Tuesday, June 25, 2013

 

"Promised Land": Playing Both Sides?

Spoiler Alert

Promised Land is a 2012 environmentalist/anti-corporate fantasy film. I call it a fantasy film because I've rarely heard of a corporate tool like Damon's character, Steve Butler, making the sudden turnabout we see in Promised Land. Butler, who has just been offered the job of Vice President for Land Management of Global Crosspower Solutions is shocked, shocked to learn that large corporations deceive and manipulate people to get what they want.

You see, an environmental campaigner has been trying to thwart Butler's and Sue Thomason's (Frances McDormand) efforts to get the residents of the rural hamlet of McKinley to sign leases so Global can frack for natural gas. But the campaigner, Dustin Noble (John Krasinski), is revealed to be a ringer from Global whose job is to run an anti-fracking campaign and then blow it up at the last minute by getting caught deceiving the good people of McKinley. After Noble actually slips up and let's a surprised Butler know who he really works for, he explains: "Steve, companies like Global, they don't rely on anyone. That's how they win. They win by controlling every outcome. And they do that by playing both sides."

Promised Land can be fairly characterized as an anti-fracking film. I didn't realize that when I first started watching it but once I did I began to wonder if the film wasn't playing both sides against the audience. As it turns out, the film was bankrolled by Abu Dhabi Media. Abu Dhabi Media is owned by the government of the United Arab Emirates. The government of the United Arab Emirates is owned by hereditary, absolute monarchies--the Emirs and their families who got phenomenally rich off the oil and gas deposits under and offshore of the country. Of course, they wouldn't have any interest is opposing fracking, now would they?

In any case, Promised Land is a good and interesting film but just keep in mind when you watch it that you might be being played. Ask yourself, too, why the film got an R rating by the MPAA.

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Thursday, June 20, 2013

 

Quotable: Excerpts from "Letters from Abu Ghraib"

Was Rome dispensing "God's divine Justice" when it forbade Pater and Paul from preaching public? Were Peter and Paul "justly reprimanded for their sins" by being imprisoned and executed? Was Jesus being justly punished for his sin when the Sanhedrin sent him to be executed by [Pilate]? Was Germany dispensing divine wrath to Israel, Poland, etc., when they plotted to take over the world and exterminate all non-Aryans? ... I am trying to say that the State does not have a license to do anything it wants ... and when we are ordered by the State to violate God's law, we must not bow to Baal. Civil disobedience is just as mandatory as civil subservience. It all must past through the filter of conscience, not to mention Christ's mandate that we recognize that the Kingdom has already come. We are now its citizens. ... we are under no obligation to abdicate conscience on behalf of the State. [pp. 64-65].

Every day I talk with the enemy. But I do not see an embodiment of "he who opposes goodness." If we approach the war on terrorism with the fervor of a Christian jihad against Islam, our battle is already lost, for we have become what we opposed and we are now the fundamentalists. Our battle is not one of flesh and blood, but against the spiritual powers and principalities which rule this present darkness. We cannot allow ourselves to be caught up in "war mode" against a fleshly enemy, or the true enemy is already within us, and we have failed to believe in the power of a redemption which (we say) we believe has saved us. ... My comfort and liberty must not be won by the sacrifices of a new and foreign poor now paying the price for our moral failings of diplomacy. economy and statesmanship, turning our Republic into an Empire. [pp. 71-72].

Joining the army is not a sacrament, it's a pagan allegiance. [p. 91].

We must at least allow the pain inflicted upon us by our enemies to be a megaphone to our own deafness to the world, waking us up to the needs of others, to the violence inflicted upon them. [p. 92].

I don't complain about "the military" because of inconvenience or discomfort ... I complain about how perilous it feels to attempt an authentic Christianity in the midst of "exploiting persons of their intelligence value," and then listening to the news, hearing of the bombing campaign just undertaken in the town that I just wrote an intelligence report on only days previous. Those bombs are given coordinates by my reports. Mine ...

Since the day I walked onto Academy grounds at West Point, I have been in an ongoing and quite conscious battle with my military service. Whether it was my first decision in college to turn away from military service altogether, or my post-September 11th decision to return to service, I have been attempting to mitigate conscience and duty for the past seven years. In the absence of a clear and articulate objection to service, I have defaulted to evolving forms of duty as my guiding principle. ... Conscientious objection is now the only way dutifully to fulfill my obligations both to faith and to nation, and to my own internal commitments to personal courage. [From the conscientious objector application of Joshua Casteel, pp. 115-116].

Source: Joshua Casteel. Letters from Abu Ghraib. (Essay Pr., 2008). Casteel was an interrogator with the US Army's 202nd Military Intelligence Battalion. He based in the Abu Ghraib prison in 2004 and 2005.

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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

 

Felon


Felon (2008), starring Val Kilmer and Stephen Dorff, is certainly not a perfect movie but it is a generally good, if disturbing, film with an important message about America's out of control police-judicial-prison-industrial complex. The film was made in a New Mexico prison and was inspired by actual events. In 1996, the Los Angeles Times published "Tales of Brutality Behind Bars" concerning the brutality of prison guards at the California State Prison, Corcoran; this is the real-life background of Felon. Mark Arax's article and Felon illustrate that there is no shortage of criminal gang members wearing uniforms and badges. Without really trying, I found a more recent example of this in a St. Louis Post-Dispatch article, "Suit says guards made inmates fight 'gladiator-style' in St. Louis jail," from last year. Another point Felon makes is how vulnerable even the most seemingly unlikely people are to being ensnared in the system. Felon writer-director Ric Roman Waugh has followed up Felon with Snitch (2013), starring Dwayne Johnson and also inspired by true events, which deals with much the similar subject matter. At right is an infographic from the Snitch official web site.


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