Posts Tagged ‘capitalism’

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My bwain hurtz.

 

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Instant Cult Status

A first-time director, no money, no air conditioning and a captivating story that I’d been hoping would show up–I don’t actually look forward to much from the movie business these days.

 

Sadistic elite depravity and the corruption of money keep two down on their luck guys enthralled by the prospect of easy riches. Not so easy it turns out.  The puppetmasters sink their hooks into the two, and it becomes increasingly harder for them to wriggle out from their machinations.

A socio-political undercurrent grounds this black grindhouse comedy. With very little in resources, the crew managed to score a diabolical win and thrill them at last year’s festivals. Cheap Thrills showed up at the big red neighborhood boxes, and it’s sure to cut a little deeper than the competition. So bon appetit.

4.5 / 5

 

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by William Blum

Edward Snowden

Is Edward Snowden a radical? The dictionary defines a radical as “an advocate of political and social revolution”, the adjective form being “favoring or resulting in extreme or revolutionary changes”. That doesn’t sound like Snowden as far as what has been publicly revealed. In common usage, the term “radical” usually connotes someone or something that goes beyond the generally accepted boundaries of socio-political thought and policies; often used by the Left simply to denote more extreme than, or to the left of, a “liberal”.

In his hour-long interview on NBC, May 28, in Moscow, Snowden never expressed, or even implied, any thought – radical or otherwise – about United States foreign policy or the capitalist economic system under which we live, the two standard areas around which many political discussions in the US revolve. In fact, after reading a great deal by and about Snowden this past year, I have no idea what his views actually are about these matters. To be sure, in the context of the NBC interview, capitalism was not at all relevant, but US foreign policy certainly was.

Snowden was not asked any direct questions about foreign policy, but if I had been in his position I could not have replied to several of the questions without bringing it up. More than once the interview touched upon the question of whether the former NSA contractor’s actions had caused “harm to the United States”. Snowden said that he’s been asking the entire past year to be presented with evidence of such harm and has so far received nothing. I, on the other hand, as a radical, would have used the opportunity to educate the world-wide audience about how the American empire is the greatest threat to the world’s peace, prosperity, and environment; that anything to slow down the monster is to be desired; and that throwing a wrench into NSA’s surveillance gears is eminently worthwhile toward this end; thus, “harm” indeed should be the goal, not something to apologize for.

Edward added that the NSA has been unfairly “demonized” and that the agency is composed of “good people”. I don’t know what to make of this.

When the war on terrorism was discussed in the interview, and the question of whether Snowden’s actions had hurt that effort, he failed to take the opportunity to point out the obvious and absolutely essential fact – that US foreign policy, by its very nature, regularly and routinely creates anti-American terrorists.

When asked what he’d say to President Obama if given a private meeting, Snowden had no response at all to make. I, on the other hand, would say to Mr. Obama: “Mr. President, in your time in office you’ve waged war against seven countries – Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, Libya and Syria. This makes me wonder something. With all due respect, sir: What is wrong with you?”

A radical – one genuine and committed – would not let such a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity pass by unused. Contrary to what his fierce critics at home may believe, Edward Snowden is not seriously at war with America, its government or its society. Does he have a real understanding, analysis, or criticism of capitalism or US foreign policy? Does he think about what people could be like under a better social system? Is he, I wonder, even anti-imperialist?

And he certainly is not a conspiracy theorist, or at least keeps it well hidden. He was asked about 9-11 and replied:

The 9/11 commission … when they looked at all the classified intelligence from all the different intelligence agencies, they found that we had all of the information we needed … to detect this plot. We actually had records of the phone calls from the United States and out. The CIA knew who these guys were. The problem was not that we weren’t collecting information, it wasn’t that we didn’t have enough dots, it wasn’t that we didn’t have a haystack, it was that we did not understand the haystack that we had.

Whereas I might have pointed out that the Bush administration may have ignored the information because they wanted something bad – perhaps of unknown badness – to happen in order to give them the justification for all manner of foreign and domestic oppression they wished to carry out. And did. (This scenario of course excludes the other common supposition, that it was an “inside job”, in which case collecting information on the perpetrators would not have been relevant.)

