Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution

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Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution

***1/2

 

The official textbook version of the Civil Rights Movement goes something like this: Dr. King led a movement of non-violence in the South. This inspired enlightened white politicians to force naughty racists to enforce integration. And we all lived happily ever after.

I have three big problems with this official narrative.

First, it has an unearned spirit of triumphalism. It doesn’t leave room for the question of whether black Americans are truly better off now than in 1965. Today, 1 black man in 3 will serve time in prison during his lifetime. And most black children have never lived with both of their parents.

Second, the official narrative doesn’t leave any room to question whether integration was truly good for the black community. While it is clearly true that black schools in the early 20th Century were not given fair funding, they produced great doctors, towering intellectuals, and future leaders.

In many schools today, black students aren’t treated like young community leaders, chemical engineers, and CEOs. They are treated like potential threats who have to walk through metal detectors

Third, and worst of all, the official narrative gives much of the credit to white people and the government. This attitude is patronizing, paternalistic and preposterous. White America couldn’t empower black people even if it wanted to. And it has never wanted to. Only the black community has ever had the power to do that.

The Black Panthers almost succeeded.

 

About fifty years ago, a group of guys in Oakland decided that they had enough of police harassment in their neighborhood. They grabbed some guns and hit the streets. They followed police around and simply stood near them – guns drawn.

The first Black Panthers were right. By standing ominously near traffic stops, cops were far less likely to get physical. And they were right that as long as their weapons were not concealed, they were not breaking any laws.

Naturally, the laws had to be changed.

There is an amazing scene in 1967 where a bipartisan team of legislators and Gov. Reagan publicly and proudly passed a gun control bill aimed at the Panthers. Meanwhile, the Panthers themselves were there at the Capitol to stand up for the Second Amendment.

The sight of young black men proudly packing in broad daylight was striking enough to make the nightly news. Overnight, the Black Panthers were a national sensation.

While the guns grabbed headlines, the Black Panthers did a lot more charity work than killing. The organization founded neighborhood-based health clinics and soup kitchens that gave out free breakfasts to schoolkids. The Panthers were bringing black communities together just as the Welfare State and Prison Industrial Complex were beginning to tear them apart.

Apparently, the sight of empowered black men and nourished black schoolchildren infuriated J. Edgar Hoover. He concluded that the Black Panthers were the greatest threat to American order and he conceived of a plan to destroy them.

The FBI coerced vulnerable federal prisoners into joining the Panthers and spying for the government. Government agents raided Panther headquarters in city after city, arresting the rank and file while assassinating leaders.

Hoover and his G-Men stamped out a thriving organization in just a few years. Today, the Black Panthers are known for their signature style but not for their black power philosophy or their tangible accomplishments.

 

History is written by the winners. And, accordingly, history is sometimes little more than triumphalist propaganda.

The official history of the Civil Rights Movement urges us to rejoice because White America and the government did the right thing. I’m not buying it. Believing that white people and the government teamed up to liberate Black America is like believing that the fox and the farmer teamed up to free the chickens from the Hen House.

 

I don’t know what it will take to bring equality to the races. But I’m sure it will look less like the Civil Rights Movement and more like the Black Panthers.

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Project Censored

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Project Censored

****

“The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum.”

-Noam Chomsky

 

We’ve heard a lot about Fake News recently. But “Project Censored” exposes an even bigger problem than Fake News: Real News.

The news is pure trash. The only possible way that an American can understand what is going on in the world is to turn off the news for good.

The powerful and important documentary “Project Censored” explains why the news is so harmful and offers an exciting alternative to the nightly propaganda.

The film likens the Corporate Media to a magician. The news is a big, showy misdirection. Elites uses the news to avert your eyes away from the real world and the real issues that the Establishment doesn’t want you to think about.

Strategy #1 – the film says – is to feed us a daily dose of Junk Food News.

Junk Food News is scandal, fluff, and celebrity gossip. While it is certainly true that we are less-informed and worse off due to Junk Food News, I think that the problem is our fault more than it is the Media’s.

We need to get together as a society and decide that the personal lives of politicians, sports stars, and celebrities are none of our business. We need to say: “Tiger Woods didn’t know about it when my marriage was falling apart and Tiger Woods didn’t judge me that time that I drove to the store after taking a prescription pill. So I have no right to know about his love life or judge him for his bad decisions.”

Strategy #2 – the film says – is to practice News Abuse.

News Abuse is a more insidious problem. This is where the Media takes an important current event but twists it so much that we end up ignoring the important core issues.

