Friday, November 28, 2008

Boston joins Philadelphia in the stupidity of claiming Southerner Edgar Allan Poe as their own

Boston, Massachusetts--He hated the city. He hated the Trancendentalist writers like Emerson and Thoreau, accused Longfellow of plagiarism, and referred to the literary community of Boston during his lifetime as "Frogpondium." If there was a city that Poe hated more than Philadelphia, it was Boston. I agree with him, both towns are vile filth-holes of human iniquity that show no signs of ever changing.

Not that that's stopping the same kind of silver spoon people that Poe would have loathed from claiming him--an avowed Southerner--as one of their own.

Poe was merely born in Boston to his actor parents who had lived a gypsy-like vagabond existence that he was tragically destined to repeat. Yet, "Poe is a Bostonian." He was? The reality is that he was born in Boston--at best--on accident, and it could have been in Trenton, New Jersey depending on the day he arrived into the world.

Never mind that his readings in the town were meant to insult everyone there, or that he was generally loathed by the well-heeled writers that populated Boston and its environs--he's "ours," according to a jackass Professor, Dr. Paul Lewis, some misguided grad students who want a good grade, and Boston College officials who should know better but smell the tourist dollars along with the city council. At least they weren't as stupid as Philadelphia and its own literary scion, Edward Pettit--they wanted Poe's body disinterred and ferried "Back" to the city that he hated the most.

As if in some perverse parody of one of Poe's tales, Pettit enjoined his fellow Pennsylvanians to grab a shovel and follow him there. Boston was a close second in the writer's mind as a cesspool.

Quit fooling yourselves, he hated Boston. At least Dr. Lewis and the rest of them got to ride Poe's coattails like Sam Popora last year. I used to wonder why Poe railed so viciously against people like Emerson, Thoreau, his step-father, and his main nemesis, the awful poet and compiler Rufus Griswold: they had the easy road in life without matching talent. Poe was the first American writer to attempt making-a-living at writing, and the first to die in poverty.

It's easy to claim him today, but a living Poe would get the same reaction, he wouldn't be pleasant to these people. Twenty-twenty hindsight doesn't count. He would rightly belittle them, revile them, and tell them how empty and irrelevant they all are. He could be expected to point-out how poor their own writing likely is, and how pampered and hypocritical they are. Poe wouldn't have kind words for these people at all, they're the same kinds of little pricks that he hated so much during his short lifetime. Eventually, they would begin to ignore him as his own contemporaries did, just as they're ignoring the living-talent right under their bourgeois noses in the Boston of today. Celebrate the living, remember the dead, but let the man rest in peace.

He is not yours, he is everyone's, but he was a son of the South first. I hope you enjoyed your fifteen minutes at his expense, Boston, because it's all you're likely to get. We're all going to be forgotten, while Poe will go on, eternal, because he was the real thing. He meant what he said and what he wrote and wasn't a bringer of "good news," but an observer of human frailty, of madness and despair. He wasn't a bringer of "good news" about America.

All this smacks of disrespect to his memory by today's inhabitants of "Frogpondium," that comfy world of the trust fund and a meaningless bourgeois existence, the living death that Poe and others wrote about. Why wouldn't they want to attach themselves barnacle-like to something so great, so tortured, and so sincere when they have nothing to offer? All these fools claiming Poe as their own are part of the horrible new order that writers like
Blake, Mary Shelly, Poe, Melville wrote of, where man is wolf to man.

They watched the emergence of our modern world in terror, and they were right to be alarmed. Blake reacted in horror to the smashing of "Albion," his agricultural England, and saw the rise of a "demonic" industrialized one dominated by soulless businessmen and clerks, where people were truly enslaved. Poe also watched his Albion--the Antebellum South--crumble in the same manner, and he found city life disagreeable and fearful. As wrong-headed as he was about so many things, he at least treasured an aristocratic set-of-values where honor and principle matter.

It takes a kind of greatness to recognize the horror of one's time, and you have to be at the ground level to really apprehend its qualities. But why would someone want to do something as silly as to claim Poe when that claim is tenuous? Easy.

Because those are characteristics none of the advocates display or have inherently, they lack the inspiration of a Poe or a Melville in their dour careerist paths. Say what you want about Poe's bad behaviors during his lifetime--the drinking, the mania and obsessiveness, the literary quarreling, his constant begging for money, his personal affronts against well-heeled writers, and so on--but at least he had the excuse of being poor. Greatness requires a modicum of genuine suffering, something alien to today's bourgeois viper. Zum kotzen!

Dalai Lama states that "sex leads to trouble"

"I may now add that civilization is a process in the service of Eros, whose purpose is to combine single human individuals, and after that families, then races, peoples and nations, into one great unity, the unity of mankind. Why this has to happen, we do not know; the work of Eros is precisely this. These collections of men are to be libidinally bound to one another. Necessity alone, the advantages of work in common, will not hold them together. But man's natural aggressive instinct, the hostility of each against all and of all against each, opposes this programme of civilization. This aggressive instinct is the derivative and the main representative of the death instinct which we have found alongside of Eros and which shares world-dominion within it." --Sigmund Freud, Civilization and its Discontents, P. 119, 1930.

--The Dalai Lama's right, you know. There's a gal who I see when I go out who's interested in me, and I think she's all that, cute, etc. . But I don't want any part of it. This isn't to say that I don't believe there are those magical folks among us who can handle love and intimacy, but they're a tiny minority of humanity who don't let it get to them and who can control themselves. It'
s also not because I don't want to see humanity perpetuate--it's that I know there are too many of us, and we're not all that.

The Lama stated some of the unholy truth this week:

Sexual pressure, sexual desire, actually I think is short period satisfaction and often, that leads to more complication. ...[There] are too [many] ups and downs. ...Naturally as a human being ... some kind of desire for sex comes, but then you use human intelligence to make [the] comprehension that those couples [are] always full of trouble. And in some cases there is suicide [and] murder cases. (AFP, 11.28.2008)

What? The Buddhists are cynics? Uh, yeah, that's a big part of Buddhism, a renunciation of this world. Most Buddhists view the world as being a place of futility, a trap for the soul, something very transitory, and brimming with evil.
Correct, and it's how I view the world. Are all relationships futile? No, I don't believe this. But it's close, very close to being that way given the predictability of people's behavior in a relationship.

Freud was right once again. Sex binds us, even when it shouldn't. There would be no point whatsoever to any of this without some carrots (go wild with the symbolism of that, I know you will). The most horrible truth is that when one partner loves another more than the other, they're the inevitable victim in the equation. Almost no one is capable of coping with the responsibility of someone who loves you more than you love them. Being a restless species, we try perversely to make things worse. Not content to leave intimacy despoiled, we inject crass materialism into-the-mix, then blame each other when we fail to meet our mutual expectations.