The entire segment concerning 9/11 was left out of the television broadcast of the interview, although some part of it was shown later during a discussion. This kind of omission is of course the sort of thing that feeds conspiracy theorists.

All of the above notwithstanding, I must make it clear that I have great admiration for the young Mr. Snowden, for what he did and for how he expresses himself. He may not be a radical, but he is a hero. His moral courage, nerve, composure, and technical genius are magnificent. I’m sure the NBC interview won him great respect and a large number of new supporters. I, in Edward’s place, would be even more hated by Americans than he is, even if I furthered the radicalization of more of them than he has. However, I of course would never have been invited onto mainstream American television for a long interview in prime time. (Not counting my solitary 15 minutes of fame in 2006 courtesy of Osama bin Laden; a gigantic fluke happening.)

Apropos Snowden’s courage and integrity, it appears that something very important has not been emphasized in media reports: In the interview, he took the Russian government to task for a new law requiring bloggers to register – the same government which holds his very fate in their hands.

Who is more exceptional: The United States or Russia?

I was going to write a commentary about President Obama’s speech to the graduating class at the US Military Academy (West Point) on May 28. When he speaks to a military audience the president is usually at his most nationalistic, jingoist, militaristic, and American-exceptionalist – wall-to-wall platitudes. But this talk was simply TOO nationalistic, jingoist, militaristic, and American-exceptionalist. (“I believe in American exceptionalism with every fiber of my being.”) To go through it line by line in order to make my usual wise-ass remarks, would have been just too painful. However, if you’re in a masochistic mood and wish to read it, it can be found here.

Instead I offer you part of acommentary from Mr. Jan Oberg, Danish director of the Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research in Lund, Sweden:

What is conspicuously lackingin the President’s West Point speech?

  1. Any reasonably accurate appraisal of the world and the role of other nations.
  2. A sense of humility and respect for allies and other countries in this world.
  3. Every element of a grand strategy for America for its foreign and security policy and some kind of vision of what a better world would look like. This speech with all its tired, self-aggrandising rhetoric is a thin cover-up for the fact that there is no such vision or overall strategy.
  4. Some little hint of reforms of existing institutions or new thinking about globalisation and global democratic decision-making.
  5. Ideas and initiatives – stretched-out hands – to help the world move towards conflict-resolution in crisis areas such as Ukraine, Syria, Libya, China-Japan and Iran. Not a trace of creativity.

Ironically, on May 30 the Wall Street Journal published a long essay by Leon Aron, a Russia scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute in Washington. The essay took Russian president Vladimir Putin to task for claiming that Russia is exceptional. The piece was headed:

“Why Putin Says Russia Is Exceptional”

“Such claims have often heralded aggression abroad and harsh crackdowns at home.”

It states: “To Mr. Putin, in short, Russia was exceptional because it was emphatically not like the modern West – or not, in any event, like his caricature of a corrupt, morally benighted Europe and U.S. This was a bad omen, presaging the foreign policy gambits against Ukraine that now have the whole world guessing about Mr. Putin’s intentions.”

So the Wall Street Journal has no difficulty in ascertaining that a particular world leader sees his country as “exceptional”. And that such a perception can lead that leader or his country to engage in aggression abroad and crackdowns at home. The particular world leader so harshly judged in this manner by the Wall Street Journal is named Vladimir Putin, not Barack Obama. There’s a word for this kind of analysis – It’s calledhypocrisy.

“Hypocrisy is anything whatever may deceive the cleverest and most penetrating man, but the least wide-awake of children recognizes it, and is revolted by it, however ingeniously it may be disguised.” – Leo Nikolaevich Tolstoi, (1828-1910) Russian writer

Is hypocrisy a moral failing or a failing of the intellect?

The New Cold War is getting to look more and more like the old one, wherein neither side allows the other to get away with any propaganda point. Just compare any American television network to the Russian station broadcast in the United States – RT (formerly Russia Today). The contrast in coverage of the same news events is remarkable, and the stations attack and make fun of each other by name.

