December 14, 2012 archive

Dec 14

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Dec 14

Impressions Under Water

Triumph of the Will gave Riefenstahl instant and lasting international fame, as well as infamy. Although she directed only eight films, just two of which received significant coverage outside of Germany, Riefenstahl was widely known all her life. The propaganda value of her films made during the 1930s repels most modern commentators, but many film histories cite the aesthetics as outstanding. The Economist wrote that Triumph of the Will “sealed her reputation as the greatest female filmmaker of the 20th century”.

Zero Dark Thirty: CIA hagiography, pernicious propaganda

Glenn Greenwald, The Guardian

Friday 14 December 2012 10.03 EST

In US political culture, there is no event in the last decade that has inspired as much collective pride and pervasive consensus as the killing of Osama bin Laden.

This event has obtained sacred status in American political lore. Nobody can speak ill of it, or even question it, without immediately prompting an avalanche of anger and resentment. The news of his death triggered an outburst of patriotic street chanting and nationalistic glee that continued unabated two years later into the Democratic National Convention. As Wired’s Pentagon reporter Spencer Ackerman put it in his defense of the film, the killing of bin Laden makes him (and most others) “very, very proud to be American.” Very, very proud.



The fact that nice liberals who already opposed torture (like Spencer Ackerman) felt squeamish and uncomfortable watching the torture scenes is irrelevant. That does not negate this point at all. People who support torture don’t support it because they don’t realize it’s brutal. They know it’s brutal – that’s precisely why they think it works – and they believe it’s justifiable because of its brutality: because it is helpful in extracting important information, catching terrorists, and keeping them safe. This film repeatedly reinforces that belief by depicting torture exactly as its supporters like to see it: as an ugly though necessary tactic used by brave and patriotic CIA agents in stopping hateful, violent terrorists.



(T)he idea that Zero Dark Thirty should be regarded purely as an apolitical “work of art” and not be held accountable for its political implications is, in my view, pretentious, pseudo-intellectual, and ultimately amoral claptrap. That’s true for several reasons.

First, this excuse completely contradicts what the filmmakers themselves say about what they are doing. Bigelow has been praising herself for the “journalistic” approach she has taken to depicting these events. The film’s first screen assures viewers that it is all “based on first hand accounts of actual events”. You can’t claim you’re doing journalism and then scream “art” to justify radical inaccuracies. Serwer aptly noted the manipulative shell-game driving this: “If you’re thinking of giving them an award, Zero Dark Thirty is ‘history’; if you’re a journalist asking a question about a factual error in the film, it’s just a movie.”

Second, the very idea that this is some sort of apolitical work of art is ludicrous. The film is about the two most politicized events of the last decade: the 9/11 attack (which it starts with) and the killing of bin Laden (which it ends with). George Bush got re-elected running on the former, while Obama just got re-elected running on the latter. It was made with the close cooperation of the CIA, Pentagon and White House. Everything about this film – its subject, its claims, its mode of production, its implications – are political to its core. It does not have an apolitical bone in its body. Demanding that political considerations be excluded from how this film is judged is nonsensical; it’s a political film from start to finish.

Third, to demand that this movie be treated as “art” is to expand that term beyond any real recognition. This film is Hollywood shlock. The brave crusaders slay the Evil Villains, and everyone cheers.

While parts of the film are technically well-executed, it features almost every cliche of Hollywood action/military films. The characters are one-dimensional cartoons: the heroine is a much less interesting and less complex knock-off of Homeland’s Carrie: a CIA agent who sacrifices her personal life, disregards bureaucratic and social niceties, her careerist interests, and even her own physical well-being, in monomaniacal pursuit of The Big Terrorist.

Worst of all, it does not challenge, subvert, or even unsettle a single nationalistic orthodoxy. It grapples with no big questions, takes no risks in the political values it promotes, and is even too fearful of letting upsetting views be heard, let alone validated (such as the grievances of Terrorists that lead them to engage in violence, or the equivalence between their methods and “ours”).

There’s nothing courageous, or impressive, about any of this.

