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Monday, January 28, 2008

Shepperton 3D!!!

It really is a long walk from Shepperton rail station to the Shepperton studio lot. And a dangerous one too, apparently (see above street sign).

I went out there on Saturday morning to see Axis Films' 3D production / post / exhibition demonstrations.

What I learned about 3D:

- If you want to sound like the Smartest Guy In The Room, you say "stereoscopic", not "3D".

- 8% of the population, for various reasons, are unable to properly apprehend stereoscopic movies.

- Stereoscopic movies are really neat.

- Stereoscopic movies give me a headache.

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Friday, January 25, 2008

Blue Brush


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Thursday, January 24, 2008

MPAA Admit Error In Piracy Study

MPAA admit error in piracy study

By Brooks Boliek at The Hollywood Reporter

Jan 24, 2008

WASHINGTON -- The major motion picture studios have egg on their face Thursday as they have been trying to explain to Congress and educators why a key number in a highly-touted study of on-campus piracy was wrong.

In a statement issued Wednesday MPAA spokesman Seth Oster said a 2005 study the association commissioned from research firm LEK "incorrectly concluded that 44% of the motion picture industry's domestic losses were attributable to piracy by college students."

It turns out that only 15% of the industry's domestic losses came from college students, Oster said.

The LEK discovered that there was an error when they were computing losses for the MPAA's 2007 study.

"We take this error very seriously and have taken strong and immediate action to both investigate the root cause of this problem as well as substantiate the accuracy of the latest report," Oster said.

The mistake, which MPAA sources said LEK attributed to a "data entry" error, has left the association scrambling to contain any damage it may cause to the studios' battles against piracy.

MPAA president and chairman Dan Glickman and other executives have been using the 44% number in their arguments to get lawmakers to enact sanctions against an education community that has been reluctant, at times, to aid movie makers' anti-piracy crusade.

Click here to read the rest of the article by Brooks Boliek at HollywoodReporter.com.

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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Quotations of the Day

Here are some famous quotes I had lying around:

"Past experience provides little basis for confidence that reason can prevail in an atmosphere of mounting war fever. In a contest between a hawk and dove the hawk has a great advantage, not because it is a better bird but because it is a bigger bird with lethal talons and a highly developed will to use them."

- William Fulbright, U.S. Senator

"But who prays for Satan? Who, in eighteen centuries, has had the common humanity to pray for the one sinner that needed it most?"

- Mark Twain, writer

"The victor will never be asked if he told the truth."

- Adolf Hitler, war criminal

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Monday, January 21, 2008

100 Strangers

Despite heaps of obligations, I have embarked upon ...

I think this may be the Signature Phrase of my 2008.

"Despite heaps of obligations, I have embarked upon" ... the 100 Strangers Project.

100 Strangers is a photography challenge in which one is tasked to photograph 100 people one has never met before. The key bit is that the photographer must interact with the subject, speak to them, interact with them, and - horrors! - actually ask the subject if they are willing to be photographed.

I enjoy taking candid shots, my subjects blissfully unaware that their providing scraps for my creative meat grinder. Greeting someone, explaining that you're a photographer, and then asking if you can take - and post - their picture ... much, much harder than I would have thought. You see, they might say "no". And when people say "no" to me, I take it much, much harder than any mature adult ought to.

But I do love people. I don't like them all the time, but I do find them strange and marvellous and fascinating.

Check back over the next year and see my stranger roster grow at my Flickr page.

And go to 100Strangers.com to see / learn more.

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Saturday, January 19, 2008

Blue Triptych



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Friday, January 18, 2008

Out of the Frying MySpace, into the Fire Facebook

I was happy to have lately adopted Facebook as my terribly overhyped networking tool of choice. I had never liked MySpace. The fact that MySpace is owned by universally reviled mogulzilla, Rupert Murdoch, didn't have too much to do with it either. MySpace was badly designed. And continues to be badly designed. Facebook, which has opened its arms to all sorts of 3rd Party applications is a much better system. Facebook really is MySpace 2.0.

Having recently become a Facebook devotee, I found myself getting heated and defensive reading Tom Hodgkinson's whiny rant against Facebook at The Guardian UK. Though I disagree heartily that Internet networking and communities separate people rather than bring them together (the old "souless technology taking away what is essentially human in all of us" argument) (an argument which has a little merit, but not a lot of merit), Hodgkinson's article was nevertheless a little reminder that gigantic companies with an international reach may not always be putting my interest at the top of their To Do List.

Whereas MySpace was owned by an Australian neo-fascist, Facebook is operated by a small group of conservative American corporate warriors, one of whom brought us PayPal, a truly world-altering currency exchange mechanism. Facebook's rise to online networking dominance is good news to some. For others, not so much.

Here is Tom Hodgkinson's article. See what you think.

With friends like these ...

Facebook has 59 million users - and 2 million new ones join each week. But you won't catch Tom Hodgkinson volunteering his personal information - not now that he knows the politics of the people behind the social networking site

Tom Hodgkinson

The Guardian, Monday January 14 2008

(The following correction was printed in the Guardian's Corrections and clarifications column, Wednesday January 16 2008

The US intelligence community's enthusiasm for hi-tech innovation after 9/11 and the creation of In-Q-Tel, its venture capital fund, in 1999 were anachronistically linked in the article below. Since 9/11 happened in 2001 it could not have led to the setting up of In-Q-Tel two years earlier)

I despise Facebook. This enormously successful American business describes itself as "a social utility that connects you with the people around you". But hang on. Why on God's earth would I need a computer to connect with the people around me? Why should my relationships be mediated through the imagination of a bunch of supergeeks in California? What was wrong with the pub?

And does Facebook really connect people? Doesn't it rather disconnect us, since instead of doing something enjoyable such as talking and eating and dancing and drinking with my friends, I am merely sending them little ungrammatical notes and amusing photos in cyberspace, while chained to my desk? A friend of mine recently told me that he had spent a Saturday night at home alone on Facebook, drinking at his desk. What a gloomy image. Far from connecting us, Facebook actually isolates us at our workstations.

Facebook appeals to a kind of vanity and self-importance in us, too. If I put up a flattering picture of myself with a list of my favourite things, I can construct an artificial representation of who I am in order to get sex or approval. ("I like Facebook," said another friend. "I got a shag out of it.") It also encourages a disturbing competitivness around friendship: it seems that with friends today, quality counts for nothing and quantity is king. The more friends you have, the better you are. You are "popular", in the sense much loved in American high schools. Witness the cover line on Dennis Publishing's new Facebook magazine: "How To Double Your Friends List."

It seems, though, that I am very much alone in my hostility. At the time of writing Facebook claims 59 million active users, including 7 million in the UK, Facebook's third-biggest customer after the US and Canada. That's 59 million suckers, all of whom have volunteered their ID card information and consumer preferences to an American business they know nothing about. Right now, 2 million new people join each week. At the present rate of growth, Facebook will have more than 200 million active users by this time next year. And I would predict that, if anything, its rate of growth will accelerate over the coming months. As its spokesman Chris Hughes says: "It's embedded itself to an extent where it's hard to get rid of."