Another, even more important, feature to note is that in Cold War I the United States usually had to consider what the Soviet reaction would be to a planned American intervention in the Third World. This often served as a brake to one extent or another on Washington’s imperial adventures. Thus it was that only weeks after the Berlin Wall came down in 1989, the United States bombed and invaded Panama, inflicting thousands of casualties and widespread destruction, for the flimsiest – bordering on the non-existent – of reasons.  The hostile Russian reaction to Washington’s clear involvement in the overthrow of the Ukrainian government in February of this year, followed by Washington’s significant irritation and defensiveness toward the Russian reaction, indicates that this Cold War brake may have a chance of returning. And for this we should be grateful.

After the “communist threat” had disappeared and the foreign policy of the United States continued absolutely unchanged, it meant that the Cold War revisionists had been vindicated – the conflict had not been about containing an evil called “communism”; it had been about American expansion, imperialism and capitalism. If the collapse of the Soviet Union did not result in any reduction in the American military budget, but rather was followed by large increases, it meant that the Cold War – from Washington’s perspective – had not been motivated by a fear of the Russians, but purely by ideology.

Lest we forget: Our present leaders can derive inspiration from other great American leaders.

White House tape recordings, April 25, 1972:

President Nixon: How many did we kill in Laos?

National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger: In the Laotian thing, we killed about ten, fifteen [thousand] …

Nixon: See, the attack in the North [Vietnam] that we have in mind … power plants, whatever’s left – POL [petroleum], the docks … And, I still think we ought to take the dikes out now. Will that drown people?

Kissinger: About two hundred thousand people.

Nixon: No, no, no … I’d rather use the nuclear bomb. Have you got that, Henry?

Kissinger: That, I think, would just be too much.

Nixon: The nuclear bomb, does that bother you? … I just want you to think big, Henry, for Christsakes.

May 2, 1972:

Nixon: America is not defeated. We must not lose in Vietnam. … The surgical operation theory is all right, but I want that place bombed tosmithereens. If we draw the sword, we’re gonna bomb those bastards all over the place. Let it fly, let it fly.

“Every ten years or so, the United States needs to pick up some small crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show the world we mean business.” – Michael Ledeen, former Defense Department consultant and holder of the Freedom Chair at the American Enterprise Institute

Help needed from a computer expert

This has been driving me crazy for a very long time. My printer doesn’t print the document I ask it to print, but instead prints something totally unrelated. But what it prints is always something I’ve had some contact with, like an email I received or a document I read online, which I may or may not have saved on my hard drive, mostly not. It’s genuinely weird.

Now, before I print anything, I close all other windows in my word processor (Word Perfect/Windows 7); I go offline; I specify printing only the current page, no multiple page commands. Yet, the printer usually still finds some document online and prints it.

At one point I cleared out all the printer caches, and that helped for a short while, but then the problem came back though the caches were empty.

I spoke to the printer manufacturer, HP, and they said it can’t be the fault of the printer because the printer only prints what the computer tells it to print.

It must be the CIA or NSA. Help!

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Notes
  1. William Blum, Killing Hope, chapter 50
  2. Jonah Goldberg, “Baghdad Delenda Est, Part Two”,National Review, April 23, 2002

Any part of this report may be disseminated without permission, provided attribution to William Blum as author and a link to this website are given.

 

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So What’s Noah with You?

By Steven Jonas, MD, MPH

Noah is a mighty motion picture. And so too was Noah, or whoever the real life person or personages, and his/her/their experiences, upon whom the various myths and legends were based, a mighty man. There are at least 500 Flood legends/myths in cultures around the world. As for the broader subject of creation legends/myths, there are a ton of those too. Noah the movie offers a variation on both the Creation story and Flood story that is told in the Judeo-Christian Bible. Wikipedia sums the latter up pretty neatly:

 “The Book of Genesis (from the Latin Vulgate, in turn borrowed or transliterated  from Greek Hebrew: “In [the] beginning”) is the first book of the Hebrew Bible  (the Tanakh) and the Christian Old Testament. [1]