Do the defenders of this film believe Riefenstahl has also gotten a bad rap on the ground that she was making art, and political objections (ie, her films glorified Nazism) thus have no place in discussions of her films? I’ve actually always been ambivalent about that debate because, unlike Zero Dark Thirty, Riefenstahl’s films only depicted real events and did not rely on fabrications.



Do defenders of Zero Dark Thirty view Riefenstahl critics as overly ideological heathens who demand that art adhere to their ideology? If the KKK next year produces a superbly executed film devoted to touting the virtues of white supremacy, would it be wrong to object if it wins the Best Picture Oscar on the ground that it promotes repellent ideas?

I have a very hard time seeing liberal defenders of Zero Dark Thirty extending their alleged principles about art to films that, unlike this film, are actually unsettling, provocative and controversial. It’s quite easy to defend this film because it’s ultimately going to be pleasing to the vast majority of US viewers as it bolsters and validates their assumptions. That’s why it seems to me that the love this film is inspiring is inseparable from its political content: it’s precisely because it makes Americans feel so good – about an event that Ackerman says makes him “very, very proud to be American” – that it is so beloved.

Dec 14

If Only Those Kindergartners in Newton Had Guns To Defend Themselves…

Yeah, another shooting.  This one in an elementary school in Newton, MA.  One shooting that struck even closer to home for us was across the country at a shopping Mall in Happy Valley, OR.  Yeah I know they call it Portland but we lived in a trailer court in or near  Happy Valley when we were first married.

It was a happy valley then.  Probably the same number of loons but not so many semi-automatic guns with huge capacity clips.  There was no FoxNews and Rush Limbaugh and…

Oh there were plenty of gun nuts but it just wasn’t the same.

The most dire threat to the kiddies and their progeny comes from those leading us to a hellish future, from the Koch denialists to the Obama temporalists to the sun and wind worshipers.

And I suggest the last is not the least.


Sorry, Terry. I do not find your claims credible.

From a desultory discussion in comments at the end of

http://www.renewableenergyworl…

My comments were just facts, not arguments.

In response to the usual fanciful figuring of an imagined continent-wide smart grid, selective weather data and wildly overbuilt wind farms, I pointed to the words of Rep. Jerry McNerny (D-CA), mathematics Ph.D. and wind energy entrepreneur, supporting baseload renewable energy.

Might as well have written on the wind.

It is akin to the Japanese seriously planning [seriously] an armada of solar satellites beaming energy down to earthlings like Scotty used to beam down the crew of the Enterprise.  Meanwhile, of course, the nukes were about to fall down, go boom.  How would Japanese know of the threats of nuclear energy?

You just can’t talk to crazy people.

Shouldn’t give them semi-automatic rifles with large clips.  Actually the shooter in Happy Valley stole his gun from a neighbor.  Best the neighbor of crazy people not have semi-automatic guns with large clips IMO.

But worst of all, by far the worst of all, is trying to talk to sane, concerned people with a closed mind.

“Bad” Bob is a contributor to Huffington Post where he misleads other innocents in the wind and solar cult.

Best,  Terry

Dec 14

Cartnoon

Originally posted September 19, 2011.

Get Rich Quick Porky

Dec 14

On This Day In History December 14

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

December 14 is the 348th day of the year (349th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 17 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1995, the Dayton Agreement is signed in Paris.

The General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina, also known as the Dayton Agreement, Dayton Accords, Paris Protocol or Dayton-Paris Agreement, is the peace agreement reached at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio in November 1995, and formally signed in Paris on December 14, 1995. These accords put an end to the three and a half year long war in Bosnia, one of the armed conflicts in the former Socialist Federative Republic of Yugoslavia. Some articles erroneously refer to the agreement as the Treaty of Dayton.

Background

Though the basic concepts of the Dayton Agreement began to appear in international talks since 1992, the negotiations were initiated following the unsuccessful previous peace efforts and arrangements, the August 1995 Croatian military Operation Storm and its aftermath, the government military offensive against the Republika Srpska, in concert with NATO’s Operation Deliberate Force. During September and October 1995, many of the world powers (especially the USA and Russia), gathered in the Contact Group, applied intense pressure to the leaders of the three sides to attend the negotiations in Dayton, Ohio.

