Zero Dark Thirty (before I saw the movie)

This is my a prequel to my review of Zero Dark Thirty. My review of Zero Dark Thirty was written later.

The radio advertisements for Zero Dark Thirty are insulting. “We all remember where we were when Bin Laden was killed”. No we don’t. I didn’t and that event doesn’t merit that much mental real estate. That being said, I plan to see this film, directed by Kathryn Bigelow who also directed Hurt Locker, a well made and entertaining but apolitical and overrated film. On IMDB Hurt Locker received many bad reviews by US Military veterans and by people who know movies, so I was not alone in my opinion and was grateful for the company. From the bad reviews for Zero Dark Thirty so far (and I actually don’t usually read reviews or base my movie going choices on them), I will walk into the theater with lowered expectations. So hopefully I will be entertained and possibly even informed. Yes, I am for the Seals and glad they got Bin Laden. What I’m not for is elite movie makers having access to privileged interviews with CIA officials on company time then going on to tell a tale of torture that is not true.

Kathryn Bigelow and company had access to the CIA to obtain background about the Navy Seal raid on Osama bin Laden. See: Los Angeles Times post about Kathryn Bigelow and Bin Laden.

The Navy Seal raid was an inevitable action taken by the US military in the quasi-feudal state of Pakistan although it arguably violated international law. Bin Laden should have been arrested and tried.

The access by Kathryn Bigelow to CIA data about that raid is an insult to normal people and a testimony to the absurd amount of power and influence held by oligarchs and those who kowtow to the oligarchs.

I don’t often find myself agreeing with Republicans. But here’s a case where just plain normal people would surely come together in accord. The statements by Senator John McCain about Bigelow’s misportrayal of the use of water boarding are a case, one of few, where I can applaud McCain.

One last thing. “We” (I must quote here) don’t need to torture people to get to the Bin Ladens of the world. They are not worth it and lowering ourselves to their level of activity is a travestry of our so-called values. Instead, we need to change our system to not be sponsoring the future Bin Laden’s (as our system has done and continues to do). That change to the system will not be easy. Kowtowing to the logic of torture is not a start down that path. (To be continued).

All that said, I’ll be viewing Zero Dark Thirty this week and will most likely enjoy it, while conscious of my own duplicity.

ESPN Radio ads during play by play

Sunday Dec 30, 2012. Complaint posted to ESPN Radio.

I was listening to this morning’s ESPN Radio football game broadcast on AM 710 Los Angeles. On every possession during the game, while the clock was running, an irritating 5 to 10 second ad was announced by the broadcaster interspersed with play by play as if the ad were part of the play by play.

Is that what ESPN markteting weenies are coming up with now?

If this continues I will not be listening to ESPN radio game broadcasts anymore.

I will post this complaint and your reply to my blog.

Dear President Obama

Wednesday Nov 8, 2012

Dear President Obama:

You have have been elected to serve four more years.

Now you may use your influence and power to make some changes.

Please stop the insane “War on Drugs” that has failed for decades and only serves to prop up the Mexican and Colombian drug cartels who have murdered thousands upon thousands of people. Decriminalize drugs, require that people who purchase hard drugs receive counciling paid for by the ensuing tax revenue. Treat the drug problem not as a crime but as the social and medical problem that it sometimes is. Casual use of marijunana isn’t even a problem. Rather, attempts to thwart the importation of marijuna are an enormous waste of police and prison resources and a lost source of tax revenue.

Please remove all US troops and private military contractors from both Iraq and Afghanistan. Imagine how the trillions of dollars spent there could have been used to do road repair and build transit systems and levies and just, say, paint homes and apartment buildings in our own cities. Why not change our priorities and start spending that kind of money here at home?

Make the small adjustments to the social security fund needed to assure that it is solvent for the rest of the century.

Bring back the Public Option to the health care system.

Respectfully yours,

Dennis Allard
Santa Monica, California

Election Night 2012

It is 5PM on election night and I want to see the early results.

I try tuning in to my local PBS channel KCET (at least it used to be PBS). I see some guy with a British accent doing a really bad job of pointing to a map. I’m not in the mood to listen to a British accent right now. This is the election of the President of the Unites States of America. Give me a Latino accent or a black man or a black women or a Midwestern white truck driver. Anything but a British accent. I turn the channel.

