Saturday, March 20, 2010

Archbishop Romero, State Terror, and the Quest for Redemption

"Nowadays an authentic Christian conversion must lead to an unmasking of the social mechanisms that turn the worker and the peasant into marginalized persons. Why do the rural poor become part of society only in the coffee-and-cotton-picking seasons?"

----- Archbishop Oscar Romero

"In concrete terms capitalism is in fact what is most unjust and unchristian about our own society."

-----Archbishop Oscar Romero

The dammed blood burst, a scarlet torrent cascaded through his skull, down into his mouth, then gushed onto his purple-and-white vestments as he slumped to the floor at the foot of the large crucifix behind the altar. Opening his arms to offer the Eucharist, Archbishop Oscar Romero was shot in the heart, the most forgiving heart in San Salvador. The unforgiving bullet scattered fragments through his chest, triggering massive internal hemorrhage.

While friends dashed to his side and flipped him on his back, the killer, escorted to the mass by two police patrols, escaped into the street. Then a photographer shot Romero again with flashes.

Unconscious, gasping, lifeblood ebbing away, Romero was carried from the chapel to a small truck and driven to the hospital, where he was laid out on a table in the emergency room. A nurse probed for a vein in his arm, but all had collapsed.

He strangled to death in his own blood.

Stunned by the news blaring from every radio, Salvadoreans poured into the streets as twilight fell. Sadly chimed the church bells of the Cathedral of San Martin, quickly followed by those of Palmar and San Francisco. In Santa Ana all the bells rang in unison, while back in San Salvador enormous crowds wandered the streets aimlessly, staring in disbelief.

Mourners swarmed into the capital for days, standing in line for hours to catch a glimpse of the man whose belief in their humanity cost him his life. Dozens of foreign bishops and church dignitaries flew in to pay their last respects.

Six days after the assassination, one hundred thousand people jammed the cathedral square for the funeral. A sudden burst of machine-gun fire from the second floor of the National Palace interrupted the proceedings. Bullets ripped into the grieving crowd, killing forty people. The Salvadorean government issued a press release denying troops were in the area.

Few could have guessed that Romero was destined to be a martyr. When he was appointed Archbishop of San Salvador in 1977, he was a conservative who only felt at ease when he was alone with God, a God that stood apart from the people. Distrustful of new ideas and social change reformers, he issued polite sermons that earned him the applause of the powerful.

But living among the poor gradually converted him to the radicalism of the Gospel. Witness to their suffering, he developed an insatiable appetite for justice, and came to see God as the risen Christ of the crucified Salvadorean people. When he began speaking of redemption for them, he was accused of hatred.

By 1979 he openly welcomed the Christian-Marxist revolution in neighboring Nicaragua, its guarantee of human rights, independent judges, freedom of speech, worship, and association, the termination of arbitrary arrest, search, torture, and murder. He applauded its efforts to bring dictator Anastasio Somoza's officials to justice for crimes against the people.

His sole ambition became to intoxicate the world with the Gospel, and he held out hope that even the nuncios and military vicariates might someday be converted. A disciple of Vatican II, he embraced liberation theology's "preferential option for the poor," seeing the Church's mission as establishing community in harmony with Divine law while enlightening the people's legitimate aspirations for a just society by the example of Christian faith and hope. Peace would come, he preached, but could not until justice and love opened the way for it.

He denounced violence as "unchristian," and believed its most acute form was institutionalized violence, the planned injustice of depriving poor majorities of the necessities of life. Encouraged by an emerging culture of resistance, he saw Salvadorean popular organizations struggling for change as "signs of God's presence and purposes," while their violent persecution represented "structural sin embedded in our society." He conceded that Marxism was a useful tool of social analysis, but denied it could substitute for the inner conversion essential to loving community. Private property was legitimate, but he insisted it came with a heavy social mortgage: derived from God, wealth "should reach all in just form, guided by justice and accompanied by charity."

