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Politics and its Discontents: Obama: On Bended Knee To The Saudis

I’ll defer to others much better versed than I am in the vagaries of international politics to offer a more informed analysis, but the recent deference of the U.S. toward Saudi Arabia warrants a closer look. Despite, or perhaps because of, an unfortuna… . . . → Read More: Politics and its Discontents: Obama: On Bended Knee To The Saudis

Bill Longstaff: Hillary Clinton—a very dangerous lady

During the Democratic nomination race for the 2008 U.S. presidential election, my preference was torn between a woman president or a black president. I was leaning toward the woman, Hillary Clinton, when, watching her on a TV interview, she stated that if Iran attacked Israel with nuclear weapons she would “totally obliterate” Iran. I almost . . . → Read More: Bill Longstaff: Hillary Clinton—a very dangerous lady

Bill Longstaff: Americans opt to mind their own business

For the first time since it began measuring the statistic 50 years ago, the Pew Research Centre reports that a majority of Americans believe the U.S. should mind its own business internationally. The primary reason suggested for this new-found humility is “war fatigue.” They would also like more focus on their struggling economy.

This is . . . → Read More: Bill Longstaff: Americans opt to mind their own business

drive-by planet: Democracy Now interview with Noam Chomsky on Syria and related matters: U.S. ‘torturing’ Iran for 60 years

In this talk hosted by Democracy Now, Noam Chomsky raises a number of key points with respect to the U.S. government’s approach to Syria and Iran. He also addresses the self-serving attitude of the U.S. with respect to international law.

The spectacle of Barack Obama, a president known for his predator drone “kill . . . → Read More: drive-by planet: Democracy Now interview with Noam Chomsky on Syria and related matters: U.S. ‘torturing’ Iran for 60 years

drive-by planet: Al Qaeda linked rebels in Syria: Putin accuses Kerry of lying: Syrian rebel atrocities – NYT video footage

Islamist fighters in Syria: Beneath – al-Nusra Front fighters execute Syrian soldiers

Given the military excesses the Assad regime has directed against its own people, genuine representatives of the Syrian people would seem like the force to back in the increasingly vicious civil conflict. But maybe not. A rebel force fighting for a . . . → Read More: drive-by planet: Al Qaeda linked rebels in Syria: Putin accuses Kerry of lying: Syrian rebel atrocities – NYT video footage

drive-by planet: John Kerry’s speech: U.S. hypocrisy in preparing conditions for an illegal attack on Syria

In the course of his speech to prep public opinion for the likely US-NATO attack on Syria, U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, said: “President Obama believes there must be accountability for those who would use the world’s most heinous weapons against the world’s most vulnerable people.”

The killing of civilians in the . . . → Read More: drive-by planet: John Kerry’s speech: U.S. hypocrisy in preparing conditions for an illegal attack on Syria

drive-by planet: U.S. arms for Syrian rebels: inflaming Sunni-Shia sectarianism

The Obama administration’s decision to authorize the arming of the Syrian rebels is opposed by a large majority of Americans. A recent Pew poll indicates that 74 percent of independents, 71 percent of Republicans and 66 percent of Democrats are opposed to the U.S. and its allies sending arms to Syria.

The . . . → Read More: drive-by planet: U.S. arms for Syrian rebels: inflaming Sunni-Shia sectarianism

drive-by planet: Arundhati Roy: Iraq and the ‘psychosis’ of U.S. foreign policy

This month marks the tenth anniversary of the Iraq invasion. The occasion is upon us with barely a whisper from Washington. Hardly surprising… the legacy of the U.S. invasion has been an Iraq in ongoing crisis. The truth of what is really going down doesn’t get anything close to adequate coverage in American mainstream . . . → Read More: drive-by planet: Arundhati Roy: Iraq and the ‘psychosis’ of U.S. foreign policy

Politics and Entertainment: Zero Dark Thirty Leaves Plenty of Space for Viewer’s Moral Judgment

Spoiler alert: The U.S. Navy SEALS murder Osama Bin Laden and several others in his Pakistani compound without mercy and with vengeful malice.
Most of the controversy swirling round the film revolves around whether the filmmaker, Kathryn Bigelow – positioned as auteur by most commentators –  endorses torture or  whether the film’s narrative raises the moral issue of torture for contemplation. There is, in my reading,  no overt moral position offered by the film on torture or even the morality of CIA procedures in general.  Many commentators have unwittingly bemoaned this absence or taken it as a tacit moral endorsement of torture – their right as viewers – but it is is overwhelmingly clear that torture and CIA investigative procedures, as morally problematic as they might be to us as viewers, are judged – are valued – in the film only in terms of their pragmatic effectiveness in what is for both viewers and participants a classic revenge narrative structure. “Do these procedures and practices work to help us catch terrorists, and in particular do they work to help us get Bin Laden so that we will be able to murder him in a bloody act of revenge?”

