Category Archives: Film Review

Semper Fidelis or Das Kapital Uber Alles: From Eisenhower to Trump!

War is a racket. It always has been. It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives. A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small “inside” group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes.

— Smedley Butler, War is a Racket (1935)

I don’t think so. I think that the – the hook for many of our supporters was the idea that this was an unusual messenger for an important environmental message. You know, people who support environmental issues are constantly trying to find a way to preach beyond the choir, to reach beyond their base of people who are already on board, and I think one of the things that’s very appealing about the film, but primarily Jerry as a messenger, is that you don’t expect this message to come from a career military person.

And through Jerry, you’re – we’ve been able to reach this audience of military folks who maybe wouldn’t be attuned to the environmental message about the effects of toxins on health and things like that. So I think there was a real appeal to many of those organizations from that perspective.

— Rachel Libert, co-producer of filmSemper Fi

I’m thinking harder and harder about the Continuing Criminal Enterprise that is the Corporate State. Thinking hard about the buffoonery, really, “regular” citizens, and members of the armed services, taking hook-line-and-sinker the foundational belief that it’s we the people, by the people, for the people, because of the people.

How wrong my old man was, 32 years combined Air Force and Army, believing he was upholding some decency, some safety nets for all, old folks homes, jobs for college grads and those without any training. Turning in his grave, absolutely, if he could now witness the evisceration of our post office, libraries, public schools, health care, roads and infrastructure. He fought for government oversight, EPA, FDA, and the rights of nature over the thuggery of madmen and Mafiosi and financial philanderers. He witnessed the abuse and fraud of the US Military Lobbying Corporate Ripoff complex, up close and personal. When he was in Korea, he had the utmost respect for Koreans, on both sides of the line. When he was in Vietnam, he had the utmost respect for the Vietnamese. He taught me the words of General Smedley Butler when I was 12. Now how fucked up is that, man. Living half a century on that graveyard of lies, propaganda and insufferable patriotism.

Daily, that American exceptionalist clarion call is pummeled and delegitimized by purveyors of Capitalism – rapacious, arbitrary, steeped in usury, couched in profits over all, cemented by the few elites and their soldiers – Little Eichmann’s – to define all human and non-human life as anything for the taking, consequences be damned. It’s a bought and sold and resell system, United States. Many times, it’s a rip-off after rip-off system of penalties and penury.

Think of Capitalism as, in spite of the people, against the people, forever exploiting the masses. Daily, I have seen this played out as a kid living on military bases around the world; or in just one of a hundred examples, as a student at the University of Arizona watching white purveyors of capital squash the sacred mountain, Mount Graham, in the name of telescopes and tens of thousands of profits per hour for anyone wanting to peer through the scopes. Sticking to the Sonora, I saw the developers in Tucson and then in Kino Bay, Guaymas, all there to push ecosystems toward extinction and to hobble the people – of, for, by, because – with centuries of collective debt and decades of individual fines, levies, taxes, penalties, tolls, externalities. This has been a Greek tragedy of monumental proportions, my 61 years of hard living, shaped by Marxist ideology and informed with communitarian reality.

Name a system or an issue, and then I quickly and easily jump to the cause and effect of the problem, and searching for intended and unintended consequences, and then comprehending shifting baselines, and then inevitably, realizing the tragedy of the commons tied to anything enshrined in consumer capitalism, and then, finally, acceding to the full context of how exponential growth and the limits of growth all come pounding like an aneurysm into my brain.

Call it death by a thousand rules, death by a thousand loopholes, death by a thousand fine print clauses, death by a thousand new chemicals polluting land, soil, air, water, flesh. Death by another thousand PT Barnum adages from dozens of financial-extracting arenas — “a sucker is born every minute,” all tributes to this casino-vulture-predatory capitalism which is insanity as we go to war for, because, despite it all.

Teacher-journalist-social worker-activist-unionist: Who the hell said I had any place in this society of “money takes/speaks/controls/shapes all,” or the Holly-dirt celebrity that is Weinstein or Rosanne Barr, the lot of them, and the unending perversion of big business-big media-big energy-big finance-big pharma-big arms manufacturing-big war as the new coded and DNA-embedded value system, the existential crisis (hog) of culture, civil society, the commons, community, and nature?

The men and women I work with now, after a cavalcade of careers under my belt, are wounded soldiers, sometimes wounded warriors, and many times wounded children – both the inner child and the literal children of soldiers. We’ve had one-day-old babies and 83-year-old veterans in this shelter. Every type of service, every type of discharge, every kind of military history. Some were never deployed overseas, some were but in support capacities, and others saw combat.

That is the microcosm of society reflected in this homeless shelter. I’ve written about it here and here and here. The prevailing winds of one or two strikes, then one or two bad debts, then one or two evictions, or one or two convictions, and, one or two co-occurring maladies, or one or two levels of trauma, and you are almost out; and mix that up with failed relationships, and capitalism and militarism, joined at the hip like a six-legged frog, and we have homelessness. Living in garages, in mini-vans, on couches, in tents, on floors, in wooden boxes, in abandoned buildings, in cemeteries, in cars.

For veterans, there is some level of dysfunctional help through the VA, the medical and dental system, the psych wards, and with housing vouchers and some debt relief. Thank a veteran for his or her service to the country, well, that’s a sloppy invocation of superficial respect.

The crumbs of the octopus that is capitalism wedded to war trickle down to some sectors of society – those who were diagnosed before 18 with some developmental-psychological-intellectual disability and veterans who served. I am talking about vets who didn’t go full-bore and retire after 20-plus years. These vets sometimes ended up in for four or five years, some a few months, and as is the case, here, the hierarchy of character and demographics kicks in, as veterans deployed to war and those who were wounded in war get a higher level of “benefits” than, say, someone who was in a few months or a year with no splashy combat rejoinder to his or her record.

We have vets in continuous, long bureaucratic lines working on their service connected disability claims, and, it’s sometimes a huge Sisyphus game of producing medical record after medical record going up against the hydra of the US government, Arms Service Committee pols, and the western medical system that was bound for failure after the striped barber pole days ended. The military does not help, denying injuries on the job, in combat or otherwise.

Tinnitus or loss of hearing, well, that’s usually a given after even a few months of service in the military. Knees, hips, feet, back problems. Anxiety, depression, skin issues. Kidney, teeth, TBI issues. PTSD and MST (military sexual trauma). The list is a ten-volume encyclopedia.

What I’ve found is most guys and gals are not wired for the obscene confusion, machismo and endless stupidity of repetition and humiliation of barking dehumanizing orders and tasks coming out of service to our country – all branches of the military make the Sanford Prison Experiment look like a walk in Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.

A Documentary About Cover-up, Collective Guilt, Toxins in the Water, Death

The precipitating factor behind a review of a 2011 documentary, Semper Fi: Always Faithful, directed and produced by Rachel Libert and Tony Hardmon, is I am working with a former Marine client as his social worker. In a homeless shelter for veterans; that moniker – social worker — is a deep one, a cover-all assignment, with wide ranging responsibilities, some anticipated and others surprisingly serendipitous.

His case, age 63, former Marine, in at age 17 with parents’ permission, is complicated – as if the other cases are not. A lot of these cases involve young men and women, virtually boys and girls, getting out of Dodge. Some with a sense of patriotism, for sure, and a few with aspirations of turning the military into a career. But make no bones about it, these people many times got caught up in the rah-rah patriotism of the day, Apple Pie, Mom, Hot Dogs and Football. Some were in it for the macho badge, and others wanted to learn avionics, electronics, logistics and nursing, etc. Many were discharged because of physical injuries or some sort of mental strain, or many were rifted for the unjust downright downsizing.

I’ll call my man Larry, and he grew up on the Oregon Coast, ending up hitching up with the Marine Corps because he wanted out of bubble of the small town and wanted in with a band of brothers.

Today, he is still tall, but a bit hunched over. His face is frozen in a heavy screen of sadness and fear. Both hands he is attempting to calm, but Parkinsonian tremors have taken over; he can’t hold a tray of food and drink, and he has no signature left. He has bruises on his arms and shines from falling over, tripping. He repeats himself, and knows it, telling me his words are coming out slurred.

He spent two years in prison for what amounts to minor (in my mind) medical fraud with his company. Those two years, he tells me, were nirvana. “The prison guards told me they had never anyone say they were glad to be in prison. I told them this was the calmest and most level I had ever been, or for at least years.”

His life was one of overwork, overreach, clients all over the Pacific Northwest, gambling addiction, big money from his business, lot of toys and big home, and children who ended up spoiled and broken as adults. Larry’s juggling a hoarder wife whose mother is dying, a heroin-addicted daughter with a child, another daughter in an abusive relationship, and countless appointments now to the VA, psychologists, counselors, OT and PT professionals, and support groups.

Today, he is quickly slipping into miasma of Parkinson’s, with all the symptoms and negative cycles of someone with Parkinson’s hitting him daily. He barely got a diagnosis, as early on-set, a few months ago; in fact, he’s been living with the Parkinsonian-triggered suite of maladies for up to 12 years, he tells me. “I remember my clients telling me I was repeating myself. I really think the stupid decision to defraud the state for a few hundred dollars was triggered by Parkinson’s.”

He and I have talked to support groups, looked at the literature around Parkinson’s, watched TED Talk’s focusing on the disease, gone to Michael J. Fox’s web site, and just honed in on what his life will be like in a year, two years, and five.

Right now, his Parkinson’s is one of nine major maladies tied to service connected disabilities the VA is now processing. This ties into the movie – Semper Fi – because my client was stationed at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, as part of the Marine Corps where learning the art of war was also combined with the silent spring of water contamination that eventually resulted in diseases that both affected the veterans but also their families, and civilians who used the water, as well as their offspring.

This is a three decades long exposure, 1957 – 1987, with an estimated 750,000 to 1,000,000 people who may been exposed to the cancer- and neurological disorder-causing chemicals. They consumed and bathed in tap water contaminated with “extremely high concentrations of toxic chemicals.”

The documentary follows three main protagonists fighting for their lives, the legacy of loved ones who were affected, and for the truth.

This is Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, North Carolina, and according to the epidemiologists and scientists from the National Academy of Sciences, it is one of largest water contamination incidents in US history. We learn in the film the main carcinogens the people were exposed to — benzene, vinyl chloride and trichloroethylene (TCE), three known human carcinogens, in addition to perchloroethylene (PCE), a probable carcinogen.

The list of physical damage caused by exposure is long — Birth Defects, Leukemia, Neurological Damage, Bladder Cancer, Liver Damage, Ovarian Cancer, Breast Cancer, Lymphoma, Prostate Cancer, Cervical Cancer, Lung Cancer, Scleroderma, Kidney Damage, Miscarriage, Skin Disorders.

My guy Larry is afraid of watching the documentary, as he is now in a spiraling malaise and deep anxiety tied to the reality of what life with Parkinson’s is, and that maybe many of his life decisions, from infidelity in a marriage to spontaneous behavior like gambling addiction may have stemmed from the stripping of his neurological web by these solvents and fuels that were leaking into the water supply, a contamination known by the United States’ Marines.

Knowledge is power but it can be a leveling power, one that forces people to look at the totality of their lives as may be based on a stack of lies and false ideologies. The movie reveals to the audience that this is one of 130 military sites in the USA with contamination issues. Alas, as I’ve written about before, the US military is the largest polluter in the world, and other militaries have the same standards or lack thereof for storing fuel, solvents, cleaners and other chemicals utilized in the war machine of the West.

Three Lives Following the Chemical Trail, Lies and Deceit

The documentary looks at three lives intensely – a 24-year veteran of the Marines whose 9-year-old daughter Janey died of a rare type of leukemia, a man who was born on the base and raised there and then developed male breast cancer, and a female Marine who served years at the Camp and who throughout the film is going through chemo to fight her rare disease.

We see the gravestones at the military cemetery at Camp Lejeune and remarkable typographic evidence of strange deaths – babies buried after a day living, stillborn babies buried, families with two or three deceased individuals, the offspring of serving Marines buried in plots surrounded by others who prematurely died.