In El Salvador, such an interpretation of the Gospel was guaranteed to be treated as a social cancer requiring immediate radical surgery, and so it was. According to the Human Rights office of the Archdiocese of San Salvador, Archbishop Romero's assassination was one of 8062 cases of "Persons of the popular and progressive sectors killed for political reasons" in 1980, "not in military confrontations, but as a result of military operations by the Army, Security Forces, and paramilitary organizations coordinated by the High Command of the Armed Forces." These were just the murders where information could be "fully checked"; they did not include bombing victims or the more than 600 campesinos butchered in the Rio Sumpul massacre by a joint Honduran-Salvadorean military operation, not to mention killings in the countryside, where "verification was impossible."

United States officials conceded that Salvadorean security forces were responsible for 90 percent of such atrocities, which was the political response to the growth of unions, Christian base communities, and peasant associations seeking to advance the interests of the poor majority against the entrenched Salvadorean oligarchy Washington had long favored. The U.S. never wavered in its support for this oligarchy, and in the years from 1979 to 1994 approximately 70,000 Salvadoreans were massacred by death squads to preserve its privileges. The tactics employed derived from U.S. counterinsurgency training, and included bombing, napalm attacks, razing of villages, rape, torture, crop burning (to create starvation), machine-gunning of patients in hospitals, and public display of mutilated corpses as a form of political education.

Attempts to document the tsunami of violence were savagely repressed. Churches and Human Rights offices were attacked, and the judge investigating Romero's assassination was driven out of the country by death threats and assassination attempts, this in the wake of government interference to make sure no investigation of the assassination could succeed. Meanwhile, Washington and its Salvadorean client government denied the involvement of the military and police in atrocities, whom they knew were responsible.

In such circumstances it would have been impossible for even the greatest faith not to doubt itself. Romero's faith faltered in 1978 when Marianela Garcia Vilas, attorney for tortured and disappeared Salvadoreans, came to him not with the usual request to denounce or investigate a recent atrocity, but to report that she herself had become a victim of the security forces. She told him that the police had kidnapped her, tied her up, beaten and humiliated her, stripped her, and raped her. Romero was stunned into silence, not by the story itself, which was hardly unusual, but by the resonance of hatred in Vilas's voice, that had never been there before. After a prolonged silence, Romero began his standard reply, saying that the Church did not hate or bear grudges against anyone, that all sins and crimes were part of the Divine order, that even criminals were spiritual brothers who should be prayed for, that one had no choice but to accept suffering. But in the midst of his sermon Romero abruptly stopped, lowered his gaze, and put his head in his hands. Shaking his head, he said, "No, I don't want to know," and began to cry. In that instant even he could not believe in a neutral God who loved and protected everyone equally. Instead of preaching, he wept.

The three years that Romero was Archbishop of San Salvador (1977-1980) coincided with the period when Washington became profoundly concerned about (1) the fall of the Somoza dictatorship in neighboring Nicaragua, and (2) the growth of Salvadorean popular forces (animated in no small measure by Bible study), which threatened to turn El Salvador into a real democracy with mass popular participation in the political process. This was intolerable to Salvadorean and U.S. elites, and they responded with unrestrained brutality.

In a public relations gambit designed to give the ruling junta a gentler image, the Carter Administration backed a coup by reformist military officers in October 1979, while simultaneously guaranteeing that the most ferocious military elements retained their dominant position. The reformist facade quickly crumbled amidst rising state terror, and power shifted completely to the murder machine churning out thousands of mutilated corpses a year. While crop dusters sent by plantation owners dropped DDT on the massive procession, sharpshooters and guardsmen opened fire on the largest peaceful march in Salvadorean history, leaving fifty dead on the sidewalk, a hundred wounded, and every sanctuary of Archbishop Romero's diocese overflowing with terrified refugees. Romero announced that "the most repressive sector of the armed forces" was running the country, and called on the opposition Christian Democrats to resign the government. In his weekly homily to the nation, he quoted from a letter he wrote to President Carter, imploring the American president to suspend aid to the blood-drenched junta, which, if sent, could only serve to "intensify injustice and repression" against the people, who were fighting for their "most basic human rights."