Representations of torture are recessed in the second half of the film, it should be noted,  not because of a moral awakening  by any given character but only because of a policy decision by a new administration. The Obama TV moment presented in the background in the context of a CIA war or situation room makes this crystal clear. Even Dan’s warning to Maya  – relatively early in the film –  about the possible repercussions of “enhanced” methods of detainee interrogations comes in the form of a political warning about saving her CIA ass, not moral reprehension.

The devastating loss of American lives on 9/11 is the initiating narrative event that rolls out a straightforward revenge structure ending in the murder of Bin Laden and several of his domestic companions.  Before the film proper begins in earnest, however, we are exposed to an introductory screen text informing us that the representations we are about to watch are based on  “firsthand accounts of actual event.” There is an implicit moral distancing in this textual strategy – “I’m just showing you the way it was” – but certainly one of its other effects is to suggest that what we are about to see carries the weight of authenticity and is therefore important if not “real.” The now conventional use of handheld cameras is meant to reinforce this effect with a documentary-like style of shooting. In other words, the “realism” of the film is not an allegiance to “truth” or reality,” whatever those may be since neither is a given, but a filmic effect resulting from a well-established set of film conventions creating an illusion, a fiction, of “what really happened.” It seems appropriate to evaluate the film as such.

The film proper opens with a black screen over which we hear the dying voices of only American victims of the twin towers, a restriction thus positioning us emotionally if not ideologically as American viewers. Immediately after this audio text, we are treated to roughly forty-five minutes of extensive torture sequences, including several instances of the infamous water-boarding technique. Juxtaposing the first visual torture scene of al-Qaeda’s No. 3 leader, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, with the voices of the twin tower Americans who are about to die creates a  structural effect implying a retaliatory cause-effect relationship – “I am torturing you because of 9/11” –  and that effect is sustained throughout the entire 45 minutes of multiple scenes of torture and implied throughout the entire film.

These kind of scenes are gradually recessed as we move in the second half of the film towards interrogations without torture – but nonetheless grounded in bribes or threats – and sequences of CIA group intelligence analysis:  the so-called “hard work” some critics want to see as the reason for discovering Bin Laden.  But the dialogue reveals on several occasions that the analysis – the “hard work” – really results from information received from interrogated detainees, on screen and off, and those detainees, we know, were abused in some form or other if not overtly tortured.  “Does our treatment of detainees work? You bet.”

Inter-cut with these intelligence analysis scenes is a revenge justifying history of  major terrorist attacks against westerners since 9/11, but especially against Americans, each successfully gaining more screen time and thus significance until the final, climactic suicide bombing in Afghanistan of one of Maya’s closest colleagues, Jessica, who has been betrayed  by her al-Qaeda connections. Now it’s “personal” is the implication as we move towards the final bloody revengeful act of murder in Pakistan.

But, in truth there has been little if anything personal in the film – no character development for anyone let alone Maya who has been merely the driving agent of revenge. We know little more about her by the end of the film than we do at the beginning, and the final scene of Maya in a giant U.S. army transport plane alone, isolated, and small is telling in its ambiguity.  “Where do you want to go?” asks a crew member,  his question unanswered. And what do we read on her face?  Relief? Satisfaction? Sadness? An unwinding? Anxiety now that her obsessive-compulsive revenge narrative has come to its end?  Plenty of room for the  the viewer’s meaning.

Following that final character scene is another screen text rounding out the ideological thrust of the film in its acknowledgement of the victims of 9/11 once again and all those who serve the American exceptionalist project.  Closure is provided by that framing text confirming the essence of the film as an apologia of sorts, a justification of policy, of strategy: “Revenge and all that that entails, including torture, are okay because they drove us to get Bin Laden, and we did that for you.”  Whether this is a impaired moral justification is the viewer’s decision.

In the end, it matters little what the filmmaker or commentators say about Zero Dark Thirty.  You are the site of meaning: it’s your reading of the film conditioned though it may be by your cultural, moral, and social inscription that matters. Like any text, film texts are unstable, dynamic, their meaning put in motion by your engagement with them. In a sense there is no film without you.Zero Dark Thirty is provocatively open enough – disturbing in so many ways – to allow for a variety of ways to read it, and that makes it a challenging, ideologically complex film well worth viewing – far more exciting than some of its straightforward conventional Oscar challengers.