For example, “Project Censored” reminds us of the Jessica Lynch story. For a few weeks in 2013, Jessica Lynch was the face of the Iraq War. She was an adorable army private who was captured by the enemy and dramatically rescued.

The News Abuse misdirection worked like a charm. Millions of Americans were asking “did you hear about Pvt Lynch?” And few were asking the important question: “Which companies are benefitting financially from the War in Iraq? Let’s find out and boycott them until they go bankrupt.”

 

Project Censored isn’t just a movie, it is an active alt-News website that covers the substantive stories that the Corporate Media ignores.

To Project Censored, the most important story of the 21st Century is how the Federal Government has robbed us of our 800-year-old right to Habeas Corpus. If Washington labels you an enemy combatant, you can be arrested this very day and detained for the rest of your life without ever seeing a judge.

Be warned, left-wing readers: if you’re expecting to agree with the Project Censored guys, you will be disappointed and infuriated. This film is slightly more anti-Democrat than anti-Republican.

The ultimate hero to Project Censored is Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. Everyone interviewed admires his selfless commitment to releasing unedited government documents that the Establishment doesn’t want you to read. They talk about Mr. Assange like he is literally Lady Liberty born into human flesh.

 

“Project Censored” is a forceful reminder that the same cadre of elites who run our government also own the Media.

On the surface, MSNBC and Fox News appear to be wildly different, but they are both on the same side. They argue back and forth about a few minor current events, while they work hand in hand to shield us from the major issues that face our world.

 

 

Offshore Incorporated

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Offshore Incorporated

***

 

A few years back, Conservatives believed in the positive power of the free market. Their fundamental mission was to keep meddling government out of the way of business.

Meanwhile, Liberals believed in the positive power of government. Their fundamental mission was to use the power of the State to keep naughty corporations in check.

Those days are gone. I don’t see that the Left and the Right have any philosophical differences anymore. We are just two tribes of sworn enemies. We are separated by the fact that we read completely different news sources.

Both sides are being bamboozled.

There is no battle going on between big government and big business; the battle is between the 1% and the rest of us. Powerful politicians and wealthy corporate elites are working hand in hand to make sure they stay powerful and get wealthier.

How do global elites rip us off while pulling the wool over our eyes? “Offshore Incorporated” shows us one of the ways.

 

Documentarian Mark Donne sheds a light on the surprisingly large problem of offshore tax havens.

What could be more boring than tax havens, you ask? Probably nothing. That’s one of the reasons why the 1% have been getting away with this for so long.

The film takes us back to the disintegration of the British Empire after WWII. While the UK let all of its major colonies break away from the Crown, London tightened its grip on three tiny territories: Bermuda, Virgin Islands, and the Cayman Islands.

These are not just independent nations with a nominal allegiance to the Crown. These three island territories need to run every governing decision by the Queen. They have less independence than the Yorkshire County Council.

These islands act as a shady legal method for British businesses and billionaires to hide their profits. The tax havens are working so wonderfully that wealthy Americans are joining the party.

While public debt in the UK and the US skyrockets, the super rich hide their money from the taxman. There is now approximately $10 trillion squirreled away in secret offshore accounts.

Offshore tax havens are a disaster for the working class. The main reason why the economy is sputtering along at 2% growth is that our surplus capital is being systemically stolen away and hidden in overseas shell company accounts.

Companies could be using all that loot to increase wages and hire more fulltime workers with benefits. Instead, it just collects dust on a ledger somewhere in the middle of the Caribbean.

 

“Offshore Incorporated” tells a story of greed that is not just destructive, it is pointless. This is money that the global elites will never live long enough to enjoy. They just want to keep it away from you.

Sadly, even though there is no reasonable person who votes to keep offshore tax havens going, there is no clear plan to shut them down. The companies and billionaires that use them are just too powerful. And we can’t expect the government to save us; government has been behind this from the very beginning.

 

You know that person in your life who supports the other party? Please hug him. Or send him a warm Facebook message. We’re on the same side. And we are all going to need to work together if we ever want to have a chance of defending ourselves from the unrelenting villainy of the 1%.

What the Health 

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What the Health

***1/2

 

Everybody has an opinion about which foods are good for you and which are bad. Most people will claim that their diet is healthy and they’ll urge you to try eating like them.

I listen to what people say. But I don’t believe them. When it comes to food, people are passionate and biased. And no one really knows for sure what the perfect diet consists of. If a really old skinny person is telling me what she eats, I’ll listen up. But, in the end, we’re all just eating what we want and hoping for the best.

 

Kip Anderson, the star of “What the Health,” isn’t just hoping for the best. He believes that he has found the perfect diet: veganism.

