Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Freedom Riders (USA: Stanley Nelson, 2012: 117 mins)

I was working with this documentary with Peace Studies students last week and I was amazed, inspired and awed at the courage and passion of the students who participated in the Freedom Rides.

To watch it online

Automatic Self Destruct: Arizona Uber Alles

ZZ Top: Tres Hombres

Unwelcome Guests #618 - The Consolidation of Police State USA (The Ongoing American Military Coup)

Episode #618 - The Consolidation of Police State USA (The Ongoing American Military Coup)
Unwelcome Guests

We start the show this week with an interview of two regular contributors to the show, Peter Dale Scott and Peter Phillips, who each highlight different aspects of Police State USA. The interviewer is Gary Null from the Progressive Commentary Hour, who begins with a 20 minute summary of his objections to the present state of the US nation, with an emphasis on the shrinking Civil Rights and the countervailing unaccountable (and increasingly violent) corporate hierarchy. Peter Dale Scott highlights the importance of the Sep 11thactivation of COG in the effective repeal of the Posse Commitatus Act of 1878 and the steady removal of the US Constitution. Projected Censored's Peter Phillips emphasizes the symbiotic relationship between big media and the Military-Industrial-Congressional Complex in keep the typical US citizen spellbound in front of a screen, in unthinking obedience to the same system which is stocking up on ammo and preparing huge detention facilities for imprisoning Americans. Gary Null's angle is continued exasperation at the failure of anyone to challenge the ongoing descent into fascism.

In our second hour, we hear an disturbing interview with Frank Morales on the bigger picture of the ongoing militarization of USA. He begins by describing an essay on "The American Military Coup of 2012", a fictional essay written 20 years ago which describes the coup as "the outgrowth of trends already visible as far back as 1992" such as "the massive diversion of military forces to civilian uses, particularly law enforcement".

As domestic dissent is becoming more widespread, more violence is needed by the US government and its legal maneuvering become ever more ridiculous. Morales talks about the Military-Media complex, since perpetual reinforcement by the media is required to keep people confused, afraid and submissive to the iron fist which is ever more clearly visible below the velvet glove of 'democracy'.

To Listen to the Episode

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Benjamin Ginsberg: The Fall Of The Faculty

The Fall of the Faculty
by Benjamin Ginsberg
Here and Now

College students generally view professors as individuals who exercise a good deal of power. Members of the faculty, after all, direct the lectures, labs, studios and discussions around which academic life is organized. Professors also control the grades and recommendations that help to determine students’ graduate school and career prospects.

Students are often aware, too, that some of their professors are movers and shakers beyond the walls of the campus. Academics are visible in the worlds of science, literature, the arts, finance and, especially, politics where they serve as analysts, commentators, advisors and high-level policy makers.

But, whatever standing they may have in the eyes of undergraduates or even in the corridors of national power, most professors possess surprisingly little influence in their own schools’ decision-making processes. At most, though perhaps not all of America’s thousands of colleges and universities, the faculty has been shunted to the sidelines. Faculty members will learn about major new programs and initiatives from official announcements or from the campus newspaper. Power on campus is wielded mainly by administrators whose names and faces are seldom even recognized by students or recalled by alumni.

At most schools to be sure, faculty members control the content of their own classes and, for the most part, their own research agendas. The faculty, collectively, plays a recognized though not exclusive role in the hiring and promotion of its members. Outside these two areas, though, administrators seldom bother to consult the faculty. And, should faculty members have the temerity to offer unsolicited views, these will be more or less politely ignored. Thus, there are few schools whose faculty members have a voice in business or investment decisions. Hardly any faculties are consulted about the renovation or construction of buildings and other aspects of the school’s physical plant. Virtually everywhere, student issues, including the size of the student body, tuition, financial aid and admissions policies are controlled by administrators. At most schools, fund raising and alumni relations are administrative matters, though faculty members are often asked to entertain alumni gatherings by giving talks and presentations.

Most professors, perhaps, have only a passing interest in the university’s physical plant or its investment strategies. Particularly at research universities many faculty members normally pay little attention to their school’s undergraduate admissions policies. But, professors lack much power even in areas in which they have a strong interest, such as the appointment of senior administrators, the development of new programs and curricula, and the definition of budgetary priorities.

As to appointments, on most campuses, presidential searches are controlled by the trustees or regents, while provosts, deans and other senior administrators are appointed by the president with varying degrees of faculty input. Professors, to be sure, often do serve on administrative or presidential search committees, alongside administrators, students and college staffers. These searches, however, are usually organized and overseen by corporate search firms employed by trustees, in the case of presidential searches, or the school’s administration for other searches. Before the 1960s, such firms were seldom retained by universities. Today, however, as college administrators imitate the practices of their corporate counterparts, search firms are a fixture of academic life. In recent years, two-thirds of the presidential searches conducted by large universities have been directed by professional head hunters.

In consultation with their employers, these firms identify most of the candidates whom the committee will be able to meet and consider. Generally speaking, search firms rule out candidates about whom anything at all negative is said when they investigate candidates’ backgrounds. This practice introduces a marked bias in favor of the most boring and conventional candidates. And, even the constrained choice given the committee is seldom final. Search committees are generally empowered only to recommend two or three candidates for review by the president or trustees who actually make the final decision. Many schools, of course, do not bother with even the pretense of faculty participation in administrative searches. The faculty learns the name of a new president or provost when the trustees issue a press release.

Once appointed, presidents serve at the pleasure of the trustees and can only be removed by them. Other administrators serve at the pleasure of the president. Every school employs a great many administrators whom the faculty regard as foolish or incompetent. But, so long as these individuals retain the support of their administrative superiors, the faculty is usually powerless to remove them. At one school, Pennsylvania’s Albright College, the faculty were dismayed to learn in 1999 that the resume’ of their newly appointed president was filled with fraudulent claims–books never published, positions never held and so on. Yet, while the facts of the matter could not be disputed, most trustees continued to support the president for nearly five years before he finally agreed to step down. Much of the Boston University faculty loathed and feared dictatorial President John Silber during his twenty-five years in office but, given Silber’s solid base of support among powerful members of the board of trustees, faculty opposition came to naught. In a similar vein, the trustees stood by the president of West Virginia University in the face of a faculty no-confidence vote when it was revealed that the university had awarded the daughter of the state’s governor an MBA degree she had not actually earned. Conversely, faculty support will certainly not protect an administrator’s job if she or he runs afoul of the Board. In 2005, for example, Cornell’s Jeffrey Lehman, a president whose work was generally approved by the faculty, was summarily fired by the Board, apparently in the wake of a personnel dispute. The Board neither consulted with nor informed the faculty before determining that Lehman should go.

To Read the Rest of the Excerpt

Human Resources: Social Engineering in the 20th Century (Scott Noble, 2010)

To Watch the Documentary

On the Media: Jose Antonio Vargas - "Illegal" vs. "Undocumented"

"Illegal" vs. "Undocumented"
On the Media

Since writing an article called "My Life as an Undocumented Immigrant" in the New York Times Magazine last year, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas has been trying to foster conversation about immigration issues. In a speech last week at the Online News Association conference, he announced his plan to track and hopefully influence news organizations away from using the term "illegal" to describe immigrants. Bob asks Vargas why he feels this change in nomenclature is important.

To Listen to the Episode

On the Media: Seth Rosenfeld - Subversives: The FBI's War on Student Radicals, and Reagan's Rise to Power

On the Media

In 1981, student journalist Seth Rosenfeld began researching the FBI's misconduct in its investigations of 1960s student protests at UC Berkeley. The project blossomed into a 30-year investigative odyssey, resulting in the release of 300,000 FBI documents, which the government spent over $1 million trying to block. Bob talks to Rosenfeld about some of the stunning revelations from his new book, Subversives: The FBI's War on Student Radicals, and Reagan's Rise to Power.

To Listen to the Episode

On the Media: Kaplan and the Washington Post

Kaplan and the Washington Post
On the Media

Kaplan Higher Education runs for-profit colleges that are under intense scrutiny for misleading students about their future success in order to rake in federal student loans - loans that students often default on. Kaplan Higher Education is also the highly profitable subsidiary of the Washington Post Company which is ever-more reliant on those profits to support its struggling newspaper. Tamar Lewin of the New York Times explains how Kaplan’s business interests are compromising the Post’s journalistic integrity.

To Listen to the Episode

Monday, October 29, 2012

Webster Word-of-the-Day: ad hominem

(via Webster Word-of-the-Day)

ad hominem \ad-HAH-muh-nem\ (adjective)

1 : appealing to feelings or prejudices rather than intellect

2 : marked by or being an attack on an opponent's character rather than by an answer to the contentions made

The governor's only response to the criticism of his new policy was to launch an ad hominem attack against those doing the criticizing.

Sheldon Richman: Why Americans Should Reject Obama-Romney Foreign Policy

Why Americans Should Reject Obama-Romney Foreign Policy
by Sheldon Richman

If we needed evidence of the impoverishment of American politics, the so-called debate between President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney gave us all we could ask for.

We normally expect a debate to highlight some disagreement, but in American politics disagreement is reserved for minor matters. The two parties — actually the two divisions of the uniparty that represents the permanent regime — agree on all fundamentals. If you need proof, observe how the establishment media treated Ron Paul, who challenged the permanent regime’s basic premises on foreign policy, civil liberties, and monetary control. He dug too deep.

It’s been noted, mostly by humorists, that Romney continuously expressed his agreement with Obama across a range of issues: drone warfare, Iran, Afghanistan, even Iraq. He tried to manufacture differences by suggesting that he would have done more sooner. But this all sounded flaccid; Romney seemed desperate to draw some contrast with a foreign policy that he embraces.