Jerry Ensminger, the former drill sergeant, pushes hard to attempt to understand how the Marines could have lied and covered up the years of contamination. He fights to understand how the chemical producers through their lobbyists could hold sway over the common sense duty of protecting the citizens of the United States who swore an oath to defend the US Constitution. In the end, Jerry Ensminger (Janey’s dad), Michael Partain (male breast cancer survivor), and Danita McCall (former Marine enlisted soldier) make for compelling film making, since the project went on for four years.

Here, Rachel, the co-producer, talks about Danita:

The woman who shook her head is a woman named Danita, who we also followed in the film. When we met Danita, she was actually healthy, but shortly thereafter, she was diagnosed with cancer that honestly had metastasized so much in her body that I don’t think they could even say what the organ of – you know, what organ it started in. And we began to – in addition to following Jerry and Tom and the others, we also followed Danita as she fought to stay alive, as well as fought to get this issue out.

She did not make it in the time that we were making the film. And neither my co-director or I had ever experienced that in a project we’d worked on, and it was really hard. But Danita felt very strongly that her story should be in the film, and she – even though there were times where she was not feeling so great when we were trying to film her, because she had chemo treatment and whatnot, she really rallied through.

The ultimate sacrifice fighting for your life because of chemical-toxin induced cancers are eating at your very soul while also going up against the PR and hellish propaganda systems that define America, define the powerful, the political, the lobbies, the Captains of Industry, in this case, the chemical purveyors who have been given carte blanc the right to kill entire neighborhoods and classes of people and non-people species because Capitalism is predicated on unfettered rights of any snake oil salesman or demon shyster to bilk, bust, and bill for all the disease they perpetrate. Is anyone with a sound mind going to believe that Agent Orange and PCBs were not already deemed harmful to human life before they were even sprayed on the innocents of Vietnam? Does anyone believe the polluted, lead-flecked water of Flint doesn’t kill brain cells? Off-gassing, Volitile Organic Compounds, plastics, solvents, flame retardants, pesticides, fungicides, diesel fumes, nitrous oxide, fluoride, well, the list goes on and on, and those demons will hide, obfuscate, and downright lie to keep the pennies from Capitalism’s Heaven falling into their fat, off-shore, tax-free bank accounts.

Here, Jerry, talking to C-SPAN:

When any family ever have a child, especially a child, that’s diagnosed with a long-term catastrophic illness, without exception — because I’ve talked to so many other families, when Janey was sic– the first thing after you have a chance to sit down after the shock of the diagnosis wears off is that nagging question: Why? Well, I was no exception.
And I looked into her mother’s family history, my family history, no other child had ever been diagnosed with cancer.

We are talking about over one thousand Freedom of Information requests to have Navy, Marines and other government agency files open for public viewing. The concept of we the people, by the people, for the people – public health, safety, welfare – has never really been a reality, but a myth. For filmmaker Rachel Libert, she too has been caught with wide open eyes around how rotten the systems in place are for supposedly cross-checking and protecting people’s lives:

It’s been eye-opening for me. I think the thing that was probably the most eye-opening – I don’t consider myself a naive person, but I – I actually believed that our regulatory agencies were doing their job and protecting us, bottom line, that things that were really, really harmful and known to be carcinogens wouldn’t really be in our environment, in our water and things. And in making this film, I realized that that system is very flawed and that we aren’t as protected, and that was a very difficult thing for me to accept.

I mean, I certainly didn’t go into it thinking, oh, the government’s perfect and there are no problems, but that was a big revelation.

Again, the film is a microcosm of the world I live in, the world I work in, and the world of a Marxist struggling to make sense of the psychology of power and the impact of that power on the common people. Yes, schooling has helped with the American mythology of greatness. Yes, the Madison Avenue shills have aided and abetted the stupidity of a collective. Yes, the genocidal roots of this country’s illegal origin continue to splay the DNA of Americans. Yes, the food is bad, the air contaminated, the medicines polluted and the human spirit malformed in the collective American household. Yes, those in power are perversions, open felons, war mongers and money grubbers.

But, when you see over the course of four years – these main “actors” in the documentary are not paid – the Don Quixotes flailing at windmills, just replace Camp Lejeune with Love Canal or Monfort slaughter house, or fence-line communities around Houston or the flaming waters of the Cuyahoga River. Just spend a few years studying the largest Superfund site, Hanford in southern Washington. Just spend time looking at the research on Glyphosate (Monsanto’s DNA-killing Round-up). Just delve into the research on EMFs and cancers, or cell phones and brain lesions. Again, this so-called exceptionalist country is a purveyor of lies, purveyor of mentally deranged uber patriotism, and without exception, eventually, anyone going up against the system will quickly hold to him or her self the belief we all have been snookered by the Titans of Industry and the Wolves of Wall Street.

Here, the good Marine, 24 years in, Semper Fi, now a farmer in North Carolina, wondering just what he was fighting for:

Well . . . one thing that they’ve done over the years is that they have obfuscated the facts so much, they have told so many half-truths and total lies, they’ve omitted a lot of information to the media, and now if they were to sit down with me face-to-face, I could show them with their own documents and counter what they’ve been saying, and they don’t want to do that.

I mean, I have been very, very cautious throughout this entire fight to speak truth. I’ve told Mike Partain, when he got involved in it, and everybody else that gets involved in this situation, don’t ever speculate. If you’re talking to the media, if you’re talking to Congress, never speculate. If you don’t have a document out of their own files to back up what you’re saying, keep your mouth shut.

And going back to Mike Partain, when Mike got involved in this back in 2007, Tom was starting to fall out of the hike. Tom’s in his 80s. And Mike was a godsend. I mean, Mike has a degree in history. And he has also got investigative skills, because he is an insurance adjuster. He couldn’t – he couldn’t pay to raise his family on high school teacher’s pay, history teacher’s pay, so he went and got a job as an investigator.

Admirable, the story telling and truth Sather qualities in this film, for sure. The audience gets up close and personal with Jerry and Mike and Danita, and the directors let the soldiers tell the story. We get the cold hard stare down of the military brass. Indeed, for the uninitiated this story is compelling.

But also on the outer edges of this piece are the obscenities of blind obedience to command. There are some ugly truths to being a Marine, of following orders, of sadomasochistic drill sergeants, the culture of rape, the outright racism, and all the attendant issues tied to military service.

This is the fiftieth year after the My Lai Massacre in Vietnam. The two or three soldiers who stood down some of the killers and reported the crime were vilified. That bastion of war, Colin Powell, was a junior officer whose job was to hunt down any incriminating evidence against the soldiers who reported the murders. Seymour Hersh won a Pulitzer for his reporting on My Lai. Yet, Colin Powell rose to power, ending up in another war criminal’s administration – Bush Junior. To think of all the illegal wars these soldiers have prepped for and gone to, one wonders if any soldier can believe anything around their sometimes teary-eyed salute the flag patriotism.

The USS Liberty, 51 years ago, and Israel murders 34 sailors, and wounds 171, yet deniability, no repercussions, and here we are, US DoD and US Military are the beckon call of Israel firsters running our government, and the blind allegiance to the apartheid and genocidal state 70 years after forced trail of tears for Palestine, and all those deniers now in positions of Fortune 500 power, and who decide the fate of the plebes, the foot soldiers of industry and military services.

Conversing with my veterans, so many are confused about aliens and Area 54 and reverse engineering from that Roswell kid from space; somehow a Trump is more palatable than an Obama than a Bush. How many times have I been spat upon and cursed when I fought against illegal wars, overt or proxy, in South America, Central America, the Middle East? How many times have I been yelled at for fighting against chemical plants or fighting for clean air, water, soil? How many times have I been called a Pinko Fag for fighting for spotted owls or gray wolves?

As an avowed revolutionary, Marxist, one who has been hobbled by the middling mush that is America, from acidified sea to oil slick sea, I can only say that George Bernard Shaw and Mark Twain, respectively, say it correctly about this thing called “patriotism”:

Patriotism is your conviction that this country is superior to all others because you were born in it.

— George Bernard Shaw

Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it.

— Mark Twain

I’ve got a more horrific story to tell about Larry, my former Marine. Yes, he might get some more service connected disability money coming in for the toxic water exposure he attained in North Carolina while on the Marine Corps base for a few years.

He is now stagnant, fearful of uncontrollable tremors, fearful of not getting words out, fearful of falls, fearful of a life now full of attendants, and as we all are, fearful of ending up destitute (he is in a homeless shelter, readers), and alas, his one asset — his brain — is now fogged and riddled with the bullet holes of anxiety and paranoia.

Yet, his toxic waters story pales in comparison to what happened to him as a 17-year-old at boot camp in Dan Diego. A story so bizarre and troubling, that it’s one the military has dealt with since time immemorial, when the first militaries came about under those pressed into service rules of the rich needing bodies to fight their unholy skirmishes, battles and world wars.

That story and series of human penalties Larry encompasses will come soon, but for now, imagine, a country run by the likes of Obama, Bush, Clinton, Trump, et al. Imagine those swollen jowls and paunchy millionaire politicians. Imagine their lies, their sociopathic inbreeding. Imagine the tortures they foment at night. Imagine these people sending people to war, and imagine the entire lie that is America, the land of the free.

Hell, in my own neck of the woods, Portland, again, we are a third world country when it comes to we, for, by and because the people:

In one of the wealthiest and most powerful countries in the world, the fight for clean water is taxing. From Salem, Oregon to the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota and from Flint, Michigan to the L’eau Est La Vie Camp in Louisiana, Americans are finding their access to clean water threatened.

Emma Fiala

Inside the Irish Prison System

Michael Inside is a new Irish movie which looks at the prison system in Ireland and the people who serve their time in it. The film is about a young man who is sent to prison for the first time after being caught with drugs he had stashed in his grandfather’s house with whom he shares. In prison he is taken under the wing of an older experienced prisoner who helps him to stand up for himself but also ensnares him in a cycle of violence in the prison itself. We see the emotional and psychological growth and strengthening of Michael with these harrowing experiences. The big question of the film is then: will he become like his father, also in jail, or learn from his grandfather’s advice?

The most important aspect of this new Irish film is its cinematic approach to telling the story. Ireland has a long history of theatre and successful drama which spilled over into its film-making too. Irish films in the past have been worthy and wordy with directors more comfortable with theatrical styles than cinematic imagery. It was also difficult to achieve cinematic lift-off with the gravity of so many winners of the Nobel Prize in Literature. Ireland won four times in the 20th century: W. B. Yeats (1923), George Bernard Shaw (1925), Samuel Beckett (1969) and Séamus Heaney (1995), all of whom wrote plays. Not forgetting, of course, Lady Gregory, John Millington Synge, George Moore, Oscar Wilde and Seán O’Casey. The developing language of cinema filtered slowly into Irish film-making either for reasons of fear of audience reaction (more used to theatre) or a lack of an appreciation of the idea that sometimes less is more.

Michael Inside has at times an almost documentary feel to it in the way the prison and the prison officers are portrayed. They come across as empathetic and generally respectful of the prisoners. The director of Michael Inside, Frank Berry, stated the story-line was “researched with former prisoners” and authenticity was desired even to the point of using former prisoners as extras.

The use of the camera has a Tarkovskian feel with long takes, blurring and choreography before the camera. Some scenes like in the grandfather’s house are performed in front of a stationary camera with minimal lighting and wonderful blocking as actors move in and out of shot during the dialogue. Michael’s life outside of prison seems almost as oppressive as inside. Sparse dialogue, sparse rooms and ennui add to this feeling. The tyranny of montage is felt, though, when Michael goes into his cell for the first time and sits down on the bottom bunk. This would have been a perfect moment to let the camera linger and linger to illustrate the timelessness of prison life. Steve McQueen, the British director, does this brilliantly in Hunger (2008) (also a great prison movie) when he has a fixed camera on one end of a long prison corridor pointed at a person washing the floor and stays on him until he finally gets to the other end. A similar very long take is used in the Irish Traveler film, Pavee Lackeen (2005) to illustrate the difficulty of such basic things as making a cup of tea as we see the young girl go outside and walk to a hose behind a metal fence, fill the bucket and walk back to the mobile home. However, in Michael Inside, it cuts all too soon in the prison cell to the next shot.