The conference took place from November 1 to November 21, 1995. The main participants from the region were Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic (representing the Bosnian Serb interests due to absence of Karadzic), Croatian President Franjo Tudman, and Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic with Bosnian Foreign Minister Muhamed Sacirbey.

The peace conference was led by U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher, and negotiator Richard Holbrooke with two Co-Chairmen in the form of EU Special Representative Carl Bildt and the First Deputy Foreign Minister of Russia Igor Ivanov. A key participant in the US delegation was General Wesley Clark (later to become NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) in 1997). The UK military representative was Col Arundell David Leakey (later to become Commander of EUFOR in 2005). The Public International Law & Policy Group (PILPG) served as legal counsel to the Bosnian Government delegation during the negotiations.

The secure site was chosen in a bid to curb the participants’ ability to negotiate in the media rather than at the bargaining table.

After having been initiated in Dayton, Ohio on November 21, 1995 the full and formal agreement was signed in Paris, France, on December 14, 1995 also by French President Jacques Chirac, U.S. President Bill Clinton, UK Prime Minister John Major, German Chancellor Helmut Kohl and Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin.

The present political divisions of Bosnia and Herzegovina and its structure of government were agreed upon as part the constitution that makes up Annex 4 of the General Framework Agreement concluded at Dayton. A key component of this was the delineation of the Inter-Entity Boundary Line, to which many of the tasks listed in the Annexes referred.

The agreement mandated a wide range of international organizations to monitor, oversee, and implement components of the agreement. The NATO-led IFOR (Implementation Force) was responsible for implementing military aspects of the agreement and deployed on the 20th December 1995, taking over the forces of the UNPROFOR.

Ironically, the chief architect of the Dayton Accord, Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, died yesterday, December 13, in Washington, DC. May he rest in peace.

Dec 14

Muse in the Morning

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Muse in the Morning


Holiday Adornment 1

Dec 14

FCC: Merry Christmas, Rupert

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

The Obama administration’s Federal Communications Commission is on the verge of handing media mogul Rupert Murdoch a very nice Christmas present. Murdoch, who already owns Wall Street Journal, the New York Post, Fox News Channel, Fox movie studios, 27 local TV stations and more, now wants to purchase the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune, that are currently owned by the bankrupt Tribune Company, and a controlling stake in the Yes Network. Julius Genachowski, the F.C.C. chairman, is about to ease the rules to let him.

We were down this road before during the Bush administration and it was roundly rejected, not only by the public, but by Congress and the courts:

Genachowski’s proposal is essentially indistinguishable from the failed Bush administration policies that millions rallied against in 2003 and 2007. Ninety-nine percent of the public comments received by the FCC opposed lifting these rules when the Republicans tried to do it.

Genachowski’s proposal is nearly identical to the one the Senate voted to overturn with a bipartisan “resolution of disapproval” back in 2008. Among the senators who co-sponsored that rebuke to runaway media concentration were Joe Biden and Barack Obama.

At the time, Obama blasted the FCC for having “failed to further the goals of diversity in the media and promote localism,” saying the agency was in “no position to justify allowing for increased consolidation.” Nothing has changed — except which party controls the White House.

The federal courts have repeatedly — and as recently as 2011 — struck down these same rules, noting the FCC’s failure to “consider the effect of its rules on minority and female ownership.” The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the FCC to study the impact of any rule changes before changing the rules. The FCC has done nothing of the kind.

Yet, the Obama FCC now wants to hand control of the news in a media outlet to one man.

Bill Moyers addressed this issue with Sen. Bernie Sanders on why big media shouldn’t get bigger.

In 1983, 50 corporations controlled a majority of American media. Now that number is six. And Big Media may get even bigger, thanks to the FCC’s consideration of ending a rule preventing companies from owning a newspaper and radio and TV stations in the same big city. Such a move – which they’ve tried in 2003 and 2007 as well -would give these massive media companies free rein to devour more of the competition, control the public message, and also limit diversity across the media landscape. On this week’s Moyers & Company (check local listings), Senator Bernie Sanders, one of several Senators who have written FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski asking him to suspend the plan, joins Bill to discuss why Big Media is a threat to democracy and what citizens can do to fight back.