“The basic narrative expresses the central theme: God creates the world (along  with creating the first man and woman) and appoints man as his regent, but man  proves disobedient and God destroys his world through the Flood. The new post- Flood world is equally corrupt, but God does not destroy it, instead calling one  man, Abraham, to be the seed of its salvation. At God’s command Abraham  descends from his home into the land of Canaan, given to him by God, where he  dwells as a sojourner, as does his son Isaac and his grandson Jacob. Jacob’s name  is changed to Israel, and through the agency of his son Joseph, the children of  Israel descend into Egypt, 70 people in all with their households, and God  promises them a future of greatness. Genesis ends with Israel in Egypt, ready for  the coming of Moses and the Exodus. The narrative is punctuated by a series of  covenants with God, successively narrowing in scope from all mankind (the  covenant with Noah) to a special relationship with one people alone (Abraham  and his descendants through Isaac and Jacob). [2]“

The movie is powerful stuff, with a fine acting performance in the lead role by the hyper-versatile Russell Crowe. It is to my taste a bit over-long, but it has phenomenal special effects and settings (apparently many of them in Iceland) and for those reasons alone is well-worth seeing (although at this juncture you will likely have to wait until it comes out on Blue-Tooth). But of course it is the story that is the real grabber and raiser-of-controversy.

Noah comes along fairly early in Genesis and does in the film too, but not before there are some notable diversions from the usual modern telling, which do have some of the Christian Right rather upset. The “Bible,” as they are fond of telling us, is the “inerrant word of God.” That presents a problem right off, for one has to wonder exactly which version of the Bible are they talking about. The one, so I am told, usually referred to is the one that is usually referred to as the “King James Version.”

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The problem with it as the “inerrant word of God” is that it was actually written, at the behest of the nobles and churchmen who, following the death of Elizabeth I, accepted James VI of Scotland as her successor to the throne, as James I of England, by a committee. After the religious wars in England in the 16th century, won by the protestant Church of England, the English ruling class wanted to make sure that such wars would not return. And so for one thing, 47 theologians and scholars were commissioned to create the translation that would become the standard book for the Church of England (of which, conveniently the Monarch was the Head, and still is, for that matter). It came to be known as the ” King James Version.”

47 men with a collective ear for “God’s word?” Hmmm. And of course there were many other translations that had been done over the centuries from the original Aramaic, Hebrew, Greek and Latin text, the first in English having been done about a century earlier by one William Tyndale. Couldn’t his, or any of the others for that matter, have been the “inerrant word of God?” Ah well, we’ll never know, will we?

Which leads us to another irritant for the Christian Right. Noah, when referring to the higher power, uses the term “Creator,” rather than “God.” It happens that as an atheist, I am totally happy with Noah’s use of that term, as I am with its appearance in the US Declaration of Independence. As far as I am concerned, the creator of us all is the combination of the laws of chemistry, physics, and biology which first produced the Universe, then our Solar system, and eventually, through the Laws of Evolution, us. Could the movie Noah have meant the same thing? Well, hey, we’ll never know, but he could have.

The BIG one is of course that the movie’s Cain is not just a simply bad famer guy who somehow passes down evil to future human generations. He is a REALLY bad guy who creates something akin to industrial-destructive-capitalism which becomes the scourge of the Earth (sound familiar?) And the Flood, by golly, is not simply the Creator’s punishment for humans being bad people. It is God’s punishment specifically for what Cain had created. This one really has the Right bent out of shape. For in the movie Cain’s creation was well on its way to destroying all of the Creator’s creations, including all of the other animals and the plants as well. And the Creator didn’t like that. (For another approach to the “the Creator is unhappy” story, see an earlier OpEdNews column of mine).

And so he, she, it or they, ordered the deluge, of which Noah was warned and for which he built a very (as in very, very) large lifeboat, for yes, his family and as many other species, plant and animal, that could be crammed on board. The results of the depredations of Cain and his industrial/capitalist successors sounds just like those predicted for anthropogenic global warming, which is well on its way to creating The Sixth Extinction. That of course, is a message that the Right, well beyond the Christian Right, just doesn’t like one bit.