All of the above would have been enough to make me reject Facebook for ever. But there are more reasons to hate it. Many more.

Facebook is a well-funded project, and the people behind the funding, a group of Silicon Valley venture capitalists, have a clearly thought out ideology that they are hoping to spread around the world. Facebook is one manifestation of this ideology. Like PayPal before it, it is a social experiment, an expression of a particular kind of neoconservative libertarianism. On Facebook, you can be free to be who you want to be, as long as you don't mind being bombarded by adverts for the world's biggest brands. As with PayPal, national boundaries are a thing of the past.

Although the project was initially conceived by media cover star Mark Zuckerberg, the real face behind Facebook is the 40-year-old Silicon Valley venture capitalist and futurist philosopher Peter Thiel. There are only three board members on Facebook, and they are Thiel, Zuckerberg and a third investor called Jim Breyer from a venture capital firm called Accel Partners (more on him later). Thiel invested $500,000 in Facebook when Harvard students Zuckerberg, Chris Hughes and Dustin Moskowitz went to meet him in San Francisco in June 2004, soon after they had launched the site. Thiel now reportedly owns 7% of Facebook, which, at Facebook's current valuation of $15bn, would be worth more than $1bn. There is much debate on who exactly were the original co-founders of Facebook, but whoever they were, Zuckerberg is the only one left on the board, although Hughes and Moskowitz still work for the company.

Thiel is widely regarded in Silicon Valley and in the US venture capital scene as a libertarian genius. He is the co-founder and CEO of the virtual banking system PayPal, which he sold to Ebay for $1.5bn, taking $55m for himself. He also runs a £3bn hedge fund called Clarium Capital Management and a venture capital fund called Founders Fund. Bloomberg Markets magazine recently called him "one of the most successful hedge fund managers in the country". He has made money by betting on rising oil prices and by correctly predicting that the dollar would weaken. He and his absurdly wealthy Silicon Valley mates have recently been labelled "The PayPal Mafia" by Fortune magazine, whose reporter also observed that Thiel has a uniformed butler and a $500,000 McLaren supercar. Thiel is also a chess master and intensely competitive. He has been known to sweep the chessmen off the table in a fury when losing. And he does not apologise for this hyper-competitveness, saying: "Show me a good loser and I'll show you a loser."

But Thiel is more than just a clever and avaricious capitalist. He is a futurist philosopher and neocon activist. A philosophy graduate from Stanford, in 1998 he co-wrote a book called The Diversity Myth, which is a detailed attack on liberalism and the multiculturalist ideology that dominated Stanford. He claimed that the "multiculture" led to a lessening of individual freedoms. While a student at Stanford, Thiel founded a rightwing journal, still up and running, called The Stanford Review - motto: Fiat Lux ("Let there be light"). Thiel is a member of TheVanguard.Org, an internet-based neoconservative pressure group that was set up to attack MoveOn.org, a liberal pressure group that works on the web. Thiel calls himself "way libertarian".

TheVanguard is run by one Rod D Martin, a philosopher-capitalist whom Thiel greatly admires. On the site, Thiel says: "Rod is one of our nation's leading minds in the creation of new and needed ideas for public policy. He possesses a more complete understanding of America than most executives have of their own businesses."

This little taster from their website will give you an idea of their vision for the world: "TheVanguard.Org is an online community of Americans who believe in conservative values, the free market and limited government as the best means to bring hope and ever-increasing opportunity to everyone, especially the poorest among us." Their aim is to promote policies that will "reshape America and the globe". TheVanguard describes its politics as "Reaganite/Thatcherite". The chairman's message says: "Today we'll teach MoveOn [the liberal website], Hillary and the leftwing media some lessons they never imagined."

So, Thiel's politics are not in doubt. What about his philosophy? I listened to a podcast of an address Thiel gave about his ideas for the future. His philosophy, briefly, is this: since the 17th century, certain enlightened thinkers have been taking the world away from the old-fashioned nature-bound life, and here he quotes Thomas Hobbes' famous characterisation of life as "nasty, brutish and short", and towards a new virtual world where we have conquered nature. Value now exists in imaginary things. Thiel says that PayPal was motivated by this belief: that you can find value not in real manufactured objects, but in the relations between human beings. PayPal was a way of moving money around the world with no restriction. Bloomberg Markets puts it like this: "For Thiel, PayPal was all about freedom: it would enable people to skirt currency controls and move money around the globe."

Clearly, Facebook is another uber-capitalist experiment: can you make money out of friendship? Can you create communities free of national boundaries - and then sell Coca-Cola to them? Facebook is profoundly uncreative. It makes nothing at all. It simply mediates in relationships that were happening anyway.

Thiel's philosophical mentor is one René Girard of Stanford University, proponent of a theory of human behaviour called mimetic desire. Girard reckons that people are essentially sheep-like and will copy one another without much reflection. The theory would also seem to be proved correct in the case of Thiel's virtual worlds: the desired object is irrelevant; all you need to know is that human beings will tend to move in flocks. Hence financial bubbles. Hence the enormous popularity of Facebook. Girard is a regular at Thiel's intellectual soirees. What you don't hear about in Thiel's philosophy, by the way, are old-fashioned real-world concepts such as art, beauty, love, pleasure and truth.

The internet is immensely appealing to neocons such as Thiel because it promises a certain sort of freedom in human relations and in business, freedom from pesky national laws, national boundaries and suchlike. The internet opens up a world of free trade and laissez-faire expansion. Thiel also seems to approve of offshore tax havens, and claims that 40% of the world's wealth resides in places such as Vanuatu, the Cayman Islands, Monaco and Barbados. I think it's fair to say that Thiel, like Rupert Murdoch, is against tax. He also likes the globalisation of digital culture because it makes the banking overlords hard to attack: "You can't have a workers' revolution to take over a bank if the bank is in Vanuatu," he says.

If life in the past was nasty, brutish and short, then in the future Thiel wants to make it much longer, and to this end he has also invested in a firm that is exploring life-extension technologies. He has pledged £3.5m to a Cambridge-based gerontologist called Aubrey de Grey, who is searching for the key to immortality. Thiel is also on the board of advisers of something called the Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence. From its fantastical website, the following: "The Singularity is the technological creation of smarter-than-human intelligence. There are several technologies ... heading in this direction ... Artificial Intelligence ... direct brain-computer interfaces ... genetic engineering ... different technologies which, if they reached a threshold level of sophistication, would enable the creation of smarter-than-human intelligence."

So by his own admission, Thiel is trying to destroy the real world, which he also calls "nature", and install a virtual world in its place, and it is in this context that we must view the rise of Facebook. Facebook is a deliberate experiment in global manipulation, and Thiel is a bright young thing in the neoconservative pantheon, with a penchant for far-out techno-utopian fantasies. Not someone I want to help get any richer.