. . . → Read More: Politics and Entertainment: Zero Dark Thirty Leaves Plenty of Space for Viewer’s Moral Judgment

Politics and Entertainment: Zero Dark Thirty Leaves Plenty of Space for Viewer’s Moral Judgment

Spoiler alert: The U.S. Navy SEALS murder Osama Bin Laden and several others in his Pakistani compound without mercy and with vengeful malice. Most of the controversy swirling round the film revolves around whether the filmmaker, Kathryn Bigelow – positioned as auteur by most commentators –  endorses torture or  whether the film’s narrative raises the moral issue . . . → Read More: Politics and Entertainment: Zero Dark Thirty Leaves Plenty of Space for Viewer’s Moral Judgment

LeDaro: Young Woman Shot by Taliban Recovering

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She is very brave, great to hear that Malala is recovering. It is appalling that she – a young teenage girl – was shot by the Taliban for promoting something that is a basic human right, education for girls. Very intelligent, she . . . → Read More: LeDaro: Young Woman Shot by Taliban Recovering

Politics and Entertainment: A short quiz on the US, Israel, and ‘rogue nation’ status | Glenn Greenwald | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk

A short quiz on the US, Israel, and ‘rogue nation’ status | Glenn Greenwald | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk

“…So essentially, it’s the entire planet on one side, versus the US, its new right-wing poodle to the north, Israel, and three tiny, bribed islands on the other side. If you’re a member in . . . → Read More: Politics and Entertainment: A short quiz on the US, Israel, and ‘rogue nation’ status | Glenn Greenwald | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk

Politics and Entertainment: #Palestine| #Israel to advance east Jerusalem building plans

 Palestine | Israel to advance east Jerusalem building plans

Why? Because for Israel, suffering from cognitive dissonance, as Shir Hever has said, the rest of the world does not matter.  Because it knows it can pretty well do what it wants with impunity other than the occasional verbal scolding and a few diplomatic recalls. Viewing Israel fundamentally as . . . → Read More: Politics and Entertainment: #Palestine| #Israel to advance east Jerusalem building plans

CANADIAN PROGRESSIVE WORLD: The Young Turks’ Cenk Uygur On Obama’s “Kill List” (VIDEO)

Aly Ssa Canadian Progressive World mentioned.

The Young Turks host Cenk Uygur breaks it down President Obama‘s “Kill List” of terrorists targeted for assassination through drone attacks. Obama approves every name on the Kill List. He reviews the bios and the evidence against them. And then he authorizes “lethal action without hand-wringing.” Without due . . . → Read More: CANADIAN PROGRESSIVE WORLD: The Young Turks’ Cenk Uygur On Obama’s “Kill List” (VIDEO)

punditman: It Ain’t Just Mubarak — 7 of the Worst Dictators the U.S. Is Backing to the Hilt

Peacenik watched the Superbowl and was appalled, amused, and entertained by all the hoopla. Like the U.S. has no problems. All is well with the world. What a celebration. WOW. War criminal George Bush was in the owner’s box, along with a whole bunch of other “celebrities/criminals”. What other country celebrates the worst of their society? (Btw George Bush had to cancel a trip to Switzerland to avoid getting arrested for war crimes.) What other country celebrates the worst of their society? Take a look at the list of dictatorial regimes the U.S. supports below. And every other banana republic you can think of. Better than Roman circuses before the collapse. At least the Packers won.
From Saudi Arabia to Uzbekistan to Chad, the U.S. keeps some very bad autocrats in power.
Let’s take a look at the other dictators from around the planet who are fortunate enough to be on Uncle Sam’s good side.
1. Paul Biya, Cameroon
Biya has ruled Cameroon since winning an “election” in 1983. He was the only candidate, and did pretty well, getting 99 percent of the vote.
According to the country’s Wikipedia entry, “The United States and Cameroon work together in the United Nations and a number of other multilateral organizations. While in the UN Security Council in 2002, Cameroon worked closely with the United States on a number of initiatives. The U.S. government continues to provide substantial funding for international financial institutions, such as the World Bank, IMF, and African Development Bank, that provide financial and other assistance to Cameroon.”
Amnesty International details unlawful executions, journalists being thrown in jail and a host of other nasty business.

. . . → Read More: punditman: It Ain’t Just Mubarak — 7 of the Worst Dictators the U.S. Is Backing to the Hilt

punditman: It Ain’t Just Mubarak — 7 of the Worst Dictators the U.S. Is Backing to the Hilt

Peacenik watched the Superbowl and was appalled, amused, and entertained by all the hoopla. Like the U.S. has no problems. All is well with the world. What a celebration. WOW. War criminal George Bush was in the owner’s box, along with a whole bunch of other “celebrities/criminals”. What other country celebrates the worst of . . . → Read More: punditman: It Ain’t Just Mubarak — 7 of the Worst Dictators the U.S. Is Backing to the Hilt