But hey, we know that the Creation story in whichever version of the Judeo-Christian Bible one happens to subscribe to, is just one of hundreds of them. And the Flood story in the same book is just one of hundreds too. So who indeed is to say that the telling in this movie’s version of the Creation/Noah story is not the correct one?

 

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“People get rich complaining about this shit.  Complaining is a respected industry.”

This is a mockumentary about the fashion industry, that’s rather edgy in its black comedy.  (A different film of the same title was released in 1999.)  A new top fashion model endures the depravity of the business, but not so well it turns out.  She dies right in the middle of her biggest photo shoot.

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With her death the centerpiece of the film, the nutty and exploitative cast of characters are confronted about what they do and why.  This is not a well-loved film, and yet it was far more interesting in concept than the Robert Altman fashion industry film Ready to Wear (Prêt-à-Porter).

Many issues are touched upon, including the nature of for-profit documentaries themselves.  Everyone has an angle to play, especially when the dead model is used to sell clothes, post-mortem.  Turns out that supermodels are worth more dead than alive.

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The blitzkrieg of artsy bullshit and rationalization which follows calls into question not just these industries, but the consumers who are ultimately responsible for them.  That includes the movie audience.  It’s discomforting by design, intended to disturb.  That’s probably why it remains under the radar…

 

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Kevin O’Leary:

“Suck Satan’s cock!”
-Bill Hicks

 

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Joe Giambrone | Political Film Blog

With Wolf of Wall Street Martin Scorsese stomps on Consumerist Christmas like Godzilla on crack.  This is the boldest, most audacious piece in recent memory, a film whose release date holds even deeper meaning than most American audiences could possibly process.  They were assaulted, intentionally, on levels far deeper than their supposed virgin eyes.  The naughty sex and drugs and runtime are the shallow criticisms currently making the mainstream rounds.  Yawn.

Wolf is not about sex and drugs.  The film is about money, power, greed, the legitimacy of this market-based wealth accumulation system.  The sex and drugs are simply window dressing to a far deeper sickness, one that claws right out from the screen like a 3D Craptacular and strangles the audience where they live: their own greedy little insatiable egos.  Because Jordan Belfort did it, he already topped them all.  They could never compete.  It’s been done.

Wolf has meaning across the society, the way we organize ourselves here as buyers and sellers, each competing to one up the next.  Scorsese has finally matured to the point where he can tell it like it is, the American experience, the actual American Way, the American Dream, the myths, the reality, the psychology we’ve all been sold.  This is a far bigger story than the tale of one super con man with a drug problem: we’re all complicit.

I’m of the opinion today that Wolf of Wall Street is indeed Scorsese’s best film, the full 2 hour and 59 minute cut.

Director Martin Scorsese arrives at The Royal Premiere of his film Hugo at the Odeon Leicester Square cinema in London

People will likely respond with Taxi Driver, Raging Bull and Goodfellas.  Of the three, Taxi Driver is the only film to reconsider.

Goodfellas is one of the most overrated of all Scorsese’s efforts.  From the first trailer I saw it was plainly obvious: this is no Godfather.  Scorsese’s artifice, his penchant for voiceovers and intrusive directorial voice left me distanced and unconvinced on any level.  Better gangster films are not difficult to locate.  Sorry, film geek boys; you can stop pitching this as some greatest film.  It ain’t.

Conversely, with Wolf of Wall Street Scorsese’s style meshes gloriously with this over the top exploration of excess and debauchery.  DiCaprio’s voiceovers provide a witness, a sounding board, a then-and-now take on the events that heightens the black comedy and makes for a hilarious counterpoint to the events unfolding on screen.   With Wolf, the intrusive and jarring cuts, freeze frames and confessions all serve to bring the story to life.

Raging Bull was another effort that left me cold. Jake LaMotta was a sad sack, uncharismatic, a chore to watch.  The film felt like penance rather than magic.  Interesting photography couldn’t save this drudgery, in my opinion.