A right-wing group blew up the Church radio station. President Carter dispatched the aid.

Eleven days before Romero's death the Salvadorean Human Rights Commission published a list of 689 political killings since the first of the year, nearly 90 percent by government security forces and affiliated death squads. In a reply to Romero's letter, U.S. Secretary of State Cyrus Vance blandly intoned that, "The defense of human rights has been, and continues to be, one of the principal goals of the foreign policy of this administration."

The day before his assassination, in a packed Metropolitan Cathedral, an eerie hush fell over the congregation when Romero appealed directly to the young conscripts ordered to kill in the name of national security: "Brothers, you came from our own people. You are killing your own brothers. Any human order to kill must be subordinate to the law of God, which says, 'Thou shalt not kill'. No soldier is obliged to obey an order contrary to the law of God....In the name of God, in the name of our tormented people whose cries rise up to heaven, I beseech you, I beg you, I command you: stop the repression!"

For preaching this message, he was killed.

Romero once stated that he had been converted to the real meaning of Christ by the Salvadorean people. Once he saw God did not stand apart from them, he abandoned individualistic approaches to religion and began to draw strength from their struggles. Two weeks before he was gunned down he anticipated an untimely death, but also resurrection: "My life has been threatened many times. I have to confess that, as a Christian, I don't believe in death without resurrection. If they kill me, I will rise again in the Salvadorean people." (emphasis added)

Thus, Romero died with his faith in redemptive suffering intact. Two months before his death he had said that "so much bloodshed and so much suffering . . . will not have been shed in vain," but would nourish demands for change: "This blood and this suffering will fertilize a new and increasingly extensive seed, producing Salvadorans who will be conscious of their responsibility to build a more just and human society." The appalling carnage that he witnessed in his final days were the birth pangs of a new society: "This blood and this suffering will bear fruit in the bold, radical structural reforms that our country so urgently needs."

Today there is much speculation about whether Archbishop Romero will be canonized by Rome. It seems likely that he will be, though it should be recalled that when Romero visited Rome in 1979 to ask for help from Pope John Paul II, he was rudely rebuffed by the pontiff, who accused him of exaggerating his description of repression in El Salvador. In any case a more fitting tribute has already been paid by the Salvadorean people, and described as follows by Uruguayan author Eduardo Galeano: "In Cuscatlan Park, names on an infinitely long wall commemorate the civilian victims of the war. Thousands upon thousands of names are etched in white on black marble. The letters of Archbishop Romero's name are the only ones that show wear."

"From the touch of so many fingers."


Gustavo Gutierrez, We Drink from Our Own Wells - The Spiritual Journey of a People, (Orbis, 2003)

James R. Brockman, Romero: A Life, (Orbis, 1989)

James R. Brockman, Pastoral Teaching of Archbishop Oscar Romero, Spirituality Today, Summer 1988, Vol. 40, No. 2

Ana Carrigan, Salvador Witness: The Life and Calling of Jean Donovan (Simon and Schuster, 1984)

Michael McClintock, The American Connection: State Terror and Popular Resistance in El Salvador, (Zed, 1985)

Noam Chomsky, Turning The Tide - U.S. Intervention in Central America and the Struggle for Peace, (South End, 1985)

Eduardo Galeano, Memory of Fire, Vol. 3, (Pantheon, 1988)

Eduardo Galeano, Mirrors, (Nation Books, 2009)

Michael K. Smith is the author of "The Madness of King George" and "Portraits of Empire," from Common Courage Press. He can be reached at

Friday, March 19, 2010

Israel Expands Settlements To Washington D.C.