The worst aspects of humanity have been nurtured under the capitalist order we've all inhabited in our lives, not that it's the only system or order to ruin love and sex. Women in West are especially guilty of promoting this convenient commercialism, wrapped-up as it were in "gifts" that are a mandatory prerequisite for things to be "romantic." Even worse is the female-fixation on the blustering mate who shows constant certainty that they have "things under control," the "Mr. Fix-it" syndrome, when they most definitely have nothing under control.

"Lie to me," she said, "Tell me what I want to hear, not the truth, not ever."

"If you insist," he said. You could just as easily rearrange the genders here, it doesn't matter. We just want to get laid. Men, women, regardless of sexual orientation or how raging our libidos might be. At some point, the flesh needs servicing, empty notions of "romance" aside. Lies are crucial in a culture where the lines between instinct and the repressive conditioning of civilization have blurred.

Self-interest and false sentimentality have been used to keep us buying garbage we never wanted or needed, distracting us away from what's important--each other.
We bought it, literally. The Lama goes further than I ever would, Buddhism not being an entirely "humanist" religion and philosophy. He says that we shouldn't get too attached to anyone--not even our loved ones or our children.

This is where I would draw-the-line, and I believe we all need focus on empathy towards others.

There are many sects of Buddhism, so you can tell that they don't agree on such issues either. Yet, he's right about sex. That spells trouble and the over-complication of our lives, it means unnecessary drama and irrational compromise.
Men and women are going to have to live separately for a long time before we're all ready for sustainable cohabitation...if that's even possible or desirable.

Hats go off to the lucky few who've already achieved it.

The basic difference between the East and the West is geographical location. The cultural sources are the same. Men and women--and individuals-in-general--are much farther apart than mere cultures in the modern world.

Freud was also right that we're always going to be in conflict with our animal side. Sometimes, a cigar really is just a cigar (why do some feminists use Freudian imagery so much?)...and you can keep it anyway. "Let's do it" might be about the most intellectually and morally honest greeting, but honesty is the last thing anyone cares about. It's enough to turn anyone off. Trouble? Brother, you don't know the meaning of "trouble."

Monday, November 24, 2008

Bush II administration officially ends, Obama de facto President of the United States

Washington D.C.--It might say "Office of the President-Elect of the United States"on the podium, but Barack Obama and his economic team have already begun taking action as an active and operational presidential administration.

Alongside this there has been the parallel inaction and obstruction of the dead administration of George W. Bush and its inability to think outside the obsolete box of the "market economy" ideology. This week, reality handed them their ass, and now they're being far more cooperative.

This disintegration of the Bush II administration isn't being announced anywhere, but it's unprecedented in our history, it's real. George W. Bush's inability to lead and govern collapsed long ago, but it's now completely played-out and he has nothing left to offer to a situation that he helped birth through earlier negligence and criminal inaction.

My intuition is that the meeting between President-elect Obama and the outgoing President Bush yielded the belated cooperation, finally, because there was nothing left for them to do. They wanted help and they wanted someone to guide them, to hold their hand. You can imagine they also said, "Don't hurt us," in so many words.

The bailout of Citigroup (of whom vice president-elect Joe Biden has connections) is likely a concession on-the-part of Bush in-exchange for economic advice.
A promise of amnesty might have been part of the deal as well. Why would Bush and his administration know how to fix the mess he helped create? How would they do it without implicating themselves? You can just feel that Barack Obama is already president due to the grave nature of things at this historical moment.

The GOP is doctrinally and politically paralyzed within the executive branch. Send in the new guy:
Remarkably for a president-elect, he said he wanted Congress to act "right away" on a stimulus measure that would blend spending and tax cuts. Asked for details, he said without elaboration that he wanted a measure "of a size and scope that is necessary to get this economy back on track."

Democratic officials in Congress said the stimulus plan could include aid to cash-strapped states to provide health care to the poor, along with road and bridge funding. More money for food stamps is also likely, they said.

Obama renewed his campaign-long call for middle class tax cuts but said he would let his advisers make a recommendation on whether to roll back Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy. ("Obama urges Congress to pass costly stimulus bill," AP, 11.24.2008)

Bush and Obama spoke together on the phone today, and one can imagine why. There was no choice. Leadership in the White House has collapsed and illuminated what we--the critics of the administration--have contended all along: George W. Bush is not a leader in any sense, he is incompetent, and he has broken the law knowingly and unknowingly because of these fundamental facts.

Bush is also a very compromised man, and now Congress and the "incoming" Obama administration has begun bypassing the White House in addressing the economic crisis. This has never happened in the entire political history of the United States.

This is not hyperbole. This is not the grandstanding of Alex Jones or Naomi Klein, or even Arianna Huffington. The Bush administration ended last week. There is the possibility that the formality of impeachment might not be such a bad idea after all. What political party would want to lay claim to George W. Bush after the last year? Not even the GOP.

Expect some belated actions towards impeachment that could even occur after Bush and his cohorts leave office in January, and expect Obama to be a disappointment. But events have a way of forcing hands...

There is no statute of limitations on war crimes, and the economy might just be all the impetus they need in Congress to act in apprehending the worst band of criminals to hold high office in our history. General strikes and a groundswell have a way of making politicians behave.

This era promises to be as dramatic as the 1930s, if not more so. How often have you ever heard a president-elect urge Congress to act on anything before they've taken office? I'm not saying it's improper given the circumstances, but it's new, and it underscores that the Bush II administration is completely inept and has finally ossified into total inaction.

Yet Obama and his advisers are already talking about deficit-spending when they should be making-it-plain that Bush's 2001 tax-cuts on the wealthiest cannot survive after January 2009.

"Obama urges Congress to pass costly stimulus bill," AP, 11.24.2008:

[Ed., 11.25.2008--If you don't get that there is no two party system, but just a one party one masquerading as a two party one, you've probably had fork-marks on face your entire life, and always will.]

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Disgraced evangelical ex-pastor Ted Haggard "reinvents" self to become Christian businessman and reflections on my own religious roots

"Man will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest."
--Denis Diderot

--If you think there's any difference at all between an evangelical preacher or pastor from a "Christian businessman," you've already lost your ability to reason. Jesus would have laughed, then physically attacked these kinds of bastards, just as he's alleged to have done with the money-changers. Same kind of people.

The war between the Great Awakening and the Enlightenment that began in the 1700s continues unabated.

Why? Because some of us cannot--and will not--ever be able to cope with the fact that we have this short time on our earth, that life is a kind of "happy accident," and that we die and there's nothing after that. Why is this a bad thing? I don't get it and don't want to. Wanting to live forever sounds like vampirism. We die.

I can cope with it being that way, can you? Get a real goddamn job you bums, you liars, you assholes. Quit preying on the miserable, the vulnerable, and the lost. Leave them alone--there's your redemption, just leave people alone. My grandparents taught me that the preacher man has no more knowledge of God than anyone else. They taught me that these men--and very few women, even today--don't have any answers for your life or the meaning of all of this.

They were right. If a parish or a church helps people, that's fine, and that's all they should be there for. Otherwise, there is no point to their existence whatsoever.