Now it’s channel 4 NBC News. Millionaire Brian Williams is talking at me now. He’s so suave.

Out of the gate I’m in a bad mood because the red neck ignorant white folks in Kentucky and Mississippi and a bunch of the red neck states have already voted in mass numbers for Romney. What else is new. Invade a continent, kill the Indians, believe in God, kill 2 million Vietnamese, support the insane “war on drugs” that killed 30,000 Mexicans last year, and now vote for Romey. And I, a liberal, care about these people? Why? I should become a me-first Republican like them and just be an idiot like them. Then I too wouldn’t know enough to care about the dismantling of every program put in place since FDR to help people.

I turn back to PBS. Now I see a black man talking to me from a bar in Ohio. But wait. He also has a British accent. And he’s the only black person in that Ohio bar. What is going on? Ah. I notice the BBC logo in the lower right corner of my screen. The once great United States Public Broadcasting System, which has been dismantled by the anti-government Libertarian Republicans who hate government even when it saves the entire US auto industry, is now airing a BBC program on election night. We are screwed. We can’t have our own public broadcasting system paid for by tax payer dollars? Did we choose that or were we just duped into thinking that’s OK? It is not OK.

I am going to stick to NBC. Brian ain’t that bad after all.

Running commentary:

5:45 PM. Obama 78 – Romney 88 – Obama might take Florida, so things are improving for Obama.

6:10 PM Obama took New Jersey. Ohio and Florida still too close to call.

6:17 PM Obama took Pennsylvania, the state where my Mom was born to a coal miner. Yes!

8:15 PM Good. There is some sanity still. Obama wins.

9:00 PM Over on PBS, they are still showing the BBC.

9:00 AM the next morning:

PBS is showing a children’s show. Without commercials. So there is hope.

The NHL owners are cancelling the hockey season?

I have lots of friends, even male friends, who don’t watch sports much and even more female friends who don’t. They consider sports to be uninteresting, not vital to life. They read books and actually do things like going on hikes and being active instead of just passively sitting in front of the tube watching high paid athletes do stuff.

I respect those friends. But I have other friends who really follow sports, be it baseball, football or, the eventual topic of this column, hockey. I’m not football, especially college football or any college sport. I view that past time, college sports, as a massive fraud on the American psyche as a way for Nike to push the swoosh in front of more eyes and for colleges and universities and the gambling industry to rake in millions while paying the coaches insane salaries while paying faculty members who do things like study advanced molecular structures far less per year. So something is wrong. It’s no one’s fault. It’s “the system”.

Nevertheless I put economics aside and like professional sports for the love of sport. I prefer baseball since the game has no clock. But hockey is the most exciting to watch. If you take your eyes off the action for a few seconds you are going to miss something. The players are the best skaters in the world while also being endurance atheletes and phycially strong sons of bitches.

This year, the Los Angeles Kings are the Stanley Cup Champions. It is supposed to be a fun hockey season.

So this morning I wake up to read today’s Los Angeles Times article that the NHL is cancelling the first two weeks of the scheduled season. Note the term “NHL” in that title. Who is that anyway? And how can they cancel our hockey season? The reason is simple, it is not our hockey season. They own it. They are the owners. The people who make the most millions due to what they own and not what they do. The people doing the work, i.e., the hockey players and the ticket sellers and the janitors, they are what create the hockey season. The owners are smart people, they solve complicated problems such as how to put together teams and organize and promote the season. Sure, they do some work. But that is not what makes them become absurdly wealthy men (and in the Canadian culture of hockey it’s even more men than in other sectors of society that sometimes actually includes women in the power structure — my father was French Canadian so I can bash Canadian maleness if I feel like it and I feel like it right now). No, what makes these sons of bitches too wealthy and what gives them too much power, enough power to cancel our hockey season, or part thereof (they actually cancelled the whole damn thing in 2004-2005) is because the own it, i.e. they can.

It’s not just hockey that is like this. It is everything. Everything.. The way capitalism works.