In a bold move that shocked Wall Street, Main Street and J Street, Israel expanded its settler housing to Washington DC . President Obama and his family were ordered to vacate the White House so that it would be available to Israeli officials when they visit the occupied territories in the Senate and the House.

Speaker Pelosi expressed surprise when told that Netanyahu had asked for her congressional leadership position in another bold move that showed Israel practicing its political chutzpah as never before.

“ I thought he would ask for the presidency and am flattered and of course only too willing to accede to any demands made by our most important friends in the world, the Israelis ” said Pelosi.

The ADL accused her of practicing thinly veiled anti-Semitism by only mentioning the world instead of the universe.

Obama supports Wealth Care for all Americans

In soaring emotional rhetoric not heard since his last soaringly emotional speech, the president expressed soaring emotional support for all wealthy Americans and for the overwhelming 90% majority who are not yet wealthy but will be someday if our free markets and credit purchases can fully flower and bloom and blossom and, uh, whatever.

“This nation will thrive and survive as long as people are free to get wealthy and I intend to fight to the last breath to keep the freedoms we enjoy that allow wonderful hard working billionaires to get even more rich and then help the rest of us with tax deductible donations to charity.”

When asked about health care for all Americans the president said he supported it, but it would only be possible when more rich people were given tax breaks that enabled them to buy more private health insurance companies and then make tax deductible donations to charity.

Bankers Urge Freeing Madoff: Say Fed Needs His Help

A consortium of bankers, financiers, entrepreneurs and gourmet chefs joined in calling for the release of convicted fraudster Bernie Madoff. A spokesperson for the group said that only someone with his skill sets could lead the Fed and help the nation out of its most serious financial crisis.

“Let’s face it, our economy has been a massive Ponzi scheme for years now and the person who can best get investors to buy into this mess has to be the man who did it before with absolutely nothing but his mouth and an enigmatic smile. Now he’ll be able to peddle shares in our new Financial Utilization of Credit Kleptocracy Unions of Penury fund, a derivative collateral fandango perceptivity subtracting coercion swapperama market which, along with that Mona Lisa quality of his, will be impossible for egotistical and exceptionally dumb investors to resist . Nothing will more insure the survival of our leaking ship of state than to have captain Bernie at the helm.”

Reality Celebrities?

Producers of reality shows and celebrity gossip programs have joined forces to create an all new viewing consumer product. It will combine the most appealing candid moments of real life embarrassing drama lived by ordinary people who thereby become celebrities, and scandalously embarrassing moments in the lives of celebrities which may reduce them to lives as ordinary people.

The new show will feature celebrities during unguarded moments as they use their toilets, or have sex or beat their children. Then ordinary people will be shown having the same experiences affording viewers the double pleasure of watching people who are better looking , more talented and have far more money than they make complete asses of themselves while also enjoying their peers who have little money, looks or talent becoming celebrities by virtue of being portrayed using toilets, having sex and beating their children.

A spokesperson for Humping International Values productions , which owns the rights to the proposed show said “ We know our viewers love watching their slightly better looking peers making asses of themselves enough to make them stars and they also love gossip about the flaws of celebrities they love and also hate. This will afford them a double pleasure . We expect it to be bigger than American Idol. The twits twixt twelve and twenty market will love it and bring the older mob of wannabes along with them.”

The working title for the show is: U HV NO LIFE SO WTCH THS

stay tuned to The Garlic for all the really important news

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Disease Care Insurance In A Sick Society

by Michael K. Smith

An extreme illness cannot be cured by a moderate medicine.

-----Malcolm X

Thirty years ago, Dr. Hugh Drummond, then medical editor of Mother Jones magazine, published a wonderfully insightful essay on the significance of the emerging national health insurance debate in the United States ("Your Health at Too High a Premium: National Health Insurance"). Drummond pointed out that the eagerness to enact a national health insurance bill stemmed from the intersection of two forces: the greed of insurance companies, horrified that millions of Americans were escaping paying the monthly ransom for receiving medical care, and the anxiety of an increasingly diseased general population, eager to "save its ass" from the inevitable consequences of living sedentary lives in an environment contaminated with thousands of untested chemicals.