In that sense, I can accept President-elect Obama's embracing of faith-based initiatives, because we're going to have to mobilize every single governmental and social institution to fix our economy and our world. But don't me or anyone else sing or pray for their meal as the Salvation Army and others do. Don't force your beliefs onto others for help. That's immoral, and you cannot change people, ultimately. When I look back at my family's history (the Blough-branch, the one I value the most), there's an impressive array of Anabaptism and Populism. They were people who fought "the good fight," the hardest ones, but the ones worth fighting for.

Nearly 500-hundred-years-ago during the Reformation, they arose in Switzerland, Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, and much of Western Europe, to challenge the power of the union between Church and State, religious intolerance, and the conscription of young and old for wars fought for the powerful. Someday, there won't be a need for churches. Democracy breaks-out in every era in so many different forms.

In the earliest-days of Christianity, there was no "orthodox" canon, and women were often treated as equals in religious settings. When orthodoxy (literally, "right thinking") crushed the democratic diversity of Christianity, we lost the voice and wisdom of women. We're only now recovering from the mistakes from that time, something that should give us pause. Would there have been the witch-hunts and the untold murders of women and homosexuals over the centuries? Would there have been so many wars with the shaping of the sword-wielding Jesus?

We're coming to a watershed period here where the repressive structures of traditional and modern authoritarianism are falling away. Will we take-up these opportunities, or will be miss them when they're right in-front of our faces? The possibilities are breathtaking. No, there won't be some "workers' paradise" afterward, that's for other, secular religions of the Left. But we can improve things. We can improve our lives, and the lives of our children and their children. We can leave a legacy behind that's redemptive, the real thing. This life is all that matters.

Knowing that at least my own branch of the family has retained these Anabaptist values, and that my ancestors have tended towards being on the right side of history, I can only feel proud. How they were transmitted unconsciously through our family culture over the centuries is the real mystery, but it happened. That's all that matters. Ted Haggard should quit using Jesus as his crutch and go get a real job as the rest of us have had to our entire lives. If he has to push a mop, so mote it be, the bum.

Friday, November 21, 2008

From the Palfrey trial transcripts: April 7th, 2008 excerpt

Ed.--This excerpt comes from the opening day of the trial of Deborah Jeane Palfrey. The witness for the government being questioned is Mark Hines, beginning at the bottom of page 12 and ending on the bottom of page 20. Palfrey always contended to me and others on the defense team that she thought the investigation into her began around May/June of 2004 in the Baltimore IRS office, apparently brought to their attention by USPS investigators.

I'm unaware of the entire extent of discovery materials she was given by the prosecution, but basically rang true at the time, and in a way it still does. Except for one thing. The real inquiry into the "DC Madam" began in August, 2001. Until reading the trial transcript, I was completely unaware of this fact, partly because press coverage of the trial was almost non-existent, and what little there was lacked any substance or detail.

Eventually, either I, the government, or someone else will post it online in toto, and the public can finally judge for themselves how fair her trial proceedings were, and all of the roads the government didn't go down.

For example: why couldn't they have gotten her for underreporting her income? A source informs me that this would have been the easiest of charges to prosecute.

Why didn't they do it? I have my suspicions, and it includes Palfrey and the government both lying about how much money she earned, and that she hid a lot of it. My guess is that they're either still investigating to find it, or they've already located most of it. She made a lot more money than anyone's reporting. The text has been broken-up for easier reading. Page breaks are noted. It appears that the investigation into Palfrey actually did originate in Washington D.C. and not in Baltimore, but in Linthicum, Maryland as Palfrey and author Bill Keisling once contended...


22 BY MS. BUTLER [Ed.--Nice typo, Butler is a "Mr."]:

23 Q Good afternoon.

24 A Good afternoon.

25 Q State your full name and spell your last name, please. [Page Break]


1 A My name is Mark Hines. Last name is spelled H-i-n-e-s.

2 Q Mr. Hines, where do you work?

3 A I'm employed as a Assistant Special Agent in Charge with
4 the Postal Service Office of Inspector General.

5 Q And just briefly, what does the Inspector General's
6 office do?

7 A The Postal Service AIG is the internal law enforcement
8 arm of the postal service, and we investigate fraud, waste,
9 and abuse within the postal system and also employment conduct
10 issues.

11 Q And how long have you been with that office?

12 A I started work with them in 2005.

13 Q Okay. Where were you before that?

14 A Prior to that I was employed as a U.S. Postal Inspector
15 in New Orleans, Louisiana.

16 Q Okay. And how long were you there?

17 A I was there from 2003 to 2005.

18 Q Okay. And before that, where were you?

19 A I was employed as a postal inspector in the Washington
20 Division, the Washington Metro area.

21 Q And how long were you there?

22 A I was employed as a postal inspector in Washington
23 between 1994 and 2003.

24 Q Okay. And just briefly, describe what the Postal
25 Inspection Service does. [Page Break]


1 A Postal Inspection Service is the external law enforcement
2 branch of the postal service. They investigate violations of
3 postal law and external attacks on the postal system.
4 Examples of that would be robbery of a post-office,
5 a burglary of a post-office, dangerous mailings or illicit
6 mailings going through the postal system and mail fraud.

7 Q Okay. In about 2000, what was your assignment within the
8 Postal Inspection Service at that time?

9 A In 2000, I was assigned to the Prohibited Mailings Team.
10 That was a team that investigated illicit items and contraband
11 being mailed through the postal system.

12 Q Okay. And was there a specific place or location where
13 you were -- primarily would do that?

14 A Yes, sir. I was assigned -- my last duty station was the
15 incoming mail facility at BWI Airport.

16 Q Baltimore/Washington International Airport?

17 A Yes, sir.

18 Q Okay. And what was your -- what was your assignment at
19 that time? What was your job description?

20 A It had two functions. One function was to profile
21 express mail system for illicit mailings containing
22 contraband; that would be narcotics and also illicit funds.

23 Q Okay. And you said two functions.

24 A Yes, sir.

25 Q What's the second function? [Page Break]


1 A The other function was to investigate violations
2 involving postal money orders.

3 Q Okay. Now, let's sort of make sure everyone's operating
4 from the same place in terms of knowledge. Express mail, what
5 is that, just briefly?

6 A Express mail is the service provided by the U.S. Postal
7 Service, an overnight delivery service. You can go to the
8 counter at a post-office, pay a larger fee than you would
9 normally, to mail a first-class envelope, and then that item
10 has a control number assigned to it and it's delivered in a --
11 in an expedited fashion, overnight typically.
12 The other aspect of express mail is that you can
13 track its process through the postal system by the use of that
14 assigned control number.

15 Q And you mentioned money orders. What -- just, again,
16 just briefly, what is a money order?

17 A Postal service money order is a financial instrument
18 that's available to postal customers. You can go into a
19 post-office and with currency purchase a negotiable instrument
20 similar to a check or a money order you might get at a
21 7-Eleven or another outlet.
22 In turn, that document, you can convey to somebody
23 else and it can be cashed at a post-office or it can be
24 deposited like a check at a bank.