“What the Health” is an entertaining, relentless documentary. With a passionate fury, Kip Anderson tries to convince the world that a plant-based diet is a cure-all and that all animal-based food is poison.

 

Anderson comes right out with guns blazing: he states that virtually all illness is due to meat consumption. If you have cancer, it was due to meat. If you have diabetes, it was due to meat (not sugar. Meat). Bad bones? Meat. Bad joints? Meat. Asthma? Meat. Lack of energy? Meat.

Meat is bad due to the fat and cholesterol, due to the hormones and antibiotics, and due to the fact that piling up protein in our body does more harm than good.

How about milk, cheese, eggs, and fish? According to “What the Health,” they are just as bad. Dairy is fuel for baby cows but poison to us. Eggs are cholesterol-filled death bombs that are unsafe even in small quantities. Fish is loaded with industrial toxins and frightening levels of mercury.

 

“What the Health” does a laughably bad job of convincing us that every animal product is terrible for you. It does a disturbingly good job of convincing us that mass-produced meat is disgusting.

Factory farm animals live their miserable lives in dark, over-crowded pens. Disease is rampant. Anderson states that pigs and cows suffer from infections, inflamed abscesses, and pus-filled sores. Then he shows us the video proof that these diseased animal corpses fire right through the assembly line and into our food. It is nauseating.

 

Anderson concludes that a serious environmentalist cannot eat meat. At the very least, it is a natural fact that raising animals is an inefficient use of arable land and water resources.

“What the Health” also exposes the fact that factory farms systematically destroy rural communities wherever they can get away with it. Kip Anderson takes us to a mostly black county of North Carolina, where the unending mountains of pig poo have poisoned the air, the soil, and the waterways.

 

Okay. I’m convinced. Meat is the worst. Going vegan is the right thing to do.

“What the Health” goes from powerful to absurd in the final act. Kip Anderson goes from muckraker to evangelist and makes a series of impossible claims about the health benefits of veganism.

He says that going vegan will turn you into a superhuman athlete. He says that vegan blood kills cancers cell just by touching them. He claims to have proof that a vegan, high-sugar diet cures diabetes.

Anderson meets a 61-year-old lady who limps around her house with a walker because her bones and joints are so brittle. Then, after just a few weeks of eating vegan, she tosses aside her walker and strolls happily around her neighborhood.

This isn’t science, obviously; it is faith-healing fanaticism. It’s like they are filming the movie version of the 9th Chapter of Matthew, with a stalk of broccoli playing the role of Jesus.

 

“What the Health”’s heart is in the right place. Even though its scientific compass is all over the place. I don’t believe half of it, but I’m still glad that I watched it.

    State of Marriage

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Vermont Movie on Netflix

State of Marriage

**

 

It’s amazing how quickly and completely the Gay Marriage movement conquered the Western World.

Gay marriage activists went from a disdained minority around the turn of the century to undisputed champions by 2015.

The Gay Marriage lobby is the NRA of the Left. Like the NRA, the Gay Marriage lobby won legislative and court victories. And more importantly, they changed people’s minds. There are plenty of Democrats who quietly accept the fact that guns are legal. And there are millions of Republicans now who would be delighted to attend a gay wedding.

 

Like most people at the turn of the century, I was opposed to the State granting marriage licenses to gay people. Not for the reasons that you think, though.

Firstly, more legal marriages inevitably leads to more divorces. And I’m against anything that further enriches divorce lawyers.

I don’t think that the government should be involved in marriages at all. A marriage should be a non-legal agreement based on love, not money. It should be a vow between two people and their close friends and family. Uncle Sam should have no say in it.

I am 100% pro-gay. But, at least back in 2000, I was 101% anti-government. And I was opposed to anything that gives the government more knowledge of us and power over us.

It always seemed odd to me that the very people who usually say “stay out of our bedroom” were suddenly demanding that Uncle Sam saunter in and sanctify what they are doing in their bedroom with moderately priced legal documents.

 

With so many different groups of people opposed to gay marriage, it is astounding that change won out. ‘Change’ is easy to say but hard to accomplish. Gay Rights advocates were able to fundamentally change the definition of marriage that had existed since the beginning of recorded history. It’s an epic accomplishment.

“State of Marriage” chronicles the handful of lawyers and activists who took on the Status Quo and won. It all started right here in Vermont.

 

The undisputed heroes of this story are Vermont lawyer couple Beth Robinson and Susan Murray.

Fueled by passion and Pixy Stix, Robinson worked in her private practice by day and spent most every night putting together a case against the State of Vermont.