Sanders also expresses his dismay that such a move would come from an Obama appointee. “Why the Obama Administration is doing something that the Bush Administration failed to do is beyond my understanding,” Sanders tells Bill. “And we’re gonna do everything we can to prevent it from happening.”

FCC May Give Murdoch a Very Merry Christmas

by Bill Moyers and Michael Winship

Until now, this hasn’t been the best year for media mogul Rupert Murdoch. For one, none of the Republicans who’d been on the payroll of his Fox News Channel – not Newt Gingrich or Rick Santorum or Mike Huckabee or Sarah Palin – became this year’s GOP nominee for president. [..]

But Murdoch’s luck may be changing. Despite Fox News’ moonlighting as the propaganda ministry of the Republican Party, President Obama’s team may be making it possible for Sir Rupert to increase his power, perversely rewarding the man who did his best to make sure Barack Obama didn’t have a second term. The Federal Communications Commission could be preparing him one big Christmas present, the kind of gift that keeps on giving – unless we all get together and do something about it. [..]

In prior years, the FCC has granted waivers to the rules, but this latest move on their part would be more permanent, allowing a monolithic corporation like News Corp or Disney, Comcast, Viacom, CBS or Time Warner – in any of the top twenty markets – to own newspapers, two TV stations, eight radio stations and even the local Internet provider. [..]

Make your voices heard – write or call Genachowski and the other commissioners – you can find their names, e-mail addresses and phone numbers at the website fcc.gov, or on the “Take Action” page at our website, BillMoyers.com. Write your senators and representatives, too, tell them the FCC must delay this decision and give the public a chance to have its opposition known. We’ve done it before.

Just ask the FCC this basic question: What part of “no” don’t you understand?

Dec 14

Health and Fitness News

Welcome to the Health and Fitness News, a weekly diary which is cross-posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette. It is open for discussion about health related issues including diet, exercise, health and health care issues, as well as, tips on what you can do when there is a medical emergency. Also an opportunity to share and exchange your favorite healthy recipes.

Questions are encouraged and I will answer to the best of my ability. If I can’t, I will try to steer you in the right direction. Naturally, I cannot give individual medical advice for personal health issues. I can give you information about medical conditions and the current treatments available.

You can now find past Health and Fitness News diaries here and on the right hand side of the Front Page.

For Holiday Party Fare, Try a Purée

Spinach and Yogurt Dip

Here’s a new concept: view the holiday party season as an opportunity to eat more vegetables and legumes. I spent a week making Mediterranean vegetable and bean purées that we spread on toasted bread and devoured for lunch and dinner every day. [..]

This week the focus is on the savory (in a couple of weeks I’ll bring you some sweeter and crunchier ideas). As always, the cuisines of the Mediterranean offer everything I am looking for – vibrant, nutrient-dense seasonal vegetables and legumes flavored with herbs, spices and aromatics. I transformed some of my favorite vegetable and legume dishes into spreads simply by blending them in a food processor. Serve these on toasted croutons or crackers, or if you need a lower-carb delivery system, spoon or pipe onto squares of red pepper, endive leaves, or cucumber rounds.

~Martha Rose Shulman~

Spinach and Yogurt Dip

With the help of a food processor she transformed one of her favorite Middle Eastern spinach dishes into a spread.

Carrot Purée

This simple recipe can be served on toasted bread, or as a dip with fresh vegetables.

Mediterranean Lentil Purée

The spices of a popular Egyptian lentil salad are delicious in a purée.

Winter Squash and Walnut Spread

The filling from a winter pie offered inspiration for a delicious spread.

Warm Hummus

A lighter, Turkish version of the classic hummus dish.

Dec 14

More Hanukkah Jollity

It sucks to be a member of the 70% majority.

Self loathing.  Did I mention self loathing?

Day 14, the traditional gift is a pad of paper and a pen.

Dec 14

Reasons to Love Costco & Be Wary of Eating Out

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Costco is the largest membership warehouse club chain in the United States and, unlike Walmart, has managed to give its employees a fair living wage and benefits. One other thing they do, they have a level of food safety that exceeds government standards:

Costco’s 250,000-square-foot beef plant in California’s fertile San Joaquin Valley is not your typical meat plant.