Drummond made the often overlooked points that, (1) health insurance is not really that at all, but rather, "sickness insurance," and, (2) social and environmental conditions have a lot to do with patterns of disease. But since the social roots of disease are a source of considerable private profit, they typically remain unexplored. Therefore, it is not too surprising that discussion of national health insurance does not raise the crucial question of whether a healthy society would be compatible with maximizing profit for the medical insurance-pharmaceutical complex, that is, whether the limitless pursuit of profit might itself be sick.

The answer would appear to be yes. Since illness cannot be avoided, demanding profit as a condition of extending medical coverage amounts to a cynically opportunistic racket in which the poorest and sickest individuals are left to fend for themselves on the dubious assumption that they either don't want or don't deserve to have insurance (suffering much higher than normal death rates as a result). In fact, the only reason the issue of national health insurance ever emerged at all is because having government guarantee payment on behalf of the uninsured (now 48 million) and the underinsured (now 168 million) aroused the insurance companies' usual lust for limitless gain. In other words, there was a lot more money to be made off illness, irrespective of the prospects for prevention and cure, which are merely incidental outcomes of profit-seeking when they do occur.

Naturally, the central premise of the national health insurance advocates had little to do with health. The main idea was, and is, that everyone is terrified of cancer and heart disease, which therefore could and should be treated by enormously costly technological interventions like transplants, bypass procedures, and radiotherapy. Since the price tag for such treatments vastly exceeded patients' ability to pay, the solution seemed to be a classic case of government moving in to do for individuals what they could not do for themselves, that is, underwriting the expenses of medical procedures allegedly designed to cure, or at least temporarily subdue, fatal disease.

Overlooked in this "debate" about universal coverage was the more basic issue of how social and environmental conditions contributed to the pattern of diseases killing off Americans before their time. The pervasive illnesses of the poor and young - like malnutrition and lead poisoning - didn't even rate a mention. Likewise, the fact that highly invasive treatments initiated long after an unhealthy environment had predictably caused epidemics of cancer and heart disease was a far less promising approach than refraining from contaminating the environment in the first place, did not get the fair hearing it deserved. The reign of crackpot realism guaranteed that unexamined social causes of disease would continue generating massive suffering no matter how the debate about insuring treatment costs turned out.

Dreamy utopianist that he was, Dr. Drummond focused laser-like on logic. "To really stop cancer," he observed, "we would need to control all industrial pollutants, such as asbestos, vinyl chloride and sulphur dioxide." The enormous quantities of synthetic additives in food and drink would also "have to be eliminated." As for heart disease, Drummond argued that a general cure should at least entertain the idea of eliminating unemployment, "which has been documented to increase norepinephrine and cholesterol production to murderous levels." He also suggested that Americans eat, drink, smoke, and drive less, but he recognized that if healthy living were ever seriously pursued in the U.S. "the economy would collapse." Hence the need for a system of insurance that would add to corporate profits by underwriting the treatment of symptoms, while the proliferation of deadly chemicals and their attendant diseases went merrily on its way.

Given the unfortunate conflation of disease management with health care, even Medicaid and Medicare, though important social democratic advances, fell far short of their liberatory potential. What exactly happened in the aftermath of implementation of these programs, the precursors of today's debate about national health insurance for all? Most notably, a predictable gorging at the public trough. "In the first year," wrote Drummond, "doctors' fees rose two and a half times as fast as the cost of living." Hospital costs also soared, registering a four-and-a-half fold increase in the programs' initial years, with hospital administrators eagerly increasing their salaries at public expense.