In Baker v Vermont (1999), Beth Robinson hardly mentioned her homosexual clients at all. Instead, she told a story of when – not too many generations ago – interracial marriage was illegal everywhere and frowned upon by all. She praised the courts of the mid-20th Century for changing America’s marriage rules for the better.

Robinson’s analogy was perfect and her legal argument was splendid. The Court sided with the Plaintiffs. (Robinson herself was appointed to the Vermont Supreme Court in 2011).

From there, Robinson, Murray, and their team successfully lobbied the Vermont Legislature to legalize Civil Unions – which gave gay couples all the rights of married couples.

Some were disappointed that the new law stopped short of granting full marriage equality. But they couldn’t see the big picture. The tide of history had turned in their favor. And there was no going back.

 

I am not opposed to gay marriage anymore. Is anyone?

Director Jeff Kaufman makes it seem like the legal and legislative victories were the only story; he ignores the victory that social justice warriors had over our hearts and minds. He interviewed too many people who were believers all along. But he didn’t interview any of the 50 million Americans who had their mind changed.

In less than a generation, gay marriage went from a fringe issue to the agreed upon standard of the Western World. I would like to see a great movie about how this revolution came to pass. Sadly, “State of Marriage” isn’t it.

  The Truth About Alcohol

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The Truth About Alcohol

                                                    **1/2

    They say alcohol is a poison. And I suppose that’s technically true. But it isn’t that dangerous a poison.

    I know this because I have been to the UK a few times. And I can tell you from firsthand experience that there are, in fact, elderly people there.

    If some British people made it to old age, then it is a proven fact that booze isn’t all that deadly. For Americans, drinking hard is a choice. For the British, it is a cultural tradition.

    In England, it is not customary to tip the bartender when she serves you a pint. This custom began years ago when it was discovered that the hundred richest women in the UK were barmaids. I made that up. But I am not exaggerating about how much the British drink.

    In the event that heavy drinking is seriously hazardous to the body, it is inevitable that British doctors will be on the cutting edge of scientific discovery.

    “The Truth About Alcohol” is a breezy, light-hearted, occasionally informative BBC documentary by British ER doctor Javid Abdelmoneim. Dr. Javid was inspired to make this film when the British Health Service suddenly lowered the recommended healthy level of alcohol intake for men to 14 units per week.

   In the US, a nerdy health-obsessed doctor would simply be a non-drinker. Dr. Javid is British, though, so he attaches a sweat-monitor to his ankle to calculate exactly how much he drinks in a normal week.

   It turns out that the doctor consumes twice the recommended weekly quotient of booze, and he didn’t even drink on four of the seven nights.

   In other words, if you drink in any serious way, you drink way too much for your own good.

Dr. Javid spends most of the film performing experiments and studies with dubious scientific merit to answer some common questions about alcohol.

         Why does a woman tend to get tipsy quickly while a tall, fit man of the same weight can hold his liquor? Apparently, it is because blood-alcohol level is determined by how much water a person has in her body. And since muscle has much more water than fat, the man will feel less drunk from the same amount of drinking.

         It’s also possible that the man lined his stomach before starting to drink. Dr. Javid does a splendid job of explaining how the digestive enzymes in your stomach begin to break down alcohol before it even gets absorbed into your bloodstream. That’s why you can drink so much more after a hearty meal.

          That seems convincing, but some of the film’s anti-alcohol claims are ridiculous.

Dr. Javid argues that booze makes you sleep poorly. But his only evidence is a one-night sleep study – featuring Javid himself and a bottle of fine whiskey. He states that alcohol makes you eat more. But he bases this on a twenty-minute study at a pub with a group of college boys. “Colin ate more crisps than Nigel. We must alert the Oxford Journal of Medicine!”

I certainly don’t know how bad alcohol is for you. But I do know this: the British have been drinking steadily and heavily since at least as far back as they learned written language.

And during those millennia, the British built a remarkable, artistic, cultured, influential society. They even conquered 1/3 of the earth one time.

The British aren’t going to drink less. And I’m probably not going to either. I plan on spending my first Social Security check on a six pack.

 Detroit

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Detroit

***

 

The 1967 Detroit Riot was hideously destructive.

More than 1000 people were injured. 43 died. More than two thousand buildings were destroyed.

After five days of looting and anarchy, the combined forces of police, National Guard, and army troops were finally able to enforce the 9pm curfew and reestablish order.

Thank goodness for those armed men in uniform. They maintain order and save us all from the destructive forces of anarchy.

Without the cops and troops, just imagine what would have happened to Detroit. At best, the riot would have reduced the city to ashes. At worst, there could have been an armed war between the city-dwellers and suburbanites, with 10 Mile Rd as the Front Line.