The third board member of Facebook is Jim Breyer. He is a partner in the venture capital firm Accel Partners, who put $12.7m into Facebook in April 2005. On the board of such US giants as Wal-Mart and Marvel Entertainment, he is also a former chairman of the National Venture Capital Association (NVCA). Now these are the people who are really making things happen in America, because they invest in the new young talent, the Zuckerbergs and the like. Facebook's most recent round of funding was led by a company called Greylock Venture Capital, who put in the sum of $27.5m. One of Greylock's senior partners is called Howard Cox, another former chairman of the NVCA, who is also on the board of In-Q-Tel. What's In-Q-Tel? Well, believe it or not (and check out their website), this is the venture-capital wing of the CIA. After 9/11, the US intelligence community became so excited by the possibilities of new technology and the innovations being made in the private sector, that in 1999 they set up their own venture capital fund, In-Q-Tel, which "identifies and partners with companies developing cutting-edge technologies to help deliver these solutions to the Central Intelligence Agency and the broader US Intelligence Community (IC) to further their missions".

The US defence department and the CIA love technology because it makes spying easier. "We need to find new ways to deter new adversaries," defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld said in 2003. "We need to make the leap into the information age, which is the critical foundation of our transformation efforts." In-Q-Tel's first chairman was Gilman Louie, who served on the board of the NVCA with Breyer. Another key figure in the In-Q-Tel team is Anita K Jones, former director of defence research and engineering for the US department of defence, and - with Breyer - board member of BBN Technologies. When she left the US department of defence, Senator Chuck Robb paid her the following tribute: "She brought the technology and operational military communities together to design detailed plans to sustain US dominance on the battlefield into the next century."

Now even if you don't buy the idea that Facebook is some kind of extension of the American imperialist programme crossed with a massive information-gathering tool, there is no way of denying that as a business, it is pure mega-genius. Some net nerds have suggsted that its $15bn valuation is excessive, but I would argue that if anything that is too modest. Its scale really is dizzying, and the potential for growth is virtually limitless. "We want everyone to be able to use Facebook," says the impersonal voice of Big Brother on the website. I'll bet they do. It is Facebook's enormous potential that led Microsoft to buy 1.6% for $240m. A recent rumour says that Asian investor Lee Ka-Shing, said to be the ninth richest man in the world, has bought 0.4% of Facebook for $60m.

The creators of the site need do very little bar fiddle with the programme. In the main, they simply sit back and watch as millions of Facebook addicts voluntarily upload their ID details, photographs and lists of their favourite consumer objects. Once in receipt of this vast database of human beings, Facebook then simply has to sell the information back to advertisers, or, as Zuckerberg puts it in a recent blog post, "to try to help people share information with their friends about things they do on the web". And indeed, this is precisely what's happening. On November 6 last year, Facebook announced that 12 global brands had climbed on board. They included Coca-Cola, Blockbuster, Verizon, Sony Pictures and Condé Nast. All trained in marketing bullshit of the highest order, their representatives made excited comments along the following lines:

"With Facebook Ads, our brands can become a part of the way users communicate and interact on Facebook," said Carol Kruse, vice president, global interactive marketing, the Coca-Cola Company.

"We view this as an innovative way to cultivate relationships with millions of Facebook users by enabling them to interact with Blockbuster in convenient, relevant and entertaining ways," said Jim Keyes, Blockbuster chairman and CEO. "This is beyond creating advertising impressions. This is about Blockbuster participating in the community of the consumer so that, in return, consumers feel motivated to share the benefits of our brand with their friends."

"Share" is Facebookspeak for "advertise". Sign up to Facebook and you become a free walking, talking advert for Blockbuster or Coke, extolling the virtues of these brands to your friends. We are seeing the commodification of human relationships, the extraction of capitalistic value from friendships.

Now, by comparision with Facebook, newspapers, for example, begin to look hopelessly outdated as a business model. A newspaper sells advertising space to businesses looking to sell stuff to their readers. But the system is far less sophisticated than Facebook for two reasons. One is that newspapers have to put up with the irksome expense of paying journalists to provide the content. Facebook gets its content for free. The other is that Facebook can target advertising with far greater precision than a newspaper. Admit on Facebook that your favourite film is This Is Spinal Tap, and when a Spinal Tap-esque movie comes out, you can be sure that they'll be sending ads your way.

It's true that Facebook recently got into hot water with its Beacon advertising programme. Users were notified that one of their friends had made a purchase at certain online shops; 46,000 users felt that this level of advertising was intrusive, and signed a petition called "Facebook! Stop invading my privacy!" to say so. Zuckerberg apologised on his company blog. He has written that they have now changed the system from "opt-out" to "opt-in". But I suspect that this little rebellion about being so ruthlessly commodified will soon be forgotten: after all, there was a national outcry by the civil liberties movement when the idea of a police force was mooted in the UK in the mid 19th century.

Futhermore, have you Facebook users ever actually read the privacy policy? It tells you that you don't have much privacy. Facebook pretends to be about freedom, but isn't it really more like an ideologically motivated virtual totalitarian regime with a population that will very soon exceed the UK's? Thiel and the rest have created their own country, a country of consumers.

Now, you may, like Thiel and the other new masters of the cyberverse, find this social experiment tremendously exciting. Here at last is the Enlightenment state longed for since the Puritans of the 17th century sailed away to North America, a world where everyone is free to express themselves as they please, according to who is watching. National boundaries are a thing of the past and everyone cavorts together in freewheeling virtual space. Nature has been conquered through man's boundless ingenuity. Yes, and you may decide to send genius investor Thiel all your money, and certainly you'll be waiting impatiently for the public flotation of the unstoppable Facebook.

Or you might reflect that you don't really want to be part of this heavily-funded programme to create an arid global virtual republic, where your own self and your relationships with your friends are converted into commodites on sale to giant global brands. You may decide that you don't want to be part of this takeover bid for the world.

For my own part, I am going to retreat from the whole thing, remain as unplugged as possible, and spend the time I save by not going on Facebook doing something useful, such as reading books. Why would I want to waste my time on Facebook when I still haven't read Keats' Endymion? And when there are seeds to be sown in my own back yard? I don't want to retreat from nature, I want to reconnect with it. Damn air-conditioning! And if I want to connect with the people around me, I will revert to an old piece of technology. It's free, it's easy and it delivers a uniquely individual experience in sharing information: it's called talking.

Facebook's privacy policy

Just for fun, try substituting the words 'Big Brother' whenever you read the word 'Facebook'

1 We will advertise at you

"When you use Facebook, you may set up your personal profile, form relationships, send messages, perform searches and queries, form groups, set up events, add applications, and transmit information through various channels. We collect this information so that we can provide you the service and offer personalised features."

2 You can't delete anything

"When you update information, we usually keep a backup copy of the prior version for a reasonable period of time to enable reversion to the prior version of that information."

3 Anyone can glance at your intimate confessions

"... we cannot and do not guarantee that user content you post on the site will not be viewed by unauthorised persons. We are not responsible for circumvention of any privacy settings or security measures contained on the site. You understand and acknowledge that, even after removal, copies of user content may remain viewable in cached and archived pages or if other users have copied or stored your user content."

4 Our marketing profile of you will be unbeatable

"Facebook may also collect information about you from other sources, such as newspapers, blogs, instant messaging services, and other users of the Facebook service through the operation of the service (eg, photo tags) in order to provide you with more useful information and a more personalised experience."