That leaves Taxi Driver (or perhaps you’re rooting for Casino?  Hugo?  Mean Streets?)  Up against Taxi Driver we have an interesting dilemma.  The two productions couldn’t be more different, the budgets, the visual aesthetics, the tone.

But that was 40 years ago.  The world has moved on, and cinema has moved on.  I don’t know if one could reasonably compare the two films.  Is that even a rational thing to do?

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That leaves Wolf, this week’s surprise affront to decency and American blinders.  Scorsese just came off a 3D kids’ movie, Hugo, to turn in probably the single most thought provoking film of the year.  We can’t help but see our place in Jordan Belfort’s world, because we’re not even at the servant’s quarters level.  Everything he does, he does to profit himself in the manner proscribed from on high: greed is good.  Greed is everything.  Our entire civilization is predicated on greed now.  The lurch to self-interested depravity as our religion, the cornerstone of our world, hoarding wealth for ourselves and our own, well, it needs to be acknowledged.  It needs an offensive matinee showing.  It needs shocked, flabbergasted little old ladies squirming in their seats out in Bumblefuck.

 

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This contained mind-mash pits an opportunist against nature, as celebrity obsession enters the realm of disease collecting.  Meaning: fans buy diseases so that they can better imitate and commune with their celebrity idols.  By willingly infecting themselves in order to better worship their idols, fandom has created a new commodity to exploit.  Beyond simple exploitation, the competition to obtain celebrity viruses and to sell them on the black market is fierce and criminal.

Such is Brandon Cronenberg’s directorial debut, a small noirish thriller of blood, disease and the underworld.  People who are inclined to appreciate David Cronenberg’s films will probably respond well to the movie.  The story’s Cosmopolis vibe addresses capitalist ruthlessness and the depravity associated with marketing the world to the highest bidders.  With cultural criticism (assault?) rivaling films like Idiocracy and God Bless America, here we have a very subtle, tempered version of business as usual in an unusual racket.

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The market for satire, criticism and any kind of thought whatsoever is pretty small.  DVD reviews of Antiviral made clear that a lot of people didn’t get the movie, or care to.   I thought the film was well done and thought provoking, a lot more so than Contagion anyway.  Caleb Landry Jones is a fantastic actor, and he pushes it to the edge here.  The film carried a dark, creepy sensibility even in glaringly sterile white rooms.

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by Steven Jonas

According to Wikipedia:

“Elysium or the Elysian Fields is a conception of the afterlife that evolved over time and was maintained by certain Greek religious and philosophical sects and cults. Initially separate from the realm of Hades, admission was initially reserved for mortals related to the gods and other heroes. Later, it expanded to include those chosen by the gods, the righteous, and the heroic, where they would remain after death, to live a blessed and happy life, and indulging in whatever employment they had enjoyed in life.”

In his movie “Elysium,” set in 2154, writer director Neil Blomkamp has a rather different view of the place. It is not reserved for the dead, but for the very much alive super/super/ultra-rich (read: ruling class) who have apparently survived the dead-zone for everyone else that their policies have created on Earth. And as is well-known by now to most readers of these pages, they have retreated to a vast satellite world that, even though they are hardly dead, they have for some reason named “Elysium.”

Perhaps it is because even now, there are members of the present ruling class, not only in the U.S. but around the world from here to China, to Russia, to the oil Kingdoms, to certain European and South American enclaves, who think of themselves as truly above everyone else. They are in their own minds god-like perhaps, and certainly totally entitled to their riches, even if in the process of gaining them they are dooming the rest of mankind to the kind of existence that Blomkamp portrays in his movie.

That is, one could imagine the Kochs, for example, or certain Saudi princes, or certain Russian oligarchs, or certain Chinese’s “princelings” (that is descendants of founding members of the Chinese Communist Party — who would be rolling over in their graves if they knew what had become of their children and grandchildren), thinking of themselves in the category of the “righteous and the heroic,” entitled to the life they have developed for themselves 140 years from now on their space-island. (Yes, entitled, there’s that word again. Well you have heard of “entitlements,” haven’t you? Indeed this, not pre-paid pension benefits like Social Security, is its real meaning: what the ruling class think they are entitled to, come what may for everyone else.) Indeed, Elysium does seem to be international, for English is not the only language spoken there; French, the international language of the 19th century, is also.