If you think that is far-fetched, that is because you have lived your whole life in a well-policed country. As soon as legitimate order breaks down, chaos ensues. Look at the situation in Somalia and Libya and Venezuela. Anarchy isn’t just a theoretical fear; it is the natural state of man.

If you think that many cops are on a power trip, you’re right. If you think that many cops use excessive force, you’re obviously right. If you think that many cops are racist, you couldn’t be more right.

If you think you would be better off without the police, you’re preposterously wrong. And you know it. That’s why you haven’t moved to Somalia.

 

 

“Detroit” is a well-made, entertaining, gripping, outrageously biased film about one ugly incident that happened during the 1967 Detroit Riot.

It began innocently enough, with a black guy firing a loud starter pistol in the direction of some cops. The officers did not know that it was just a starter pistol and they hideously overreacted.

A handful of rogue cops busted into the building from which the shots were fired, lined everyone up against the wall at gun point, and proceeded to terrorize everyone until they got a confession.

Oscar-winning director Kathryn Bigalow (“The Hurt Locker”) is a master of violent suspense. As entertainment, “Detroit” is first rate. As a horror movie, “Detroit” works on every level. As a political statement, “Detroit” is a dubious achievement at best.

Making a film about the Detroit Riot and making it all about police brutality is an odd spin indeed. It’s kind of like making a film called “Nazi Germany” and telling the heart-warming story about Hitler’s relationship with his loyal German Shepard Blondi. On one hand, the movie would be 100% true. At the same time, it would be laughably biased and expose the filmmaker’s ugly political agenda.

 

“Detroit” is the right movie set in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Riots are the times where we need cops the most.

Our country has a lot of problems. But none of them are as bad as anarchy.

  Dunkirk

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     Dunkirk
                     ***
   In 1939, the UK declared war on Nazi Germany. That said: the British weren’t actually in any position to fight a war.
   In spring 1940, the German army tore through the Netherlands, Belgium, and then northern France. The combined French and British armies were no match. Within just a few weeks, UK soldiers had stopped fighting. When the film begins, 400,000 men are on the beaches of Dunkirk, desperately waiting to be rescued.
   I can’t help but contrast the Dunkirk evacuation with the defense of the Soviet Union.
   In direct contrast with the UK, the USSR had no interest in going to war with Nazi Germany. Stalin was in horrified disbelief when he heard that Hitler had reneged on their non-aggression pact.
   Even though the Soviet Union wasn’t planning a war, it was darn well willing to fight one.
    “Quantity is its own quality,” Joseph Stalin said. The Red Army was inferior to the German war machine in every possible way. Inferior weapons, inferior training, inferior leaders, inferior medical supplies (the Soviets had no morphine). But the USSR was able to draft 30 million men…30 million men who knew that they would be shot if they retreated and that their parents might be shot if they deserted.
     There was no Dunkirk for the Soviets. Just sacrifice, cold, and death. Approximately ten million Soviet soldiers died in World War II. The United States and the United Kingdom lost fewer than a million combined.
     “Dunkirk” takes us to the beaches of Northern France to show how the British rescued their army from certain defeat.
     Although Dunkirk is less than 40 miles from England, the evacuation seemed impossible. The water is so shallow near the beach that no large vessel could come ashore. So the only solution was to have many, many small boats ferry small numbers of men across the Strait of Dover, with German bombers and U-Boats trying to sink as many as possible.
     In some ways, this is a straightforward war movie: loud, violent, and harrowing. But director Christopher Nolan (“The Dark Knight,” “The Prestige,” “Inception”) isn’t afraid to put his own artsy signature on the film at times. “Dunkirk” is the only war movie I’ve ever seen that is told out of sequence.
     If you blink you’ll miss it, but Nolan uses this Pulp Fiction-esque storytelling technique to show us characters who have been emotionally ravaged by war and then show us glimpses of the guys they were before they witnessed death.
     For some characters, seeing people die around them gives them bravery and resolve. For some characters, the trauma turns them into desperate animals. Nolan doesn’t want us to judge the cowards; he wants us to feel empathy for everyone on screen.
     For those who love war movies, “Dunkirk” is a must see. For those who are upset and stressed out by war movies (like me), I do not recommend it.
     In “Dunkirk,” Christopher Nolan asks a deep moral question.
     Was the UK less heroic than the USSR because the British retreated when faced with long odds while the Soviets sacrificed a generation of men in order to stop the Nazis? Or was the UK more civilized and humane because it refused to accept the premise of total war where human life means nothing?
     Nolan never answers this question. I vote for the British.