5 Opting out doesn't mean opting out

"Facebook reserves the right to send you notices about your account even if you opt out of all voluntary email notifications."

6 The CIA may look at the stuff when they feel like it

"By using Facebook, you are consenting to have your personal data transferred to and processed in the United States ... We may be required to disclose user information pursuant to lawful requests, such as subpoenas or court orders, or in compliance with applicable laws. We do not reveal information until we have a good faith belief that an information request by law enforcement or private litigants meets applicable legal standards. Additionally, we may share account or other information when we believe it is necessary to comply with law, to protect our interests or property, to prevent fraud or other illegal activity perpetrated through the Facebook service or using the Facebook name, or to prevent imminent bodily harm. This may include sharing information with other companies, lawyers, agents or government agencies."


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Thursday, January 17, 2008

MESSENGER Sends Mercury Pics

The MESSENGER (MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging) Probe has conducted its first flyby of Mercury, the smallest, and innermost planet of the Solar System.

MESSENGER will become the first spacecraft to orbit Mercury, with orbit insertion to take place on March 18, 2011. MESSENGER's mission calls for two flyby's of the planet. The first took place yesterday, allowing MESSENGER to capture detailed images of previously unseen swathes of the Mercury's surface.

MESSENGER's Flyby 2 will occur on October 6, 2008.

It is very important that we learn all we can about the various celebrities. But also it's nice to see something that no one has ever seen before in all of human history, especially if it's the surface of another planet.

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Monday, January 14, 2008

Great Film Monologues 2 - "Doctor Zhivago"

Robert Bolt was a very lucky writer - terribly talented, yes - but lucky, lucky, lucky. He wrote only a very few screenplays, and most of those that he wrote were produced, and most of those he wrote won many awards, and most of those he wrote were made into superb movies. Compare him with the majority of screenwriters - many excellent screenwriters, first-rate screenwriters - who write a dozen, two dozen, screenplays and maybe get one produced - and probably with other writers' names on it as well.

This tremendous "luck" is one more reason us crazies in the basement consider Robert Bolt something of a screenwriter's saint. The fact that his work on the "Lawrence of Arabia" (1962) script was interrupted because he had been arrested at a Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament protest also makes him kind of cool.

"Doctor Zhivago" (1965) features some of the best use of voice over in any English language film. The story is essentially told by the General Yevgraf Zhivago to a young woman who may - or may not - be his niece. Apart from the introductory and concluding bookends, Yevgraf, as a character, never speaks in his appearances in the story. The voice over of the older Yevgraf, remembering the events, covers any dialogue that would actually have been spoken by his younger, remembered self.

What makes the "Zhivago" voice overs - monologues, we will call them for the purposes of our article - worth careful study is how carefully and deliberately they complement or harmonize with the images and actions they are describing. One particularly nice example is Yevgraf's describing his dropping the bombshell on his poet-brother Yuri that his poems are "not liked" by the Bolsheviks.

Yuri, in the scene, asks, rather pathetically: "Do YOU think it's personal, petit-bourgeois, and self-indulgent?"


CU, Yevgraf mouths a single word: "Yes."

But Yevgraf's voice over says: "I lied...But he believed me. And it struck me through to see that my opinion mattered."

Again, to fully appreciate the following monologue, it must be seen played against the images and music. But to sit back and enjoy the meaning and poetry of the language itself is still a treat.

The following is Yevgraf's first major monologue, and the first time we see him as a young man, joining the ranks of Russian soldiers heading off to fight the First World War. This monologue, and the montage accompanying it, manage to cover the entirety of WWI and its impact on each of the main characters in a few minutes - a beautiful, elegant feat of compression.

Soldiers march off to war flanked by flag-waving, adoring crowds. And Yevgraf speaks:

"In bourgeois terms it was a war between the Allies and Germany. In Bolshevik terms it was a war between the Allied and German upper classes - and which of them won was a matter of indifference. I was ordered by the Party to enlist. I gave my name as Petrov. They were shouting for victory all over Europe - praying for victory to the same God. My task - the Party's task - was to organize defeat. From defeat would spring the Revolution. And the Revolution would be victory for us. The party looked to the conscript peasants. Most of them were in their first good pair of boots. When the boots wore out, they'd be ready to listen. When the time came, I was able to take three battalions with me out of the front line - the best day's work I ever did. But, for the moment, there was nothing to be done. There were too many volunteers like me. Mostly, it was mere hysteria. But there were men with better motives, who saw the times were critical and wanted a man's part. Good men, wasted. Unhappy men, too. Unhappy in their jobs. Unhappy with their wives. Doubting themselves. Happy men don't volunteer. They wait their turn, and thank God if their age or work delays it. The ones who got back home at the price of an arm or an eye or a leg, these were the lucky ones. Even Comrade Lenin underestimated both the anguish of that nine hundred mile-long front, and our cursed capacity for suffering. By the second winter of the war the boots had worn out. But the line still held. Their great coats fell to pieces on their backs. Their rations were irregular. Half of them went into action without arms. Led by men they didn't trust ... And those they did trust? ... At last, they did what all the armies dreamed of doing - they began to go home. That was the beginning of the Revolution."

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Sunday, January 13, 2008

Cyclopedia Of Worlds - Mersia Sia & Moon

Fans & students of "The Cyclopedia of Worlds" will notice that we've taken the "beta" mark off the home page.

Of course, the sci-fi site - presented in the format of a reference tome written 500 years from now - is nothing like finished. Nor will it ever be finished - unless we run out of stars, and run out of planets around those stars, and run out of people to live, love, work, and die on those planets. But the design of the Cyclopedia is sufficiently stable so that we can now go to adding entries and images and all manner of thrilling sci-fi content without worrying about how the layout and technology are going to behave.

We, of course, welcome comments at "The Cyclopedia". And we urge you to browse frequently since it is updated continuously, with new entries and images added all the time.

The above panoramic image is of the planet Mersia Sia and its largest moon. Mersia Sia was home to the headquarters of the merciless Expansion Period warlord, Michael Portland - aka Michael Bloody Wednesday. The Pantheon of Michael Bloody Wednesday, where the warlord is buried, is one of the most frequently visited landmarks in the Coral Agency.

"The Cyclopedia of Worlds: A History Of The Future"


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Friday, January 11, 2008

Brussels, Comics Capital of Europe

A couple months ago, I took my first trip to Brussels. I went there to ride in a helicopter and to write a piece on Wim Robberechts & Co., one of the preeminent aerial cinematography outfits this side of the Azores.

I'd never been to Brussels before. It struck me as a sensible, serious city. The home of NATO and the European Union and quality chocolate. The city's slogan ought to be: "Brussels: We do things properly."

But did you know - and if you're an American, you probably didn't know - Brussels is one of the world's great capitals for illustration and comics?

Actually, if you're an American, you probably didn't know that NATO and the EU are headquartered in Brussels either, did you? In fact, you probably don't even know what NATO is. And you're understanding of the EU is that there are French people somehow involved and it's where they have Euros. You know, it's true. Of course you do. You wouldn't be so mad at me if you didn't think it was true.