What does Romney really believe? Who can say? What we do know is that he’s taking his foreign-policy advice from a team of neoconservatives, formerly of the George W. Bush administration, who helped dig the hole the country is in.

Obama, for his part, defended his record, which someone other than Romney could have torn to shreds. Obama brags about ending the occupation of Iraq, yet he forgets that Bush had already signed an agreement, insisted on by the Iran-friendly Iraqi government, to get out by the end of 2011. What Obama won’t tell you is that he begged Prime Minister Maliki to ask U.S. troops to remain. Thankfully, Maliki said no.

Obama of course also mentioned the killing of Osama bin Laden. Two things about that: First, capture and trial would have been a better example for the world than summary execution by Navy SEALs. Second, the enfeebled bin Laden was a has-been by May 2011, having been kicked upstairs when he started devising impossible “plots.” He was no threat to the American people.

Someone other than Romney might have pointed out that Obama’s policy has helped to spread al-Qaeda’s influence beyond Afghanistan and Iraq. Thanks to the president’s drone warfare — which regularly murders innocents — and other interventions, there are now al-Qaeda affiliates or sympathizers in Libya, Syria, Somalia, Yemen, Mali, and elsewhere.

But Romney can’t point this out, because he approves of Obama’s imperialist policy and drone warfare. He apparently can’t wait until he, like Obama, gets to personally choose targets from a presidential kill list.

And then there’s Iran. At the debate, Romney lauded Obama’s “crippling sanctions” on the Iranian economy. But there is no such thing as an “economy.” There are only people engaged in buying and selling.

Obama and Romney both say that war against Iran should be a last resort. But if that is the case, why do they dehumanize the people of Iran? Sanctions don’t cripple the Iranian economy. Sanctions cripple people — economically, nutritionally, and in every other respect. They make life hell for average people, especially children and the elderly. The rulers suffer least of all.

To Read the Rest of the Essay

David Bowie: Panic in Detroit

HUM 221 Contemporary Perspectives on Peace and War: Civil Resistance in the 20th/21st Century

[Compiling a list of civil resistance, social movement, and armed resistance groups/organizations/movements post WWII -- please add your suggestions in the comments. Focus on groups/collectives, rather than individuals.)

1900-1994: The Pan-African Congress (International, met seven times)

1905-Ongoing: IWW: Industrial Workers of the World (International Union based in Chicago)
1917-1947: Gandhi and Civil Resistance in India

1922-1969: The Irish Republican Army

1930-1975: War and Revolution in Vietnam (Chronological mapping and terms from Kevin Ruane's book -- for student, I have this book if you want to use it)

1942-1968: Congress of Racial Equality (USA: group continued past 1968, but it was no longer a civil resistance movement)

1969-1972: The Official Irish Republican Army

1969-1997: The Provisional Irish Republican Army

1945-1970: The US Civil Rights Movement

1945-Ongoing: The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists (USA)

1950-1960s: Mattachine Society (Based in Los Angeles, CA: one of the earliest American homosexual civil rights activist groups)

1950-Ongoing: Tibetan Resistance and Protests (Against Chinese Occupation)

1952-1955: Brown v. Board of Education (1954 US Supreme Court Decision)

1960-1969: Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (commonly referred to as SNCC, part of the Civil Rights Movement)

1960-1974: Students for a Democratic Society (USA)

1961: Freedom Riders (Students from across the USA, joining to challenge Jim Crow policies in the South)

1962-Ongoing: Autonomism/Autonomia (Initially Italy, then Europe throughout 60s/70s, now international)

1962-ongoing: United Farm Workers (USA)

1963-1964: Freedom Schools (Mississippi)

1964-1965: Free Speech Movement (University of California, Berkeley, CA)

1964-1971: Occupation of Alcatraz (USA, by "Indians of All Tribes")

1966-1975: Black Power Movement (USA: many organizations, loosely associated)

1966-1982: Black Panther Party (USA)

1967-1972: Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association (may include the Troubles that lasted until 1998 and the Provisional IRA campaign of 1969–1997)

1967-Ongoing: Vietnam Veterans Against the War (USA)

1968-Ongoing: American Indian Movement (Founded in Minneapolis, MN; active in the USA and Canada)

1968: May 1968 (Student led uprising in Paris)

1968: Mexican Student Movement of 1968 (also referred to as "Mexico 68")

1968: Prague Spring (Czechoslovakia)

1968: Worldwide Student and Worker Protests

1968-1970: Nader's Raiders (USA: student investigative committee that published "The Nader Report on the Federal Trade Commission")

1969: Stonewall Riots (Greenwich Village, New York City: Often cited as the beginning of the Gay Rights Movement)

1969-1977: Weather Underground (USA)

1969-Present: Union of Concerned Scientists (Founded by faculty an students at MIT -- now a national coalition of 400,000 people)

1970-1998: Red Army Faction (Also known as the Baader-Meinhoff Group: Germany)

1971-Ongoing: Greenpeace (Global Environmental Organization: founded in Vancouver, British Columbia and currently located in Amsterdam, Netherlands)

1971 - Ongoing: Public Citizen (Public Advocacy group: USA)

1974-1975: The Revolution of the Carnations (Portugal)

1975-Ongoing: Anti-Nuclear Movement (Global, many organizations)

1976-1983: Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo (Argentina)

1976-Ongoing: Animal Liberation Front

1976-Ongoing: National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (USA: headquarters in Washington, DC)

1977-1979: The Iranian Revolution

1977-Ongoing: Sea Shepard Conservation Society (Based at Friday Harbor, WA and Melbourne, Victoria, Australia)

1978-1979: Iranian Revolution

1979-Ongoing: Earth First (Founded in Southwest USA, currently international)

1980: Gwangju Democratization Movement (also known as Gwangju Uprising: South Korea)

1980-1989: Solidarity (Polish Trade Union Movement)

1980-Ongoing: Food Not Bombs (International)

1980-Ongoing: Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights (Known as the National Labor Committee until 2011: based in Pittsburgh, PA)

1980-Ongoing: KRRS - Karnataka State Farmers Association (India)

1980-Ongoing: Landless Workers Movement (Brazil)

1980-Ongoing: PETA - People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Headquarters in Norfolk, VA)

1980-Ongoing: Plowshares (American Christian pacifist anti-nuclear organization that is now international in scope)

1981-2000: Greenham Commons Women's Peace Camp (Protesting Nuclear Weapons Site at Berkshire, England)

1983-1986: People Power Revolution (Philippines)

1983-1988: Political Mass Mobilization against Authoritarian Rule in Pinochet's Chile

1983-1994: Anti-Apartheid Movement (South Africa and Worldwide)

1984-1985: UK Miners' Strike (Coal Industry)

1984-Ongoing: Navdanya (India: non-governmental organization which promotes biodiversity conservation, biodiversity, organic farming, the rights of farmers, and the process of seed saving)

1986-1999: Operation Rescue (American anti-abortion protest organization)

1986-Ongoing: Critical Art Ensemble (USA tactical media/performance art collective
1986-0ngoing: Raging Grannies (Originated in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, also operating in the USA)

1987-Ongoing: Act Up (USA: Direct action advocacy group attempting to bring attention to the AIDS/HIV crisis)

1987-Ongoing: Palestinian Resistance Movement (Resisting occupation and settlement by the state of Israel: Various groups and two recognized "intifadas")

1988-Ongoing: Global Justice/Alter-Globalization (Global in scope and covering many social movements)

1989: Baltic Way/Baltic Chain Protest (Estonia/Latvia/Lithuania seeking to break off from the Soviet Union)

1989: Peaceful Revolution (East Germany and the Fall of the Berlin Wall)

1989: The Tianamen Square Protests (China)

1989: The Velvet Revolution (Czechoslovakia)

1989-1991: The Central/East European Revolutions and the Fall of the Soviet Union

1989-Ongoing: Adbusters Media Foundation (Founded in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada; currently an international network of culture jammers)

1990-1998: Alabanian Civil Resistance in Kosovo

1990-Ongoing: Copwatch (Started in Berkeley, CA, later became a loose organization of groups across the USA and Europe)

1990-Ongoing: Electronic Frontier Foundation (Based in San Francisco, CA)

1990-Ongoing: School of the Americas Watch (USA)

1991-2000: Civil Society vs Slobodan Miloevic (Serbia/Federal Republic of Yugoslavia)
1991-Ongoing: The Green Party (USA)

1991-Ongoing: Reclaim the Streets (Started in UK, but since 1997 protests have appeared in other countries)

1992-Ongoing: Critical Mass (International, has led to mass arrests in New York City)

1992-Ongoing: Cypherpunks (International, centered around email lists)

1992-Ongoing: Earth Liberation Front (Founded in Brighton, UK. Now an International organization.)

1992-Ongoing: Mujeres Creando (Bolivia: Anarcha-Feminists)

1994-Ongoing: Zapatista Army of National Liberation (Mexico)

1995-Ongoing: National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (USA/Canada)

1996-1997: Protest Walks (Belgrade, Serbia)

1996-Ongoing: Crimethinc. Ex-Workers Collective (North America)

1996-Ongoing: The Ella Baker Center for Human Rights (Oakland, CA)

1996-Ongoing: Radical Cheerleaders (originated in USA, now international)

1999-Ongoing: Independent Media Center (Worldwide indy media centers -- founded during the 1999 WTO Protests in Seattle)

1999: WTO Protests in Seattle, WA (also known as the Battle in Seattle)

2000: Cochabamba Protests (Bolivian Water Wars)

2000-Ongoing: The Yes Men (Also RTMark Hacker collective: USA)

2001-Ongoing: A.N.S.W.E.R. (USA based anit-war and civil rights organization)

2001-Ongoing: Workers' Rights Consortium (USA)

2001-Ongoing: World Social Forum (Annual meeting of civil society organizations: headquarters in Porto Alegre, Brazil)

2002-2010: Iraq War Protests (Worldwide)

2002-Ongoing: Cope Pink (American anti-war women's organization)

2002-Ongoing: World Coalition Against the Death Penalty [Founded in Rome in 2002, headquarters in Strausborg, France]

2003: Rose Revolution (Georgia)

2003-Ongoing: Anonymous (Loosely associated hacker group -- worldwide)

2004-Ongoing: Clandestine Insurgent Rebel Clown Army (CIRCA: founded in UK, now global)

2004: Orange Revolution (Ukraine)

2004-Ongoing: Iraq Veterans Against the War (USA)

2005-Ongoing: Common Ground Collective (New Orleans, LA: decentralized network of non-profit organizations founded after Hurricane Katrina.)