Cinema fans who liked A Prophet (French: Un prophète), the 2009 French prison drama-crime film directed by Jacques Audiard will also enjoy Michael Inside. Unlike A Prophet, the protagonist of Michael Inside is exposed to alternative paths for his future as a former prisoner who has studied for an MA and is progressing towards a PhD gives the inmates a talk on the importance of education. This is an important moment in the film as it demonstrates one way with which to break the cycle of violence and transgenerational incarceration. Indeed Michael plans to further his education despite the bias against former prisoners.

Michael Inside is a wonderful film about the Irish penal system, the sparseness of some working class lives and the potential for positive change. The irony of this depiction of working class poverty and hopelessness is the fact that the film is conceived, researched, and acted using the imagination, talents and experience of Irish working class people. It points to a new self-awareness and education happening in sections of Irish society that augur well for the future.

Iranian Movie about ISIS in Syria

The “West” is competing against the “East” on the Syrian battle-field, in conflicting news and analysis, and now also in the cultural and film arena. A new full-length action movie, titled Damascus Time, gives an Iranian perspective on the battle against ISIS in Syria.

The movie comes from Iranian screenwriter and film director Ebrahim Hatamikia. Two award winning Iranian actors, Hadi Hejazifar and Babak Hamidian, play father and son pilots trying to rescue civilians besieged and attacked by ISIS forces in eastern Syria. The pilots have come to help the townspeople escape in an aging Ilyushin cargo plane.

Syrian and Iraqi actors play Syrian civilians and ISIS terrorists hell bent on blowing up the plane or using it on a suicide mission against Damascus.

The movie portrays sensational scenes from real ISIS atrocities with a backdrop showing the Syrian desert and famous ruins of Palmyra. The city where civilians are surrounded and besieged is similar to the Syrian city of Deir Ezzor which was in real life surrounded and attacked by ISIS for years. During that time, the townspeople and soldiers depended on air dropped food and ammunition to hold off the attackers, as shown in the movie.

Damascus Time starkly portrays the violence and nihilism of ISIS. The ISIS individuals are shown to have human feelings, but they are wrapped in sectarianism and hate-filled violence.

Life’s complexities are portrayed in the Iranian pilots where the younger pilot has left his pregnant wife to be alongside his father. The mother-in-law of the young pilot bitterly criticizes him for leaving his wife. He says this will be his last trip away.

While the story is fictional, the portrayed setting, human drama and conflict between forces of moderation versus extremism and violence is real. Hundreds of thousands of real Syrians and Iraqis have died due to the creation and promotion of the Frankenstein monster represented by ISIS.

One of the ironies of modern history is that Western politicians criticize Iran for being the “leading state sponsor of terrorism.” In reality Iran has a record opposing sectarianism and extremism. Different faiths are respected within Iran, and Iranian Jews are represented within parliament, in contrast with Israeli propaganda.

In reality, it is the US and UK who have sponsored terrorism for decades. As documented in Devil’s Game: How the US Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam, the US and UK promoted a violent and sectarian wing of the Muslim Brotherhood to undermine the nationalist and socialist policies of Gamal Abdel Nasser in Egypt. Starting in 1979, the US and Saudi Arabia promoted the founders of Al Qaeda to attack the socialist leaning government of Afghanistan.

This policy has continued to the present. In the summer of 2012, the US Defense Intelligence Agency outlined their strategy in a secret document: “THERE IS THE POSSIBILITY OF ESTABLISHING A DECLARED OR UNDECLARED SALAFIST PRINCIPALITY IN EASTERN SYRIA (HASAKA AND DER ZOR).”  The US looked favorably on the creation of the Islamic State: “THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT THE SUPPORTING POWERS TO THE OPPOSITION WANT, IN ORDER TO ISOLATE THE SYRIAN REGIME…”.

The true “state sponsor of terrorism” is not Iran; it is the West and their allies. Thus it is appropriate that the first feature length movie depicting the battle against terrorism and ISIS in Syria comes from Iran.

Iran has come to the assistance of Syria by supplying militias plus technical and military advisers. Hundreds of Iranians have given their lives alongside their Syrian and Iraqi comrades. Damascus Time is not the product of Hollywood fantasy; it’s the product of actual human drama and conflict occurring in the Middle East today.

The Iranian Foreign Minister and head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard were reportedly moved by the movie. Damascus Time is fictional but based on a real conflict with actual blood, atrocities, tragedies and martyrs.

The movie is currently being shown at movie theaters throughout Iran. In recent weeks it was the second highest ranking movie. It should be available for viewing in the West in the near future, unless western sanctions and censorship are extended to culture and film.

Winnie Mandela and Apartheid’s Hidden History

A new documentary on Winne Mandela – called simply Winnie – is fascinating both for what it reveals about the hidden history of South Africa’s transition away from apartheid and for its relevance to other, current struggles. I highly recommend that Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn get his hands on a copy as soon as possible.

As someone who grew up vaguely aware of the apartheid story unfolding nightly on the UK news, I was shocked to see how different those events looked decades later, seen through more critical eyes. The new perspective is long overdue: Winnie Mandela died at the beginning of this month.

For those who bewail the “fake news” of the corporate media as if its mendacity was some kind of recent development, Winnie is a useful corrective, reminding us that the modern media’s primary role has always been to maintain a political, social and economic environment conducive to the accumulation of wealth by the rich and powerful.

Although the film briefly recounts the history of apartheid, its strength lies in its emphasis on Winnie Mandela as the embodiment of the liberation struggle after much of the ANC leadership, including her husband, had been locked away on Robben Island. She became the ANC’s centre of gravity and its spokeswoman, both locally and internationally, the flickering light that the apartheid regime dared not snuff out for fear of provoking a popular uprising. She became “the Mother of the Nation”.

The film’s focus is very much on the transition years, and the Mandelas’ increasingly strained relationship. The documentary leaves little doubt that long years of confinement had left Nelson Mandela a largely broken man. Interviews with apartheid’s security officials show that, sensing this, the South African government began a campaign to reshape Mandela’s worldview and prepare him for a release in which he would be repurposed to serve as the figurehead of a new South Africa. It would look more inclusive but change little in terms of the concentration of wealth and property in white hands. A new black elite based on the ANC leadership would legitimise the continuing economic oppression of the black majority.

Winnie was the fly in the ointment. She had helped to keep the revolutionary spirit of the ANC alive and relevant to South Africa’s disenfranchised black population, and she was not prepared to jettison class politics for a western-friendly identity politics.

From that moment on, the apartheid government was determined to create a personal, as well as ideological, rift between her and Nelson Mandela. They used smears to discredit her with the international community and accentuate divisions within South Africa’s black population. The vilification would reach its peak with efforts to tie her to the murder of a 14-year-old boy, Stompie Moeketsi.

Doubtless, if these events were current, rather than some 30 years old, those doubting the official narrative would be accused of spreading “fake news” and of being “conspiracy theorists”. But apartheid officials are clear in the documentary that they were prepared to go to great lengths to damage Winnie Mandela. In fact, while the official story persists that she ordered one of her bodyguards, Jerry Richardson, to kill Stompie because the boy was a police informer, Richardson later confessed that he killed Stompie after the boy found out that he was the informer.

There are two especially revealing moments in the documentary.

Vic McPherson, head of a smears unit in apartheid South Africa’s security services, admits that, as part of Operation Romulus, he had some 40 journalists working for him spreading disinformation in the South African media. He proudly declares that he could get government smears about Winnie Mandela on to the front page of South African papers as news, which was then relayed to international audiences through repetition by the foreign media.

He was also able to vilify Winnie Mandela with the help of the South African Broadcasting Corporation, which allowed him to make a documentary about her. Even though it was government propaganda made by South Africa’s version of Josef Goebbels, it was shown on 40 US channels and led to the US declaring her an international terrorist.

The other revealing moment is at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Most of us get moist-eyed about the inquiry, but its agenda was again hijacked by apartheid’s leaders as a way to further damage Winnie Mandela and prevent her from being appointed deputy president of the ANC.

In fact, she was the only ANC official brought before the commission. Criminal suspicions about Stompie’s murder were again raised against her as if proven. Desmond Tutu does not emerge from this episode well, using his platform there to publicly demand an apology from her, when there was no more than unreliable hearsay connecting her to the murder.

It is hard not to conclude, after watching this documentary, that Winnie, not Nelson, was the greater hero, the true conscience of the anti-apartheid struggle, and that the apartheid leadership and the western media conspired to ensure she would become little more than a sour footnote in history books about that era.

Nelson Mandela was preferred over Winnie Mandela because his conciliation with – even appeasement of – apartheid’s racists appealed to western consciences more than her demands for a reordering of society and for tangible, not symbolic, justice for the victims of apartheid.

This fight continues in many places beyond South Africa.

The struggles of our time are to reform western societies to stop the pillage of the Earth’s resources, to reverse climate breakdown, and to expose the self-destructive logic of western economies based on the myth of endless growth. Those leading these struggles will face implacable opposition, just as Winnie Mandela did. The vested interests that control our societies are deeply entrenched after more than a century in power. They have the politicians, the media, the courts on their side. And their fight will be as dirty as the one waged by the apartheid regime.

We must develop the critical intelligence to prevent ourselves being manipulated and set one against the other. Otherwise, those who seek to challenge the current order will either be tamed, like Nelson Mandela, or destroyed, like Winnie Mandela.

Remembering Ireland’s Great Famine

Weary men, what reap ye?—Golden corn for the stranger.
What sow ye?— human corpses that wait for the avenger.
Fainting forms, hunger–stricken, what see you in the offing?
Stately ships to bear our food away, amid the stranger’s scoffing.
There’s a proud array of soldiers — what do they round your door?
They guard our masters’ granaries from the thin hands of the poor.
Pale mothers, wherefore weeping— would to God that we were dead;
Our children swoon before us, and we cannot give them bread.”
— “Speranza” (Jane Wilde, mother of Oscar Wilde)

Last Wednesday I attended a preview for a forthcoming Irish film, Black 47 (Director Lance Daly), about the worst year of the catastrophic Irish famine and is set in the west of Ireland in 1847.

The story centers around an Irish soldier, Feeney (James Frecheville), returning from serving the British Army in Afghanistan only to find most of his family have perished in the Famine or An Gorta Mor (the Great Hunger) as it is known in Gaelic.

The English and Irish terms for Ireland’s greatest tragedy are infused with different ideological approaches to the disaster. By emphasising the failure of the potato crop only, the impression is given that there was no food to be had on the island when the opposite was true – there were many other crops which did not fail but were not accessible to the vast majority of the people – hence, the Great Hunger.

Feeney (James Frecheville), Black 47 (Director Lance Daly)

In Black 47, the colonised fight back as Feeney puts the skills he has learned abroad with the British army to effective use in Ireland. He kills or executes the various people involved in the British colonial system he blames for the starvation and death of his family: from the bailiff to the judge to the colonial landlord. Moreover, Feeney goes a step further as he refuses to speak English to those in power before he kills them, reflecting back to them an immediate understanding of the powerlessness of those without the linguistic tools to negotiate compromises (as was seen in the film when a monolingual Irish speaker gets tough justice for ‘refusing’ to speak English in court).

Back in the late 1980s a book entitled ‘The Empire Writes Back: Theory and Practice in Post-Colonial Literatures‘ [1989] showed how the language and literature of the empire, English, was used by colonised peoples in the creation of a radical culture to aid their resistance to the hegemony of imperial power. However, now with many of his family dead, Feeney has ceased to be a Caliban profiting on the language of his masters and becomes a powerfully drawn hero who is uncompromising in his insistence that the Irish language and culture will be a respected equal to the imposed English language and culture of the colonists.

In the film the ruling class and their hierarchy of supporters are flush with food and the army is used to transport harvested crops to the coast and exportation. This fact is displayed symbolically when one of Feeney’s victims is literally ‘drowned’ in food, as he is found head first in a sack of wheat.