What was I on about?

Right. Brussels - one of the world's great centers of illustration and comic art. The other centers would be, I suppose, Tokyo and New York. Los Angeles too, possibly, but I think there are actually fewer comic stores per capita in L.A. than people suppose.

Dalai Lama w/Tin Tin
Brussels not only has murals of Tin Tin on the side of every building - or so it seemed to me - but in some areas there are comic stores on every block. They carry the usual American fare - high concept stories about physically powerful beings and character stories about physically powerless beings. And Asian comics too. But the third part of the inventory - the one rarely seen, or heard of, in most North American stores - is the Franco-Belgian comics, traditionally dubbed bande dessinée ("drawn strip"). In general, these comics feature high-quality illustration and more ... subtle? ... meaty? ... rich? ... stories. 
As I browsed the comic shops of Brussels I found myself again and again picking up comics that could very well be adaptations of high-end movies - usually of the kind I write myself. Medieval adventures. Strange and hallucinatory stories of suspense. Sexy science fiction dramas emphasizing emotion over explosions. 

Franco-Belgian comics world are rooted in a French illustration tradition, but also feature a strong Dutch bloodline. Brussels is the geographical and cultural meeting point of Dutch and French culture, and the comics landscape of the city is enriched exponentially by this intersection.

The main reason English speaking readers know little of the Franco-Belgian comics / graphic novels / sequential art world is that relatively few of the titles are ever translated into English. The profit margin on the most successful American comics can be relatively small, for European comics, the profit margin may be nonexistent. Unless some enterprising publisher makes it a priority to translate and distribute American versions of Franco-Belgian comics en masse, it's likely the U.S. will continue to miss out on a whole universe of dynamite storytellers, illustrators, colorists, printers.

I only had a morning to tour around the comic stores of Brussels. But the highlights were:

HET B-GEVAAR (all Dutch comics, all the time)

Greepstraat 15
1000 Bruxelles
tel: 02 513 14 86


122-124 boulevard Anspach
B-1000 Bruxelles
tel / fax: 02 513 72 35


126-128 Boulevard Anspach
B-1000 Bruxelles
tel / fax: 02 513 01 86

DONG CO (specialist in Japanimation)

33, Rue di Midi
1000 Bruxelles


39, Rue di Midi
1000 Bruxelles


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Wednesday, January 09, 2008

"Knowledge and Propaganda" by Joseph Goebbels

Background: This speech was given on 9 January 1928 to an audience of party members at the so-called "Hochschule für Politik," a series of training talks for party members in Berlin. It is Joseph  Goebbels' (1897 - 1945) most extended discussion of the nature of propaganda by Joseph Goebbels, Hitler's Minister for Public Enlightenment and Propaganda.

The source: "Erkenntnis und Propaganda," Signale der neuen Zeit. 25 ausgewählte Reden von Dr. Joseph Goebbels (Munich: Zentralverlag der NSDAP., 1934), pp. 28-52.

To learn more about the National Socialist propaganda machine, go to Calvin College's German Propaganda Archive .

Knowledge and Propaganda

by Joseph Goebbels

My dear fellow party members!

Our theme this evening is hotly disputed. I realize that my viewpoint is subjective. There is really little point to discussing propaganda. It is a matter of practice, not of theory. One cannot determine theoretically whether one propaganda is better than another. Rather, that propaganda is good that has the desired results, and that propaganda is bad that does not lead to the desired results. It does not matter how clever it is, for the task of propaganda is not to be clever, its task is to lead to success. I therefore avoid theoretical discussions about propaganda, for there is no point to it. Propaganda shows that it is good if over a certain period it can win over and fire up people for an idea. If it fails to do so, it is bad propaganda. If propaganda wins the people it wanted to win, it was presumably good, and if not, it was presumably bad. No one can say that your propaganda is too crude or low or brutal, or that it is not decent enough, for those are not the relevant criteria. Its purpose is not to be decent, or gentle, or weak, or modest; it is to be successful. That is why I have intentionally chosen to discuss propaganda along with a second theme, knowledge. Otherwise, our discussion this evening would be of little value. We have not gathered to discuss lovely theories, but rather to find ways of practically working together to deal with our everyday challenges.

What is propaganda, and what role does it have in political life? That is the question of greatest interest to us. How should propaganda look, and what is its role in our movement? Is it an end in itself, or only a means to an end? We must discuss that, but we can do that only when we begin with the origin of propaganda itself, namely the idea, then move to the target of propaganda, namely people.

Ideas in themselves are timeless. They are not tied to individuals, much less to a people. They rest in a people, it is true, and affect their attitudes. Ideas, people say, are in the clouds. When someone comes along who can put in words what everyone feels in their hearts, each feels: "Yes! That is what I have always wanted and hoped for." That is what happens the first time one hears one of Hitler's major speeches. I have met people who had attended a Hitler meeting for the first time, and at the end they said: "This man put in words everything I have been searching for for years. For the first time, someone gave form to what I want." Others are lost in confusion, but suddenly someone stands up and puts it in words. Goethe's words become reality: "Lost in silent misery, God gave someone to express my suffering."

Some kind of idea is at the beginning of every political movement. It is not necessary to put this idea in a thick book, nor that it take political form in a hundred long paragraphs. History proves that the greatest world movements have always developed when their leaders knew how to unify their followers under a short, clear theme. That is clear from the French Revolution, or Cromwell's movement, or Buddhism, Islam, or Christianity. Christ's goal was clear and simple: "Love your neighbor as yourself." He gathered his followers behind that straightforward statement. Because this teaching was simple, crisp, clear, and understandable, enabling the broad masses to stand behind it, it in the end conquered the world.

One then builds a whole system of thought on such a brief, crisply formulated idea. The idea does not remain limited to this single statement, rather it is applied to every aspect of daily life and becomes the guide for all human activity — politics, culture, the economy, every area of human behavior. It becomes a worldview. We see that in all great revolutionary movements, which begin with a clear, crisp, understandable, all-encompassing idea. They spread more and more and become a mirror of life that reflects all activities of the peoples, and indeed in a particular way.

Then one can say that a person has a worldview—not because he knows a lot or has read a lot—but because he sees all of life from a certain standpoint, and measures everything by a certain standard. I am a Christian when I believe that the meaning of my life is the heavy responsibility to love my neighbor as myself. Kant once said: "Act as if the principle of your life could be the principle for your entire nation." I am a National Socialist not when I want this or that from politics, rather when I consider all aspects of daily life. I must act in all things by putting the good of the whole above my personal good, by putting the good of the state above my personal good. But then I also have the guarantee that such a state will be able to protect my personal life. I am a National Socialist when I see everything in politics, culture or the economy from this standpoint. I therefore do not evaluate the theater from the standpoint of whether it is elegant or amusing, rather I ask: Is it good for my people, is it useful for them, does it strengthen the community? If so, the community in turn can benefit, support and strengthen me. I do not see the economy as some sort of way of making money, rather I want an economy that will strengthen the people, make them healthy and powerful. Then too I can expect that this people will support and maintain me. If I see things in this way, I see the economy in National Socialist terms.