2006-2007: Oaxaca Teachers Strike and Uprising (Mexico)

2006-Ongoing: Chilean Student Protests

2006-Ongoing: Wikileaks (International, online, not-for-profit organization publishing submissions of secret information, news leaks, and classified media from anonymous news sources and whistleblowers)

2007: Burmese Anti-Government Protests

2008: Republic Windows and Doors Strike (Goose Island, IL)

2009: Croatian Student Protests (University of Zagreb)

2009-2011: The Right to the City (Zagreb, Croatia)

2009-2012: Icelandic Financial Crisis Protests (Also known as Kitchenware Protests)

2009-Ongoing: Iranian Election Protests/Iranian Green Movement

2009-Ongoing: Tea Party Movement (USA)

2010-Ongoing: Appalachia Rising (USA: calling for abolition of mountaintop removal and surface mining)

2010-Ongoing: Arab Spring

2010-Ongoing: Greek Anti-Austerity Movement/Indignant Citizens Movement

2010-2011: Tunisian Revolution

2011-2012: Wisconsin Protests

2011-Ongoing: Anti-Austerity Protests (Global)

2011-Ongoing: Bahraini Uprising

2011-Ongoing: Egyptian Revolution

2011-Ongoing: Israeli Social Justice Protests

2011-Ongoing: Occupy Movement (Founded at Occupy Wall St, quickly became a worldwide movement)

2011-Ongoing: Spanish Indignados

2011-Ongoing: OUR Walmart (Based in Washington DC, National Organization)

2011-Ongoing: Yemeni Revolution

2012-Ongoing: International Organization for a Participatory Society

2012-Ongoing: Quebec Student Protests (Canada)

2012-Ongoing: Yo Soy 132 (Mexico: Student Protest Movement)

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Women and Hollywood: Lana Wachowski Speaks About What It Means to Be Transgendered

[Discussion in another forum:
JV: Goddamn, what a fucking hero. It's not just the act but that she took the time to frame the social, ideological problem in such a vivid and remarkable way. One more [quote] I can't stop turning over: "the fundament upon which all our knowledge and learning rests is the inexplicable."
MB: That brief quote you highlight hits on what I have long been wrestling with in my own thoughts and writing. Developing the ability, creativity and courage to not fear the inexplicable (different), but instead engage with it to learn news ways of perceiving the world and as a method of making strange that which is familiar to me. I see a lot of the world's pain/violence as an inability to grapple with the inexplicable/different, especially when the reaction is fear/angry.... I really hope people take the time to listen to this whole acceptance speech -- it is very important.

" Invisibility is indivisible from visibility. For the transgendered this is not merely a philosophical conundrum, it can be the difference between life and death.

I am here because when I was young I wanted very badly to be a writer. I wanted to be a filmmaker but I couldn't find anyone like me in the world and it felt like my dreams were foreclosed simply because my gender was less typical than others.

If I can be that person for someone else then the sacrifice of my private civic life may have value."

Women and Hollywood: Lana Wachowski Speaks About What It Means to Be Transgendered

James Udden: Child of the Long Take -- Alfonso Cuaron’s Film Aesthetics in the Shadow of Globalization

[Warning: the clip of the scene below gives away major plot details]

Child of the Long Take: Alfonso Cuaron’s Film Aesthetics in the Shadow of Globalization
by James Udden


Given his Janus-faced career, it was hard to know what to expect stylistically from Cuaron in Children of Men given the direct involvement of Universal. He answers almost right away in the third shot of the opening scene as to how far he is now willing to go. Expertly introduced in this single shot is a grim, dying world in which the Clive Owen character is but one small, languid part. It is a tour de force in terms of its set design, lighting, camera movement and most of all its daringly intricate orchestration of multiple animate and inanimate elements. Yet the most telling sign is the duration of the shot: this is a long take of over fifty seconds, which with almost devious subtlety leads to a most unexpected denouement, an explosion segueing to a title shot with uncanny effect. It is an impressive beginning to a film which overall deeply impressed select viewers, critics and scholars alike. Alfonso Cuaron has accomplished the seemingly impossible: he proffers a dystopian message concerning globalization, yet he does it under the auspices of one of globalization’s key cultural players — Hollywood. Yet he also accomplishes this in indelible aesthetic terms. After seemingly reverting back to more conventional form with The Prisoner of Azkaban, the long take makes a roaring return in Children of Men, with an average shot length of just over sixteen seconds per, an astonishing figure for a present-day Hollywood feature which sometimes can average less than two seconds per shot (Hollywood 122). Moreover, even if slightly shorter on average than its Spanish-language predecessor a half a decade earlier, these long takes are more complex and more accomplished in their design. As we shall see, they are too good to be true. Indeed, these long takes are contrived spectacles in their own right.

There is an overall pattern for long take in Children of Men: the more action and violence a particular scene possesses, the longer the shot duration generally becomes. This does run counter to current Hollywood norms. Many have recently noted how big-budgeted, Hollywood action films in particular tend to lead the way in faster cutting rates which are often employed for maximum impact (Bordwell, Hollywood,122, 58-159; King, New Hollywood, 246). Children of Men, of course, is not a traditional action picture, but a science fiction work with deep philosophical underpinnings. Yet during its non-action scenes often involving conversations between characters, Cuaron is more likely to use conventional editing schemes, most of all the ever reliable shot/reverse shot. Cuaron saves his most audacious long takes for the sequences where violence and action are at their highest pitch, with the longest reserved for the prolonged battle at the refugee camp at the end. Despite their reliance on long takes in lieu of “impact” editing, it is these moments in the film which seem to be most memorable.

What is most telling is how these long takes give the appearance of taking place in “real” time and “continuous” space. Cleverly disguised is how they are often multiple shots melded together digitally in post-production. The above mentioned opening scene, for example, was shot over two days, the first day covering the indoor portion in the café, while the second day involved the complicated section outdoors. However, in the finished product, the third shot begins indoors and then proceeds seamlessly outdoors, meaning somehow a single, “continuous” long take was shot over two days time. Using the café doorframe at the moment Clive Owen leaves the frame, the camera is deviously slow to catch up, and the special effects crew disguised the cut digitally in post (Fordham 34). In short, the opening scene is not three shots, but four shots disguised as three with the last being a long take under false pretenses.

This is not an isolated instance in Children of Men. The now famous scene in the automobile took two months to plan, eight days to shoot on three separate locations. The camera’s impossibly free movements in the car were in fact impossible — they were only realized by being filmed in six separate sections where often not all of the actors were present at certain stages. Once again, this was all amalgamated into a single artificial long take by digital means (Fordham 39). Claiming to replicate the feel of a documentary, this shot is also impossibly precise for any documentary shooting as events transpire. True, they did use mostly available light in a real setting, allowing every flare and reflection on the glass to remain, much like in a documentary. But no documentarian has ever had the luxury of a twin-axis doggicam rigged above a missing car roof which is then digitally filled in during post-production. The resulting camera movements would also be impossible for a documentary — in fact in a way that has never been done by fictional filmmakers either. Particularly noteworthy is the powerful effect of that moment when the camera returns to the front and Julianne Moore reappears at the right edge of the frame, now undeniably no longer among the living. Documentarians are rarely able to be that measured, and are hardly that lucky.

The longest take in the film is over seven minutes in duration, occurring during the climatic battle at the refugee camp when Theo Faron attempts to rescue the kidnapped baby. Being one of the most complex long takes ever attempted, it is in fact too complicated to be a true “long take.” Instead, this was shot at two exterior locations plus a studio; the first major section was filmed at Bushey Hall, while the second part was shot two weeks later at Upper Heyford. This particular transition was digitally disguised using the corner of a building, much like what they had done with the doorframe of the café in the pre-credit sequence (Fordham 42). Additional elements added to the seemingly real but impossible spectacle: for example, no documentarian has been so fortuitous as to follow someone just as Theo Faron passes a soldier dying in his half-severed body, yet reaching out for him with one last moaning grasp at life. The three sections combined comprise a highly calculated, and remarkably well-orchestrated game of lost and found where Theo loses the mother and child to the engulfing chaos, only to find them again in that same chaos, all within this same faux long take. Meanwhile, by scanning this dense, dreary mise-en-scene, Cuaron and Lubezki not only disguise cuts, they continue a deeper strategy seen also in Y tu mama tambien: to show a much larger world than merely the characters themselves, a world that becomes almost hyper-real due to the careful construction of the long take coupled with other stylistic devices. So spectacular are these long takes that they become spectacles themselves which became endlessly talked about by reviewers, scholars and film aficionados alike. And that appears to have been precisely the reason why they are employed in the film during those particular sequences which proved to be the most challenging.