The international aspect of the Black 47 narrative hints at the geopolitics of the day with Feeney’s return from Afghanistan and the concurrent mass emigration to the United States from Ireland. Feeney’s indignation at finding out how his masters have treated his own family and compatriots as he risked his life for them abroad is similar to the treatment of the African-American soldiers of the Vietnam war on their return to the United States.

But this is not a black and white, Irish versus the Brits, movie. There is complexity as some of the British show empathy for the desperate Irish and pay the ultimate price or go on the run.

Revenge is a kind of wild justice, which the more a man’s nature runs to, the more ought law to weed it out.

— Francis Bacon

Black 47 is a revenge movie which is cathartic for an audience feeling the utter helplessness of the victims living in a brutal system without real justice, where what should have been their protectors (the law, the state, the army, etc.) became their attackers and betrayed them. In previous food crises, according to Christine Kenealy:

The closure of ports was a traditional, short-term response to food shortages. It had been used to great effect during the subsistence crisis of 1782-4 when, despite the opposition of the grain merchants, ports had been closed and bounties offered to merchants who imported food to the country. During the subsistence crisis of 1799-1800, the government had placed a temporary embargo on the export of potatoes from Ireland. In 1816 and 1821, the British government had organised the shipment of grain into areas in the west of Ireland where there were food shortages. The grain was then sold on at low prices. Similar intervention and market regulation occurred in Britain.

Unfortunately for Ireland, Sir Charles Edward Trevelyan (2 April 1807 – 19 June 1886), a British civil servant and colonial administrator, was put in charge of administering famine relief. Trevelyan was a student of the economist Thomas Malthus and a believer in laissez faire economics and the free hand of the market. Trevelyan described the famine as an “effective mechanism for reducing surplus population” as well as “the judgement of God”.

Famine Memorial in Dublin by artist Rowan Gillespie

With this change in attitude on the part of the British government towards food shortages, the crisis was doomed from the beginning. Kinealy states:

In 1847 alone, the worst year of the Famine, almost 4,000 vessels carried food from Ireland to the major ports of Britain, that is, Bristol, Glasgow, Liverpool and London. Over half of these ships went to Liverpool, the main port both for emigration and for cargo.

Ultimately, one million people starved to death and one million emigrated reducing the population by about 20% – 25%.

Black 47 is an uncompromising film that depicts the harrowing results of a crop failure combined with an ultra exploitative system that knew no moral or legal boundaries. Sure, attempts were made by well-meaning people to alleviate the crisis but the failure of the state to end the crisis on a macro level resulted in an unprecedented disaster for the Irish people. It will go on general release in September.

Further research:

For those interested in finding out more about the Great Hunger, here is a select list of material covering different aspects.

Art
The preview showing of Black 47 was to complement a concurrent exhibtion of art in Dublin Castle showing at the Coach House Gallery until June 30. The exhibition, titled ‘Coming Home: Art and the Great Hunger‘, is an exhibition of the world’s largest collection of Famine-related art.

​Belfast mural

Music:
Sinéad O’Connor – ‘Famine
Damien Dempsey – ‘Colony
Christy Moore – ‘On a Single Day

Books:
The Great Hunger by Cecil Woodham-Smith
The Famine Plot: England’s Role in Ireland’s Greatest Tragedy by Tim Pat Coogan
The Graves are Walking by John Kelly
Atlas of the Great Irish Famine edited by J. Crowley, W. J. Smith and M.Murphy.
(Massive hardback volume covering almost all aspects of the famine throughout Ireland, lavishly illustrated.)

National Famine Commemoration Committee
The National Famine Commemoration Committee was first established in 2008 following a Government decision to commemorate the Great Irish Famine with an annual national famine memorial day.

Film
Ireland 1848 – ‘An experimental documentary of the Great Irish Famine. Shot as a film might have been shot in 1848 fifty years before the cinema was invented.’

The Jury Has Been Out on Vaccines: Harm to the Brain, Immune System, Limbic System, Life

H-o-p-e Spells Help Our People Exist

Fact One: Aluminum is present in U.S. childhood vaccines that prevent hepatitis A, hepatitis B, diphtheria-tetanuspertussis (DTaP, Tdap), Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), human papillomavirus (HPV) and pneumococcus infection

For someone always skeptical of big money-big business tied to anything in the realm of medicine or science in general, I have lifted myself way beyond hope when it comes to any amount of efficacy in medicine or all the other nodes tied to our modern industrial-postindustrial world.

The vaccination debate is a misnomer in itself, since the debate is really an attack on anyone who dares question the science and chemistry and genetic engineering of the vaccine industry, an industry that plows through so many of our rights as citizens, individuals and patients. We have states and school systems ordering people of all ages to submit to the needle.

A new film airing in May, Injecting Aluminum, looks at a specific aspect of the vaccine “debate” through what easily is the one giant Gordian knot metaphor of the entire vaccine injury and death history – the adjuvant aluminum hydroxide developed in the 1920s as the “best” optimizer of the immune response when injecting the disease.

The subtitle of 90-minute film by director Marie-Ange Poyet, How Toxic are Vaccines?, really takes the air out of the sails of the pro-vaccine-and-never-question-the-vaccinologist zealots. In fact, it’s the Gordian knot we can cut away: disentangling an impossible knot but cutting that damned thing, or finding a loophole through creative and robust outside the box thinking:

Turn him to any cause of policy,
The Gordian Knot of it he will unloose,
Familiar as his garter
— Shakespeare, Henry V, Act 1 Scene 1. 45–47

The director says things about the power of film, or the limits of documentaries, that I too voice:

“I don’t think movies can change things,” Marie-Ange Poyet says: “They bring new information, they contribute to change, but they don’t carry themselves the ability to deeply shake the system in which we are.”

She states that if the film can educate the public and rally around the “real drama” of those lives affected by aluminum salts in vaccines, then Marie-Ange would be satisfied.

The commitment of citizens is the only way things will change. I hope this citizen-driven film can be a step in that direction.

Storytelling Straight in the Eye

Viewing the interviews in this documentary for 90 minutes, I came to the realization that the story of the wounded and chronically ill — because of their bodies’ reaction to the aluminum — is the taproot of this film’s blossoming.

We have some heavy players in medicine and some compelling victims of the vaccines, as well as intrepid journalists. More than 16 powerful voices from a myriad of perspectives give shape to the film. And this is a film of a special order – the voices are captured in straightforward narrative style. No asides or typical documentary bells and whistles. No graphics, no tours of the drug manufacturers’ research facilities, no laboratory microscopic images, no up close and personal looks at rehabilitation.

Just interviews are captured, as if this is an inquest on the very substance that is at the center of this disease the French medical and research community discovered in the 1990s – Macrophagic Myofascitis, or MMF. It’s a very simple and to the point look at one element that is toxic to the human body, and an element tied to MS and Alzheimer’s and here now, MMF, which has destroyed young people’s ability to lead regular lives.

Anti-Aluminum isn’t Anti-Vaccine – Precaution Over Profits

Some of the heavy-hitters are MDs like Romain Gherardi and Jerome Authier, professor Christopher Exley, member of the European Parlimante Michele Rivasi, Le Monde journalist Stephane Foucart, and President of E3M (Entraide aux Malades of Myofascite to Macrophages) Didier Lambert.

The NGO E3M and victims of MMF support scientific research to buttress their campaign to have aluminum removed from vaccines. Lambert is currently on disability, which is a state of survival 80 percent of the members of the association E3M share.

He’s outspoken and on a mission of protecting his country and others by advocating taking aluminum out of vaccines, “without calling into question the very principle of vaccination.”

The simple aim is to reverse the felonious push to keep aluminums in vaccines by going back to the gold standard of the Precautionary Principle, a simple oath and operating system science and scientists (and all sectors of civilization) ought to abide by, but to also embrace before any chemical, product, service or process is pushed onto us, the prevailing majority of citizens harmed by this current lack of ethical oversight and concern. Where money and profits and vast accumulation of power rides roughshod over our civilization, there rarely is a deep look at the unintended consequences or negative feedback loops!

It’s easy to undergird the documentary with a proviso tied to the ideas of “first do no harm,” or, “better safe than sorry,” or, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” In the past 100 years, at least, Western Civilization has been moved by demonic ideas of profit tied to these aphorisms: “Nothing ventured, nothing gained” and, “Let the devil take the hindmost.”

Dr. Chris Exley

Some of the film’s “stars” are folk like Dr. Exley, bioinorganic chemistry professor at University of Stirling, who has been for more than three decades researching “how the third most abundant element of the Earth’s crust, aluminum, is non-essential and largely inimical to life.”

Ironically, he investigates the most abundant element on Earth’s crust, silicon, and how it is almost devoid of biological function: “One possible function of silicon is to keep (aluminium) aluminum out of biota.”

Here, the Precautionary Principle with the help of Peter Montague :

The release and use of toxic substances, the exploitation of resources, and physical alterations of the environment have had substantial unintended consequences affecting human health and the environment. Some of these concerns are high rates of learning deficiencies, asthma, cancer, birth defects and species extinctions, along with global climate change, stratospheric ozone depletion and worldwide contamination with toxic substances and nuclear materials.

We believe existing environmental regulations and other decisions, particularly those based on risk assessment, have failed to protect adequately human health and the environment the larger system of which humans are but a part.

We believe there is compelling evidence that damage to humans and the worldwide environment is of such magnitude and seriousness that new principles for conducting human activities are necessary.

While we realize that human activities may involve hazards, people must proceed more carefully than has been the case in recent history. Corporations, government entities, organizations, communities, scientists and other individuals must adopt a precautionary approach to all human endeavors.

Therefore, it is necessary to implement the Precautionary Principle: When an activity raises threats of harm to human health or the environment, precautionary measures should be taken even if some cause and effect relationships are not fully established scientifically. In this context the proponent of an activity, rather than the public, should bear the burden of proof.

The process of applying the Precautionary Principle must be open, informed and democratic and must include potentially affected parties. It must also involve an examination of the full range of alternatives, including no action.

Mountains of Studies Indicting Aluminum Adjuvants

Compelling for me about the film is the detail both the citizens patients of MMF and the established biology, chemistry, immunology, medical experts lay out for the viewer. Exely is both trustworthy and compassionate, quirky and interesting. He is interviewed in his office with towers of research papers and journal articles behind him like many Leaning Towers of Pisa.

His scientific bent is on deep research, unclouded by some profit margin derived by selling the aluminum to labs and the manufacturing facilities and pharmaceuticals making billions on these vaccines.

He cites the common known fact that adjuvants in vaccines do not require clinical approve. The vaccine preparation does go through trials, so when the aluminum is put in vaccine, it’s the vaccine that gets approved, not the aluminum or another adjuvant.

The articulate scientist knows the field of aluminum research. For instance, he states that he can’t say the cause of Alzheimer’s is aluminum, but aluminum does make Alzheimer’s worse, and aluminum does make Alzheimer’s occur at an earlier age. He goes on:

You have this fantasy of, I think it’s the World Health Organization, giving a safe limit for aluminum, and they say, as long as it’s low, one milligram per kilogram body weight per day, you’re safe. I asked them, how do you know that, when I don’t know it? I’ve been working on aluminum for 30 odd years, trying to understand it, you know this. I asked them for the details, how did you work this out, and who did it?

They have people that I call the aluminum ambassadors…Usually, good scientists all around the world, who are paid by the aluminum industry to say that aluminum is not a problem, but these are not individuals who work on aluminum. Most of them have absolutely no background in aluminum whatsoever. They are individuals, who for example, work on Alzheimer’s disease, and then they, whenever someone with the Alzheimer’s society, a major charity, asks for advice, they ask this well-known person in Alzheimer’s disease, what’s the role of aluminum? No, there’s nothing to worry about. They don’t ask me.

“It’s the Calcium Phosphate, Stupid, That’s What We Need!”

Fact Two: A small proportion of vaccinated people present with delayed onset of diffuse myalgia, chronic fatigue and cognitive dysfunction, and exhibit very long-term persistence of aluminum-loaded macrophages at site of previous intra-muscular (I.M.) immunization, forming a granulomatous lesion called Macrophagic Myofasciitis (MMF). Clinical symptoms associated with MMF are paradigmatic of the recently delineated “autoimmune/ inflammatory syndrome induced by adjuvants”. Autoimmune/inflammatory Syndromes Adjuvants (ASIA).