If I develop this crisp, clear idea into a system of thought that includes all human drives, wishes and actions, I have a worldview.

As an idea develops into a worldview, the goal is the state. The knowledge does not remain the property of a certain group, but fights for power. It is not just the fantasy of a few people among the people, rather it becomes the idea of the rulers, the circles that have power. The view does not only preach, but it is carried out in practice. Then the idea becomes the worldview of the state. The worldview has become a government organism when it seizes power and can influence life not only in theory, but in practical everyday life.

Now we must consider who is the carrier, the transmitter, the guardian of such ideas. An idea always lives in individuals. It seeks an individual to transmit its great intellectual force. It becomes alive in a brain, and seeks escape through the mouth. The idea is preached by individuals, individuals who will never be satisfied to have the knowledge remain theirs alone. You know that from experience. When one knows something one does not keep it hidden like a buried treasure, but rather one seeks to tell others. One looks for people who should know it. One feels that everyone else should know as well, for one feels alone when no one else knows. For example, if I see a beautiful painting in an art gallery, I have the need to tell others. I meet a good friend and say to him: "I have found a wonderful picture. I have to show it to you." The same is true of ideas. If an idea lives in an individual, he has the urge to tell others. There is some mysterious force in us that drives us to tell others. The greater and simpler the idea is, the more it relates to daily life, the more one has the desire to tell everyone about it.

If I believe that the nation must be governed by the principle that the common good comes before the individual good, I will tell it to those to whom it applies. As soon as I realize that this principle is not only of a transcendental nature, but that it applies to daily life, I have the need to tell it to those in the economic world. And if I see it applies to culture as well, I have the need to tell it to those people involved in cultural activities. The great masses will never be won simply by such a sentence; it must cast its shadow over all areas of human life.

You see how an idea spreads and becomes a worldview, and how the bearer, the individual, reaches out to form a community, and how an organization, then a movement grows from the individual. The idea is no longer buried in the heart and mind of an individual. Now there are four, five, ten, twenty, thirty, fifty, eighty, a hundred, and ever more. That is the secret of ideas; they are like a wildfire that cannot be restrained. They are like a gas that seeps through everything. Where an idea finds entry, it enters, and soon that person is influencing others. The others cannot stop it. They may believe they can stop the fire by force. They may even be able to do so for two, or ten, twenty, or fifty years. But that is not significant in the larger course of world history. It is irrelevant if something happens today or tomorrow, or even years in the future.

It is possible to slow an idea by force for a certain period of time. In reality, however, that advances the idea, for force drives out that which is weak. The elements that do not really belong collapse. Suddenly, the individual becomes a community, a movement, or if you prefer, a party.

Each movement begins as a party. That does not mean it has to follow the methods of parliamentary parties. We see a party as a part of the people. As an idea spreads, becoming a worldview that spreads to the community, the community will want to give the idea practical form. The party will feel the necessity to organize. Someone will suddenly have the idea: "You think the way I think. You are working over there, I am working here, and we know nothing of each other. That is absurd. It would be better if we worked together, if I did my part and you did yours. Would it not be good if we met every month and talked?" That is an organization. Gradually, a strong organism develops, a party ready to fight for its ideals. A party that does not want that will indeed continue to preach its ideals, but will never bring them into reality.

A recent example may help. Our movement is often accused of losing its character as a movement. We are accused of taking the vast, broad and ever-moving system of thought of the völkisch movement and forcing it into a Procrustean bed. We supposedly had to chop of the legs of the movement that stuck out, eliminating important parts of the völkisch idea. National Socialism is only a surrogate for the real movement, some say. In fact, the völkisch movement ran aground on this matter. Each declares his own particular interest central to the völkisch movement, and accuses anyone who does not share his views as being a traitor to the cause. That is the way the völkisch movement was before the war. If someone had been able to take this great idea — and the völkisch idea was greater than the Marxist idea — and develop out of it a tightly disciplined political organization, then the völkisch idea, not the Marxist idea, would have won on 9 November [1918]. Marxism won because it had a better understanding of political conditions, because it had forged the sword it would later use to conquer the state. If a völkisch organizer had understood how to form a great movement — it is a question of life or death for our nation — the völkisch idea, not Marxism, would have won, It was a worldview, but it did not understand how to form a party and how to forge the sharp sword that would have enabled it to conquer the state.

The state needs a worldview. Christianity also conquered the state, and in the moment that it conquered the state it began to carry out practical political activity. You can with justice claim: "Yes, but at the moment Christianity took over the state, it began to cease being Christian." That is the tragedy of all great ideas. At the moment they enter the realm of this life of sin, of the all-too-human, they leave the heavens and lose their romantic magic. They become something normal. We are not discussing whether or not one can change the nature of life. Things have gone on this way for millions of years, and will go on in the same way for millions more. You will have to ask a higher power why that is so. At the moment an idea takes practical form, it loses its angel's wings, its romantic mystery. If someone had had the courage to strip the völkisch idea of its romantic mystery, if one had taken account of the hard facts, it would not look as romantic today as it does to some dreamers. But it would have kept millions of German children from starving. For me, it is more important that a nation lives than that an idea remains as pure as possible in the heads of a few dreamers.

You can see that a movement needs an organization if it is to conquer the state — and it must conquer the state if it wants to do something of positive and historic significance. I have often met the kind of wandering apostle who says: "Well, everything you are doing is fine, but you really must also take a stand against foreign words in the German language." And another comes along who says: "Well, everything you say is good, but you must have a point in your program that says allopathy is dangerous, and you must support homeopathy." If the movement were led by such apostles, the Jew would end up in charge. The Jew would find something new every day until nothing was left. It is not the task of a revolutionary fighting movement to settle the dispute between allopathy and homeopathy, rather its task is to take power. The movement must have a program such that every honest fighter can stand behind it. Now, it is certainly true that the modern German cultural establishment produces every manner of nonsense. I know that this nonsense is poisoning the German national soul. There are those who say: "Something has to happen. You have to do something. If you want to fight the movie industry, you must build your own theater, even if it at first has only the most primitive equipment. And if you see that the children are being poisoned by what they read in school, you must begin to win children's souls and give them the antidote." My reply is simple: You can spend ten years giving the antidote to the poison that is produced by a badly led cultural establishment, but a single decree from the Ministry of Culture can destroy all your work. If you had spent that ten years winning fighters for the movement, the movement would have conquered the Ministry of Culture! Everything else is mere piecework.

If a movement wins political power, it can do those positive things it wants to do. Only then does it have the power to protect its accomplishments. At the moment a movement or party wins control of the state, its worldview becomes the state and its party becomes the nation. The nation is not the 60 million people who live in it. That is a confused mixture. One says yea, the other nay. That is not a nation. A nation is characterized by consciousness. Instinct alone is not enough. Only when I am aware that I am a member of the nation, when I am consciously a German, do I belong to the German people. The Great Elector did not say: "Think and remember that you are a German." Rather, he said: "Consider well that you are a German." Consideration is at the level of consciousness. Such consciousness belongs to the entire nation. Adolf Hitler rightly answered the court in Munich in this way when he was asked: "How could you think of establishing a dictatorship over sixty million with such a tiny minority?" His reply: "If an entire nation has become cowardly, and there are only a thousand left who want something great, and who have to power to transform the state, then these thousand people are the nation." If the others let a minority conquer the state, then they must also accept the fact that we will establish a dictatorship.