To Read the Entire Essay

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Jill Stein, Green Party Candidate for President

"All of these things (healthcare, job creation, downsizing the military) are things that the American public is clamouring for and this is exactly why the Democrat and Republican parties feel they must control the microphone because the American public is already there. If they learn that they actually have a candidate that supports these solutions that people desperately need right now – all bets are off of what that impact might be on this election and beyond this election."

Jill Stein, Green Party

Rising Appalachia: Scale Down

Flobots: Anne Braden

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Richard Porton: A Dangerous Method

The Dangerous Method
by Richard Porton
Cinema Scope

The title of Russell Jacoby’s 1983 polemic, The Repression of Psychoanalysis, suggests that the radical implications of the Freudian tradition have become muddled in an era where nothing seems more safely middle-class than a session on the couch with the shrink of one’s choice. In evoking a juncture at the turn of the 20th century when psychoanalysis still seemed subversive and a riposte to bourgeois complacency, David Cronenberg’s A Dangerous Method, with its curious tone pitched between placid costume drama and the threat of domestic horror, also seeks to rehabilitate the “talking cure” as a radical, even potentially incendiary, concept.

Inspired by John Kerr’s A Most Dangerous Method, a study of the complex relationship between Carl Jung, his patient (and mistress) Sabina Spielrein, and Jung’s mentor, and eventual adversary, Sigmund Freud—and more directly based on screenwriter Christopher Hampton’s play The Talking Cure—Cronenberg tackles one of his favourite themes: the toll exacted by sexual repression and the danger, as well as frisson, of shedding the weight of such repression. Just as these themes were delineated with the aid of generic horror tropes in Shivers (1975), A Dangerous Method reveals the emotional violence that bubbles below the surface of Hampton’s witty repartee.

It’s no secret that intellectual controversies often escalate into verbal sparring that mimics actual warfare. From the outset, the theoretical challenges posed to young Dr. Jung by the beautiful and brilliant Spielrein’s bout of “hysteria” (the Victorians’ favorite diagnosis for troubled women) take on a quality that is almost as feral and uncontrollable as the effects of those notorious parasites in Shivers. When the Russian-Jewish Spielrein (Keira Knightley) arrives by coach at Dr. Jung’s (Michael Fassbender) Zurich clinic in 1904, she might as well be the reincarnation of Jane Eyre’s madwoman in the attic. Yet as we soon learn, she’s sophisticated and erudite—as well as the intellectual equal of her rather stuffy doctor and mentor.

Spielrein’s journey from apparent lunatic to autonomous woman (and eventually to a career as a distinguished analyst in her own right) encourages Cronenberg to impose a deceptively restrained classical style (large swatches of shot-reverse shot) on feverish subject matter. The film mixes genres so unobtrusively that it’s barely noticeable. As the origins of Spielrein’s physical and psychological symptoms gradually emerge, we are lulled into believing that Cronenberg is dispassionately preoccupied with an intellectual detective story: locating the source of the patient’s trauma (a struggle with painful, as well as pleasurable, memories of her father’s beatings) and moving on to a satisfyingly dramatic “abreaction.” Yet when Jung plunges into an affair with Spielrein (professional ethics were less codified in the early days of psychoanalysis), a brief shot of the besotted doctor engaging in sadomasochistic sex with his corseted patient resembles an outtake from a Liliana Cavani film. The uptight analyst’s surface rectitude is unmasked with one succinct image.

For those of us who prefer Freudian rigour to Jung’s proto-New Age wooliness, it’s heartening that Viggo Mortensen’s portrayal of Freud is endearingly complex. If Mortensen’s cigar-puffing Freud at times seems inordinately stiff (perhaps reinforced by the fact that Hampton’s script has Jung accusing him of “rigid pragmatism”), he’s at least witty. Although Freud’s initial meetings with Jung are cordial, there are certainly intimations of their epochal rupture. When Jung claims not to understand why the Viennese psychoanalysts are vulnerable to criticism because of their Jewish origins, Freud terms his friend’s demurral “an exquisitely Protestant remark.” In Cronenberg on Cronenberg, the director remarks that his parents, who celebrated Christmas, “invented their own version of what it is to be Jewish.” The same could well be said of Freud, a defiantly secular Jew, whose claustrophobic, cluttered home presents a sharp contrast to Jung’s relatively palatial digs.

To Read the Rest

On the Media: The Big Impact of Small Town Reporting

The Big Impact of Small Town Reporting
On the Media

Samantha Swindler is the managing editor of the Times-Tribune of Corbin, Kentucky (circulation 6,000). She says that while many reporters think they need to work at the New York Times to have an impact, investigative reporting in small communities can make a huge difference in people's lives. Swindler recently won the Institute for Rural Journalism’s Gish Award for “courage, integrity and tenacity in rural journalism.” She talks about investigative journalism in her community.

To Listen to the Episode

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Democracy Now: Greg Palast: "Mitt Romney’s Bailout Bonanza -- How He Made Millions from the Rescue of Detroit"

Greg Palast: "Mitt Romney’s Bailout Bonanza: How He Made Millions from the Rescue of Detroit"
Democracy Now

We turn now to a major new exposé on the cover of The Nation magazine called "Mitt Romney’s Bailout Bonanza: How He Made Millions from the Rescue of Detroit." Investigative reporter Greg Palast reveals how Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney made some $15 million on the auto bailout and that three of Romney’s top donors made more than $4 billion for their hedge funds from the bailout. Palast’s report is part of a film-in-progress called "Romney’s Bailout Bonanza." Palast is the author of several books, including recently released New York Times bestseller, "Billionaires & Ballot Bandits: How to Steal an Election in 9 Easy Steps."


Greg Palast, investigative reporter who has tracked Romney’s "vulture" fund partners for five years for BBC Television’s Newsnight. He is the author of the recently released New York Times bestseller, Billionaires & Ballot Bandits: How to Steal an Election in 9 Easy Steps. His new Nation exposé is called "Mitt Romney’s Bailout Bonanza: How Mitt and Ann Made Millions — and Mitt’s Hedge Fund Donors Made Billions — from the Auto-Industry Rescue that He Condemned."

To Watch the Episode

Matthew Cheney: Vigilante Man -- Eastwood and Gran Torino

Vigilante Man - Eastwood and Gran Torino from Matthew Cheney on Vimeo.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Films We Would Like to See: The Revisionaries (USA: Scott Thurman, 2012)

Michael Pollan: Vote for the Dinner Party

Vote for the Dinner Party

Is this the year that the food movement finally enters politics?

One of the more interesting things we will learn on Nov. 6 is whether or not there is a “food movement” in America worthy of the name — that is, an organized force in our politics capable of demanding change in the food system. People like me throw the term around loosely, partly because we sense the gathering of such a force, and partly (to be honest) to help wish it into being by sheer dint of repetition. Clearly there is growing sentiment in favor of reforming American agriculture and interest in questions about where our food comes from and how it was produced. And certainly we can see an alternative food economy rising around us: local and organic agriculture is growing far faster than the food market as a whole. But a market and a sentiment are not quite the same thing as a political movement — something capable of frightening politicians and propelling its concerns onto the national agenda.

California’s Proposition 37, which would require that genetically modified (G.M.) foods carry a label, has the potential to do just that — to change the politics of food not just in California but nationally too. Now, there is much that’s wrong with California’s notorious initiative process: it is an awkward, usually sloppy way to make law. Yet for better or worse, it has served as a last- or first-ditch way for issues that politicians aren’t yet ready to touch — whether the tax rebellion of the 1970s (Prop 13) or medical marijuana in the 1990s (Prop 215) — to win a hearing and a vote and then go on to change the political conversation across the country.

What is at stake this time around is not just the fate of genetically modified crops but the public’s confidence in the industrial food chain. That system is being challenged on a great many fronts — indeed, seemingly everywhere but in Washington. Around the country, dozens of proposals to tax and regulate soda have put the beverage industry on the defensive, forcing it to play a very expensive (and thus far successful) game of Whac-A-Mole. The meat industry is getting it from all sides: animal rights advocates seeking to expose its brutality; public-health advocates campaigning against antibiotics in animal feed; environmentalists highlighting factory farming’s contribution to climate change.

Big Food is also feeling beleaguered by its increasingly skeptical and skittish consumers. Earlier this year the industry was rocked when a blogger in Houston started an online petition to ban the use of “pink slime” in the hamburger served in the federal school-lunch program. Pink slime — so-called by a U.S. Department of Agriculture microbiologist — is a kind of industrial-strength hamburger helper made from a purée of slaughterhouse scraps treated with ammonia. We have apparently been ingesting this material for years in hamburger patties, but when word got out, the eating public went ballistic. Within days, the U.S.D.A. allowed schools to drop the product, and several supermarket chains stopped carrying it, shuttering several of the plants that produce it. Shortly after this episode, I received a panicky phone call from someone in the food industry, a buyer for one of the big food-service companies. After venting about the “irrationality” of the American consumer, he then demanded to know: “Who’s going to be hit next? It could be any of us.”

So it appears the loss of confidence is mutual: the food industry no longer trusts us, either, which is one reason a label on genetically modified food is so terrifying: we might react “irrationally” and decline to buy it. To win back this restive public, Big Food recently began a multimillion-dollar public-relations campaign, featuring public “food dialogues,” aimed at restoring our faith in the production methods on which industrial agriculture depends, including pharmaceuticals used to keep animals healthy and speed their growth; pesticides and genetically modified seeds; and concentrated animal feeding operations. The industry has never liked to talk about these practices — which is to say, about how the food we eat is actually produced — but it apparently came to the conclusion that it is better off telling the story itself rather than letting its critics do it.