Here we have aluminum hydroxide dating back to 1927. The same compound used in vaccines in 2018. Yet, in 1974, the Insitut Pasteur developed calcium-phosphate adjuvant, and the president of the French vaccination committee admitted that the calcium phosphate adjuvant was no less effective than aluminum salts. That adjuvant could be brought back. It takes a political decision. “Then our vaccines would be safe,” says Didier Lambert.

Aluminum salts are identified as neurotoxic by many health authorities and organizations. Count Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Crown’s, Sarcoidosis, development of allergies, cases of chronic fatigue, multiple sclerosis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, autism and many more as the unintended side effects of aluminum, according to Professor Exley and many more.

The evidence in the documentary mounts minute by minute, and the interviews are clear but not charged with emotions or with a music track overlay.

Professor Jérôme Authier, a neurologist and coordinator of the Centre of Reference for Neuromuscular Diseases at H. Mondor Hospital, states the aluminum stays at the injection site for months, and migrates to the liver, spleen and brain. He sees unique conditions/factors that slow down or speed up the migration:

• The injection site: faster migration if the injection is administrated by subcutaneously rather than intramuscularly
• Genetics: faster migration on some people more than others
• The dose: a moderate dose of aluminum adjuvant forms small aggregates of particle. It migrates in the brain faster than a significant dose which in turn forms larger aggregates, long stored in the periphery.
• It also accumulates in the lymph nodes and spleen, which are organs related to the immune system.
• Patients with Macrophagic Myofasciitis (MMF)suffer from cognitive disorders such as brain dysfunction, associated with persistence extended aluminum in their body at the injection site.

Even the so-called godfather of autoimmunology, Dr. Yehuda Shoenfeld, was brought forth by Poyet to discuss aluminum adjuvant; and he lists MMF as one of the Autoimmune/inflammatory Syndromes Adjuvants, also known as ASIA. Shoenfeld founded the Centre for Autoimmune Diseases in Israel and has written 25 books about autoimmunity.

The Israeli doctor is clear about this injecting aluminum question: How Toxic Are Our Vaccines?

Aluminum is foreign to our body. It is one of strongest adjuvants. It can cause toxicity to the brain, ovaries and the immune system. We should avoid it from our lives.

Dr. Yehuda Shoenfeld

Studying Cause and Effect in Vaccine Use, Ingredients and Frequency Makes Us Smart, Not Antivax

It’s clear that researchers calling into question the prevailing “norm” or the current baseline, aluminum adjuvants, are called charlatans, and the media (paid for in large measure by Big Pharma) go on the attack. But, again, the godfather, Shoenfeld, submits a counter to that propaganda:

I have to say that, for my experience, both in Israel, as well as in Denmark, for instance, one of the countries where we have a large number of subjects who suffer the severe side effect, especially from the HPV. People see these cases in which, immediately after the vaccine, or very close to the vaccine, healthy girls who were apparently athletic, and suddenly, they find themselves wheel chaired or bed ridden.

The issue of primary ovarian failure, which means young women can’t get pregnant, and the reason is that the aluminum destroyed or affected the maturation of the eggs in the ovaries. Shoenfeld:

It [ovarian failure] has been reported in several cases, it’s still under reported, because many of those girls are on contraceptive pills, and therefore, they delay the diagnosis only after they will stop or discontinue to take these contraceptive pills, but it has been shown that if you inject aluminum into mice, you destroy or you affect the maturation of the eggs in the ovaries.

Exley points out that aluminum is a “silent visitor.” We do not get the sudden sickness from aluminum as we do lead, cyanide, or cadmium. It would take a huge amount of single exposure to cause immediate and profound ailments or even death. “Now, there is a proviso for that, an exception, and I believe the exception to that can be vaccination,” he states.

Oh No, Show Me the Money (again?)

The film exposes many aspects of why this 91-year-old aluminum salt is still in use. In addition, we find out why the French government isn’t doing anything to take aluminum out of vaccines. Think Sanofi, L’Oreal, and Nestle. We know the French multinational, Sanofi, is the world’s largest producer of vaccines. Ironically, the majority shareholder in that Titan of Vaccines is L’Oréal, which is the world’s largest cosmetics company. Now, following the tangled web of multinationals, we see that the principal shareholders of the cosmetics company L’Oreal is the Bettencourt family and Nestlé. Moreover, Nestlé is the world’s largest food-industry corporation.

Didier Lambert is blunt about the entanglement and special interests the corporations have, and the power they wield to control regulators and governments:

These three corporations have a special interest in aluminum. Sanofi uses aluminum in vaccines. L’Oréal uses it in cosmetics, and Nestlé, in food packaging, infant formula, etc. Note that the people who oppose the research by Drs. Gherardi and Authier are mainly financed by either Sanofi or the Bettencourt Foundation. Is that a coincidence?

Bunnies and then the Big Guns of Injecting Aluminum

Ironically, two German scientists in 1891 looked at aluminum, seeing how it breaks down and dissolves in food and therefore deemed it toxic. To settle court cases, manufacturers of products aluminum was used in hired scientists on both sides of the argument. In 1908 Theodore Roosevelt appointed a commission to look into the safety of aluminum. The stakes were high, and those researchers incriminating aluminum had little funding, whereas the special interests backing aluminum eventually got the green light from a book two decades later written by a recognized scientist, Ernest Ellsworth Smith, that was biased and in favor of aluminum and omitted findings from other scientists showing aluminum was harmful.

The key study cited as the main reference on how the body absorbs the aluminum adjuvant in a vaccine was done in 1997. It was carried out by an American researcher named Richard Flarend and his co-author Stanley Hem. Their study involved two New Zealand white rabbits being injected with radioactive aluminum hydroxide. We are talking about 28 days of monitoring the elimination rate of radioactive aluminum through urine samples. Their findings? Elimination, 28 days after injection, was 6%. So 94% of the aluminum stayed in the animals’ bodies. Even with this scrawny one study, scientists still claim that it only takes a few weeks to eliminate aluminum injected into humans.

“Aluminum, Vaccines and the Two Rabbits” was the original title of this documentary in France. The director, Marie-Ange, did not go with that moniker:

In a nutshell, aluminum’s pharmacology is founded on a study based on two rabbits only. And their bones have been lost. That study lasted only 28 days. So, all what you hear about aluminum in vaccines is based on that incomplete work. We hear that the illnesses linked to aluminum are not dramatic, and it’s based on this study. It’s unbelievable. Since the vaccine market represents billions of dollars, we can say that the industry makes all this money thanks to these two rabbits. The original title of the film was a funny and dramatic wink to that story.

Those not winking are the big guns of the documentary, Professor Jérôme Authier, a neurologist and coordinator of the Center of Reference of neuromuscular diseases of the Henri Mondor Hospital, and Doctor Romain Gherardi, the Director of the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research. Gherardi has written more than 100 articles in refereed journals including topics tied to the physiopathology and therapeutics of adult neuromuscular diseases, as well as the cellular and molecular mechanisms of postnatal myogenesis and post-lesion regeneration.

Three sources stand out:

(a) “Macrophagic myofasciitis lesions assess long-term persistence of vaccine-derived aluminum hydroxide in muscle” (Brain – 2001) by both Authier and Gherardi.
(b) “Macrophagic myofasciitis: characterization and pathophysiology” (Authier and Gherardi) .
(c) Gherardi recently wrote a book about his experiences with aluminum and vaccines called, Toxic Story – Two or Three Embarrassing Truths about Vaccines and their Adjuvants.

Here is a compelling example of “throwing caution and verified facts to the wind” by Dr. Romain Gherardi:

The guiltiest act is that once it has been pointed out that the aluminum persists for much longer than a month, that it remains in the immune system for many years, no watchdog agency sat up and said, ‘Stop. Back to the laboratory, guys.’ That should have been done in the early 2000s. And it was not. So we’re fifteen years late, in terms of the natural reaction elicited by the normal application of intellectual discipline.

The entire case for aluminum adjuvants being safe is based on a 28-day rabbit study where the animals’ bones were “lost” by researchers. Hmm, bones are one area of the body that stores aluminum. The muscle that was injected was never examined.

This is not science as I have known it starting in 1975 as a marine biology major. We can’t determine whether the injected aluminum stayed at the muscle site. A 28-day study is for bean plant germination in kindergarten, not for vaccines. The aluminum adjuvant stays in the body for years, as the experts interviewed in the film attest. Amazingly, that the entire world of vaccinology takes this two New Zealand rabbit study from 20 years ago as proof of aluminum’s safety? This begs the question why this study has not been done over and over (maybe using some of the pro-aluminum adjuvant hominids as rabbits)?

“Not one of the experts who has studied the material we have compiled on MMF… and I am speaking of experts in their own capacity,” Gherardi states. “I’m not talking about … experts from public agency staff. I really mean independent experts we’ve asked to assess our research and give an opinion. Not one of them is free of strong connections to the vaccine industry. That’s all I can say.”

While the scientists and public policy people make compelling arguments around the toxicity of aluminum and the genetic variations some people possess, disallowing their bodies to “dissolve” mineralized aluminum, it’s also the individuals and married couples in the film that tell a story of life-changing medical issues that have plagued them, causing debilitating chronic pain and illness, necessitating complete life changes.

In the film: Laurent Lehrer and Marie-Christine Lehrer — patient with Macrophagic Myofascitis and wife; Nathalie Etienne and Patrice Nicosia — patient with Macrophagic Myofascitis and her partner; and Didier Lambert — patient with Macrophagic Myofascitis.

Their stories juxtaposed to the science and policy make this film compelling documentary viewing. We learn about all those genetic and cellular variations on a theme, including:

• autophagic xenophagy
• macrophage fusing with an organic killer, lysosome
• lysosome contains highly destructive enzymes and they only operate at acidic pH, so it has an acidic pH and the enzymes kill living organisms like bacteria
• They can also kill proteins or old mitochondria – any cellular waste material, but the pH, or acidity, is capable of corroding or dissolving mineral substances

In simpler terms, though, we know that some children and adults are more predisposed to vaccine injuries and adverse effects; we all are products of our epigenetics, when it comes to cancer, obesity, depression and thousands of other bio-physiological issues.

Again, the words of wisdom from Dr. Gherardi:

We know there are 34 genes which code for this highly complex machinery. So we looked for 109 variants; that is, genetic variations on each of these genes. They are ‘normal.’ That means the mutations do not cause disease in and of themselves. But they do predispose the system to dysfunctions. Of the 109 variants we checked out, we found 7 variants, located on six different genes, which are significantly found more frequently in patients with MMF, as compared to the general public. There are international consensus guidelines indicating normal ranges. It is interesting to note that these genetic mutations are cumulative. That is, our MMF patients present more than one variation. They have three, four, or five, and their effects probably combine. As a result, in a normal situation, when the macrophage just performs standard duties, it works fine.

If the job makes extra demands on the macrophage, most people overcome the difficulty, with a struggle. But a small minority will be totally unable to secrete the enzyme, and the toxin will remain. If 10, 20, or 25 vaccines are administered, regardless of genes, everyone will be overcome by the toxic burden. The cause of the system breakdown will be the toxicity itself.

The researchers and injured patient groups in France, USA and the other 20 countries looking at MMF and the connection to the adjuvant aluminum hydroxide have a universal battle to wage against the industries that make profit off of their mistakes, and who have utilized billions of dollars in marketing, which is another term for “covering up” or “falsifying data” or “burying the maimed or killed” or “denigrating truth-seekers and truth-tellers.”

Why is it that public and civil society proponents and social justice warriors are the ones crushed by the boulder of Sisyphus when it was the king of Corinth who was punished by the gods for “chronic deceitfulness by being compelled to roll an immense boulder up a hill, only to watch it roll back down, repeating this action forever.”

This film explores the truth around that deceit and maleficence and arrogance, and we, the viewer, have to decide who pays the ferryman, who pushes that boulder back up the hill of Capitalism. I sure as hell do not want to be responsible for the deceit and the outright felonies of the harbingers of capitalism at any cost.