25 Q And a money order, does it show who purchased the money [Page Break]


1 order on the face of the document?

2 A There is a portion on the face of the document for the
3 person remitting it to write the purchaser of the money order
4 and the sender of the money order, although it's not always
5 completed.

6 Q Okay. And in your assignment at BWI, what were you
7 looking for in terms of express mail labeling and in terms of
8 money orders?

9 A During the course of my assignment, we would look for
10 patterns of suspicious mailing activity; we would look at that
11 through the paperwork which would be the express mail labels
12 from these postal mailings. We would also look at live mail
13 that would go out to the postal service facility, the
14 processed incoming express mail for the D.C. Metro area and
15 also outbound express mail coming from the D.C. Metro area,
16 again, for suspicious mailings.

17 Q What were you looking for? What, in particular, were you
18 looking for? What were you trying to find?

19 A In particular, what we were looking for was in the
20 mornings, we were looking for inbound mailings that typically
21 contained drugs, illegal controlled substances, and then in
22 the evening, at the outbound mail, outbound express mail, we
23 were looking for illicit funds, currency, and also postal
24 money orders and other negotiable instruments.

25 Q And did there come a time when you focused on a business [Page Break]


1 called Pamela Martin & Associates?

2 A We did, yes, sir.

3 Q And how did that come about?

4 A In August of 2001 [Ed--My emphasis.], I had been profiling for outbound
5 express mailings and came across an express mail piece going
6 to Venetia, California, which had also come to my attention
7 during our review of Postal Service Express Mail labels.

8 Q Okay. And based on that, what did you do?

9 A With that particular piece, I tried to investigate what I
10 could about the sender, the recipient, and the goal was to
11 obtain a federal search warrant to open the mail piece and
12 determine whether contraband, in other words, illicit funds
13 were within that mail piece.

14 Q Did you have sufficient information at that time to
15 obtain a warrant for that piece of information?

16 A I had sufficient information to seek one.

17 Q Okay. Did you actually obtain one, though, at that time?

18 A I did not.

19 Q Okay. So what did you do with that package then?

20 A The package was returned to the mail stream for delivery.

21 Q And did you follow up on that at all?

22 A I did. That mail piece and the information that I found
23 out, which I attempted to get a search warrant on the basis
24 of, developed further through a longer term investigation and
25 became the first mail piece of a series of suspicious [Page Break]


1 mailings.

2 Q Okay. And did you look at patterns or other -- you say
3 other mailings. What did you do to look at other mailings
4 that were going to that post-office box? What did you do?

5 A There were a couple of initial investigative steps. We
6 reviewed the mailing history for express mailings going to
7 this particular address in Venetia, which was P.O. Box 1211 in
8 Venetia, 94510 is the ZIP code, Venetia, California.
9 Over an extended period of time, we developed about
10 247 mailings emanating from the Washington Metro area going to
11 this P.O. box.
12 We also did a mail cover tracking to --

13 Q Describe -- before you go too far, what is a mail cover?

14 A Mail cover is an investigative tool available to law
15 enforcement where law enforcement is authorized to review
16 incoming mail, the face of incoming mail going to a given
17 delivery address based on a criminal investigation. So, for a
18 period of 30 days or 60 days, we can review who is sending
19 mail to a given subject of an investigation.

20 Q And as part of that, what information did you develop
21 through that mail cover?

22 A What it developed was that the box holder of P.O. Box
23 1211 in Venetia was a Deborah Jeane Palfrey and that this
24 individual was associated with an out-call escort service
25 named Pamela Martin & Associates. [Page Break]


1 Mail directed to that P.O. box came in the name of
2 Deborah Jeane Palfrey, Pamela Martin, Pamela Martin &
3 Associates and combinations thereof. The mail cover that we
4 did illustrated a quantity of express mailings similar to the
5 ones that we had already tracked through our historical
6 documents, and those documents and the mail cover results
7 indicated that about 25 female senders were mailing express
8 mails and the grand total was 247 of them to this P.O. box in
9 Venetia.

10 Q And for what period of time are you talking about?

11 A The records that I reviewed were between the year 2000
12 and 2002.

13 Q Okay. And did you take steps in the local area to
14 determine if you could identify the women who were sending
15 those documents to Venetia, California?

16 A Yes, I did.

17 Q What steps did you take?

18 A We used address checks checking through the postal system
19 to see who receives mail at a given address; in this case, the
20 return address on the mailings. We have also used Department
21 of Motor Vehicle checks and Auto Track, which is a
22 commercially available address check system to try to identify
23 the mailers such as they appeared on the return address
24 portion of these express mails.

25 Q Okay. Were you able to identify any individuals who were [Page Break]


1 actually sending documents to Venetia, California?

2 A Yeah, approximately 25 of them.

3 Q Okay. And did you identify specifically by name any
4 individuals? Without giving their names, were you able to --
5 not just get the names of the persons but to identify -- to
6 figure out who they were, where they lived, that type of
7 thing?

8 A Yes, we were able to figure out many aspects of their
9 background.

10 Q Okay. And did you take steps at the post-offices
11 themselves to see if you could track those individuals'
12 actions relative to sending those express mail packages?

13 A Yeah. During the course of the investigation, I dealt
14 with many different postal employees, from window clerks who
15 sold the express mail service, to delivery employees who
16 delivered the express mailing in California and other
17 locations, and those individuals did provide me with
18 information.

19 Q And did you also take steps on the California end of
20 things to see if you could identify further who Deborah
21 Palfrey was and that type of thing?

22 A Yes, I did. The steps on the California end were to
23 determine whether or not, first of all, Ms. Palfrey held this
24 P.O. box, and in review of our postal records is each P.O. box
25 is a P.O. box application, a Form 1093." ...

"On Sarah Palin and a Turkey," a theopolitical reflection by LenDavinny

There must be some kinda way outta here,

Said the Jester to the turkey,

I should be eating crow right now,

But I'd prefer moose jerky...

But I think I just figured it out from watching Sarah Palin pardoning a turkey who should have replied, "back at you," but was no doubt grieving his soon to be fallen brethren who were no less worthy of Salvation than he, just less lucky. Sarah should, but probably does not, empathize with a randomly selected lucky turkey. How could she not see the beauty in the irony of the only fitting sacrifice to match her sudden popularity and $7 million book deal?

But the truth came, as it always does for Governor Palin, during the interview as a turkey was being decapitated in the background while she chortled, or gobbled, on about this season of joy and celebration. Onlookers reportedly informed her of what was transpiring, or expiring, behind her and she said she didn't have a problem with it. Presumably, she and the turkey are both looking forward to a far better 2012 with great anticipation.

What do you call the syndrome when you get festive occasions reversed to the point that you celebrate Thanksgiving with a Halloween-appropriate turkey snuff film? Possibly, Holiday Dyslexia. And if it didn't have a name, let it have one now, and let us celebrate the noble life of another national treasure pratfalling toward a great destiny. I suddenly realized that I don't want to see her go, she's a national treasure.