The same is true of a movement. If a movement has the strength to take over the state, than it has the power to transform the state. I am the last to complain that the Marxists rule us today. As long as we do not have the strength to overcome them, they have the political right to rule us. I am surprised how little they use that right. I would do things differently. That is their tragic misunderstanding of their own worldview. I do not complain that the gentlemen of the Berlin Police use their power against us, only that they call themselves democrats and claim that they allow freedom of thought and of speech. That is nonsense. That is lying hypocrisy, for in truth these gentlemen are dictators.

If a movement has the strength to take over government positions of power, then it has the right to form the government as it wishes. Anyone who disagrees is a foolish theoretician. Politics is governed not by moral principles, but by power. If a movement conquers the state, it has the right to form the state. You can see how these three elements combine ideals and personalities. The idea leads to a worldview, the worldview to the state, the individual becomes a party, the party becomes the nation.

The important thing is not to find people who agree with me about every theoretical jot and tittle, but rather that I find people who are willing to fight with me for a worldview. Winning people over to something that I have recognized as right, that is what we call propaganda. At first there is knowledge; it uses propaganda to find the manpower that will transform knowledge into politics. Propaganda stands between the idea and the worldview, between the worldview and the state, between the individual and the party, between the party and the nation. At the moment at which I recognize something as important and begin speaking about it in the streetcar, I begin making propaganda. At the same moment, I begin looking for other people to join me. Propaganda stands between the one and the many, between the idea and the worldview. Propaganda is nothing other than the forerunner to organization. Once it has done this, it is the forerunner to state control. It is always a means to an end.

Although I must hold unshakably and unalterably to the idea, propaganda adjusts itself to the prevailing conditions. Propaganda is always flexible. It says different things here than it does there. It cannot be polished, laminated and stuffed; rather it must occupy the space between the one and the many. I talk differently on the streetcar with the conductor than I do with a businessman. If I did not, the businessman would think I was crazy and the streetcar conductor would not understand me. That means propaganda cannot be limited. It changes according to whom I am trying to reach. Let me tell a good story about a party member in Berlin who since 1919 has promoted the National Socialist idea. At first, he beat his head bloody against a wall that we want to avoid. He began by distributing the wildest anti-Semitic publications on the street. He knew it was bad stuff, but there was nothing better, so he read these books or newspapers in the subway. Everyone could see that he was a harmless crank, and when he stood up and left his newspapers behind, someone regularly would say: "Sir, take your newspaper along with you." He would angrily take his paper and leave it with the conductor, saying: "Here, German brother." And the conductor certainly thought he came from the nuthouse. He gradually realized that the methods that worked with friends and comrades do not work with strangers.

In other words, there is no ABC of propaganda. One can make propaganda, or one cannot. Propaganda is an art. Any reasonably normal person can learn to play the violin to a certain degree, but then his teacher will say: "This is as far as it goes. Only a genius can learn what remains. You are not a genius, so be content with what you have learned." I can certainly teach any reasonable person the absolute basics of propaganda. But I will soon recognize the limits. One is either a propagandist, or one is not. It is wrong to look down on a propagandist. There are people who say a propagandist is merely a good drummer. This displays a certain envy and lack of ability. They are mostly mediocre philosophers whom the masses ignore. You have seen often enough — no one can deny it — that our movement has good speakers. Since our opponents do not have good speakers, they say: "Well, they are only good drummers." Hitler was called the "Drummer of National Unity" for five years. When they realized that this drummer had ideas that didn't fit into their way of thinking, he was suddenly a "crazy politician" who had to be dealt with. It is foolish to look down on propagandists. The propagandist has a certain role within the party. It is good for our young movement that we are young and lacking in really great leaders — though naturally not in comparison to other parties. The great leaders we have cannot stick to a particular area, but must be able to do everything. They must be propagandists, organizers, speakers, writers, etc. They must be able to get along with people, find money, write articles, and a lot more. That is why it is wrong to say that Hitler is merely a drummer. That is what is great about him, and what separates him from everyone else. He is a politician, and also a propagandist, while the leaders of other parties understand neither politics nor propaganda. You can see how propaganda relates to the worldview and to the organization. After we have finished the hard work of moving the idea and the worldview from the individuals to the masses, propaganda has the task of taking the knowledge of the mass and enabling it to take over the state.

Let me give an example.

What good would it do if everything we know to be right stayed in our few heads! The few would doubt the rightness of the idea, since they would see that no one was joining them. And if we did not have the people — from the lowliest S.A. man who distributes newspapers to the best speaker, or the leader of the party, all our lovely knowledge would be useless, for only we would know it. The others would continue their nonsense, and the German people in the end would perish.

Propaganda is absolutely necessary, even if it is only a means to an end. Otherwise, the idea could never take over the state. I must be able to get what I think important across to many people. The task of a gifted propagandist is to take that which many have thought and put it in a way that reaches everyone from the educated to the common man. You will all grant me this, and as further evidence I can recall a Hitler speech in Jena. Half the audience were Marxists, half students and university professors. I had a burning desire to speak with both elements afterwards. I could see that the university professor and the average man had understood what Hitler said. That is the greatness of our movement, that it can use language to reach the broad masses.

Of course, the style will vary according to the speaker. It would be a big mistake to expect everyone to treat the idea in the same way, for as great as it is, so different are the individuals who are to be reached by it. You will surely hear some people say that they like one speaker, while others prefer another. It would be a mistake to try to make the soft-spoken speaker into a thundering orator, or a thundering orator into a soft-spoken chap. Neither would accomplish anything. The soft-spoken speaker would never reach the heart no matter how hard he tried, nor would the thundering orator succeed in speaking quietly. Everyone would go home dissatisfied. The bigger our movement gets, the more kinds of people it can house, and each will reflect the movement a little differently. No two things in God's world are alike. Everything is a little different. Thus one person reflects things differently than another.

As propaganda draws an ever-growing following to the idea, the idea broadens, becomes more flexible. It no longer stays in a few heads, but wants to include everything. At that moment it becomes a comprehensive program. We can happily see that that is the case in our movement. You will never find millions of people willing to die for a book. But millions of people are willing to die for a gospel, and our movement is becoming more and more a gospel. All that we have come to know in our individual lives is joining to form a great faith that lives unshakably in our hearts. Each of us is willing, if necessary, to give his all for it. No one is willing to die for the 8-hour day. But people are willing to die so that Germany will belong to the Germans. What Adolf Hitler prophesied in 1919 is becoming clearer every day: "Freedom and Prosperity!" The movement is increasingly freeing itself from the all too human, and becoming a powerful force. The time is coming when people will not ask us what we think about the 8-hour day; but rather when Germany is seized with desperation they will ask: "Can you give us back faith?" If a movement has brought the idea from the individual to a worldview, building in the end a clear gospel for which each is ready to die, that movement is near victory. That does not happen in the study, but rather in battle, in bitter battle each day with the enemy, bringing him to see how he has led the nation down the wrong path. I must say that I learn the most from reading the "Berliner Tageblatt" [A newspaper hostile to the Nazis]. That is a fine example of the Jews at work. From the Jewish standpoint, I've never noted a single mistake, whereas the nationalist papers make mistakes all the time.