The influx of federal money also went for fantastically expensive drugs and medical supplies, and the control of labor: hundreds of thousands of dollars were allocated to prevent union organizing in the medical industry. Most administrators and doctors welcomed the treasure-trove of government money, not at all persuaded that "socialized medicine" meant they would inevitably earn less than they had before.

Did salary increases for medical professionals constitute proper reward for an array of helpful new treatments? Apparently not. Drummond observed that the most obvious results of the new programs were that "a lot of doctors got richer," and "expensive and 'interesting' medical technology" was introduced, such as a hyperbaric chamber at Mt. Sinai in New York City, which was employed only sporadically and with "unconvincing necessity" in his view. For the money involved in offering this single high-tech treatment option, Drummond complained, the hospital could have funded 20,000 outpatient visits a year, or had a large-scale lead poisoning program for the residents of East Harlem. But that is not the way to expand profit and market share for pharmaceutical and medical insurance companies.

How about the patients these programs were intended to serve? It is true that fewer people were denied access to bad health care, but of those below the federal poverty level, one third remained unaffected by the existence of Medicaid and Medicare, and their illnesses continued to go undiagnosed and untreated.

The problem, of course, is that universal coverage, even if achieved, only fully subsidizes the current medical system; it does not require a change in its dismal health outcomes (the U.S. spends roughly double per capita on health care compared to other industrial countries but has among the worst health outcomes). Doctor-patient relationships do not inevitably improve; community controlled health clinics do not automatically emerge; better hospitals with more responsive staffs don't suddenly spring to life; the chemical industry doesn't stop polluting the air, land, and water.

On the other hand, if President Obama were backing single-payer insurance, a form of which exists in every other industrial country, at least we could look forward to the demise of the medical insurance industry, now fattening its already enormous bottom line at the expense of an American people suffering epidemics of obesity, cancer, and heart disease. But Obama does not favor this. On the contrary, he is pushing for an outcome where everyone has to be covered by the current HMO-dominated system, the most inefficient care delivery there is, with administrative costs many times greater than Medicare. And he wants to pay for those excessive costs at least in part by cutting Medicare benefits, which ought to be increased. This is not universal insurance at all, but the same "rob Peter to underpay Paul" system that continues the American people's subordination to the very medical-insurance-pharmaceutical complex that needs to be eliminated. It is by now virtually certain that we will get some version of the Obama plan, since the HMOs have invested a lot of money in it, which means we will be forced to pay too much for crappy care, with high deductibles and co-payments pushing ever more people into bankruptcy, an accelerated version of what we have already.

And rest assured that no attention will be given to making radical changes in our war-obsessed, consumption-mad culture, so as to achieve a genuinely healthy way of life. Quite the contrary. Obama will instead move ahead with plans to privatize Medicare and Social Security, widening the scale of our current disaster by converting entitlements into speculative schemes like the ones that collapsed the economy in 2008.

For him, that's "change you can believe in."


Hugh Drummond, M.D.,"Doctor Drummond's Spirited Guide To Health Care in a Dying Empire," (Grove Press, 1980)

David Himmelstein, Steffie Woolhandler, Ida Hellander, "Bleeding the Patient - The Consequences of Corporate Health Care," (Common Courage, 2001)

Vicente Navarro, "Obama's Mistakes in Health Care Reform," Counterpunch, September 7, 2009

Eduardo Orbea, "Corporate Power is 'Crushing' - The Health System According to Noam Chomsky," Univision On Line, September 18, 2009

-------Michael K. Smith is the author of "Portraits of Empire" and "The Madness of King George" (illustrations by Matt Wuerker), from Common Courage Press. He can be reached at

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Humanity vs Insanity

Whenever there is a crisis in the system’s stability ruling power often reacts in a disarray approaching panic but the numerous crises of the present moment bring with them an even more serious situation. It warrants aroused action from a unified and informed population but so far we are only aroused. We need to become less divided and more informed before matters already far from our control become completely beyond the illusion of democracy many think we already have.