I can't wait to see what she has in store for Christmas. Maybe a Santa Cottontail, hopping all the way from the North Pole, "Hippity hoppity, hippity hoppity, dash away, dash away all!" Or Rudolph the Red-Nosed Post Traumatically Disabled Alcoholic Vietnam Survivor for Veteran's Day. Think of the possibilities: even ingenious comedians like Groucho Marx, Madeline Kahn,or Gracie Allen couldn't hire enough good writers and deliver enough lines with the timing and sheer Providential luck with which the woman has been blessed.

And maybe it is a blessing.

Maybe people of her religious calling do have the ear of God who bestows a halo upon them and it is spangles of hanging lights like a jester's crown. And there's one thing for sure--if He's doing it, He's got a great and warped sense of humor. We already knew that, didn't we? Palin is immaculate in her innocence.

This innocence is so disarming that I go weak in the knees and have to hold back the tears for the righteous, and I hear God, the Highest of Holy Ventriloquists [Ed.--Hey, does that guy have his union card?] filtering through her somehow purifying, cleansing ignorance. And He tells me, "A funny thing happened on my way to the grave...oh come on down there! Walk it off and cheer up! Hasn't anybody gotten the message?" Guess not. Certainly not in Washington, "said the Jester to the Thief...."

And again, I can only say apologies to Bob and a round of applause for the rest of humanity. Give yourself a hand, Ladies and Gentlemen, and kindly walk around the blood and feathers on the way out. It's been great, huh?

No reason to get excited,

The turkey kindly spoke.

There are many here among us

Who feel that life is about a joke.

But you and I , we've been through that,

And that is not our Fate.

Election day will come again,

And for those of us without a clue, it never gets too late.

[Ed.--Come on, it was secret squirrel code to Bush to pardon himself...for farting. "And she's always a turkey to me."]

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Why should we trust former Salomon Brothers banking investor Michael Lewis?

"But what has been the experience of the Russian socialist movement up to now? The most important and most fruitful changes in its tactical policy… have not been the inventions of several leaders and even less so of any central organizational organs. They have always been the spontaneous product of the movement in ferment… In general, the tactical policy of the Social Democracy is not something that may be 'invented'. It is the product of a series of great creative acts of the often spontaneous class struggle seeking its way forward." --Rosa Luxembourg, "Leninism or Marxism," 1904.

New York City, New York
--As you can imagine, this guy exists in a strange place as a former investment banker, now turned business journalist and author.

Lewis wrote Liar's Poker in 1988-89, a book that many are now going to say was very prescient upon its release just 19-years-ago. It isn't.

Time flies when you're having fun.

Just a few hours ago Lewis was hawking his newest book on CNN, those scions of bad taste and oversimplification and over-concision. CNN's talking necks were having their lovefest with Lewis over how credible and wise he is. Is he? I don't think so, and as low as my opinion of the public is, I believe we all knew the crisis was coming. That said, I think the feelings that mainstream journalists and writers harbor within their breasts eclipse my own intense misanthropy and ambivalence towards the average American, let alone humanity. These journalists and pundits believe that they have the answers and the rest of us are too stupid to understand things as well as they do because they were educated to think that way.

Their elitism comprises a truly delusional contention: "We have all of the answers, so shut-up and let us drive." Paradoxically, it's "ordinary" people who tend to save the day throughout human history when the politicians, the businessmen, and the intelligensia have failed everyone (as is their wont, they can't help themselves). We clean-up the mess, and we're doing it right now on Wall Street. Listening to the public on-occasion might help.

Those who could have prevented the current economic crisis were the root of the problem and still are, though their own collective fall is coming soon. Instead of just blaming borrowers who defaulted, we should also be asking, "Who allowed it?" and "How many of the loans were even legal?" We know the sales of the bundled securities were not, it was a matter of fraud and deserves further investigation. Some are occurring right now. Many of us raised the alarms, but we know oversight and the enforcement of key regulations over the financial sector weren't going to be expedited under the Bush II administration and GOP dominance.

The financial and business sectors were told that they could do whatever they wanted up-to-a-point and that nobody was going to be watching. Who told them that? The negligence in not enforcing these administrative laws is corruption, contrary to the comments of the apologists. Is Lewis one of them? Like CNN and the rest of the dying media, he won't discuss the corruption, and I'd like to know why.

So, what did Lewis have to say on CNN? That this economic crisis "wasn't the result of corruption" (what else?) or outright dishonesty, but that it was a result of delusional behavior predicated on--don't laugh--everyone "doing the right thing" on Wall Street. This is an incredible statement in the current context, but at least he sees the writing on the wall--things will never be the same and the old Wall Street is dead. However, as you can imagine, the assertion that "everyone did the right thing" made no sense to these eyes and ears, and I predict that these assumptions of his and the rest of them on Wall Street are headed rapidly towards the dustbin of human history.

No, according to Lewis, it was "conflicting interests" that caused the current financial crisis, which again, points to corruption. The banks and mortgage leders have been ripping each other off, and now they won't lend amongst themselves. Right, greed and dishonesty. Lewis seems to be arguing for transparency--granted--but he still clings-to the same old faux-values of Wall Street. Like a lot of people on television and politics, he said a lot without saying much at all, so I switched over to Anthony Bourdain, a man with an attitude I admire, then switched-back again to feel the numbing-pain of boredom for kicks, it's a real rush.

Lewis went on making some bizarre statements that "corruption wasn't a factor" in the crisis--it was generally that the system that ran the financial markets was predicated on illusions and mass-delusional psychology. No kidding? How did that happen? Who made them think they could keep doing the same wrong things without it coming-back to haunt them later? In many cases, themselves, silly. After all, the (wo)man who hears God is usually listening to their own voice.

Additionally, Lewis has written and spoken elsewhere that these financial institutions and their CEOs simply "didn't know what they were doing." Fancy that. No argument here, I don't think that they ever did know what they were doing or ever will. The past economic order and its faulty assumptions were systemically wrong, inefficient and top-heavy with that favorite word of Libertarians, conservatives, and the GOP: bureaucracy. Forget government, the corporate world has them beat on redundancy. The managerial class itself has amply displayed their greed and dishonesty over the last 30 years, therefore it shouldn't surprise anyone that we ended-up where we are today.

It took others to create this mess, there was a lot of enabling from every sector, such as investors who were clamoring for greater and greater dividends, irresponsible borrowers of every class, and so on. But the runaway borrowing was allowed. Like my former employers--a small retail outfit that's sure to close soon--the speculators and financial institutions only knew how to ride an economic boom that's part of the traditional boom-and-bust cycle of our flawed economy, much like a Gold Rush. Eventually, inevitably, the veins run out and the towns die. But a lot of the public was either apathetic from years of being beaten-down, or they bought into it (and boy, didn't they?). Not everyone got on-board, just enough to wreck things.