We have too many examples in recent history around the failures of US medicine and the chemical and pharmaceutical industries to believe these people with the slick advertising departments and extra sleazy lobbyists and sales people.

• See movie trailer here.

How Brexit Won World War Two

Two British Second World War dramas are among the leading contenders for Academy Awards this year. Dunkirk, about the 1940 evacuation of British troops from France, received eight nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director for Christopher Nolan. The Darkest Hour, showing Winston Churchill becoming Britain’s wartime Prime Minister, has six nominations, including Best Picture and Best Actor for Gary Oldman.

A third British movie about the Second World War, Churchill, released in June, offers a portrait of Winston Churchill’s doubts and disagreements with his officers and allies in the run-up to the 1944 Normandy invasion. Brian Cox was superb in the title role, but 2017 was a tough year to pit the failing, war-worn Churchill against the fresh, inspirational orator who rallied his countrymen against Nazi tyranny.

In his review of The Darkest Hour, Guardian film critic Peter Bradshaw wrote:

Just as Britain negotiates its inglorious retreat from Europe, and our political classes prepare to ratify the chaotic abandonment of a union intended to prevent another war, there seems to be a renewed appetite for movies about 1940…

Bradshaw asked the film’s producers if they recognized the relevance of their cinematic Churchill to current events. They told him they had planned their movie long before the Brexit vote. But the zeitgeist often takes a while to incubate artistic and political phenomena before bearing fruit. An abiding ambivalence, both toward Winston Churchill and membership in the European Union, have long simmered in the British psyche.

The UK officially joined what was then the European Communities (EC) on January 1, 1973. In 1975 the country held its first referendum about whether to leave. Various political parties – Labour, the Referendum Party, UKIP – have flirted with defection from the EU over the decades, without success, until 2016. With Brexit now imminent, the country seems to be suffering a sense of leavers’ remorse. But both of the award-nominated World War Two films offer reassurance that the UK can and will prosper in its new circumstances, on its own.

Churchill has always loomed larger than life for the British, even during his lifetime. A recent poll revealed that a quarter of British voters believe Churchill to be a mythical figure, even as a majority consider Sherlock Holmes historical. Churchill was mythic, as well as a flesh and blood human. He wrote history and enacted it. Both as an author and a public official he was a maker of myth.

Arguably the most eloquent world leader ever, Churchill wrote dozens of inspirational speeches, reams of incisive journalism and epic painstaking multi-volume cultural and military histories. In 1953, during his final term as Prime Minister, Churchill won the Nobel Prize for Literature. His country tended to embrace him in desperate times and turn him out of office when his overheated style exhausted them. At the moment the UK seems to be inviting him back for moral support.

Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk is an apt companion piece to The Darkest Hour, showing the actual blood, sweat, tears and death to which Churchill only alluded. And the chilly waters of the English Channel in which many soldiers drowned. Dunkirk ends by quoting Churchill’s speech to the House of Commons that “We must be very careful not to assign to this deliverance the attributes of a victory. Wars are not won by evacuations.” But the survival of hundreds of thousands of soldiers feels like a victory in both films, a miracle of British resolve, despite the grim sacrifice of the Calais garrison (and four thousand troops) depicted briefly in The Darkest Hour.

As often in his movies (like Memento and Inception), Nolan manipulates our sense of time. Some critics have objected to his non-linear depiction of events in Dunkirk as confusing and unnecessary. But that sense of time as a cubist montage is more emotionally true to the experiences of the troops who live and re-live their near-death experiences, as vivid to them days later as they were in the moment.

The moral center of Nolan’s film is shared between an authority figure, Kenneth Branagh, as the Dunkirk port commander, and an “ordinary” civilian boat captain, Mark Rylance. Better than anyone else, Branagh understands the overwhelming odds against a successful evacuation but perseveres in spite of one heart-breaking disaster after another. Bearing witness is part of his responsibility and he does not shirk. Nor does he succumb, as do others under tension, to the parochial divisions among the troops. He remains behind the British to shepherd the French soldiers to safety too, despite the growing risk.

Rylance is a no-nonsense yachtsman with an idealized British sense of quiet competence and duty. He has already lost one son in the war, but pitches in to do his bit, with his second son, to rescue as many troops as possible. Branagh and Rylance embody British resolve, the stiff upper lip on steroids, getting on with what must be done, even if they must go it alone. In this way Nolan’s film also offers a reassuring view of Brexit, in the mode of Rosie the Riveter: We Can Do It!

Political commentator Andrew Rawnsley thought Darkest Hour’s portrayal of Churchill struck British audiences so strongly because “It is our misfortune to be passing through a period when the worst sort of leader uses passion in the service of malevolence…” and we “pine for politicians who aspire to do more with language than marshal banalities, incite division and rouse nastiness.”

Of course, in Churchill’s much-admired “we shall fight them on the beaches” speech, he ends by saying that even if the worst were to happen, leaving England “subjugated and starving,” that “the New World, with all its power and might” would step forth “to the rescue and the liberation of the old.” But as everyone must realize now, with Trump in the White House, there is little hope of any such deus ex America coming to the rescue of the UK or even itself.

Old Movies and Patriarchy from the Days of HUAC and the Blacklist

Watching old movies is a journey back through time, revisiting the social attitudes of our past.  A lot has changed during the last six or seven decades, much of it for the better. Thank goodness I don’t have to wear a white shirt and necktie just to go downtown nowadays, but back in the 1950s that was the norm, the required male attire. I remember my father somewhat awkwardly putting on his dress-up clothes, struggling with his necktie. Being a former fisherman, Dad was skilled at tying all sorts of complicated knots, but that necktie was one he never quite mastered.

The differences between then and now are many, among the most significant being the gender roles.  Male dominance was the accepted norm; this comes out in most movies of the era, in some more intensely than others.  One that really lays it out thick and heavy is Fritz Lang’s 1952 film Clash by Night, produced nearly two decades before the feminist revolution of the late 1960s.

Clash by Night was filmed on location in Monterey and opens with picturesque shots of the seacoast, the fishing fleet, and Cannery Row, back then the center of a thriving fishing industry. The characters in this movie are fishing folk, the story centering on a love triangle in which Barbara Stanwyck plays a woman having an affair with her husband’s best friend. The lover, played by Robert Ryan, is an angry, cynical fellow, the kind of guy who’d seduce his best friend’s wife. The husband, Paul Douglas, is just the opposite; he’s a trustworthy, amiable guy, good-hearted but rather childlike and simple-minded. Ryan says to Stanwyck, “Your man is the salt of the earth, but he’s not the right seasoning for you.”

While Stanwyck, Douglas and Ryan are an ill-starred threesome who get things wrong, the movie also presents us with a counter-example of a couple who get things right, at least according to the ethos of the time. This couple, played by Marilyn Monroe and Keith Andes, have their conflicts, but they work things out: she accepts him as the boss, the dominant partner. Andes portrays the proper masculine ideal of that era — a guy who knows how to handle his woman and keep her in line.

Andes is Stanwyck’s younger brother; together they own a house, presumably inherited from their parents. He’s a crewman on a fishing vessel — a purse seiner. Douglas is the owner and skipper. We see the two men (Douglas and Andes) on deck, repairing nets, using the traditional wooden net-needles.

Monroe, Andes’ girlfriend, works in one of the sardine canneries along the waterfront.  We first see her and Andes together in a scene where he meets her after work and they stroll down Cannery Row, chatting as they go.  Monroe is telling Andes about a co-worker who showed up that morning with a black eye.  “That fellow she married,” Monroe says, “came down last night. Wanted her to go back upstate and live with him again. So when she wouldn’t, he just beat her up awful.”

“Well, he’s her husband,” Andes says in a matter-of-fact tone.  Here, in four short words, the movie gives us Andes’ philosophy of male entitlement.

A few scenes later they’re at the beach, where Andes playfully puts a towel around Monroe’s neck, as though to strangle her. He’s just kidding, of course, just having fun, his idea of harmless fun.  She seems to be okay with this; he now seems to have her in his grip, and it looks like she’s going to be the underdog in this relationship. (There’s a movie poster using that scene; it’s on the jacket of the DVD and also online.)

Andes strangling Monroe

Weeks and months pass. The couple become engaged, and Monroe proudly shows Stanwyck the ring she has just received from Andes. “We had a fight,” Monroe says, “and were never going to see each other again. At 10 o’clock [he] came to the house and was going to kick the door down. I never thought I’d like a guy who’d push me around.” Stanwyck admires the ring and tells Monroe that she’s made the right decision. “[He] will make you happy. He knows who he is and what he is. Some of us don’t. Always take the man who’ll kick the door down. Advice from Mama.”

Andes can be very sweet, Monroe says, but the movie doesn’t show us much of his sweetness. In scene after scene, he comes across as rigid, righteous, and abusive, a guy who could hardly be a joy to live happily ever after with, though he certainly does possess the manly qualities that were respected and perhaps even idealized in the ’50s. Or at least that’s my impression.  But what did contemporaries say about it? I went to the library.  A lot has been written about both Marilyn Monroe and Director Fritz Lang.  The film Clash by Night is mentioned in quite a few books, articles and reviews, but not much is said about the Monroe/Andes subplot.  What little I could find seemed to express approval of that relationship. A 1969 biographer of Marilyn Monroe described the Keith Andes character as “a stern young man of high ideals.” And in the view of film critic Lotte Eisner, Andes and Monroe “provide a tender comedy.”

Those are fairly old reviews; maybe the film critics, being people of their time, were oblivious to sexism. Attitudes changed radically during the feminist revolution of the 1960s. Nevertheless, Andes’ disposition does seem rather extreme, even by the standards of the early ’50s, when this movie was made, and I must wonder what could’ve motivated Director Fritz Lang to present that character as he did.

There was also Alfred Hayes, who wrote the script. I don’t know what discussions may have gone on between Lang and Hayes, but clearly, both were artists capable of putting negative traits to work in a positive way, bringing characters to life on the screen, and using the story to tell us something about the world we live in.

Relationships, not romance, is the theme of Clash by Night. Patriarchy is the kind of relationship this movie’s about, and it could be seen as intentionally promoting such values. Conversely, the exact opposite interpretation is also possible.  Could it be that Lang and Hayes subtly intended the Monroe/Andes subplot as social criticism? In considering this possibility, let’s remember that filmmakers had only limited freedom in what they could say or show on the screen. The First Amendment did not apply to film making.

Hollywood film studios were then governed by “The Code,” which required that the movie industry be “directly responsible for spiritual or moral progress, for higher types of social life, and for much correct thinking.” The Code’s notion of “correct thinking” included a bizarre list of dos and don’ts which today we can regard as ridiculous or even disgusting: Prohibitions concerning sex went to weird extremes; even married couples had to be shown sleeping separately, in twin beds. References to homosexuality were banned. Traditional religion could not be questioned. The laws of the land, including Jim Crow laws, were beyond censure.

Interracial romance or marriage was also a big no-no. When MGM made Pearl Buck’s novel The Good Earth into a movie, the studio considered Chinese-American actress Anna May Wong for the role of wife and mother. The story was about a marriage between two Asians, so an Asian actress would seem a logical choice; however, the husband’s role was played by a Caucasian actor. Even that, in the eyes of the Code, would’ve constituted an interracial romance, so to avoid such objections, actress Wong was rejected in favor of a Caucasian.