To Read the Rest

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Unwelcome Guests #5: Michael Parenti - Executive Power and State Needs; Office Depot's Anti-Union Policies; Juliette Beck on the 2000 Washington DC Protests of the World Bank & IMF; Subverting Government and Corporate Censorship of the Internet; David Korten - When Corporations Rule the World

Episode #5 - You Can't make a Silk Purse out Of a Sow's Ear (A look at structure and how it affects democracy)
Unwelcome Guests

Michael Parenti speaking this week on "Executive Power and Democratic Needs" - the role of the presidency in furthering state power. In the second hour, Office Depot's anti-union policies, Juliette Beck of Global Exchange on the April 16-17 protests against the World Bank and IMF in Washington, DC; FreeNet, a new system devised to subvert government and corporate censorship of the internet; and an interview with David Korten, author of When Corporations Rule the World and The Post Corporate World, Life After Capitalism.

To Listen to the Episode

Monday, October 15, 2012

Peeping Tom: Don't Even Trip

Temple of the Dog: Hunger Strike

Spoiler Alert Radio: Sean Kirby - Cinematographer on Police Beat, Zoo, Lovely Still, Against The Current and The Tillman Story

Sean Kirby - Cinematographer - Police Beat, Zoo, Lovely Still, Against The Current, The Tillman Story
Spoiler Alert Radio

Cinematographer Sean Kirby shot the surreal film Police Beat, about an African-born bicycle cop encounters strange and mysterious situations on his police beat in urban Seattle.

In 2007, he re-teamed with writer/director team Robinson Devor and Charles Mudede and realized the controversial documentary Zoo about the life of an Enumclaw, Washington man who died as a result of an unusual encounter with a horse.

Some of his later credits include: Lovely Still, an emotionally moving holiday fable that tells the story of an elderly man discovering love for the first time, Against the Current, about a man, struggling with a tragic past, with an urgent calling who enlists two friends to help him swim the length of the Hudson River, starring Joseph Fiennes, and The Tillman Story, a documentary on the story of Pat Tillman.

To Listen to the Episode

Frugal Dad: Media Consolidation - The Illusion of Choice (Infographic)


Media Consolidation Infographic

Source: Frugal dad

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Deena Stryker: Iceland's On-going Revolution

Iceland's On-going Revolution
by Deena Stryker
Daily Kos

An Italian radio program's story about Iceland’s on-going revolution is a stunning example of how little our media tells us about the rest of the world. Americans may remember that at the start of the 2008 financial crisis, Iceland literally went bankrupt. The reasons were mentioned only in passing, and since then, this little-known member of the European Union fell back into oblivion.

As one European country after another fails or risks failing, imperiling the Euro, with repercussions for the entire world, the last thing the powers that be want is for Iceland to become an example. Here's why:

Five years of a pure neo-liberal regime had made Iceland, (population 320 thousand, no army), one of the richest countries in the world. In 2003 all the country’s banks were privatized, and in an effort to attract foreign investors, they offered on-line banking whose minimal costs allowed them to offer relatively high rates of return. The accounts, called IceSave, attracted many English and Dutch small investors. But as investments grew, so did the banks’ foreign debt. In 2003 Iceland’s debt was equal to 200 times its GNP, but in 2007, it was 900 percent. The 2008 world financial crisis was the coup de grace. The three main Icelandic banks, Landbanki, Kapthing and Glitnir, went belly up and were nationalized, while the Kroner lost 85% of its value with respect to the Euro. At the end of the year Iceland declared bankruptcy.

Contrary to what could be expected, the crisis resulted in Icelanders recovering their sovereign rights, through a process of direct participatory democracy that eventually led to a new Constitution. But only after much pain.

Geir Haarde, the Prime Minister of a Social Democratic coalition government, negotiated a two million one hundred thousand dollar loan, to which the Nordic countries added another two and a half million. But the foreign financial community pressured Iceland to impose drastic measures. The FMI and the European Union wanted to take over its debt, claiming this was the only way for the country to pay back Holland and Great Britain, who had promised to reimburse their citizens.

Protests and riots continued, eventually forcing the government to resign. Elections were brought forward to April 2009, resulting in a left-wing coalition which condemned the neoliberal economic system, but immediately gave in to its demands that Iceland pay off a total of three and a half million Euros. This required each Icelandic citizen to pay 100 Euros a month (or about $130) for fifteen years, at 5.5% interest, to pay off a debt incurred by private parties vis a vis other private parties. It was the straw that broke the reindeer’s back.

What happened next was extraordinary. The belief that citizens had to pay for the mistakes of a financial monopoly, that an entire nation must be taxed to pay off private debts was shattered, transforming the relationship between citizens and their political institutions and eventually driving Iceland’s leaders to the side of their constituents. The Head of State, Olafur Ragnar Grimsson, refused to ratify the law that would have made Iceland’s citizens responsible for its bankers’ debts, and accepted calls for a referendum.

To Read the Rest

Current: Sight & Sound Poll 2012 -- Seven Samurai

Sight & Sound Poll 2012: Seven Samurai
Current (Criterion)

Every ten years since 1952, the world-renowned film magazine Sight & Sound has polled a wide international selection of film critics and directors on what they consider to be the ten greatest works of cinema ever made, and then compiled the results. The top fifty movies in the 2012 critics’ list, unveiled August 1, include twenty-five Criterion titles. In this series, we highlight those classic films.

Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai is remarkable for the way its director stages and choreographs action scenes that are thrilling and engaging while leaving space for meditation on the bloodshed taking place. Indeed, Kurosawa’s particular talent for sculpting kinetic battle sequences was never at odds with his humane view of the world. Even in his bloodiest films, including Rashomon, Kagemusha, Yojimbo, and Ran, there’s a definite sense of moral weight. In its fleet nearly three and a half hours, Seven Samurai manages to enrapture and delight and quicken the pulse with a story of peasant farmers who hire a band of misfit warriors to defend them against dangerous marauders—but it is also a moving tale of life and death. None of the killing on display is gratuitous, and the director never takes pleasure in watching his characters perish. There is, in fact, a lyrical beauty to the deeply felt conscientiousness of these groundbreaking action scenes. Kurosawa once said, “If it is necessary to show violence in a film, it is good to avoid ugliness.”

In the following clip, three renowned Kurosawa scholars—David Desser, Stephen Prince, and Donald Richie—discuss “one of the great poets of screen violence,” and describe how Seven Samurai moved away from the detachment of traditional Japanese cinema’s formalized representations of war and death.

To Watch the videos and to read the rest

Friday, October 12, 2012

Damon Wise: Director Behn Zeitlin and Actors Quvenzhané Wallis and Dwight Henry on the Making of Beasts of the Southern Wild

Beasts of the Southern Wild: 'I didn't expect people to like it'
by Damon Wise
The Guardian

Filmed among the driftwood and insects of the Mississippi swamps, Behn Zeitlin's film is being hailed as an Oscar contender. The director and eight-year-old star recall making it


This "it" is Zeitlin's debut movie, Beasts of the Southern Wild, which premiered at Sundance in January and has since swept across the planet, today hitting Cannes just as a violent storm sweeps in from the sea. Which is an odd coincidence, since Zeitlin's film, loosely inspired by the events of Hurricane Katrina, is a rites-of-passage story that depicts a bizarre, primitive swampland flooded by rain. At the centre of it are Hushpuppy (Wallis) and her father Wink (Dwight Henry), two local residents transformed by Zeitlin's production team into grimy, shock-haired rebels who must fight for their hometown and resist attempts by the mainland to assimilate them.

Henry and Wallis, in their everyday lives, are unrecognisable. Henry, 49, is the refined, sharp-suited and very charismatic manager of successful New Orleans eaterie the Buttermilk Drop Cafe and Bakery; Wallis's only previous brush with acting was playing at being Selina Gomez and Nicki Minaj with her friends. Onscreen, their chemistry is total, as Wink, suffering from a fatal illness, tries to school his daughter in the ways of the world.

And this is no world that we know, a world of rust and nails, sumps and driftwood, feral animals and insects – an anarchic paradise. "The first scene we shot was my most difficult scene," drawls Henry, "and we shot it in the Mississippi river …"

"It wasn't no pool!" Wallis interrupts brightly.

"… In 40, 50-degree water, all day. Because Benh wanted everything to be as real as it possibly could be, even with the animals that we had. The pigs, the chickens …"

"A horse!" chirps Wallis.

"… the birds, the dawg …"

"Everything was real!" insists Wallis."They were untrained before we started, and they were only trained to do what we needed them to do. So everything you see is real. Benh could have gone to California, to New York, maybe gone and got an actor to play my part. But what he wanted was somebody who actually, in real life, went through what we go through in the movie, with storms and the like. I'm from New Orleans, and this is something we go through every year. We have to deal with the possibility of a storm coming in, evacuating – family goin' all different places – so having someone that has gone through this brings a realness. I was caught in hurricane Katrina. I was in …"

"Neck-high water!" interjects Wallis.

"Because I had two businesses," continues Henry. "And when things like that happen, vandals come to your business, they loot it. And I refused to let that happen. So when Katrina came, I stayed down there, and I had to get out of neck-high water to save my life! That was a real thing that I brought to the movie. Versus getting someone from Hollywood who's never been through these things."

To Read the Entire Article

Films We Would Like to See #14: 18 Days (Egypt: 2011)

Films We Want to See #13: Hitchcock (USA: Sacha Gervasi, 2012)

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Unwelcome Guests #4: Michael Parenti -- The Sword and the Dollar; Fernando Terran -- Sweatshops and Genocide in Central America

Episode #4 - The Sword and the Dollar & Sweatshops and Genocide in Central America Unwelcome Guests

We continue the lecture series with Michael Parenti. His talk this week, "The Sword and the Dollar", tells how American military might is used to secure cheap labor and materials in the third world for US multinationals.

In the second hour listen to Fernando Terran talk about the condition of sweatshop workers.