Elysium” is a movie that says many things to us, not, perhaps, all of them intended to be said by Mr. Blomkamp. Let me get my criticisms out of the way first. First, without giving it away, the movie has a happy, or at least apparently happy, ending. One must presume that this is one of Mr. Blomkamp’s bows to Hollywood, necessary to get made what is a very expensive, VERY high-tech movie (with marvelous special effects, which I happen to love). But the ending is jarring, to say the least, and very unrealistic. It’s sort of like the ending of Roland Emmerich’s (otherwise) masterpiece “The Day After Tomorrow” in which millions of Nord Americanos, fleeing a new ice age (which indeed could be a short-term consequence of global warming, as is explained in that movie) are welcomed with open arms south of the border. Oh yeah!

Second, in “Elysium” there is some confusion about what the real issue is between the masses trapped on the ravaged Earth and their rulers on Elysium: the total misery and oppression of the masses that has been created by those rulers on Earth out of which there seems to be no way, or the question of illegal emigration to the satellite and how that is managed. Blomkamp seems to be trying to deal with both issues side-by-side. For me this led to some confusion about what the movie is really about. Third, there is no history: how did this all come to be, in the 140-or-so years from now until then? We know already what capitalism and its evil twin global warming are leading to: the arrival of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse: Famine, Flood, Plague, and War. But for the reality of the movie to have been achieved, how did the masses become so totally oppressed and repressed, how did the ruling class manage to get away with it, apparently unscathed, and how did even they manage to accumulate the capital for what would be a very expensive enterprise: Elysium itself?

However, there are many excellent features of the movie, and I don’t have space to deal with them all here. First of all, one doesn’t have to imagine 2154 to see what life is like for many millions of humans, right now. For the future slum of Los Angeles in the movie was actually set in one of the present slums of Mexico City. The reality of health care faced by the masses is brilliantly portrayed by an emergency room scene likely not that different from those in many poor countries right now, and by the fact that cures for all sorts of ailments are readily available (in the movie provided by a magic, 22nd century fix-whatever-it-is-that-ails-you machine), but only on Elysium. Which is how many people around the world must now feel about the lack of available medical care, and in the U.S., where modern medical care miracles are widely distributed, for those who can afford them. But if in the U.S. you don’t have health insurance, fuhgeddaboudit.

The cops are vicious, violent, automatons (not that all present cops are, but there are plenty like them). Max’s “parole officer” is a sappy automaton, in function probably much like certain members of that profession in real life, now. “Homeland Security” is ever-present (as it is becoming more so, now). The “Defense Secretary,” Delacourt, played by Jodie Foster, is a vicious, scheming Dick Cheney-like character for whom “defense” is primarily against all the people left behind on Earth. She can see events on Earth that might present some kind of threat to her realm, in real time (and the NSA is already checking out the technology available to her). And she uses working class traitors to help her keep the working class oppressed. Then there is workplace reality faced by the movie’s hero, Max, brilliantly played by Matt Damon. You see it all: speed-up, unions long gone, no occupational health and safety regulations, minimal pay for dangerous work, the foreman clearly acting as an intermediate oppressor, the boss of it seated in a sealed container overseeing the shop floor, but not wanting to even smell it, much less descend onto it. And so on and so forth.

Blomkamp does present a vision of what Earth could look like in the future, and not necessarily 140 years in the future, with global warming already wreaking havoc and capitalism becoming ever more ferociously profit-centered. What we need next is how this all is going to be prevented. Since that is going to take leading parties and the next generation of socialist revolutions around the world, don’t expect to find that story in a Hollywood movie.

http://thepoliticaljunkies.org/

Steven Jonas, MD, MPH, MS, is a Professor of Preventive Medicine at the School of Medicine, Stony Brook University (NY) and author/co-author/editor/co-editor of over 30 books on health policy, health and wellness, and sports and regular exercise.