For two decades, from 1934 till 1954, the Code was rigidly enforced by Joseph Breen, a right-wing Christian moralist who inserted himself in the movie-making process at every step along the way, from start to finish. When a studio considered a novel for a movie production, it first had to get Breen’s okay. Then Breen would edit the script, censoring this or that. Finally, he’d screen the finished movie, imposing additional censorship, often butchering films, sometimes even rearranging scenes. (Ever wonder why some of those old movies contain non sequiturs, as if something were missing?) The details of Breen’s interventions were kept secret from the public till 1986 when files of censorship comments on about five thousand movies were finally released.1

Joseph Breen’s primary obsession had to do with suppressing sexual content. He was also a notorious anti-Semite.  “[T]hese damn Jews are a dirty, filthy lot,” he wrote to a colleague in 1932. “To attempt to talk ethical values to them is time worse than wasted.”  On the other hand, he was more tolerant of the Nazis, and during the rise of Hitler, managed to prevent the production of It Can’t Happen Here, The Mad Dog of Europe, and several other anti-Nazi films. A variety of right-wing pressure groups as well as the FBI’s J. Edgar Hoover loved and approved of what Mr. Breen was doing. Despite such blatantly pro-fascist censoring, his tenure in office survived World War II. The end of the war found him still running the show as Hollywood’s censor-in-chief. The Cold War was beginning; that era became the heyday of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), with the jailing of the “Hollywood Ten,” and the blacklisting of actors, screenwriters and directors — a very repressive and scary time, especially for movie people.

HUAC, J. Edgar Hoover and Joseph Breen intended that Hollywood movies should serve as propaganda instruments for their agenda, and it might seem ironic that a society which touted its freedoms and democracy for all the world to see, admire and emulate would allow such totalitarians to tyrannize our film industry.  Actually, that was not an ironic anomaly; a lot more was happening behind the scenes.  There was “Operation Paperclip,” bringing hundreds of ex-Nazi scientists, engineers and intelligence experts to the U.S.  In 1947 the CIA was founded; it overthrew governments in Iran and Guatemala, created Operation Mockingbird to manipulate the media, and even promoted Modern Art.  All that and a whole lot more went on behind the scenes in our democracy, and speaking of democracy, or lack thereof, for black people there was Jim Crow and segregation.  Perhaps more than at any other time in our history, in the late 1940s and early 1950s we were effectively intimidated by our government.  It’s often called “the McCarthy Era,” though as bad as Senator Joe McCarthy was, his role was relatively minor.

And that’s when Clash by Night was made. The movie was based on an play by Clifford Odets, a former Communist. It was adapted for the cinema by screenwriter Alfred Hayes, also a former supporter of the Communist Party  and the poet who wrote the lyrics of “I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night.” Director Fritz Lang was an Austrian whose work had already achieved fame in the German cinema. Though apparently not especially political, Lang detested Hitler and refused to work under Joseph Goebbels. So he came to America, a refugee, where he found himself under the dominion of another Joseph — Joseph Breen, who had to be somehow accommodated.

It would seem that there was not much that Lang and Hayes or anyone else could do about this censorship. Nevertheless, even under that supposedly airtight system, Hollywood filmmakers often found ways to push the envelope and outwit the censors. In the classic noir film Maltese Falcon, Sam Spade (played by Humphrey Bogart) snarls, “Keep that gunsel out of my way!” Mr. Breen apparently assumed “gunsel” meant “gunman” and let it pass. The word is used three times in the script, referring to a young guy who’s the homosexual companion of an older man.

Some movie makers found subtle ways of getting around the censors.  They might make the bad guys sympathetic and lovable while presenting authority figures as distasteful and repulsive and stupid.  Meanwhile, the messages of some movies were quite overt. High Noon is the story of a man (and his wife) who are left to face the bad guys alone; it was written by Carl Foreman as an allegory about members of the Hollywood film community who abandoned their colleagues and failed to stand up to HUAC.  Foreman was summoned by HUAC, even as he was making the movie, and his partner in this production abandoned him.  Several of the actors were also “gray” listed.  Like many blacklisted movie makers, Foreman left the country and moved to England.

Carl Foreman was not the only one to speak out.  Playwright Arthur Miller took up the theme of the Salem Witch trials and wrote The Crucible as an allegory of the HUAC hearings, implying that the honorable congressmen of that committee were a bunch of witch hunters.  Though it wasn’t made into a movie till decades later, it was produced on Broadway in 1953.  The play was popular, but not with HUAC; Miller was blacklisted and denied a passport.

Among my favorite movies of that era is The Underworld Story in which a cynical reporter winds up doing the right things for his own opportunistic reasons, fighting the privileges of corrupt mainstream newspapers.  The movie is a biting exposé of upper-class privilege, racism and the media.  I really wonder how this movie got past Joseph Breen. Well, somehow it did, but HUAC didn’t overlook it.  Director Cy Endfield, actor Howard Da Silva and screenwriter Henry Blankfort, were blacklisted.

While these and some other movie makers inserted subversive messages into their movies, sometimes subtly, occasionally openly, many more went along with the HUAC program, ratted on colleagues, named names of co-workers and friends, and made propaganda movies for the national security state.  So much of Hollywood became part of that huge propaganda machine, along with radio, newspapers and even our schools, extolling the liberties which made this country so unique, constantly telling us how fortunate we were to live in this country we could speak freely without fear of retribution from the authorities.

So, in this situation, what did director Fritz Lang and screenwriter Alfred Hayes do?  I’m suggesting that in creating Clash by Night, they conspired to present a strong social criticism of patriarchy.  And they got away with it.  Of course, it wouldn’t have been wise for them to reveal such a ploy; it could’ve gotten them in serious trouble.  Even as it was, they were both viewed with suspicion by the FBI and HUAC.

Here’s what I think happened: Hayes and Lang knew the tastes of Joseph Breen, that he would find the Monroe/Andes subplot much to his liking, considering it a wonderful example of a relationship that would serve as the proper role model for young people. So what better way to ridicule Breen, that Nazi-loving fascist, than to present his beloved patriarchal values in the form of an abusive relationship? Satire disguised as a morality play.

In scene after scene where Monroe and Andes are together, we see Andes acting out his will to dominate her.  Capping it off towards the end of the movie, there’s a scene which plays like a parody of a HUAC hearing — one of those hearings where many intimidated filmmakers cowered before their inquisitors, trying desperately to present themselves as obedient citizens.

“Listen to me, Blondie!” Andes bursts out.  He rages on, berating her. This is not a gentle, kind and considerate lover asking for a commitment. He’s a patriarchal, authoritarian figure demanding an oath of loyalty. “Now which way is it gonna be?” he barks. Monroe looks at him aghast, then sobbing, throws herself into his arms. We see the expression on her face — sad, terrified, humiliated, perhaps feeling she has no place else to go in a world where every guy who seems worth having buys into those same abusive ideals.

The tragedy in Clash by Night is that we see the Monroe character, a feisty woman who is more than able to defend herself, end up dominated, beaten down, and resigned to her diminished role. It’s an incisive look at a culture where people wind up in dead-end relationships where they’re lonely, unhappy and abused. It’s also an allegory of our society’s mistreatment and subjection of film artists.

I was only nine when this movie was made, and I don’t recall seeing it back then. But I do remember the HUAC hearings, the loyalty oath requirements, and the experience of growing up in an atmosphere where you simply did NOT criticize the government. Fear alone was not what really kept people in line. The victory in World War II, the post-war prosperity, the end of the Great Depression and the automobile, plus the A-bomb, all contributed to an incredible mystique amounting to a moral force that held people in thrall, so much so that the adults around me perceived the powers that be as our benevolent protector, as the ultimate patriarch. People wanted to be in good with them, the way Monroe wanted to be in good with her abusive boyfriend.

  1. For a two hundred-page sampling of Breen’s comments, see The Censorship Papers by Gerald Gardner.

The Tomato Pie Awards: Top Ten Movies of 2017

I once had a girlfriend who thought it was a big waste of time and gas for me and my paisan Sam to drive around Philly eating tomato pies on our way to used record stores where we would waste even more time by buying, selling and trading movies and music. We were only 55 years old at the time. And a vegan Carlino or Corropolese pie has never been a waste of time. But my girlfriend pointed out that everything could be bought online, that things were so advanced that I could watch Lawrence of Arabia on my phone and that there was no need to waste resources by living.

Now I make my home in the capital of time-wasting — Los Angeles. Here, another female friend, Denise the Piece, who plies her trade near the corner of Pico and Robertson, can’t understand why I won’t get Netflix for 10 bucks a month and, instead, pay $12 a pop to go to the real movies. I like the real movies. A mutual female friend of ours also concurs with the Piece about Netflix, saying if I had Netflix and wasn’t wasting so much time in LA traffic I could have more time for other things like exercising and going to the gym. That I could look more like my vegan hero Frank Medrano, instead of my cats, Sabrina and Squirt.

 

As you can see, there is a theme here: one of the great drawbacks of women is their practicality, their crazed immersion in the “real world.”

So if I had more free time I could go to the gym and get in shape… for what? The only thing left, that any of us need to be in training for, is overthrowing capitalism. Does LA Fitness have classes in putting down counter-revolutionary terror? No, inside or outside the gym, we’re on treadmills to nowhere. What are people in gyms doing? They’ll tell you that they’re trying to stay healthy and extend their lives so they can see their children and grandchildren grow up. Really? You want to see your children have lousier lives than you do, to never own a house or have a pension or savings, loaded down with college debt and humiliating jobs in the gig economy, perhaps driven to join the war machine and end up as an amputee or dying alone in the sands of Southwest Asia, or to have the only guarantee of a roof over their heads and three meals a day be a prison sentence, all the while understanding that every bit of this is your fault for not overthrowing capitalism? You want to live long enough to see all of this? Are you a sadist?

But back to the movies…How does Netflix and chill compare to seeing Mansfield 66/67 at the old-style ornate Laemmle Ahrya Fine Arts? (pictured below)

How does Netflix compare to the 35th anniversary screening of My Favorite Year at the Laemmle Royal with director Richard Benjamin (pictured) and stars Lainie Kazan and Joseph Bologna on hand to answer questions and reminisce about Peter O’Toole and the making of the movie?

Richard Benjamin

Some people will say that you can’t compare movies to each other or that it’s hard to choose favorites. I say it’s no different than choosing your favorite roller coaster: if these two movies/coasters were side by and and you could only see/ride one of them, which would you choose — that’s your favorite, that’s the one you think is better.

So here is the first annual Tomato Pie Awards, my top ten movies of the year. They weren’t all actually released in 2017 — I just happened to get around to seeing them in 2017. The directors of the top 5 films should contact Carlino’s for their vegan tomato pies and the directors of films 6-10 should contact Corropolese for theirs.

10) Okja — I was critical of Okja’s nonsensical ending, tokenism and cartoonish characters, but after seeing tedious hype (Moonlight), miscast maladies (Denzel Washington in Roman Israel), boring abominations (Blade Runner 2049), interminable white noise machines (Ex Libris) and the visually stunning but plot bereft (Loving Vincent), I decided that the hyper, good-hearted mishmash of Okja (the “super pig”) wasn’t so bad after all. Director Bong Joon-ho’s slam-bang style and memorable images blew away nearly all of the 60 movies I saw after Okja. Highlights: Okja accidentally destroying expensive shops in an underground shopping mall, Okja in the slaughterhouse killbox and, most moving of all, Okja silently escaping through the stockyards at night while masses of other proletarian pigs are banging the fences to resist the Satanic injustice that meat eaters inflict on them.

9) The Breadwinner — A beautiful animated tale set in 2001 Afghanistan as the Afghan people are about to go from the frying pan of the Taliban into the fire of American bombing. In the middle of the repression and chaos, a young girl cuts her hair and poses as a boy so she can go out and work to support her male-less family, happily experiencing some liberation as a by-product. Suspenseful, beautiful, exciting… and then — halfway through — the boldness, colors and enchantment go parabolic as a mesmerizing quest tale-within-a-tale begins and the film reveals its core message: telling stories is a kind of medicine, as necessary for survival as food and water.

8) I Am Not Your Negro — Director Raoul Peck’s masterful resurrection of an unfinished James Baldwin manuscript telling the history of racism in America through his friendships with Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and Medgar Evers. Through speeches, writings and TV appearances, the always-on-point prophet and poet is just the man to explicate the psychology of the oppressor, the racism of Hollywood and Madison Avenue and how MLK and Malcolm X’s positions grew closer over the years, plus inside stories of Lorraine Hansberry and others. 1960s civil rights protests blend seamlessly into Black Lives Matter. Basically, if the un-woke are only willing to put in 90 minutes to understand 500 years of racism in America, this is the gold standard gift to give them. Memorable lines: “My countrymen were my enemy… This country does not know what to do with its black population… The west has no moral authority… The world is not white. White is a metaphor for power… You don’t need numbers. You need passion.”