To Listen to the Episodes

George Monbiot: The Lairds of Learning

The Lairds of Learning: How did academic publishers acquire these feudal powers?
By George Monbiot
The Guardian

Who are the most ruthless capitalists in the Western world? Whose monopolistic practices makes WalMart look like a corner shop and Rupert Murdoch look like a socialist? You won’t guess the answer in a month of Sundays. While there are plenty of candidates, my vote goes not to the banks, the oil companies or the health insurers, but – wait for it – to academic publishers. Theirs might sound like a fusty and insignificant sector. It is anything but. Of all corporate scams, the racket they run is most urgently in need of referral to the competition authorities.

Everyone claims to agree that people should be encouraged to understand science and other academic research. Without current knowledge, we cannot make coherent democratic decisions. But the publishers have slapped a padlock and a Keep Out sign on the gates.

You might resent Murdoch’s paywall policy, in which he charges £1 for 24 hours of access to the Times and Sunday Times. But at least in that period you can read and download as many articles as you like. Reading a single article published by one of Elsevier’s journals will cost you $31.50(1). Springer charges Eur34.95(2), Wiley-Blackwell, $42(3). Read ten and you pay ten times. And the journals retain perpetual copyright. You want to read a letter printed in 1981? That’ll be $31.50(4).

Of course, you could go into the library (if it still exists). But they too have been hit by cosmic fees. The average cost of an annual subscription to a chemistry journal is $3,792(5). Some journals cost $10,000 a year or more to stock. The most expensive I’ve seen, Elsevier’s Biochimica et Biophysica Acta, is $20,930(6). Though academic libraries have been frantically cutting subscriptions to make ends meet, journals now consume 65% of their budgets(7), which means they have had to reduce the number of books they buy. Journal fees account for a significant component of universities’ costs, which are being passed to their students.

Murdoch pays his journalists and editors, and his companies generate much of the content they use. But the academic publishers get their articles, their peer reviewing (vetting by other researchers) and even much of their editing for free. The material they publish was commissioned and funded not by them but by us, through government research grants and academic stipends. But to see it, we must pay again, and through the nose.

The returns are astronomical: in the past financial year, for example, Elsevier’s operating-profit margin was 36% (£724m on revenues of £2 billion)(8). They result from a stranglehold on the market. Elsevier, Springer and Wiley, who have bought up many of their competitors, now publish 42% of journal articles(9).

More importantly, universities are locked into buying their products. Academic papers are published in only one place, and they have to be read by researchers trying to keep up with their subject. Demand is inelastic and competition non-existent, because different journals can’t publish the same material. In many cases the publishers oblige the libraries to buy a large package of journals, whether or not they want them all. Perhaps it’s not surprising that one of the biggest crooks ever to have preyed upon the people of this country – Robert Maxwell – made much of his money through academic publishing.

The publishers claim that they have to charge these fees as a result of the costs of production and distribution, and that they add value (in Springer’s words) because they “develop journal brands and maintain and improve the digital infrastructure which has revolutionized scientific communication in the past 15 years.”(10) But an analysis by Deutsche Bank reaches different conclusions. “We believe the publisher adds relatively little value to the publishing process … if the process really were as complex, costly and value-added as the publishers protest that it is, 40% margins wouldn’t be available.”(11) Far from assisting the dissemination of research, the big publishers impede it, as their long turnaround times can delay the release of findings by a year or more(12).

What we see here is pure rentier capitalism: monopolising a public resource then charging exorbitant fees to use it. Another term for it is economic parasitism. To obtain the knowledge for which we have already paid, we must surrender our feu to the lairds of learning.

To Read the Rest of the Essay and Access the Hyperlinked Sources

Monday, October 08, 2012

Glenn Heath Jr. on Abel Ferrara's The Addiction (1995)

Glenn Heath Jr. on Abel Ferrara's The Addiction (1995)
Not Coming to a Theater Near You

It’s all theory and philosophy until someone gets bit. Abel Ferrara’s art/vampire film The Addiction, a dense and moody examination of fear and self-loathing in 1990s New York City, takes this credo to insane heights. In the beginning, words and ideas are modes of deflection used by characters living in an academic world where hypothetical thought rules. But their wake-up call sleeks through the night, appearing suddenly and without reproach, brutally executing a primal reckoning of faith. From here, a new language emerges written in jet-black blood, caked on the lips of sirens and streaming down the contours of swan-like necks. Here, the crisp texture of film and photographic images is crucial for Ferrara. He sees the jarringly blunt stylization of death and trauma as the only way to reveal highbrow banter as dangerous contradiction, doing so within a genre primed for social critique. But is the horror film itself part of the problem? It all starts simply enough with a nighttime stroll and a sudden proposition of fate.

“Tell me to leave you alone,” demands a stunningly calm vampire seductress to a shocked grad student in a dank New York City alley crisscrossed by sharp, bleeding shadows. What a dare! These haunting words are uttered before each brazen attack in The Addiction. It’s as if the various supernatural beings walking the dark streets must defy their prey to stand up for survival before jumping on a single bit of hesitation to justify the impending blood lust. But looking evil in the eye and failing to react is just one of the many philosophical and moral conundrums recycling throughout Ferrara’s black and white masterpiece about dependency, fear, and political outrage. In fact, there are so many competing ideological threads in The Addiction that the very act of verbal expression becomes a form of sadism.

Kathleen Conklin, the aforementioned tough-minded grad student played by Lili Taylor who gets attacked by a sleek vampire named Casanova in the opening moments of Ferrara’s film, initially defines her professional and personal life by historical revisionism. War crimes are her object of study, and she spends the film’s first moment studying graphic pictures documenting the Mai Lai Massacre. Kathleen views these images with cold detachment, listening intently to the droll voiceover of a lecturer: “The conscience of an outraged society was temporarily satisfied,” he dramatically muses, referencing the American public’s faux-appeasement after obtaining national justice against the guilty soldiers. But college life is just a façade, and Ferrara has big thematic plans for Kathleen. After being attacked, the deep bite marks on her neck and the blood streaming down her face, often framed within smooth, nearly slow motion dolly shots, begin a slow transition from theoretical dependency to literal acts of horror and extreme physical addiction.

To Read the Rest of the Response

Wild Flag: Something Came Over Me

Rob Jenkins: A Song of Vice and Mire

A Song of Vice and Mire
By Rob Jenkins
The Chronicle of Higher Education

For fun, I've been reading George R.R. Martin's marvelous fantasy epic, A Song of Ice and Fire, about a medieval-ish kingdom and its wars and intrigues. If you haven't yet encountered the books (five in the series so far), I highly recommend them, as Martin deftly intertwines fantastical elements, such as dragons and wights (medieval zombies), with a quasi-historical storyline to create a kind of J.R.R. Tolkien-meets-Philippa Gregory effect.

What fascinates me most about the narrative, however, is the extent to which it parallels my experiences as a community-college professor and administrator. As I follow the political machinations of the fictional court at King's Landing—the alliances and conspiracies, the jealousies and betrayals, the dalliances and beheadings—I am frequently put in mind of actual people I have known and events I have witnessed over my 27-year career. Sometimes I wonder if George R.R. Martin isn't really just a pen name for some old colleague of mine who has been secretly plugging away all these years at a monstrous roman-à-clef.

I suppose that is an indictment of community colleges, but I believe it is a fair one. Because, truth be told, for all of their many fine points and all the good they do for society, community colleges have historically been rather bad at governance, to say the least. On many two-year campuses, if not most, corruption, cronyism, abuse of power, and fiefdom-building constitute business as usual.

I make that observation as someone who has worked at five two-year colleges and visited dozens more, who corresponds frequently with colleagues around the country, and who reads everything available about community colleges. But the truth of what I'm saying should be obvious to anyone who has followed recent high-profile cases involving alleged corruption and mismanagement at two-year institutions in Alabama, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, New Jersey, and New York. To name a few.

That isn't a new phenomenon. In California's community-college system, the largest in the country, such problems grew so rampant that in the late 1980s the state legislature mandated a shared-governance model, intended to give faculty members and other key stakeholders significant involvement in how those institutions were run. Yet more than a decade later, Linda Collins, then president of the system's Academic Senate, wrote: "We have yet to create structures and cultures that support and nurture the practice of shared governance throughout the state's community colleges."

Her statement seems to still hold true today for most of the country's community colleges. Despite the best efforts of many faculty members, some administrators, and national organizations such as the American Association of University Professors and the National Education Association, true shared governance has still not become the model of choice at most two-year campuses.