I heard a funny joke this morning on KPFK I believe. The joke goes like this. Capitalism is a system where some people dominate others. Under socialism, it’s the other way around. The guy saying this joke was a Hungarian who claims to be one of only two Marxists he knows who left Europe after the Soviet breakdown. If anyone is reasding this (a dubious proposition I admit) and happens to know who this guy is, please send me a link so I can refer to him by name. He has an eastern european accent and eastern european humor. Very smart, very funny. I think we’ll be hearing more from him soon.

The Privatization of Education

This morning, Uprising Radio addressed the issue of how education is being privatized and how test scores are being given more importance than education.

The story is heart wrenching, explaining for example how little kids from the ghetto are asked to start taking tests in kindergarten, the kind where you have to mark the right answer with a lead pencil.

The MP3 file of the program contains an interview with Jonathan Kozol, author of “The Shame of the Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America.”.

There is a short final commentary by Glen Ford, “Black Agenda Report on the Privatization of Education” (at the 49 minute 20 second mark of the MP3 audio playback). Glenn Ford provides an alternative point of view to the seemingly generous donation made my Mark Zuckerberg to the Newark New Jersey public school system.

Why does KPFK give air time to Gary Null?

I have tired of turning on KFPK radio (90.7 FM, Los Angeles) at night only to hear the self-aggrandizing voice of Gary Null being emitted into the vacuum of the Los Angeles radio air.

At first one tends to like what Null is saying, since he is critical of the pharmaceutical industry and promotes exercise and a good diet. Those are easy targets. But then, very soon, his rants become intolerable.

Null represents the cult of the individual self-promotion of self. The self-referring radio “star”. I think that Null is a disgrace to the left, rivaled by the 911 falsers. When Null is asked a question he seems to not care about the person who asked it or have any interest in dialog. He goes on and on and on ad nauseum listening to his vitriol that often drifts to topics having nothing to do with the question asked telling people what important unique work he claims to have done. Worse, much of what he says has the feel of a snake oil salesman. (See the references at the end of this post.)

That KPFK puts Null on the air so often is testimony to the fact that the left has as many sheep amongst its ranks as the right. So Null is not going to go away. There are myriad people who want to hear his claims.

All I can do is change the channel.

In the mornings, on KPFK, there is world class reporting and news and commentary from Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez, Sonali Kohatkar, Margaret Prescod, Lila Garrett, and Richard Wolff. But late at night, I turn off KPFK and search, mostly in vane, for good radio. What ever happened to good radio? I end up listening to KFI so that, at least, be entertained by Phil Hendri or George Noori, where lunacy is expected and funny.

This is, of course, just my opinion. But after once again turing on my radio to KPFK last night and hearing Null’s boring voice yet again, I had to vent. And I’m not the only one who has so vented…

Gary Null’s Goons Threaten to Sue Me: My Response

Quackwatch — A Critical Look at Gary Null’s Activities and Credentials

Doug Henwood’s article on Gary Null

Tar Sands Pipeline

Tar sand and oil shale are both boondoggles. Both extract very little usable oil. Both take huge amounts of energy to get to it. And both tar sands and oil shale tear up the landscape and damage the water supply. Most important of all, both tar sands and oil shale offer the bogus hope of avoiding political entanglement with foreign oil.  The elusive pot of black gold at the end of a make believe rainbow.

Michael Moore meets Chomsky

Earlier this week, on Democracy Now, host Amy Goodman reported that Michael Moore met Noam Chomsky for the first time at the 25th Anniversary Benefit for FAIR, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting.

I have a problem with that.

That Moore is meeting Chomsky for the first time is symptamtic of a problem of the US left. It tells us that the prime movers of the left in the United States are not part of an organized movement, not part of a new party, not part of a left that is working to form a movement for change.

Moore has made dramatic, humorous, and effective films critiquing the US capitalist system. Chomsky is one of the best, most scholarly and precise diagnosticians of the contradictions of US and European imperialism over the past century.

