Friday, April 24, 2009


Quotable: Ben-Gurion on Zionism & the UN

We consider that the United Nations' ideal is a Jewish ideal.

Source: David Ben-Gurion as quoted in "The Watchman." Time. August 16, 1948.

... for many of us, anti-Semitic feeling had little to do with our dedication [to Zionism]. I personally never suffered anti-Semitic persecution. Plonsk [the city in Poland where Ben-Gurion Grün/Gryn was born in 1886] was remarkably free of it ... Nevertheless, and I think this very significant, it was Plonsk that sent the highest proportion of Jews to Eretz Israel from any town in Poland of comparable size. We emigrated not for negative reasons of escape but for the positive purpose of rebuilding a homeland ...

Life in Plonsk was peaceful enough. There were three main communities: Russians, Jews and Poles. ...

The number of Jews and Poles in the city were roughly equal, about five thousand each. The Jews, however, formed a compact, centralized group occupying the innermost districts whilst the Poles were more scattered, living in outlying areas and shading off into the peasantry. Consequently, when a gang of Jewish boys met a Polish gang the latter would almost inevitably represent a single suburb and thus be poorer in fighting potential than the Jews who even if their numbers were initially fewer could quickly call on reinforcements from the entire quarter. Far from being afraid of them, they were rather afraid of us. In general, however, relations were amicable, though distant.

Source: David Ben-Gurion. Recollections. (London: Macdonald Unit 75, 1970) pp. 36-37.

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009


Three Images from Chris Jordan

Below are three images from "Running the Numbers: An American Self Portrait" by Seattle-based photographer Chris Jordan. The first image, called "Prison Uniforms," depicts 2.3 million folded prison uniforms, equal to the number of Americans incarcerated in 2005. As I mentioned in "Lenin's Foresight," the US locks up more people than any other country.

The last two images are from "Barbie Dolls," comprised of 32,000 Barbies, equal to the number of elective breast-augmentation surgeries performed monthly in the U.S. in 2006. To see more images and read an interview with Jordan go to "Chris Jordan photographs our culture of excess in hopes of changing it."

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Quotable: Disney as Synagogue

"Among all of you, I'm a gefilte fish out of water," said Dick Cook, referring to his non-Jewish-sounding name. The Walt Disney Studios chair joked that Disney is the synagogue he most often attends, and instead of an eight-pronged menorah, there's Snow White and the Seven Dwarves greeting him at the entrance.

The creme de la creme of Hollywood executives spent a Thursday evening honoring Cook when he was presented with the Dorothy and Sherrill C. Corwin Human Relations Award at the American Jewish Committee's "A Celebration of Imagination" dinner Oct. 18. ...

Source: Danielle Berrin. "A gefilte fish story, Art of Brain." Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles. November 1, 2007.

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Monday, April 20, 2009


Lenin's Foresight

In Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy John le Carre has the Soviet double agent Bill Haydon say: "In capitalist America economic repression of the masses is institutionalised to a point which not even Lenin could have foreseen ..." (p. 365 of the 2002 Pocket Books paperback edition). A listener referenced this line in an e-mail comment to the Diane Rehm Show during a segment with William Greider (48:39). This view has much to commend itself given the taxpayer-financed bailout of corporate giants, growing homelessness, the mortgage foreclosure crisis, the dismal state of America's corrupt labor unions, and the fact that the US has the largest prison population in the world.

See also: "In hard times, tent cities rise across the country" by the AP.

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Friday, April 17, 2009


Quick Comments on Three Movies

I recently watched Capricorn One, The Family That Preys, and Boy A. I told the friend I was watching Capricorn One with that this was the kind of major Hollywood film that could only have have been made in the Woodward and Bernstein era and a few minutes later there was a reference to the Watergate duo in the film. An original 1978 movie poster sums up the film's plot: "The mission was a sham. The murders were real." The mission was a manned landing on Mars.

The Family That Preys is a recent offering by Tyler Perry, who has created and dominates a film niche that caters primarily to Black audiences. Perry's films feature predominantly Black casts and include some of the big names in Hollywood. TFTP included Alfre Woodard, Kathy Bates, and Sanaa Lathan. If you want insight into the values and dreams/illusions of much of the Black American middle-class then watch Perry's films.

Boy A is a compelling adaptation of a novel of the same name. The novel and film are British and the film provides a striking contrast to what is known as an "American ending" in cinema. A typically American ending is a happy ending with no loose ends. It tends to minimally, if at all, engage the intellect and the imagination. An American or Hollywood ending encourages passivity in the viewer as the sweet, but ultimately poisonous, syrup is spoon-fed to you. The best of the non-American endings (and American films can have such endings) provide no neat resolution and, thus, engage viewers intellectually and imaginatively.

Perhaps nothing illustrates the insidious nature of the "American ending" as well as the remarks of Dan Glickman. At a major film industry convention last month Glickman, the Motion Picture Association of America Chairman and CEO, told his audience:
... the fact that in the dark ... in the theater ... we are on ... and if only for a few hours on a Saturday afternoon, nice guys finish first ... underdogs have their day…and whether it's autobots versus decepticons ... Harry versus Voldemort ... humans versus cyborgs ... or guinea pigs versus billionaires ... the good guys carry the day ... and the little guy can take on the system and win. In the global cinema, this is known as the American ending--the happy ending.
Few people know better than Dan Glickman just how heavily the deck is stacked against the underdog and in favor of the billionaires in real American life. Thus, the surfeit of vicarious victories in reel American life.

In 1998, as Secretary of Agriculture in the Clinton administration, Glickman defended a $600 million federal ethanol subsidy saying: "Political theory is really the rationalization of economic interests." The chief beneficiary of the subsidy was corporate agro-monster Archer Daniels Midland. Among other things, in 1996, ADM agreed to pay a $100 million fine for illegally manipulating the price of lysine. Of course, none of this deterred Congress or Glickman and the rest of the Clinton administration from giving hundreds of millions of tax dollars to ADM.

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