To Read the Resof the Commentary

Austin City Limits: Radiohead

Watch Radiohead on PBS. See more from Austin City Limits.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Spike Lee's Bamboozled and the Representation(s) of Race

"How do images affect our hearts and minds? How do images influence our everyday lives, our techno-scientific practices, our connections and disconnections, our conscious and unconscious desires and fears? How do images show up in the clothes we wear, in the ways we walk, and the objects we want? How do images influence the foods we eat or don’t eat and the ideas and feelings we have about our selves and others? How do some images enter our flesh, captivate us, fascinate us, or arouse our senses? How is it that other images put us to sleep? How do images inform our habits and fantasies, pleasures and doubts, worries and joys, rituals and rebellions? How do images shape our personal, political, cultural, moral, and religious beliefs about nature and about justice? How do images influence what we imagine to be possible and what’s not? Visual images are today everywhere entangled within a complex and contradictory web of global electronic flows of information. Images are typically racialized, gendered, territorialized, eroticized, militarized, and class-driven. Some of the most powerful images are hooked-up to hi-tech machineries of war, surveillance, and the economic marketplace. Images also lie at the core of global corporate technologies of profit, control and advantage. How might such images be best understood? How might they be critically subverted, transformed, or remade?" -- Stephen Pfohl, "The Power of Images" (2011)

Bamboozled (USA: Spike Lee, 2000: 135 mins)

Baker, Courtney R. "Misrecognized: Looking at Images of Black Suffering and Death." [Dissertation: Doctor of Philosophy in the Graduate Program in Literature at Duke University, 2008]

Bellamy, Jason and Ed Howard. "The Conversations: Bamboozled." The House Next Door (February 25, 2012)

Benton, Michael Dean. "James Allen: Without Sanctuary; The Debate Over the Hanging of a Barack Obama Effigy on the Campus of the UK; The History of Lynching in America." Dialogic (November 3, 2008)

---. "Learning From "El Mexterminator" and "Cyber Vato": Social Anxiety as a Performative Pedagogy." Reconstruction 2.4 (Fall 2003)

---. "Response to a Lynching Joke in an Email." Dialogic (January 18, 2011)

---. "Theodore W. Allen: The Invention of the White Race." Dialogic (January 23, 2008)

Classified X (France/USA/UK: Mark Daniels, 1998: 53 mins)

Delue, Rachel Ziady. "Envisioning Race in Spike Lee's Bamboozled." Fight the Power!: The Spike Lee Reader. ed. Janice D. Hamlet and Robin R. Means Coleman. NY: Peter Lang, 2009: 61-88.

Dyson, Michael Eric, Tavis Smiley and Cornel West. "The N Word." Never Forget: A Journey of Revelations [from the originals CD, reposted on YouTube: May 11, 2011].

Easton, Lee and Kelly Hewson. "Reflections on the Interplay of Race, Whiteness and Canadian Identity in a Film Studies Classroom.” Reception (Summer 2010): 116-148.

Elam, Harry J. Jr. "Spike Lee's Bamboozled." Black Cultural Traffic: Crossroads in Global Performance and Popular Culture ed. Harry J. Elam, Jr. and Kennel Jackson. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 2005: 346-362.

Fanon, Frantz. Black Skin, White Masks. Originally published in French in 1952. Translated by Charles Lam Markmann. NY: Pluto Press, 2008.

Feeling, Kara. "Passing for Human: Bamboozled and Digital Humanism." Fight the Power!: The Spike Lee Reader. ed. Janice D. Hamlet and Robin R. Means Coleman. NY: Peter Lang, 2009

"Frantz Fanon." Wikipedia (No Date)

Frantz Fanon: Black Skin, White Masks (United Kingdom: Isaac Julien, 1996: 70 mins)

Gilmer, Marcus. "The Controversy of Race in Spike Lee’s Bamboozled." Not Coming to a Theater Near You (July 17, 20004)

Gray, Herman. "Spike Lee's Bamboozled (2000) and Black Masculinity and Visual Culture." [CCTP695: American Popular Culture -- History, Story & Analysis, Georgetown University] (Fall 2005)

Holden, Stephen. "Bamboozled (2000) FILM REVIEW; Trying On Blackface in a Flirtation With Fire." The New York Times (October 6, 2000)

hooks, bell. "Revolutionary Attitude." Black Looks: Race and Representation. Boston, MA: South End Press, 1992: 1-8.

Lott, Eric. "Love and Theft: The Racial Unconscious of Blackface Minstrelsy." Representations #39 (Summer 1992): 23-50.

The N Word (USA: Todd Williams, 2004: 86 mins)

Metzler, Jessica. "Genuine Spectacle: Sliding Positionality in the Works of Paulene E. Hopkins, Zora Neal Houston, Langston Hughes, and Spike Lee." [Thesis: Master of Arts in English, Florida State University, 2006]

Michael, Dennis. "Facing up to the past: Bamboozled offers unblinking look at race, perceptions." CNN (October 4, 2000)

"Microaggression." Wikipedia (No Date)

Patton, Tracy Owens and Deborah McGriff. "Ya Been Took, Ya Been Hoodwinked, Ya Been Bamboozled: Mau Maus, Diaspora, and the Mediated Misrepresentation of Blackness." Fight the Power!: The Spike Lee Reader. ed. Janice D. Hamlet and Robin R. Means Coleman. NY: Peter Lang, 2009: 89-102.

Pfohl, Stephen Images and Power (SC532 Course Syllabus, Boston College, 2011)

Powell, Gerald A., Jr. "A Rhetoric of Symbolic Identity: An Analysis of Spike Lee's X and Bamboozled." [Dissertation: Doctor of Philosophy in Communication and Culture, Harvard University, 2003]

Riggs, Marlon. "The Making of Color Adjustment." POV (1992)

Slaner, Stephen E. and Sandra Clyne. "The Use of Spike Lee’s Bamboozled to Promote Difficult Dialogues on Race." Human Architecture (Winter 2008): 7-16.

Sutherland, Jean-Anne and Kathryn Feltey. "Introduction." Cinematic Sociology: Social Life in Film. eds. Jean-Anne Sutherland and Kathryn Feltey. Los Angeles, CA: Sage, 2013: 1-23.

Tinson, Christopher. Framing Blackness: African Americans and Mass Media in the 20th Century [Hampshire College: Spring 2011]

Ward, Jerry W. "Prologue to an Essay on African American Satire." Black Magnolias 2.2 (2003): 4-9.

Mark Bittman: That Flawed Stanford Study

That Flawed Stanford Study
By Mark Bittman
Opiniator (The New York Times)

I tried to ignore the month-old “Stanford study.” I really did. It made so little sense that I thought it would have little impact.

That was dumb of me, and I’m sorry.

The study, which suggested — incredibly — that there is no “strong evidence that organic foods are significantly more nutritious than conventional foods,” caused as great an uproar as anything that has happened, food-wise, this year. (By comparison, the Alzheimer’s/diabetes link I wrote about last week was ignored.)

That’s because headlines (and, of course, tweets) matter. The Stanford study was not only an exercise in misdirection, it was a headline generator. By providing “useful” and “counterintuitive” information about organic food, it played right into the hands of the news hungry while conveniently obscuring important features of organic agriculture.

If I may play with metaphor for a moment, the study was like declaring guns no more dangerous than baseball bats when it comes to blunt-object head injuries. It was the equivalent of comparing milk and Elmer’s glue on the basis of whiteness. It did, in short, miss the point. Even Crystal Smith-Spangler, a Stanford co-author, perfectly captured the narrowness of the study when she said: “some believe that organic food is always healthier and more nutritious. We were a little surprised that we didn’t find that.” That’s because they didn’t look — or even worse, they ignored.

In fact, the Stanford study — actually a meta-study, an analysis of more than 200 existing studies — does say that “consumption of organic foods may reduce exposure to pesticide residues and antibiotic-resistant bacteria.”

Since that’s largely why people eat organic foods, what’s the big deal? Especially if we refer to common definitions of “nutritious” and point out that, in general, nutritious food promotes health and good condition. How can something that reduces your exposure to pesticides and antibiotic-resistant bacteria not be “more nutritious” than food that doesn’t?

To Read the Rest of the Commentary

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Films We Want to See #11: Harvest of Empire (USA: Peter Getzels and Eduardo Lopez, 2012)

Doors: L.A. Woman

Tomaz Moniz: Notes From the Frontlines of Bringing Up Girls

Notes from the Frontlines of Bringing Up Girls: What I really want to tell my daughters about autonomy and sex, in the midst of a war on women.
by Tomaz Moniz

The other day I found myself telling my two daughters, 16 and 14, “Don’t have sex until you’re in your 20s—but here are some condoms!”

I’m not sure if there is a better example of sending mixed messages.

Let me explain. I had just discovered that my eldest daughter spent the night with her boyfriend. And though I believe that sex is powerful and beautiful and a profound ritual for entering adulthood, I am still a dad, worried about her well-being. I worry if I’ve provided her with enough information, worry about social pressures she may be under, worry about shame, STDs, pregnancy. But I am also hopeful, happy to be there for her as she becomes an adult, someone she knows she can depend on. For these reasons, I have consistently brought up sex with my girls, and I have consistently been rebuffed, their stares punctuated with rolling eyes or sighs of exhaustion. “Dad, please.”

I don’t let it stop me. I know they don’t want to confide in me, and I actually cringe at the thought of what they might say if they did. But I want to approach the discussion of their bodies, their rights, differently than the terse warnings I received from my own father on the subject of sex. (“Just keep your dick in your pants,” he said.)

However, although I broach the subject with my daughters any chance I get, we don’t actually talk as directly as I’d like. So I find myself offering platitudes like: “Remember, please remember, you can always stop. You can always say no, even after you’re in the car, in the room, out of your clothes, in the bed. No means no. Stop means stop.” And I believe it is important for me to voice these truths about a woman’s right to be in control of her actions, but I wish there was more I could do as a male ally and, perhaps more importantly, as a father. I like to think that fathering made me a feminist.

I like to think that fathering made me a feminist. There was a war on women back when, as a college student, I welcomed my son into the world in 1990. At that time the war was aimed at “welfare mothers,” the media-created monster blamed for all of society’s ills. When my newborn son’s mom applied for welfare, I was served papers by Santa Barbara County, officially notifying me that I must “provide” for my child. I suppose they assumed I was just another part of the problem, a drain on the economy, young, unmarried, breeding. The irony of course was that I was rocking my son in my arms and cleaning up the house when the cop knocked. He stood there, scolding me that I should be out getting a job. I said nothing in response. At 21, I was afraid of his power and authority. “Okay,” I said, shutting the door.

