Tuesday, March 31, 2015

When Your Bigotry Blows Up in Your Face

Called out on the pandering “religious freedom” law he proudly signed, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence's instinctive strategy was simply to lie and say that his pro-bigotry law does not favor bigotry. Republicans have been trained to believe that, like Bill O'Reilly, they can lie about the most glaring facts and get away with it.
Given the fact that the First Amendment already fully protects the exercise of religion in this nation, exactly what “religious freedoms” are crying out to be “restored?” The proponents of the Indiana law fall silent on that point — and well they should — because majority religion Christians are not oppressed or even inconvenienced at any place or any time in this country. What they don’t dare say is that the intent of the law, the practical effect of the law, is to embolden fundamentalist Christians to exercise their bigotry in denying American citizens public accommodations. And that’s hatred (rhymes with “sacred”).

Friday, March 27, 2015

The Quiller Memorabilia

Here’s John Barry, the composer, and George Segal, the star, on The Quiller Memorandum, the film made from my friend and mentor’s Elleston Trevor's novel (written under his pen name, Adam Hall). Elleston never liked the movie much, but I certainly did, and we would argue about it in a friendly way. Here’s Matt Monro singing John Barry’s haunting theme. And below is a chance meeting of spies in June 1966. Michael Caine bumped into George Segal on location in Berlin when Caine was reprising his Harry Palmer role in Funeral in Berlin while Segal was shooting The Quiller Memorandum.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Why They Fear Fox

“People in the mainstream media are terrified of Fox News A) because they plan to have jobs there someday and B) because they can get wiped out. Because if the Fox News Hate Machine swings their guns at you, they can take you out.” 
— Driftglass

Saturday, March 21, 2015

The Warrior Corporation Isn't Fighting for You

"War would now be fought not for or by the citizen, but quite literally for and by Lockheed Martin, Halliburton, KBR, DynCorp, Triple Canopy, and Blackwater (later Xe, even later Academi).  Meanwhile, that citizen was to shudder at the thought of our terrorist enemies and then go on with normal life as if nothing whatsoever were happening.  (“Get down to Disney World in Florida. Take your families and enjoy life the way we want it to be enjoyed,” was George W. Bush’s suggested response to the 9/11 attacks two weeks after they happened, with the “war on terror” already going on the books.)" 

The Crow in the Know

Art by Tiger-Tyger

I have always been drawn to the crows and ravens, with their uncanny intelligence. They reason, they play, they recognize both their friends and their enemies. I’ve always thought that observing their non-mammalian intelligence and comparing it to our own would give us clues to the nature of intelligence itself, exclusive of its particular biological form.
Some videos illustrate my fascination. Here, crows solve complex problems. And here, crows teach themselves to work a vending machine. And there’s this. Here, a drowning crow is rescued by a bear. Not quite sure what that illustrates, but I think it’s pretty wonderful.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Why Republicans Hate the Poor

“You work three jobs? Uniquely American, isn’t it? I mean, that is fantastic that you’re doing that.” That’s trust-fund baby and serial business failure George W. Bush speaking to a divorced mother of three in Omaha, Nebraska, Feb. 4, 2005.
At the 2011 GOP presidential debates, audiences cheered wildly for poor people to die in agony without health care, for child labor and for wholesale executions. Republicans make it clear, over and over again, that despite their professed Christianity, they actually hate and despise the poor.
Screw the poor and make ‘em beg for more. That's the GOP motto.
“The Republicans understand the basic facts about American political and social culture,” Peter Clough said. “They know in the land of the ‘self-made man’ the propaganda machine has made us believe that those who fail are not victims of a system failure, but of a ‘lack of personal will’ to overcome the numerous and notorious obstacles erected by a class structure. Because of this, Americans loathe those who are taken down and left at the roadside, busted and beaten — they have no sympathy for the poor and marginalized — they hate them and wish they would simply go away.
“The makers of this situation are those who reap the benefits of this hatred — the competition for jobs (lowered wages), the resentment among workers for those who have lost work, the self-hatred among those who are unemployed. This attitude ironically enriches further the ruling class and its nefarious agenda of finishing off democracy, labor reforms, and efforts to share the prosperity created by workers."
Michael David Lopez said, “I’d also add that contempt for the poor in this wretched culture stems from two primary roots, one religious, the other secular. The ultra conservative Calvinist sect of Protestant Christianity, with it's bifurcated view of the Elect and the Damned, saw wealth as a certain sign of having been selected by predestination for salvation. Obviously one sure sign of being unworthy and part of the Damned was poverty.
“While Calvinism instilled thrift and is credited by the likes of Max Weber with providing an ideological base for capitalism, it also created a deep contempt for the poor as slothful, lazy, sinful and doomed.
“The secular offshoot of this Calvinist tradition was Social Darwinism. The idea that nature determined poverty meant there was little humankind could or should do to interfere with this natural selection. This is a favorite argument of the libertarian crowd.”
For example, GOP politicians often compare beneficial social insurance programs to slavery for two reasons: 1) because they loathe any program that in any way shields poor and middle-class Americans from their billionaire masters and 2) because they LIKE the idea of slavery and want to make it seem acceptable.
Those “traditional values" Republicans are always saying they want to reintroduce us to include child labor, sweat shops, company towns, county poorhouses, debtors’ prisons, economic serfdom, torture and slavery.
In fact, they are already reinstating slavery, by turning prisoners into forced labor at your for-profit privatized prison, while getting the taxpayers to PAY THEM to keep and exploit their slaves, what a deal. A vast corporate cost-benefit improvement over the original form of American slavery.
The irony is that the majority of the Republicans who hate the poor are, of course, themselves poor or one step away from it. Their hatred is fueled by unconscious self-loathing. 