It’s relatively new and spotless. There are high-tech, hand-wash sanitation stations scattered throughout the plant connected to counters that allow plant officials to make sure each employee uses them at least four times daily.

It’s relatively new and spotless. There are high-tech, hand-wash sanitation stations scattered throughout the plant connected to counters that allow plant officials to make sure each employee uses them at least four times daily.

The massive meatball cook room is built entirely of stainless steel. Even the loading docks, where trucks deliver raw beef, is sanitized regularly to prevent contamination. [..]

The plant has a decided advantage over Big Beef’s slaughter plants because they don’t kill cattle here, so there are no manure-covered hides or intestines to contaminate raw beef products.

But just the same, Costco’s approach is different.

All meat arriving at the Tracy plant comes with a certificate from the supplier pledging that pre-shipment tests showed no E. coli contamination, something other companies are also doing now. But Costco tests it anyway, and if it tests positive, it’s shipped back to the supplier. Less than one percent is shipped back.

Then the finished products – hot dogs, hamburger patties, ground beef, Polish sausages and meatballs – are tested again before they leave the plant.

In fact, Costco officials boast that, until recently, they did more E. coli testing in the company’s lab than the USDA does nationwide at all other beef plants combined.

Despite all precautions, Costco did get caught up in a recent E. Coli contamination recall that was caused by the dangerous practice of mechanical meat tenderizing:

The process has been around for decades, but while exact figures are difficult to come by, USDA surveys show that more than 90 percent of beef producers are now using it.

Mechanically tenderized meat is increasingly found in grocery stores, and a vast amount is sold to family-style restaurants, hotels and group homes.

Although blading and injecting marinades into meat add value for the beef industry, that also can drive pathogens – including the E. coli O157:H7 that destroyed Lamkin’s colon – deeper into the meat.

If it isn’t cooked sufficiently, people can get sick. Or die.

There have been several USDA recalls of the product since at least 2000, and a Canadian recall in October included mechanically tenderized steaks imported into the United States, but it’s not clear how many people were sickened.

In a 2010 letter to the USDA, the American Meat Institute noted eight recalls between 2000 to 2009 that identified mechanically tenderized and marinaded steaks as the culprit. Those recalls sickened at least 100 people.

But food safety advocates suspect the incidence of illness is much higher.

An estimate by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, an advocacy group, suggests that mechanically tenderized beef could have been the source of as many as 100 outbreaks of E. coli and other illnesses in the United States in recent years. Those cases affected more than 3,100 people who ate contaminated meat at wedding receptions, churches, banquet facilities, restaurants and schools, the center said.

E. coli O157:H7 is a potentially deadly bacterium that can cause bloody diarrhea, dehydration and, in severe cases, kidney failure. The very young, seniors and people with weak immune systems are most at risk. It is impossible to eliminate it from beef cattle, even by using antibiotics, which nay contribute to antibiotic-resistant pathogens in humans, meaning illnesses once treated with a regimen of antibiotics are much harder to control. There are 73,480 reported illnesses linked to E. coli O157:H7 infections each year in the United States, leading to 2,168 hospitalizations and 61 deaths. There may be more.

Mechanically tenderizing beef drives the contamination deeper into the meat, so that even cooking it thoroughly makes it difficult to kill the bacteria. E. Coli can survive in cold spots even when the cut of meat appears to be fully cooked. The McClatchy News article points out a 2011 warning in Journal of Food Protection that “cooking highly contaminated bladed steaks on a gas grill – even at 160 degrees like hamburger – might not kill all E. coli bacteria.”

Tenderizing Meat Hazard

Click on image to enlarge

Costco labels all products that have been bladed and recommends that  “for your safety USDA recommends cooking to a minimum temperature of 160 degrees.” The USDA encourages labeling but does not require it. Perhaps it’s time to protect the consumer from “Big Beef.”

Dec 14

Today on The Stars Hollow Gazette

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

Our regular featured content-

And this featured article-

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Write more and often.  This is an Open Thread.

The Stars Hollow Gazette