Thursday, February 16, 2006

Random Interesting Media

Just a few things to entertain you.

First, this song has been stuck in my head today. And secondly, you should check out a clip from the Daily show titled This Week In God:Limbo. It's hilarious. Rarely does something relatively mainstream make a joke like that that makes religion look absolutely ridiculous and completely made-up.

Actually, while you're watching Daily Show videos, check out this one also. Corddry's segment is very funny.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Documentary: Why We Fight

     I just got done watching the documentary Why We Fight and enjoyed it much more than I had thought I would. I had seen some fairly poor documentaries on related topics before and thought that this one might be similar, but it was definitely better. You can view the trailer here. It's basically about the military-industrial complex and the forces that bring America into war. Here's the synopsis from their website

WHY WE FIGHT, the new film by Eugene Jarecki which won the Grand Jury Prize at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival, is an unflinching look at the anatomy of the American war machine, weaving unforgettable personal stories with commentary by a “who’s who” of military and beltway insiders. Featuring John McCain, William Kristol, Chalmers Johnson, Gore Vidal, Richard Perle and others, WHY WE FIGHT launches a bipartisan inquiry into the workings of the military industrial complex and the rise of the American Empire.

Inspired by Dwight Eisenhower’s legendary farewell speech (in which he coined the phrase “military industrial complex”), filmmaker Jarecki (THE TRIALS OF HENRY KISSINGER) surveys the scorched landscape of a half-century’s military adventures, asking how – and telling why – a nation of, by, and for the people has become the savings-and-loan of a system whose survival depends on a state of constant war.

The film moves beyond the headlines of various American military operations to the deeper questions of why – why does America fight? What are the forces – political, economic, ideological – that drive us to fight against an ever-changing enemy?

“Frank Capra made a series of films during World War II called WHY WE FIGHT that explored America’s reasons for entering the war,” Jarecki notes. “Today, with our troops engaged in Iraq and elsewhere for reasons far less clear, I think it’s crucial to ask the questions: ‘Why are we doing what we are doing? What is it doing to others? And what is it doing to us?’”

    If you have the opportunity to watch it, I would encourage you to do so. Only if you live in a very open-minded community will you be able to find it in theatres or for rent. You might be able to buy it online somewhere but I didn't find it at first glance (nothing on Amazon except a book by the same title which criticizes those who dissent on the everlasting "war on terror"). There's various places to download it online, including

Thursday, February 09, 2006

The Church of Patriotism

     There’s been a lot of discussion this past week about Muslims getting upset about the cartoons published in the Danish newspapers. People have noted that it is absolutely horrible to threaten violence on other human beings simply because a non-living symbol that you hold very dear is insulted. And of course it is, but I don’t think that many of the people who criticize the Muslims realize that they are guilty of the very same sort of behavior themselves.
     And no, I’m not talking about other theists, but the characteristics are very similar to a religion. I’m talking about patriotism. Patriotism of one’s country will allow a normally sane person to support their country even while it does harm to others. Patriotism invites an “us” vs “them” mentality that usually resorts to “us” being superior in at least a moral sense. Patriotism allows one to believe that the occupation of another’s country is for their own good. These things are all very similar to the beliefs that Christians would have.
     I feel like I have a good understanding of the similarities between religion and patriotism because I used to be an extremely hard-core patriot. And I mean fucking hard-core. Even when I knew of US involvement in propping up dictators in foreign countries which subsequently massacred their people, my faith in the country didn’t waver. I felt that while the events were unfortunate, it was necessary for us to secure countries which we had strategic interests in because we were the country that was going to spread freedom over the globe (“Spread the Word”, so to speak). I found the national anthem to be amazing, and sometimes I would feel so moved my skin would tingle (“I could feel Jesus”). When I was young I looked forward to the day when I would be wealthy and could give more than my fair share of taxes to support the country that I love. And I bought the Desert Storm trading cards and supported our military like it was a sports team.
     But back to the issue at hand. Outrage at the mocking of a religious symbol. Threatening or committing violence against those who do. In some way this is similar to those who wish to ban the burning of the American flag. It’s a revered item for many people and they think that protecting it is worth the infringement on freedom of expression and free speech. But this similarity isn’t that big of a deal, definitely not worth me making a post about, but it was when I saw this. A Republican representative from Missouri has introduced a bill which would authorize the use of force against someone who was about to desecrate the flag. And no, I’m not talking about the use of force by a police officer, but by anyone who suspects that someone is about to dishonor the flag. The person committing the violence could also not be charged with assault or theft as a result of them defending the flag. But don’t worry, the bill won’t allow the use of deadly force to stop the burning of the flag, but I bet you could argue it as an act of self-defense after the fight got underway.

     Anyone who would support this or even the banning of burning the American flag has no business criticizing Muslims for their anger over the cartoons of their beloved "prophet".

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Documentary: WAL-MART-The High Cost of Low Price

    This past week I finally got around to seeing WAL-MART-The High Cost of Low Price. Trailer here. Overall I think it was pretty well-made. The beginning had a fair amount of small "mom and pop" store people talking about how they were put out of business by Wal-Mart, and because of the lack of really any argument at all during this portion, I didn't find it very convincing. But I can understand that if they want the documentary to appeal to a broad range of people, especially to the everday person, emotional "arguments" are an important component of anything that's going to motivate people to do something.
     It got better though. Discussion started to focus less on emotional issues and more on data, such as the amount of money that local and state governments have to pay to support the employees of Wal-Mart, as well as the amount that the Walton family gives to charity (they are all in the top 10 richest people in the US, I believe, but give less than 1% to charity; compare this to Bill Gates' ~50%). The Walton family is definitely out to help the rich get richer. One thing that deeply disturbed me was the fact that the Walton family had built themselves an underground bunker compound in case of a nuclear attack. In a world where corporations decide who, when, and why we fight, it's a scary thing to think that those who are calling the shots might be less than deathly afraid of a nuclear showdown.
     I also didn't realize how aggressive Wal-Mart is in fighting the formation of unions. Former Wal-Mart regional trainers talked about the extensive measures that Wal-Mart employs in order to combat union formation. This can often include cameras in-store, a rapid reaction force that will fly in from Bentonville (HQ) within a day's notice, and sometimes even a spy van which parks outside the building to listen to employee conversations. When talk of a union being needed starts to pop up, those in the response force from corporate headquarters take charge of the store and begin to fire people in the attempt to decrease the proportion of "union-minded" employees.
    And then the documentary moved to Wal-Mart's Chinese factories. Sometimes I hear people argue that while Wal-Mart may not pay its employees much, it overall is a force for good because it provides goods at a lower price to the consumer. I believe this segment on the overseas factories shows that any price benefit that Wal-Mart gives to Americans, it takes much more than that from those who are economically forced to work in its factories overseas. They interviewed a few people who worked in those factories, who gave some insight into the horrible working and living conditions (they have a "dorm" on-site, which they pay for out of their paycheck regardless if they choose to live there or not) as well as how they are told to lie to inspectors when they come to examine the conditions. And of course all this while they flood the TV channels with their propaganda of being a good, wholesome company.
    All in all, I thought it was a good documentary. Out of the many documentaries I've seen recently, this is the one that would probably be most persuasive to the largest amount of people. If anyone is interested in buying it, you can buy it from Amazon for $12.95, plus shipping. Alternatively, you can buy it directly from the producers for the same price by clicking on this link, and I receive $5 as a result! Plus, in order to help the documentary sell more copies, I'll send you back 4 of those dollars via mail (minus $1 for the stamp & envelope).