Let's be honest: this was also fostered by that "invisible hand" of pro-business legislation passed by politicians who know better, not just the misbehavior of Wall Street. This is also known as "deregulation," but far-be-it for anyone to criticize the sacred, the inviolable St. Ronald Reagan and his Maoist cult that hijacked traditional conservatism in the 1980s. That's over now, but this greed-based stupidity allowed the markets to run amok for over two decades because the folks in Washington know who's really boss, and it's not them, it's the business and financial community and ownership.

Like my former employers, these clowns got a taste of power and lost their minds thinking that they were untouchable, that they were God. Their bulging-guts and the fact that they defecate daily (phew! you don't wanna know) should have been all the reminder they needed that they weren't. Now they're all finding-out the hard way, which is where my well-earned schadenfreude comes in...

Beyond my own feelings of glee over the suffering of scoundrels, Lewis isn't saying anything new here at all (which he accuses others of doing in the Conde article). Writer Charles Mackay dedicated three of his sixteen chapters of "Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds" to financial-bubbles titled "The Mississippi Scheme," "The South-Sea Bubble," and "Tulipomania." Mackay's book was originally published in 1841, at a time when Karl Marx was an unknown doctoral student. What did Marx do when he couldn't find a job in academia because of his radicalism? He became a journalist. Life is like that sometimes, and he would be a part of the failed Revolution of 1848 that gripped Europe.

Sure, Lewis is making-the-rounds this week promoting his newest book, and one can assume the crisis will be a windfall for him as some kind of "prophet," but he's not one. Anyone paying attention could have seen this crisis coming, but like all bad relationships, we ignore the problems because we want something out of the deal. I'm no exception. Lewis might be totally sincere about all of this, but he still appears to have held the same assumptions until very recently that the now-fallen Wall Street order would keep going on, almost endlessly. Did he actually believe before October of last year that this could continue indefinitely?
At some point, I gave up waiting for the end. There was no scandal or reversal, I assumed, that could sink the system. Then came Meredith Whitney with news. Whitney was an obscure analyst of financial firms for Oppenheimer Securities who, on October 31, 2007, ceased to be obscure. On that day, she predicted that Citigroup had so mismanaged its affairs that it would need to slash its dividend or go bust. It’s never entirely clear on any given day what causes what in the stock market, but it was pretty obvious that on October 31, Meredith Whitney caused the market in financial stocks to crash. ...This woman wasn’t saying that Wall Street bankers were corrupt. She was saying they were stupid. ("The End," Conde Nast Portfolio, December 2008 issue)
The problem is that there is such a thing as insider trading and white collar crime. This sounds a lot like the reactions from mortgage institutions who blamed whistle-blowers and auditors for uncovering the losses they were hiding from the rest of the world. No, Lewis isn't "blaming" Whitney in some malicious way, I just think he still has the same viewpoints that he held (and are still held on Wall Street, even now) when he was an working for an investment bank from 1985-to-1988.

I don't doubt that the main-thrust here is generally correct, but Lewis makes his argument too narrow, and I suspect him of trying to divert attention away from the fact that corruption and the proverbial "cooking of the books" has also played a role in all of this. But there are worse sins that he barely touches-on: the role of authoritarianism within corporate American, never mind just the financial sector.

The real bottom-line that he does hint at in his article is that brings of bad news weren't going to be rewarded on Wall Street, he gets this right. This is authoritarianism-in-action. These private tyrannies are akin to fascism in their internal cultures, playing-off underlings against one another in what's euphemistically referred to as "competition," but what it really constitutes is the Roman practice of "divide-and-conquer." They hold our families hostage for their own ends. Their endless problem? Reality and the spontanaeity of average people, and the eternal desire for liberty and innovation.

While some have done the bidding of their bosses--even to the point of breaking-the-law--we've also had whistle-blowers of every stripe during the Bush II era, an unprecedented wave of them. That doesn't mean fighting these "masters" has or will be easy, nobody ever said it would be. Doing what's right doesn't have immediate gratification if it has any at all.

Who would broach the "conventional wisdom" of a financial boom by pointing-out the inconvenient fact that a company's assets were becoming rapidly-devalued when they're going to be punished for it? Again, while Lewis doesn't necessarily "blame" Ms. Whitney for simply telling the truth about Citibank, he does assign her with the strange credit of causing "the market in financial stocks to crash." That's blaming the messenger, the same argument proffered by the culpable on Wall Street. It's a bizarre viewpoint that probably underscores the general tendency among the "players" to stay as far away from the core realities as possible while pretending that they actually are brave enough to stare into the abyss. Is it conscious? Sometimes, but it's really about the limitations of their own worldview and the fact that they're unable to "step outside of the box."

Lewis was just a low-level drone at Salomon Brothers just 20-years-ago. The next year he was getting a lot of back-slapping over Liar's Poker. At the age of 28, Michael Lewis was a millionaire from his time at Salomon Brothers and a book that sold very well for a first-time author. He was riding a wave of his own, reaping from a post-crash boom. Strangely, he was viewed as a whistle-blower when he wasn't, which he admits in the new article.

His take on the crisis, and the market crash of 1987 is simultaneously right and wrong:
The public lynchings of Gutfreund and junk-bond king Michael Milken were excuses not to deal with the disturbing forces underpinning their rise. Ditto the cleaning up of Wall Street’s trading culture. The surface rippled, but down below, in the depths, the bonus pool remained undisturbed. Wall Street firms would soon be frowning upon profanity, firing traders for so much as glancing at a stripper, and forcing male employees to treat women almost as equals. Lehman Brothers circa 2008 more closely resembled a normal corporation with solid American values than did any Wall Street firm circa 1985. The changes were camouflage. They helped distract outsiders from the truly profane event: the growing misalignment of interests between the people who trafficked in financial risk and the wider culture. (ibid)
To be fair, Lewis doesn't think he was all that prescient back in 1989 and that all he was doing was reporting his firsthand account of his time on Wall Street and its culture. Fair enough. But he's also significantly more well-off than the average American and doesn't hold a lot of the same values as the rest of us because of this. He attended Princeton University before his brief tenure on Wall Street, so he wasn't ever hurting as most working-class Americans have. No, he came from privilege, he got rich in decadent 1980s, and still holds the view that "greed is good." How exactly is this any different from the core cultural problem not only on Wall Street, but one that has crawled its way to Main Street? He holds the same values as the crooks, he's hardly any different from them in his values and attitudes.

Sometimes, you can be so close to the fire, you can't see anything else beyond the leaping flames.

Holding the contention that there was no systemic corruption on Wall Street in the creation of this crisis isn't going to fix anything, and Lewis appears to be just as guilty as the individuals that stopped real reform after the market's crash in 1987, the very period that he came up in.

Is Lewis bullshitting us as he did all those investors he claims to have during his time at Salomon Brothers? No. He's been kidding himself and the rest of us as a result of his own delusions--delusions he still shares with the players on Wall Street. It took a Princeton education to accomplish that and a lot of rationalizing, something he still appears to excel at. Shudder that the new president-elect came to us from Harvard and taught Constitutional law there for a time. These people are simply wrong and don't really know what they're doing to the rest of us, and they don't tend to care either. What they care about is power.