The drums of war beat loudly and not just for the ongoing brutality in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan . Changing the label on those mass murders from one idiotic brand name to another seems the only difference between the deranged policies of the last regime and their demented continuation by the new one. But the unrelenting drive to war against the revolutionary Islamic government in Iran has taken a more frenzied tone . The irrational charges against that nation and its president and the cynical use of movements for civil liberties within it are becoming far more deadly.

Mind managers are maneuvering the American people into an insane fear of attack from a nuclear weapons powered Iran despite no such evidence in the material world. The only reliable information questions the motives and mental health of those creating this diabolical disinformation . Many have already forgotten the supposed menace represented by Iraq which existed only in the twisted minds of the war party in Washington and its dominating caucus representing Israel .

We have not finished our devastation of Iraq as we further it in Afghanistan and extend it into Pakistan, but that does not yet satisfy a paranoid military-religious-psycho cult that finds itself surrounded by enemies, mostly where it creates them. The cult’s development of ever more fiendish weapons with which to destroy and torture its adversaries is accompanied by its hysterical screaming about adversaries allegedly poised to terrorize and invade it : in other words, do to us exactly what we are doing to them.

A frustrated public understands that government is squandering its tax dollars on wanton waste and the bribing of rich minorities, but it’s so confused that describing its behavior as people on the sinking Titanic rearranging the deck chairs would be an understatement. It’s as though some passengers plead the new captain be given more time to find the hole where the water is entering with the rest near hysteria over the exorbitant room rates while the owners of the crippled ship buy more drone missiles and poison gas to ward off pending attack from terrorist penguins . But it isn’t funny.

Many Americans and a substantial number of Iranians have been led to believe an election decisively won by Ahmadinejad was actually stolen , this based on the evidence of wishful thinking, blatant lies and possible treason. A genuine movement for civil liberties in that nation has been deformed by the USA and Israel into an alleged counter revolution and sometimes instigated to act as a traitorous force within the country. When the American government and media howl about injustice in Iran after they censured any criticism of Israel’s mass brutality in Gaza they make vultures vomit and jackals gag. The normal noxious garbage flow from corporate government and its media stenographers has become so hazardous that we need to clear the political air before we are smothered by this mass attack of toxic mental pollution.

Recurring stories about Iran’s alleged pursuit of nuclear weapons mostly come from an Israeli network of undercover operatives and an intelligence apparatus that reaches deeply into our government. Why does Israel want to hurt Iran and especially Ahmadinejad? Alone among world leaders he has been outspoken in calling for justice in Palestine, highlighting the suffering of its people and the maddening hypocrisy in making Palestinians pay for a European crime. Meanwhile the USA, still smarting over losing its puppet ruler in the 1979 revolution , continues vindictively attempting to destroy the Islamic regime. It is the threat of imperial collapse more than control of oil that moves America into such easily manipulated desire for destroying Iran’s revolution, but Israel’s hatred is more malevolent and dangerous.

Left to its own bumbling barbarism it might be unlikely that the US would openly attack, but given their possession of nuclear weapons and a tortured cultural narrative of Jews as eternal victims , there is no telling what the Israelis might attempt.

The present danger finds a globally dominant imperial force with power capable of wiping out millions the world over fast losing its control. But the empire and its minions are either in complete denial of material reality or motivated by immaterial beliefs that only their rule and mythology is worthwhile and all others must succumb or be destroyed. If we were confronted by a maniac wielding an ax we’d have a frightening problem, but when that maniac is an empire in possession of nuclear weapons and incredible fire power, all humanity has a terrifying problem.

Democracy, like charity, begins at home but ultimately extends much further than a locality or a nation. It is time for the endangered species - the overwhelming majority of earth’s population - to gain control of the situation before it is too late. The important work of the immediate future involves whether that happens through a truly democratic United Nations controlled by the real global majority, or that majority acting through smaller groups of allied countries and NGOs acting in common interest for global salvation. One thing seems all but certain: If we don't soon remove the barriers that separate us as members of a human race, inhuman forces which profit from their creation may bring them crashing down on all our heads.

