you can wipe the flame off so they added goo to make it stick to the skin (and other targets), truly a Satanic thing and Coppola was right to give flames such prominence in his opening shot, and try this on for size, compliments of one's community cable TV: WWI, 10 percent of casualties were civilians; WWII, 50 percent of casualties were civilians; Iraq, 90 percent of casualties have been civilians.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Grandfather's Final Word

From Gathering Evidence (p. 254):

"At about half past five the hospital chaplain, whom he [Bernhard's grandfather] loathed so much, had suddenly appeared at the door of his [i.e., the grandfather's] room, carrying his sacrament case. The chaplain's intention must have been clear to my grandfather, and, according to my grandmother, as soon as the chaplain made to approach the bed to administer extreme unction, my grandfather forestalled him by uttering one word: Out! The chaplain duly left the room without delay. Shortly after this my grandfather died, his last utterance being the word Out!"

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Dubious Fruit of Capitalism

From today's New York Times (Health, p. D5):

"The United States ranks 45th in life expectancy, behind Bosnia and Jordan; near last, compared with other developed countries, in infant mortality; and in last place, according to the Commonwealth Fund, a health-care research group, among major industrialized countries in health-care quality, access and efficiency."

Monday, March 10, 2008


What's interesting about a Bernhard work like Old Masters is not that he's hysterical, but that he's able to sustain the hysteria for the lengths he does.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Bernhard on War and Childbirth

Here is a typically grotesque yet captivating passage from Bernhard's Gathering Evidence, p. 166:

"The war [i.e., WW II] was always topic number one among the men [i.e., residents of a Salzburg slum, the Scherzhauserfield Project, where Bernhard worked as a grocer's assistant from age 13 to 15]. War is the poetry of men, by which they seek to gain attention and relief throughout their lives. They all took refuge, each in his own way, in viciousness and depravity and regenerated themselves in a state of complete and pitiful apathy. From an early age they had learned to hate, and in the Scherzhauserfield Project hatred was developed to a fine art as a means to be used against everything. Hatred breeds hatred, and they hated one another and the rest of the world unremittingly to the point of exhaustion. And their states of exhaustion served only as means to an end, the end being self-destruction; in these states of exhaustion they devised new miseries for themselves, new sicknesses and new crimes. They fled from one misery to another, one misfortune to another, each one deeper and more inescapable than the last . . . . "

And there's more. In an interview cited in Gitta Honegger's biography, Bernhard is quoted as follows, in a twisted yet bewitching temporal fast-forward to the point of lunacy:

"[P]eople are mistaken to think they bring children into the world . . . . They're getting adults, not babies. They give birth to a sweaty disgusting beer-bellied innkeeper or mass murderer, that's whom they're pregnant with, not children. People say they're expecting an itty-bitty baby, but in reality they get an eighty-year-old who's drooling and wetting himself all over, who stinks and is blind and limps and can't move from gout, that's whom they bring into the world."

Bernhard, not surprisingly, never married, dying in 1989, never having known the joy of raising a child.

Thomas Bernhard: The Making of an Austrian (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 2001), p. 41.

MisJoethropism On Camera

As usual Joe the Conqueror has kept me in the dark about his adventures. Now I find out he was a character in Broadway Danny Rose (though subject there to some cruel misJoethropism) :

"He [Vito Rispoli] glances about him as he walks up and across the busy sidewalk to Joe, who is leaning on the side of their car. An el is in the background; people walk underneath it. Vito hands Joe a slice of pizza. They eat and talk; one of the platform's pillars stands in front of Joe, partially obscuring him."

And there you have it. Partially obscured by a pillar! It's unconscionable. It's unAmerican. It's misJoethropic. Why couldn't Vito have been the one to have been partially obscured? Why? Why did Woody do this?

Three Films of Woody Allen (New York: Vintage, 1987), p. 245.

The scripts in this text are interesting in the degree to which they mirror the fractured way some people talk:

TINA [Mia] (Into the phone)
All ri--? . . . Of course I miss you. But will you lay off the sauce? . . . Ch--. . . All right.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Well, I'm uh-uh, you know, I'm right outside the frame. 'Cause if, uh, the picture went on another inch, I would be, I was back on the, on the, behind the dais and everything.

In any case, the stature that attaches to appearing in a film like this outweighs the pain of the persecution, so, as usual, Joe the Conqueror comes out ahead.

Screenplay Comments XV

Joe the Conqueror continues:

[I like Clive and am] intrigued from an actor/acting teacher POV about this guy. A guy that says and does what he does is fascinating and it’s intriguing to think about his mannerisms, and how he holds a glass and how long he lets dishes pile up and everything else. I mean this is no guy you’d ever see riding the bus with the proletariat, you know?