But I was incredibly angry. My girlfriend and I were both full-time students. We both had part-time jobs. We took turns doing what needed to get done. We switched it up when one of us got tired of, say, balancing the checkbook (or more likely made too many mistakes). We argued and fought, but loved and spent a lot of time focusing on what was important: our son. We sacrificed our autonomy and our freedom to participate in things other 20-year-olds were doing. We were a tight fist of domesticity.

We were also, I see now, a case study, a living example of the difficulties that society stacks against poor families.

To Read the Rest of the Essay

Pink Floyd: Dark Side of the Moon

Dennis Lim: Time Has Been Kind to Heaven's Gate

Time Has Been Kind to Heaven's Gate
by Dennis Lim
The New York Times


Lee Kline, the technical director at Criterion, said, “It wasn’t an option to go back to the original negative because that was what was cut down to the short version.” The original 70-millimeter prints were also in poor shape. So in a costly, complicated process, the restoration team scanned each color separation negative individually and recombined them.

“Heaven’s Gate” may be a subject Mr. Cimino has avoided for years, but once he gets going, the floodgates open. He spoke fondly of the performances of Kris Kristofferson, Christopher Walken and Isabelle Huppert, which he feels have never gotten their due. And he recalled the genesis of the project: Researching the history of barbed wire and the cattle industry, he came upon an incident known as the Johnson County War involving cattlemen, hired killers and local ranchers. He described the epilogue — the weary hero, James Averill (Mr. Kristofferson), on a yacht off the New England coast — as “a prelude to ‘The Great Gatsby,’ ” with Averill as the mogul awaiting the arrival of the young James Gatz.

Mr. Cimino also recalled his obsessive quest for authenticity that led many to characterize “Heaven’s Gate” as a runaway production. (First budgeted at less than $10 million, the film grew to a cost of $35 million, or $44 million including promotional costs, according to Mr. Bach’s book. Mr. Cimino maintains that it was “all in $32 million.”) As he put it, “Everything was problematical”: the locomotive that had to be transported to the Montana location from a Denver museum; a horse-drawn buggy whose spokes and upholstery had to be made in different states. “The movie could not be made today, even if you threw $300 million at it,” he said. “All of that is being lost. The wagons don’t exist, the skills are gone.”

Present-day viewers may well find that time has been kind to “Heaven’s Gate,” which plays more than ever like a fittingly bleak apotheosis of the New Hollywood, an eccentric yet elegiac rethinking of the myths of the West and the western, with an uncommonly blunt take on class in America. (“It’s getting dangerous to be poor in this country,” someone says. The rejoinder: “It always was.”) But this defiant last gasp of the downbeat ’70s, opening two weeks after Ronald Reagan was elected president, was plainly a movie at odds with its time.

Reached at his home in Hawaii, Mr. Kristofferson said he believes the themes of the film, with its grim view of American capitalism, were what made it so unpalatable. “It was a political assassination,” he said. He recalled getting word that Reagan’s first attorney general, William French Smith, had told studio heads that “there should be no more pictures made with a negative view of American history.”

Mr. Kristofferson, sounding more rueful than bitter, said that the reception to “Heaven’s Gate” knocked him off the Hollywood A-list for good. “I never really recovered from that,” he said, but he acknowledged that it was worse for Mr. Cimino. “It completely destroyed him.”

Mr. Cimino continued to work, albeit infrequently; he has made four features since “Heaven’s Gate,” the last one, “Sunchaser,” in 1996. A painter who began his directing career in advertising, he said that at home in Los Angeles he rarely watches movies now (and prefers to reread Pushkin and Flaubert). But he does have a film project in mind, which he hopes to shoot in digital soon.

Ms. Carelli, who was with Mr. Cimino in Venice, said that while there remain misconceptions about the making of “Heaven’s Gate,” “I don’t want to revisit old erroneous stories and try to correct them.” She added, “Now the film finally speaks for itself, and it has the final word.”

To Read the Entire Article

More Resources:

The Making and Unmaking of Heaven's Gate

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

The Raconteurs: Steady, As She Goes

Jeff Faux: Education Profiteering -- Wall Street's Next Big Thing?

Education Profiteering; Wall Street's Next Big Thing?
by Jeff Faux
The Real News Network

The end of the Chicago teachers' strike was but a temporary regional truce in the civil war that plagues the nation's public schools. There is no end in sight, in part because -- as often happens in wartime -- the conflict is increasingly being driven by profiteers.

The familiar media narrative tells us that this is a fight over how to improve our schools. On the one side are the self-styled reformers, who argue that the central problem with American K-12 education is low-quality teachers protected by their unions. Their solution is privatization, with its most common form being the privately run but publicly financed charter school. Because charter schools are mostly unregulated, nonunion and compete for students, their promoters claim they will, ipso facto, perform better than public schools.

On the other side are teachers and their unions who are cast as villains. The conventional plot line is that they resist change, blame poverty for their schools' failings and protect their jobs and turf.

It is well known, although rarely acknowledged in the press, that the reform movement has been financed and led by the corporate class. For over twenty years large business oriented foundations, such as Gates (Microsoft), Walton (Wal-Mart) and Broad (Sun Life) have poured billions into charter school start-ups, sympathetic academics and pundits, media campaigns (including Hollywood movies) and sophisticated nurturing of the careers of privatization promoters who now dominate the education policy debate from local school boards to the US Department of Education.

In recent years, hedge fund operators, leverage-buy-out artists and investment bankers have joined the crusade. They finance schools, sit on the boards of their associations and the management companies that run them, and -- most important -- have made support of charter schools one of the criteria for campaign giving in the post- Citizens United era. Since most Republicans are already on board for privatization, the political pressure has been mostly directed at Democrats.

Thus, for example, when Andrew Cuomo wanted to get the support of hedge fund managers for his run for governor of New York, he was told to talk to Joe Williams, director of Democrats for Education Reform, a group set up to lobby liberals on privatization. Cuomo is now a champion of charter schools. As Joanne Barkan noted in a Dissent Magazine report, privatizers are even targeting school board elections, in one case spending over $630,000 to elect two members in a local school board race last year in Colorado.

Wall Street's involvement in the charter school movement -- when the media acknowledges it -- is presented as an act of philanthropy. Perhaps, as critics claim, hedge funders are meddling in an area they know nothing about. But their motives are worthy. Indeed, since they send their own children to the best private schools, their concern for other people's children seems remarkably altruistic. "Wall Street has always put its money where its interests of beliefs lie," observed this New York Times article, "But it is far less common that so many financial heavyweights would adopt a social cause like charter schools and advance it with a laser like focus in the political realm."

Yet, with the wide variety of social causes and charitable needs -- poverty, health, housing, global warming, the arts, etc. -- why would so many Wall Streeters focus laser-like on this particular issue? The Times suggest two answers. One is that the money managers are hard-nosed, data-driven investors "drawn to the business-like way in which many charter schools are run; their focus on results primarily measured by test scores."

Twenty years ago, one might have reasonably believed that the private charter schools, which are managed to produce the numbers, would produce better outcomes -- as measured by the numbers. But the overwhelming evidence is that they do not. The single most comprehensive study, by researchers at Stanford University, found that 17 percent of charter school students performed better than their public school counterparts, 46 percent no better and 37 percent worse. Stanford's conclusions have been reinforced by virtually all of the serious research, including those at the University of California, the Economic Policy Institute and the policy research firm Mathematica.

Nor do charter schools seem more efficient. Those promoted as the most successful examples have been heavily subsidized by foundations and Wall Street donors. The film, Waiting for Superman that portrays a heroic charter school organizer fighting a selfish teachers union was widely hyped in the media -- including popular TV shows like Oprah Winfrey's. Yet, as Diane Ravitch, an assistant secretary of education under George H.W. Bush and a former charter school supporter turned critic, noted, the film neglected to report that the hero educator kicked out the entire first class of the school because their test scores were too low, that the school was heavily subsidized by the pro-reform foundations and that the hero took an annual salary of four hundred thousand dollars.

Neither do the data on international comparisons support either privatization in general or charter schools in particular. The foreign education systems that out score America's are government-run, unionized, monopolies. Ravitch asks: "I look around the world and I don't see any country doing this but us. Why is that?"

Good question. Although the data do not support the supposedly data-driven privatizers' claims, their enthusiasm is undiminished. In response to an op-ed by Bill Gates that crudely misrepresented the statistics on school performance, education policy analyst Richard Rothstein observed: "It is remarkable that someone associated with technology and progress should have such a careless disregard for accuracy when it comes to the education policy in which he is now so deeply involved."

The Times' other guess about Wall Street's motives was that hedge funders are attracted to the anti-union character of the charter schools. This is undoubtedly true; the attack on the pubic schools is clearly a part of the broad conservative campaign to discredit government.

Wall Street has always loathed the labor movement. And in the last decade it has had even more of a reason since corporate profits now depend more on cost cutting and less on the creation of new products. The Chief Finance Officer of JP Morgan reports that some 75% of the net increase in corporate profits between 2000 and 2007 -- before the financial crash -- was a result of cuts in workers' wages and benefits. Given that unions are the only serious vehicles for resistance to the corporate low-wage strategy, Wall Street's antipathy has become even stronger.

But today unions represent less than seven percent of private sector workers. And the influence of public sector unions on the bargaining position of workers in profit-making corporations is, certainly in the short run, negligible. So while hostility to unions plays a role, is it is not quite credible to believe that Wall Street profit maximizers would be spending so much of their time and money simply to beat up on a proxy for the private sector unions that they have already so beaten back.

As usual, when looking for what motivates capitalists in a market system, the answer is likely to have something to do with making money.

Having been rescued from the consequences of its own folly by the Bush/Obama bailouts with its de-regulated privileges intact, Wall Street is once more on the prowl for the new "big thing" -- a new source of potential profits upon which to build the next lucrative asset bubble.

To Read the Rest of the Essay