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Little Girl Found in "The Twilight Zone"

Matheson's Twilight Zone episodes include "The Invaders" and "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet"
One of the spookiest of the episodes in Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone was Little Girl Lost by Richard Matheson.
Matheson, the writer who inspired Stephen King, was the creative force behind such novels as The Shrinking Man, I Am Legend and A Stir of Echoes and such films as The Night Stalker, What Dreams May Come and Somewhere in Time.
In Little Girl Lost, suburban parents can hear their small daughter crying, but can’t see her because she has fallen through a dimensional hole in her bedroom. And that hole is closing.
Strangely enough, the 1953 short story on which Matheson based the episode was inspired by a real-life event.
“Our older girl, Tina — the same name as in the story — was crying, and I went into the room,” Matheson recalled in Twilight and Other Zones: The Dark Worlds of Richard Matheson. “Actually, the apartment was so small, it was just a wooden army cot that she slept on at that time. I felt around and she wasn’t on the bed, and I thought, ‘Oh, my Lord, the poor kid fell on the floor,’ then I felt on the floor and she wasn’t there. When I felt under the bed I couldn’t find her. She had gone under the bed and rolled all the way to the wall, and that’s where I found her. Then, of course, given the diabolical writer’s mind, you know, after the kid stops crying, you think of a story.”
Robert Sampson, Sarah Marshall and Charles Aidman in "LGL"
The episode, one of more than a dozen Matheson wrote for Twilight Zone, is clearly an uncredited inspiration for the 1983 horror film Poltergeist, in which an identical situation occurs.
Matheson became sadly accustomed to having a greater cultural influence than he was paid for. His novel I Am Legend, about a lone man holding out against a world overrun by vampires, has been filmed three times officially, and once unofficially as George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead. And that film, of course, gave birth to the plague of zombies that haunts us to this very day.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Sing a Song of False Balance

How is “false balance” or “both siderism” routinely used to distort reality in the corporate news media?
Let’s say a group of Oklahoma college boys is exposed on video singing that black people are n***ers who will never be permitted in their fraternity. Within 24 hours, major corporate news media discussions suggest that the actions of these gleeful Greek racists can be blamed on rap musicians and/or a gay writer in Seattle who has somehow “coarsened the discourse,” whatever that means.
Even where guilt is beyond dispute, the corporate media disputes it with arguments that are absurd on their face, but serve to shield right-wing political agendas.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Fox, the 'Most Trusted' Name in Bias

“I challenge anybody to show me an example of bias in Fox News Channel.” -- Rupert Murdoch (Salon, 3/1/01)
“Who would be the most likely to cheat at cards — Bill Clinton or Al Gore?”-- Fox News Channel/Opinion Dynamics poll (5/00)

Sunday, March 8, 2015

The Daring Exploits of a Bland Man

Onlookers swarmed 5th Avenue when Gould died in 1892
“There was nothing heroic about Gould,” wrote biographer Maury Klein in his book about the 19th century robber baron, The Life and Legend of Jay Gould.
 “His bland personality and inconspicuousness seemed wholly at odds with the brilliance and daring of his exploits. He was neither a sport nor a peacock, had no charisma and kept mostly to himself. He did not fit anybody’s notion of manhood, yet some mysterious power enabled him to outsmart and ruin men who physically could crush him underfoot. Those puzzled by these shattered stereotypes viewed him as something alien and despised him for it. His appearance and manner, his habits and tastes were effeminate, they sneered, his character timid if not cowardly. He was a dark, furtive creature operating in shadows, using methods filled with deceit and treachery to achieve unsavory objectives. What kind of specimen was Gould?”
Like Rex Stout’s fictional detective Nero Wolfe, Gould had a passion for orchids and grew them in his private greenhouse, the largest in America (380 feet long with 60-foot wings at either end). “What communication or consolation did these plants offer a man whose native language was silence?” Klein wondered.
Far from being a coward, Gould, like Wolfe, had a steady nerve and strategic genius. That agile mind served him well in a rate war between his Erie Railroad and Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt’s New York Central.
“The eastbound livestock traffic soon emerged as the most conspicuous battleground,” Klein wrote. “The usual rate from Buffalo to New York was $125 a carload. When Vanderbilt knocked the Central’s rate down to $100, Gould put the Erie’s at $75. The Commodore went to $50, only to have Gould drop to $25. Vanderbilt then decided to ruin the Erie’s livestock traffic by setting his rate at the absurd figure of $1 per carload.  At the same time hogs and sheep were being carried for a penny apiece. Sure enough, the Central filled up with cattle while the Erie’s cars ran empty. Vanderbilt cackled with glee until he discovered the reason for his easy victory. Unbeknown to him, Gould and Fisk had bought every steer in Buffalo and shipped them into New York via the Central.”
Jason "Jay" Gould grew from poor to ruthlessly rich

Thursday, March 5, 2015

'Kingsman:' Classic Bond in Modern Dress (Savile Row, Of Course)

Just back from “Kingsman,” a sly and elegant homage to the classic midcentury 007 films with the violence and sexual references ratcheted up to a 21st century level. You get to see how Colin Firth would play James Bond (perfectly, as it turns out), and you get see both the fundamentalists and the one percenters finally get what’s coming to them. Matt and I had the whole theatre to ourselves. A bespoke screening, one might say.