I'm not a Marxist, but he was right that, inevitably, capitalism will fall. The fall might be here, but no man can say with any certainty what hour or what day it will come.
The killer awoke before dawn, he put his suit on.

Charles Mackay's Extraordinary and Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds (1852 Ed.):

Karl Marx's 1841 Doctoral Dissertation, "The Difference Between the Democritean and Epicurean Philosophy of Nature":

"This is the End, beautiful friend. This is the End, my only friend, the End":

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Thank you Secretary of the Treasury Hank Paulson, for saving us all

Washington D.C.--The man who looks a lot like he's headed for multiple-strokes (and why not) misspoke this week. No, he wasn't lying about some crime he had direct-involvement in...OK, I guess he did, but that's not the point.

Earlier this week, Paulson said we "have turned the corner on the economic crisis...and averted a financial collapse." Wow, does he like tempting the fates and the goddess called Providence.

Today, we're seeing the market react rationally to his Mesopotamian comments: the market's DOW Jones industrial standard went down below 8,000, or 7, 997.28, the lowest in at least five years. Yep, those comments are really having an effect on the market alright.

Consumer spending has hit a monthly-low in October with the biggest drop since 1947 (see the article a few posts below on lame-duck President Bush's comments on this at Federal Hall last week for yucks), a stunning 1%. Thanks Hank, keep talking, and see your doctor about your health, you look like shit. Such are the permutations of history overwhelming the scoundrels who have been on our necks for ages.

Maybe he'll hit some luck and contract Lou Gehrig's disease, but I heard it died with him. Were I Paulson, I'd emigrate somewhere very remote before Americans start burning him in-effigy. "But why not burn him in Washington?" says my cat. Indeed, why not?

Bush attempts human speech--as opposed to Cthuloid--at Federal Hall:

From the Palfrey trial transcripts: April 14th, 2008 excerpt

Ed.--This comes from the closing arguments of the trial of Deborah Jeane Palfrey, from trial proceedings on the day of April 14th, 2008. The comments below come from Palfrey's final criminal counsel, Preston Burton, a partner in the law firm Orrick, Herrington, and Sutcliff.

A number of his statements strike me as blatantly insincere, especially considering that Orrick is a massive firm with offices in at least a dozen countries (even in Russia and China), doing a lot of contract work for...the federal government. Can we say "conflict-of-interest"?

Not when you want to put a lid on a very embarrassing case that could "out" an awful lot of well-positioned clients, and perhaps a lot more that would be very inconvenient to moneyed-interests. Mr. Burton refuses to talk or correspond with me as he did during the legal proceedings. Was he saying things to Ms. Palfrey to dissuade her from testifying on her own behalf? If he did, I can guess why, but why not clear-up things if I'm wrong for the record? No, that would make sense, it would mean transparency, and there's a deal on with the government over a settlement regarding the forfeited properties of Palfrey.

Money figures highly in the entire saga.
..."Mr. Burton: ...The money. This business certainly generated money. You
heard that over 13 years it grossed around $2 million. You also
heard that the escorts got half of that. So that means that over
13 years, my client made, according to Special Agent Burrus's
summary chart, a little under a million dollars.
Now, a million dollars is a lot of money, still is to me,
anyway. But over 13 years, that's not a lot of money. It's not
peanuts, but it's not some lavish life-style." ...
Yet, she did lead a pretty "lavish life-style," owning two very expensive homes in
Vallejo and Poway (where convicted former-Rep. Randy Cunningham owned one), and even a condominium in Florida for when she visited her mother--sound like a "lavish life-style"? I thought so too, it was.

There are other factors involved that have come to my attention from sources close to the whole affair, such as money that was hidden-away by Palfrey, and it wasn't exactly chump-change to this writer.

I have no reason to doubt the veracity of the contentions that were conveyed to me, albeit accidentally.

I'm sure that it's a "lot of money" to Mr. Burton, but he's likely to be making significantly more than that as a partner of the firm, if not in one year, in two-or-three. Of course, we all make money like that, right? Get real. He was attempting to make himself appear like some kind of "average Joe (not the plumber)" to the jury. One has to wonder why. If I had Burton's dough, I'm sure it would just get pissed-away on beer, being the malcontent that I am.

The lady made a lot more money than what Burton, Palfrey, or the prosecution, contended. They aren't alone, but I'm not within their ranks. I strenuously disagree. I'm waiting with bated breath for Mr. Burton, the prosecution, and others, to clarify these obvious discrepancies in the record.

Mr. Burton stands to make a very real windfall out of all of this as a member of the firm who will be administrating the Estate of Deborah Jeane Palfrey for her family, a group of people whom I believe to have been heartlessly and tragically misled--but by whom? Not me.

One final--and peculiar-- fact: Palfrey was running a "blown-glass importation business" out of the Czech Republic before the charges were levelled against her. Take from that what you will, and I know you will.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Don't get your hopes up too high: Ted Stevens loses his seat in Alaskan recount, while Dick Cheney and Alberto Gonzales await inevitable pardons

“Do not rejoice in his defeat, you men. For though the bastard is dead, the bitch that bore him is again in heat.” --Bertolt Brecht, "The Resistable Rise of Arturo Ui" ("Der aufhaltsame Aufstieg des Arturo Ui," 1941)

Washington D.C.
--To be sure, this is a time to breathe a little easier, until reality sets-in. Let's be honest with ourselves and each other and acknowledge that neither Congress, President-elect Obama, nor the Supreme Court are going to do anything to prevent the Bush II administration from leaving office scot-free. Why would they want to when the Bush administration and Vice President Cheney expanded the powers of the executive branch in ways that any American politician would slaver and drool over?

Journalists can write hundreds of exposes, we can have as many smoking guns as you want, and Congress especially, will do nothing of any substance before January 20th, 2009. Nothing that gets results, that is. Nothing succeeds like failure, especially when both major parties have no real commitment to democracy beyond the fact that it gets them elected. If only it were otherwise. What's sad is that these sell-outs, these corrupt scum who are going to take us over the cliff into the abyss understand better than the public that the public is the solution to all of this.

Small wonder that they hate the public so much--who would respect anyone who does nothing in the face of
such obvious and open corruption? Look at Cheney: does it appear that he cares what the public ever thought about anything-at-all? What self-respecting citizenry would tolerate this? Americans, and it's shameful. But wait, it's not as if events aren't going to shift things radically, they are and they will continue to.

Pardons are going to come into question when the Bush II cha-cha line gets going in December and January. Luckily, he's used-up a few and there are limits to how many he can hand-out. Will he give one to Stevens? Doubtful, he's not useful to anyone in the GOP now, and he's just turned 85. Stevens almost became the first American senator to be elected with a felony on his record, congratulations Alaska, you can secede. He's over, it's done, and he probably only had so much of an insider's view into the Bush II administration. Obama may not have the will to clean-up this constitutional crisis, but Pardon me, Jerry!