7) Kedi — This is the city: Istanbul, Turkey. There are hundreds of thousands of cat stories in this city. And this is the story of seven of them. Kedi is a cat’s eye view of architecturally dazzling Istanbul where for hundreds of years free-roaming cats have shared their lives with humans. The year’s most perfect score by Kira Fontana accompanies soul-stirring commentary from people of all walks of life about what the cats mean to them. In Errol Morris’s 1978 Gates of Heaven pet owners spoke eloquently of their deceased pets — in Kedi’s Istanbul, we walk through the gates and find them alive. It’s all about the healing power of animals, baby. One day we’ll get it that animals are the Gods, not us — and as soon as we start serving them (no pun intended), our own lives will get remarkably better and satisfying.

6) California Typewriter — This was the most perfect movie I saw in 2017, the movie that got the most out of its subject, that told everything you wanted to know and then upped the ante by revealing many things that you had never thought about. From my 9/29/2017 Counterpunch review: “Warm, completely engrossing documentary about the history of the typewriter, some of its very famous fans (Tom Hanks has 250 typewriters) and a little mom and pop typewriter repair business in Berkeley whose owner frequents flea markets to get good deals for restoration and resale — accompanied by an artist acquaintance seeking typewriters to tear apart for sculptures… a perfect meditation on art, creativity, friendship, collectors, collectibles and the struggle to keep great things in a world which has no use for them.”

5) The Florida Project — This Little Rascals-like update for oligarchic 2017 America was the cherry on top of a great year in film for child heroes (Okja, The Breadwinner, Wonderstruck.) The Florida Project was the best critique of American economic decline, a little slice of life in the shit-wave tsunami of the bountiful free market which, strangely, has no jobs, housing, healthcare, livable wages, clean water and air or decent infrastructure. The American project is every bit as dilapidated as the motel managed by Willem Dafoe, a place where adults ground down by capitalism make bad choices and take their children to hell with them while others, like Dafoe, throw finite lifelines while trying not to go under themselves. Sometimes, all the children have is each other.

With its undercurrent of real, potential or imagined menaces, whether gator-infested canals or Disneyland-infested pedophiles, The Florida Project boasts the best, truest and saddest ending of any film I saw this year. For millions of Americans, there are no answers. There is only fantasy and it’s learned at an early age.

I loved the fact that the trailer for The Florida Project gave the impression that Dafoe’s character might “save” the mother and daughter characters of Halley and Moonee, giving no clue to the devastating calamitous ending. As Halley is taken to jail, Moonee breaks free from Child Protective Services workers and escapes to her horrified little friend Jancey. As Moonee’s 6-year-old life is ripped apart and she cries in terror, Jancey doesn’t know how to comfort her so she grabs Moonee’s hand and they run and run and run, ending up hiding in Disney’s Magic Kingdom. Let the good times roll, America.

4) Whose Streets? — This documentary about the 2014 Ferguson, Missouri rebellion, filmed by the resisters themselves, was the most important movie of the year.

So many great moments: Cops boiling over with arrogance and hatred, screaming at people to “Go home!” when they’re standing in their own yards. Unarmed protesters forcing militarized robo-cops to retreat down the street. On the other side of the world, the masters of resilience and resistance — the Palestinians — tweet advice on how to deal with tear gas, hammering home the unity of the struggle against capitalism and its pointy Zionized, “other-ized” white supremacist spear. Then there’s the attempted taming of the rebellion by moving it to the “talking” stage inside an auditorium where establishment black sellouts try to silence the genuine resisters who immediately boo and call bullshit. The film shows mostly young blacks with no material advantages becoming fast-ass learners in strategy, tactics and resistance a la the Paris Communards. And the absolute most key line for the entire working class, said in passing by a young rebel: “We lost all our fear.”

The one thing the film left out was that some of the rebels actually shot back with rifles in the night at the cops and they were never caught. And within a day or two, the state turned down the heat by taking the National Guard off the streets. This was a victory — pay attention to it. At the moment, for all its armed might, the state apparently doesn’t want to replay the 1967 Detroit rebellion. Leftists need to stop saying mindless shit like “violence doesn’t work.” Sure, perhaps violence only doesn’t work, but violence has been part of every successful revolution.

3) The Farthest — Wow, a happy film. The scientists and engineers who worked on the Voyager 1 and 2 space probes become poets as they talk about their work and the cosmos. A delicious stew of uplifting interviews, sounds from outer space, visuals of icy geysers, blasting volcanoes, raging dust storms and the “Golden Records,” the Earth’s greatest hits of photos, languages and music for any aliens who would care to look and listen. The Voyagers, launched in 1977, are now in interstellar space and still sending back info though their cameras stopped working years ago — and all based on the computing power of a present-day hearing aid. A rare look at something good the government achieved, The Farthest shows that rivers of intelligence, goodwill and creativity are always awaiting release from the goddam dam of capitalism.

2) In Search of Fellini — Portrait of an unconventional, some might say dysfunctional, small and loving family as it’s breaking apart. Maria Bello plays a mother dying of cancer who now must push her sheltered 20-year-old daughter Lucy (Ksenia Solo) out into the world. Unaware of her mother’s condition, Lucy decides la dolce vita is best attained by hitting la strada to Italy to meet Federico Fellini, thereby creating a lifetime of amarcords. The tension between her mother’s illness on the home front and Lucy’s enchanted, romantic and sometimes hair-raising escapades, in an Italy both intimate and spectacular, grabs the heart and doesn’t let go. A movie that loves movies, ISOF casts a warm magical spell with myriad allusions to the films of Fellini.

1)The Shape of Water — Like The Breadwinner and In Search of Fellini, I wanted this tour de force from director Guillermo del Toro to go on and on. This interspecies love affair between a mute cleaning woman and a human-like amphibious creature, captured by the US military in the Amazon River, is an extended meditation on the “other.” As bonuses, the working class “help” prevails over the military industrial complex, workers of good will unite no matter what “their” governments are like and vivisectors are portrayed as the torturing villains that they are.

All of the above is packed, wrapped up and delivered with action, humor, chases, violence, ugly demonstrations of bigotry against various “others,” an impeccable score by Alexandre Gesplat, an underwater interspecies pas de deux and a black and white fantasy musical segment for good measure, as if the entire film isn’t one fantastical creation. You’ll be crying in spots, not because of sadness, but because of sheer beauty as del Toro does visually what Van Morrison does aurally, expressing the longing for unity, home or God, whatever you believe them to mean. A masterwork and the fastest two hours you ever sat through.

Honorable Mentions: Wonderstruck, my eleventh favorite movie, skillfully cut back and forth between two stories set 50 years apart about children trying to find where they belong — and taking plenty of risks to get there. The ultimate movie hasn’t been made about Cuba but Jon Alpert’s Cuba and the Cameraman documentary is a welcome part of the picture. Shot over 5 decades of travel to Cuba, Alpert was able to interview Fidel Castro several times and followed a family of farmers who worked the land right into their 80s. I thought Jack Lowden did a great job as the suicidal and painfully shy Morrissey before he was Morrissey in the England is Mine biopic. The film ends with Johnny Marr standing at Morrissey’s front door, answering the question: How Soon is Now?

Somebody who wasn’t a “charming man” was JD Salinger but even the Rebel in the Rye biopic had redeeming value, as hearing this paragraph was always going to be worth the price of the ticket:

Anyway, I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody’s around — nobody big, I mean — except me. And I’m standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff — I mean if they’re running and they don’t look where they’re going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That’s all I’d do all day. I’d just be the catcher in the rye and all. I know it’s crazy, but that’s the only thing I’d really like to be. I know it’s crazy.

Today, more than ever, the working class needs to be guardians and heroes, catchers in the rye and all, and stop the planet from going over the cliff. Do your part to unfuck the world. Go vegan and overthrow capitalism. Time’s a wastin’.

Let it Burn

Let it Fall: L.A. 1982-1992 (2017), a documentary film written and directed by John Ridley and released on Netflix, has participants in the ’92 L.A. riot give a history of police brutality and racist attitudes towards Black people by the South Central store owners and cops, along with recounting events of the riot, and, of course, the police give their version. I found it dubious that the official position of the police blamed the massive destruction, arson, and deaths of 48 people on the decision of the precinct/district lieutenant to retreat in order to save their own lives. Chief Gates was at a Hollywood fundraiser and apparently stayed there after the riots were in full fury. The lieutenant claims Gates should have been there but he could have countered the order to retreat over the telephone. I think the reason Gates didn’t leave the party is because the order was given to let it burn from much higher levels, probably federal. The lieutenant, featured prominently, tries to play his role as outraged fall-guy, blaming Gates. Since when have cops ever been afraid of unarmed citizens?

Cops everywhere are a para-military group that follow the standard chain of command. The decision to stop protecting the property and the innocent victims was made well-knowing there would be widespread fire destruction that would lead to blight and despair for years to come in the Black community. They knew that the businesses would not return and that the buildings would not even be demolished for the most part, leaving a war-like scene for the children and the innocent to grow up and live in. This was a calculated decision, made at the very top levels of government, including, of course, federal (CIA etc.) Someone at the top gave the big OK to let South Central burn to the ground and let them kill as many of each other as possible. This was a racist Nazi-type eugenics-based decision. It was a normal decision in the perverse context of urban police brutality against Black African people in America for over a hundred years, and in the larger context of the direct, constant act of violence that was the American-Anglo Slavery System and its many social repercussions that no laws can completely eradicate. Laws and policies can contain racism but only a personal revelation can change a person’s heart; to stop hating people based on their skin color, religion, gender, homosexuality or ethnicity.

The attempted murder of Rodney King was the provocation by the cops that led to the destruction by fire of South Central L.A. It’s amazing it didn’t happen earlier. It has been proven that the CIA was actively supporting the flow of cocaine there, through Central American racist-fascist paramilitaries, in order to fund the many terrorist wars of atrocity against the poor of that region. The cocaine sales were controlled and managed by police corruption, informer networks, and constant set-ups and betrayals that contributed to making the gang scene one of never-ending, vicious turf wars. Remember that the distribution of the coke, through a very small number of major Black dealers, like Ricky “Freeway” Ross, was being controlled by the CIA and probably the cops, on a need-to-know level. The cops had, of course, a long history of personal corruption and involvement in the drug trade, like they do in cities all over the world.

Drugs were responsible for most of the decline and despair in Black communities nationwide, but at the time, were extremely bad in South Central L.A. and had the added evil of easily available semi-automatic and automatic weapons. You just have to wonder when weapons start flooding the streets along with major quantities of coke. Add the new, smokable crack into the mix and you have an entirely new situation the world had yet to deal with: poor, cracked out, money-crazed teenagers with AK-47’s and automatic shotguns. It served as a sort of model program for the Crack Epidemic that would replicate itself like a cancer throughout the nation in every community and later throughout the world.

Levels of violence and chaos can be controlled by the distribution flow of the drug: cut off certain people and areas and the friction increases. Competition becomes fierce. People become addicts. Some people get rich. Obvious signs of despair and chaos and decrepitude and insanity manifest themselves in the community. Children are victimized. Poverty takes control. All, according to decisions made on very high federal levels – according to plans? And George “The Wimp” Bush had the hypocrisy to say the King beating “sickened” him. He prefers the beatings to go unseen, of course.

A prison culture is established because the criminality is part of the drug deal. The great irony is that only the Black side of the drug game is criminalized. L.A. was allowed to remain a free fire zone for over a decade and the ’92 L.A. riot was a direct result of the racist war on Blacks deceptively called the War on Drugs, that came from the twisted, depraved mind of J.Edgar Hoover and was perpetuated and enhanced by his thousands of wicked acolytes.

The War on Drugs continues. Big strides forward have been made with Cannabis legalization but greater effort must be put into treatment methods for white powder addicts. There must also be controlled legalization of these drugs. Controls would be for purity. Only this will stop the fierce violence that goes with drug distribution.