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4lRCzIaeJio

 
American Psycho was such an odd, disturbing black comedy / satire that a lot of people didn’t know what to think about it.  Reviews were pretty polarized at the time, and yet the film endures as a kind of popular meme, even parodied recently by Huey Lewis and Weird Al Yankovich.

Lewis’ 80’s pop music is cited in the film itself as an example of what American Psycho Patrick Bateman considers the quintessential music of the 1980s Reagan period.  Bateman has a lot of opinions about a lot of things, always trying to find the best of the best, or at least the most expensive, with a quirky Batemanesque appeal.

Case in point, he orders a “real blonde” prostitute from a call girl service.  Only, she’s not exactly what he ordered.  Things end badly.

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The film creates a milieu of Ivy League plutocratic decadence with Wall Street trading types loaded with cash and beyond the touch of what most people call the real world.  It’s not about Bateman exclusively, but about a sickening American aristocracy laid bare for one of their own to go off the deep end.  I’m not sure if the film succeeds at being coherent or consistent thematically.  It is a sort of slasher mind fuck question mark.  But damn, it’s difficult to forget.

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Where to start?  How about with an observation concerning World War Z and how Hollywood muddles nearly any political point it ever tries to make in the service of maximizing viewership?  “That’s how they sell the most tickets imaginable, by appealing across a broad spectrum, and combining so many ideas that everyone can walk away feeling like they got what they wanted (Anthony Kaufman).”  Pretty good observation, and it also lets the perpetrators of propaganda off the hook for the more malignant ideas they push on the masses.  Nolan’s Dark Knight Rises was a case in point.  So what has that got to do with Tom Cruise dancing around in his underwear?

“Get off the babysitter!”

Risky Business spoke to me when I first snuck in to the multiplex through the exit door and caught it.  I guess I was 16, a junior in high school.  Joel (Cruise) has a debauched best friend Miles who is always prodding him to cross that next line.  I had a similar real world compatriot, and so this relationship at the opening of the movie immediately grabbed my attention.  And if that wasn’t enough, there are also a bevy of stunning prostitutes in the film, including Rebecca DeMornay as Lana.  That’s enough to attact 90% of 16 y.o. American boys, and so where does this thing go?

It goes off into the world of business, capitalism, Yale.  It’s an odd and sometimes confusing journey into supply and demand.  In this case the supply is Lana and friends, the demand are the little rich boys of a Chicago suburb who are ready to put their money down.

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Ah, but the competition is not going to sit still while upstarts like Joel try and pilfer a stable of high class call girls.  Enter Guido the killer pimp.  And then it seems Joel himself has ascended into the pimp racket.  There are some strange complications however, as prostitution, pimping and competition also entail the little matter of stealing whatever’s not nailed down.  In this case, the stealing is from Joel’s own house – scratch that – Joel’s parents’ house while they are away on business.  The stakes for Joel keep raising, especially after his Dad’s turbo Porsche ends up in the lake.

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One might try and claim a clear pro-capitalist, even libertarian slant to Joel and his pimp business.  Supply, demand, profit, everyone’s happy (not Guido).  But is that the ultimate point of Risky Business, or is there a larger ironic point to be gleaned?  The ending, and its Yale business school tie-in leave room for contemplation.

Oh I hate giving away plot, and yet I need to stuff a sufficient amount of words into these things.  See the movie, if you haven’t already.  You tell me what you think.


 

And transcript, by Rob Kall / OpedNews.

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The other point I’ve been making for a decade about offshore production is not free trade, it’s labor arbitrage; and that all tradable goods and services can be moved offshore. So that you can very easily have a permanent unemployment rate of 25% or 35% percent or even higher, because the only jobs that can’t be offshored require hands-on performance: like going to the dentist, or getting your hair cut, or being served in a restaurant by a waitress, or in a bar by a bartender.

“When one side runs with it too far it becomes abusive, it becomes too much regulation, and then it becomes too little regulation. So keeping the balance requires sensibility, intelligence, and not ideologies. If the people are committed to ideologies and are operating ideologically, then it always gets out of balance.”