There are no messiahs, only this life and a lot of people avoiding responsibility for the mess we're in. It's time that we all accepted that responsibilty and stop looking to someone else to shoulder it.
There is such a thing as collective-guilt, just ask the Germans some time--while they and the rest of the developed world are busy blaming us entirely for the economic crisis. Were we paying attention to our political class and pushed them hard to behave, we wouldn't be in this mess. It takes two to tango.

It took a greedy, apathetic, and jaded electorate to birth the presidency of George W. Bush. We tolerated it, and we tolerated the inaction of the other two branches of government. We still are. At least nature and the laws of physics are going to correct all of us. The soil is still very fertile for another George W. Bush and all the other kinds of scoundrel that have inhabited the highest offices in the land. We're fighting learning much from the last eight years, but events are going to correct most of this.

Just because the GOP is on the ropes doesn't mean the same problems aren't out there. They're going to bide their time when the American public loses its mind again and swings towards more self-destruction. Life's a bitch, brothers and sisters, and she's in heat again. The system just got a new face, a new mask--a brown one. The maggots, the rot, and the offal are still there behind the new facade.

[Ed., 11.19.2008--The AP is reporting that Stevens has stated he will not ask President Bush for a pardon. I think he knows he wouldn't get one.]

Monday, November 17, 2008

Terrorism 100-years-ago: The Rider Named Death (2004) review

Indeed, the Russian film industry is not dead! Karen Shakhnazarov's take on the novel by Boris Savinkov, who could be equated with the main-character "Georges", is nearly flawless! Evoking Moscow during the 1905 Revolution, we are given access to the very secret world of a terrorist cell. It is unlikely--and Shakhnazarov's film illustrates this--that terrorism hasn't changed much at all, just some of the technologies.

From the lushness of Tsarist-circles, to the beggars in the alleys of Moscow, it's a vivid recreation of a time that is gone--and yet still alive with Chechen bombings in the heart of European Russia. The director notes astutely how minor acts of violence accumulate into a senseless bloodbath for its own sake.

The Revolution of 1917 (February by the Social Democrats, then October by the Bolsheviks) began what would be a civil war that didn't really end until Stalin's consolidation of power in the late-1930s. Tens-of-millions were murdered or died of starvation, and it all began with the Socialist Revolutionary Party--a party whose members included Lenin, Stalin, and "Georges."

Shakhnazarov's eye for composition is wonderful, and there are sweeping crane-shots, dollies, and static ones that would make Ozu proud. Most importantly, however, are the close-shots that capture the intimacy of the cell and its inhabitants. Georges dominance (and distance) over his cadre is made clear in every scene the character inhabits. Much of the history of Russian film is on-display here and it is breathtaking.

As part of the Socialist Revolutionary Party's underground, Georges and his cell anticipate Bolshevik terror and a complete surrender to nihilism and a worship of power that was common to that period. This nihilistic philosophy is most evident in cell leader Georges, with gradations in the members of the cell--yet they all yearn for some transcendence in revolutionary suicide. They all share an obsession with Georges and with death itself. Ultimately, Georges represents the human personification of death.

While his compatriots have their own very personal reasons for joining the cause of terrorizing the aristocracy, Georges appears to have no other reason for directing his terror attacks than a desire to kill and to stir Russian society towards...what? Even Georges seems to be unsure why he does what he does, and he doesn't care upon reflection of this fact. That is not an uncommon feeling for terrorists and insurgents, as the Weather Underground sometimes displayed during the late-1960s and early-1970s at times (it should be noted that the Weathermen were just one-of-many groups during the Vietnam war who bombed government buildings, there were thousands of incidents).

But unlike Savinkov and his co-conspirators, the Weathermen never targeted people for death, only property was to be destroyed to weaken an illegal and genocidal war in Southeast Asia. International examples are almost endless.

In-short, a cell leader is responsible for harnessing all these different reasons for why these individuals have "come to the cause." He channels these various agendas towards a few fundamental goals: the destruction of other human beings for some abstract ideology, some abstract end, and the instilling of terror and fear in a population for political ends. There are so many powerful moments in this film which convey these aspects of terrorism that you really must watch it carefully to appreciate the scope of what it's saying, making it an allegory, and one based-on Savinkov's real life experiences. Very few thrillers are this tense, this precise and studied.

There is a very sad poetry here that speaks-directly to the issues facing our own tortured era.

From the rapid-editing in the assassination attempt scenes, to the incredible atmosphere in the making of the bombs, we're treated to the best of Russian cinema. It appears that no-expense was spared in the recreation of early-1900s Tsarist Russia, down to the beggars and the filthy-streets, the uniforms of the Russian Gendarmes ("Отдельный корпус жандармов"). The acting is also of the highest order here, and the sumptuousness of Tsarist physical culture is breathtaking.

It's criminal that this film was not nominated for an MPAA award for Best Foreign Film, it's completely absurd. Without the DVD release by Kino in North America, would we even know it exists? Likely, this was the best-film of all of 2004!

Very few outside of the Slavic-speaking world know about Boris Savinkov and his exploits. There were once some English-language editions of the novel he wrote that was the basis of this great film. It's time to understand the phenomena of terrorism more fully: its genesis, its cultural contexts, and the individual agendas and motivations that spur those peopling its ranks into action. Usually, it's to right a perceived wrong.

The roots, then, of most terrorism, come from injustices committed by the powerful. Savinkov and his cohorts in the SR were hardly the only guilty parties, and they exist in a netherworld where switching sides is a formality. The motivations have a rational-basis, yet murder and death become the final goal and the end-result.

Savinkov was thrown from a window (defenstration) by his Bolshevik interrogators in 1925, crashing onto the cobblestone pavement below. His goal was accomplished: he was dead, and Russia was in ruins, to his eternal shame.

Three centuries of Tsarist oppression, indifference to the plight of the average person, and the devastation of WWI (Russia lost to Germany), gave would-be revolutionaries all the tinder they needed to create a new conflagration. Savinkov and the Bolsheviks were the spark. Russia burned throughout the entire 20th century. Shakhnazarov gives us the weight of Russian and human history in one film. The ultimate source of terrorism--then--is the State and the power backing it. For power, nothing succeeds like failure.

Revised 11.17.2008

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Sergeant at Arms of the Senate returns over GOP Senator David Vitter

Washington D.C.--They're watching your behavior, Senator Vitter. Watch your ass, not a woman's who doesn't happen to be your wife. You're over, done. A woman died, you walked. Do you know how that looks to the rest of us? Not good. Your time is coming. Over.

That veto-proof Senate is coming to make you irrelevant, redundant, and your protection is ending. There's going to be no more obstructionism by the GOP in Congress for at least the next two years. Get used to it. We, the public, are sick of looking at you and your pathetic face, little man.

Domain Name ? (U.S. Government)
IP Address 156.33.35.# (U.S. Senate Sergeant at Arms)
ISP U.S. Senate Sergeant at Arms
Continent : North America
Country : United States (Facts)
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Time of Visit Nov 14 2008 9:15:54 pm
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