Yet, the logic of organization used by these powerful voices is weak, even non-existant. Along with others, such as Ariana Huffington, who named a newspaper site after herself that recently was valued at over $300 million, Greg Palast, who sells his books laden with brilliant acerbic investigative journalism, Tavis Smiley and Cornel West whose new alliance tells it like it is, and many others, the American Left is a balkanized sea of individuals and activists. The people who should be the leaders or working with the leaders of an organized left are, instead, each preaching from their own pulpits, earning a living, sometimes a lucrative one, yet not working in any unified way to form a movement.

Is it unrealistic to expect these pundits and analysts to somehow self-organize and be part of forming a movement? Perhaps. But, at least, they could each be pointing out that, effectively, we have no organized left in the United States. As de facto leaders, to whom audiences and fans flock, these speakers could do more than appear on CNN (in the case of Ariana) or go on yet another book tour at Universities or be heard on Pacific Radio preaching to the already-convinced. They could put each other into their address books and get together with other political organizers, including Latino and Black organizers, and could be part of an organized movement.

The Arab Awakening has shown that, initially, a spontaneous leaderless (or so it may seem) movement for change can indeed self-organize. That is a wonderful new phenomenon aided by modern communication tools. Does that apply to the US? In fact, will a leaderless movement even work in the Arab world, ultimately? Of course not. A next phase is necessary both in the Arab world and among the US left.

The Arab Arrival Exposes Contradictions of US and Europe

The US and Europe protect the revolt in Libya but do not protect the revolt in Bahrain as Saudi troops invade.

The US, France, Great Britain, and the UN Security Council vote to enforce a no fly zone and to protect the Libyan people by whatever means are necessary.

What about the Bahrain? President Obama and the UN do not protest the Saudi invasion of Bahrain. So what’s going on here?

The Arab zeitgeist imbued with the ideal of democracy is a leaderless unstoppable force that is willing change in the Middle East. The road to change will be long, not short. It will contradict the forces of capitalism that have kept down the Arab people and caters to the rule of ownership of resources by the few.

The US invaded the Philippines almost 100 years ago and has since supported almost every dictator on the planet who helps protect US resources from Marcos to Suharto to Somoza to the Saudi Kings. As in Guatemala in the 1950s where half of the farm land was owned by Chiquita Banana (then United Fruit Company) and 100,000 Mayans were slaughtered by the US-supported dictatorship. The cases are many. They have nothing to do with the so-called cold war or iron curtain or fight against communism. They have to do with the preservation of power, US power in these cases. Anyway, the old excuses are all gone now. The new excuse is to battle terrorism, but the new Arab movements are neither terrorist nor fundamentalist.

The US and Europe are caught in a contradiction. On the one hand, they say they
support democracy. Yet they support dictators and kings and the plutocracy at home and abroad that consists of a small percentage of the population that owns most of the wealth and has most of the power.

Will that change? A better question is, can that change?

Capitalism does not equal democracy, a lesson the idealists in the Arab world will come to learn after the dust settles.

Still, the ideal of democracy is a good one, in spite of capitalist forces that oppose it. So that movement towards democracy will continue. It is what is happening in the Arab world, helped by the internet and mass communication that dictators can no longer censor.

I cannot agree with Hugo Chavez this time. I don’t believe Gaddafi is a good guy or would honor a cease fire. So another contradiction here is for those on the left in the US who are pacifists. No intervention means de facto support for Gaddafi. That does not make the situation in Libya any less of a mess. It is a mess and no one knows what the outcome will be.

The emerging forces among the rebels in Libya will follow the logic of capital. Power will accrue to those who own and not so much to those who work. Immigrant labor, Tunisian and Egyptian, will continue to be the norm. Will that new arrangement permit Libya to have a democracy? If it permits more democracy than before, it’s a start. It is change that will continue to be rebuffed by autocratic capitalism. But it is change for the better.

What about the United States? Can the left in the US learn from the Arab movement for change?

The movement in Wisconsin was also a spontaneous uprising with no clearly defined leadership. No amount of opinion by Ariana Huffington, who named a newspaper after herself, or speeches by Michael Moore, who has a wonderful Web site, however well intentioned, will provide leadership for the left in the US.

The Arab World will find leaders and a platform and form new parties with the goal of creating socialist democracies where the interests of working people becomes the goal for society. May the US left follow that lead.