Copyright (c) 2010 by Frank Scott. All rights reserved.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Interview With a Director

After his new film “ Vainglorious Scumbags” opened to rave reviews Legalienate interviewed Hollywood’s foremost maker of shockingly straightforward and successfully horrible films, Fenwick Garbagino.

You are a student of old film who delights in making new ones which quote from the old classics while introducing new techniques of brutality and grossness unknown to old directors. Tell us how you came to that film making technique.

As a child I was always creative and kinda pushed the envelope way beyond what my teachers could understand. In grade school art class I sculpted a copy of Michaelangelo's Pieta, but all in dried snot from my own nose. They threw me out of class but a psychologist saw my work and sent me to Commercial Art School. So I was always inclined to be different and it got the attention of people who really understood creativity, like psychologists , film teachers and venture capitalists. One thing led to another and soon I was mixing blood and guts with snot and the rest is history.

Your previous film “ Filthy Rotten Bastids” dealt with Mafia wives getting even with their husbands by beating them with baseball bats, cutting off their genitals and using them in making tomato sauce . Now this latest film tells the story of the children of Japanese survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki who capture and torture American service men whether or not they had anything to do with these attacks on Japanese cities in the second world war. Talk to us about the themes of retribution, vengeance, vindictiveness and grotesque horror that seem to repeat themselves in your work.

Gladly. I’m very pissed at reality and especially interested in the commercial potential in appealing to other pissed off people, which is most people. One way to do that is to keep alive old hatreds and make films that enable people to get their rocks off watching disturbingly horrible torture being inflicted on people who may not personally deserve it, but who stand in for those who do. That way you get two markets, both the vindictive and vengeance oriented, along with the gullible who react to blood and animal like human behavior in ways that make us feel akin to biblical and other original creators of mass slaughter.

Do you think there is any social cost in making such films, like maybe cheapening the notion of pain and suffering even while trying to get even for its infliction?

Yes, but then there is the art of film to consider. I did go to film school and wrote many papers on the illusions of light and still photos flashing before the eyes, the experience of being in a large dark room with others and watching flashing lights on a big screen, and that same experience shrunk to a little room, a little screen and maybe only one person in his underwear with a beer and pretzels and a dvd or blu-ray copy of one of my art works. So you see, I have far more knowledge of film than the average person who only watches film. I have studied them and now make then and also have become rich at my art, which shows that I have a profound sense of the impact on consciousness of telling stories and having them acted out on a big screen and making lots of money.

But again, beyond your obvious depth and knowledge of film and its commercial value, do you think the images, as in your latest film, of Japanese terrorists cutting out the tongues of American soldiers and carving images of the rising sun on their eyeballs is something that will heal the wounds of past wars? Could they make things worse and lead to more revenge fantasies that could become reality?

That’s possible, but we are all subconsciously warriors and inflicters of brutality - except for those of us who are artists, politicians and lawyers - and so it’s natural for this behavior to go on. We’ve always done it so I’m not suggesting anything new, I’m just dramatizing it in a way that entertains. People brutalize other people, it’s what makes life a success for the ones who commit the brutality and a failure for those on whom it is committed.

That almost sounds profound.

Hey, I went to college , I’m an artist and I’m successful. Being profound is what I take to the bank.

What are your future plans.

My next film will deal with American Indians capturing a family of Europeans and water boarding them in front of their children before skinning them alive and feeding them to their horses. It will be cathartic for Indians who never seem to act out vengeance the way some people do, and the same way some Japanese thanked me for giving them some sadistic pleasure, I think Indians will love my film. I’ve already raised a hundred million dollars from their gambling casinos for the preproduction costs and as soon as Hollywood gets into the act this could be a bigger blockbuster than my last film. Business is looking good. America is back!