That cat stands out. If he wasn’t nudged into a life of crime he would have been a Green Beret or professional athlete or surgeon or any damn thing he frigging pleased. I think going back to the teacher thing . . . I have to motivate these kids to ask questions and think about their characters.

I really see him as a good guy at heart, absolutely, and he didn’t wake up one morning and say, “Shit, instead of going to my accounting class, I think I’ll rob a liquor store, kill the owner, and start sleeping with his widow.”. This is a guy who changed plans in mid robbery to protect someone—pretty cool.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Origins of Screenwriting

Screenwriting comes out of a glass or cup, Coca Cola in the warm weather, coffee and cream in the cold; it is inconceivable that one could write a word without one's glass or cup. The words literally spill out onto the page, there is no alternative, there is no other way.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Screenplay Comments XIV

And then this, from Conqueror Joe:

Also, I see Clive as a guy who can’t lose at anything. He can’t miss a basket, lose a coin toss, or argument (or at least he thinks he wins all arguments). He’s living a charmed life. He can do some things we think are real stupid, but he’s not like us and the laws of physics, the laws of nature, and the LAW itself, do not apply to him. So, we cant’ project our pettiness on him. He deserves better.

In fact while he’s in the liquor store in the opening scene, the first thing he does before pulling out the gun for the hold-up scene is purchase a scratch ticket. Why? Because he’s Clive and that’s what he does. So, first he buys the scratch ticket. Then he does his thing and ends up shooting Frank.

Then while everyone is frozen and in shock and Frank is lying on the floor bleeding, there’s this long awkward silence post hold-up, post murder. Just doesn’t feel right. All the patrons are frozen. That’s when we here little scratchy sounds and next shot we see Clive scratching the ticket with the bump thing he picks locks with. Even Jill shows some interest. Why? Why not?

Why should he change his life just because some guy he shot is dead now. It makes no difference. Dead or alive, win or lose, you scratch the damn ticket! That’s what you do after you buy a scratch ticket. You buy it to scratch it!! That’s why! When he’s done he uses the bump thing to scratch the inside of his non-gun-hand ear (got that?). Then you hear him yell, “I won, I won, damn!, I won!” And that customer jerks his arms back in the air and yells, “How much?” then jerks them down again realizing third hold-up faux-pas, if you’re counting. Then you hear Frank who you thought was dead, gasp his last breath, a very long, gaspy breathy, death breath that’s a comment on the winning scratch ticket. Everyone turns their attention to Frank and his last gasp just incase there’s anything else. Clives not sure what to do, cause he wants to collect. He motions to Jill to pay him and she does. Then he leaves all the money in the register.

Three scene later she says “Why?” and he says, “Why what?” and she says, “Why didn’t you take the rest of the money?”

“Because I was having the thrill of victory, that’s why. Why kill the thrill?”

“That’s it?”

“That’s it”

Screenplay Comments XIII

Joe the Conqueror writes further of C&L:

I enjoyed the car conversation scene of Lorette family snipers in wait at grave site very much. I might enjoy more of that.

What I loved about that scene is that as omniscient voyeurs of that world, we knew something Clive and Lou had no idea of. It set me on edge as the reader (imagine how powerful that scene is watching it in all it’s cinema graphic glory), as to what was going to happen next and scared the hell out of me. Clive is clueless which I find very intriguing/exciting because he’s always so cocksure about everything.

Like maybe if we saw the Lorrett family guy talking about “making a little visitation” to Clive which sets us up for dangerous suspense. Then you can cut back to Karen/Clive live action which takes our minds off it and gives all but the most astute viewers a false sense of security concerning the good looking leading man and lady. You’re watching him on the way to Clive’s while Clive is in bed w/ Karen, or he’s shaving, or eating cheese doodles, and we think he’s going to walk in on them and blow Clive’s brains and/or Karen’s brains, and it’s just the exact opposite like you have it, and Lorrette gets whacked. It messes with our heads. I don’t know…just a thought…for what it’s worth.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Don't Feel Like Writing? Or Reading?

From Bernhard's autobiography, Gathering Evidence, which ends at his 19th year, at which point he was sick of it and dropped the project:

"When I am writing I read nothing, and when I am reading I write nothing. For long periods I read and write nothing, finding both equally repugnant."

Gathering Evidence: A Memoir, tr. David McLintock (New York: Knopf, 1985; Vintage, 1994), p. 205.