I now want to outline the essential characteristics of propaganda. We have already agreed that propaganda is not an end in itself, but a means to an end. Its task is to spread the knowledge of National Socialism to the people, or to a part of the people. If propaganda does that, it is good; if not, it is bad. The German Nationalists claimed that Hitler's propaganda before 9 November 1923 was too loud, too noisy, too popular. Hitler replied: "Munich must become National Socialist. If I achieve that my propaganda will have been good. If I had wanted to make you happy, it would have been bad. But that was not my intention." You cannot evaluate propaganda in midcourse, but rather you have to wait until it reaches its maker's goal. You cannot say that our propaganda was wrong because the government banned it. That is false. Under Jewish police officials, our propaganda would be wrong if it were not banned, for that means it would be harmless, The fact that it is banned is the best evidence that we are dangerous. If the ban is lifted, do not come to me and say that the Jew has seen the error of his ways. It will be lifted when the Jew sees that it is not achieving his purpose. You can say what you want. The Jew will put away his dagger only when he sees that it is better not to use it against a propaganda method, or when he sees that the dagger has already done its duty.

Success is the important thing. Propaganda is not a matter for average minds, but rather a matter for practitioners. It is not supposed to be lovely or theoretically correct. I do not care if I give wonderful, aesthetically elegant speeches, or speak so that women cry. The point of a political speech is to persuade people of what we think right. I speak differently in the provinces than I do in Berlin, and when I speak in Bayreuth, I say different things than I say in the Pharus Hall [A meeting hall the Nazis often used in Berlin]. That is a matter of practice, not of theory.We do not want to be a movement of a few straw brains, but rather a movement that can conquer the broad masses. Propaganda should be popular, not intellectually pleasing. It is not the task of propaganda to discover intellectual truths. I find them by thinking, or at my desk, anywhere but in a meeting hall. That is where I transmit them. I do not enter the meeting hall to discover intellectual truths, but to persuade others of what I think to be right. I learn methods there that I can use to reach others with what I have found to be right. The speaker or propagandist must first understand the idea. He cannot do that in the middle of making propaganda. He must start with it. Through daily contact with the masses, he learns how to communicate that idea. It is not the task of propaganda to discover knowledge, but to transmit knowledge. It must adjust to those it wishes to reach with that knowledge. The propagandist's speeches or posters that are aimed at farmers will be different than those aimed at employers; those aimed at doctors will be different than those aimed at patients. He will adjust his propaganda to fit those he is speaking to. You can see that all the critical standards used by other parties to evaluate propaganda miss the point, and that most complaints about the NSDAP's propaganda result from a false understanding of propaganda. If someone tells me: "Your propaganda has no civilized standards," I know there is no point in even talking with him.

It makes no difference if propaganda is at a high level. The question is whether it reached its goal. My first goal when I came to Berlin was to make the city aware of us. They could love us or hate us, as long as they knew who we were. We have reached that goal. We are hated and loved. When someone hears the term National Socialist, he does not ask: "What is that?" Once we have reached the first goal, we can work on turning hate to love and love to hate, but never to indifference. The battle against indifference is the hardest battle. There may be two million people in this city who hate my guts, who persecute and slander me, but I know that I can win over some of them. We know that from experience. Some of those who persecuted us and fought most bitterly against us are today our most determined supporters. You see that the important thing for propaganda is that it reach its goal, and that it is a mistake to apply critical standards that are irrelevant.

Let me give another example. If someone asks me what I think of another person, it is silly for me to say: "I like him, but he cannot play the piano." The answer will be: "So what? He is a corporate lawyer. Why don't you see if he is good at what he does?" That is a good answer. And it applies just as well to propaganda.

Our propaganda follows a clear line. Adolf Hitler once told me that it is not necessary to give a programmatic speech to a public meeting. The public meeting requires the most primitive approach. If the fine gentlemen say: "You are only a propagandist," the answer is this: "Was Christ any different? Did he not make propaganda? Did he write books, or did he preach? Was Mohammed any different? Did he write learned essays, or did he go to the people and say what he wanted to say? Were not Buddha and Zarathustra propagandists?" True, the philosophers of the French Revolution built their intellectual foundations. But who got things moving? Robespierre, Danton, and the others. Did these men write books, or did they speak in popular meetings? Look around today. Is Mussolini more an author or a great speaker? When Lenin took the train from Zurich to Petersburg, did he repair to his study and write a book, or did he speak to thousands? Fascism and Bolshevism were built by great speakers, by masters of the spoken word! There is no difference between the politician and the speaker. History proves that great politicians were always great speakers: Napoleon, Caesar, Alexander, Mussolini, Lenin, name whomever you want. They were all great speakers and great organizers. If a person combines rhetorical talent, organizational ability, and philosophical ability, if he has the ability to transmit knowledge and to gather people under his banner, then he is a brilliant statesman.

If someone tells me today: "You are a demagogue," I answer him in this way: "Demagogy in the good sense is simply the ability to get the masses to understand what I want them to understand." Of course, I can adjust to the feelings of the broad masses, which is demagogy in the bad sense. Then I change not only the form of what I want to say, but also the content.

You cannot tell me that things have changed. Formerly, speakers built movements; today we live in the age of the press, and it is the writers who are influential. This theory is obviously false. Of course the press is important. But if you examine well-written editorials, they turn out to be speeches in disguise. The Marxists did not win through their editorials, but rather because each Marxist editorial was a little propaganda speech. They were written by agitators. They sat in their offices or in smoke-filled bars, writing not elegant, intellectual and polished essays, but rather brutal, direct words that the average man understood. That is why the masses devoured the Red press. We must learn from their example. Marxism did not win because it had great prophets — they had none. Marxism won because its nonsense was promoted by agitators of the ability of August Bebel and Lenin. They led Marxism to victory. If the völkisch movement had had such agitators at its disposal, its stronger intellectual foundations would surely have led it to victory. Some critics complain: "All you do is criticize! You only complain. You can't do things any better yourselves!" Others say that "the Angriff [Goebbels's newspaper in Berlin] is entirely negative. Say something positive for a change." Well, I am not in a position to say anything positive about Isidor Weiss [the Jewish Vice Chief of Police in Berlin, and a regular Goebbels target]. I can only be negative. And there is nothing positive I can say about the Republic. There is nothing positive about it. I can say something positive only when I eliminate the negative. The most brilliant statesman on earth could do nothing with this Republic. And Marxism preached only the negative for sixty years. The result was that it took over the state on 9 November 1918. Hitler once said: "Keep those know-it-alls who always want to do something positive away from me." We can do something positive only when we have first gotten rid of the negative. A leader does not emerge from a conference table. He develops from the masses, and the more a true leader rises from the masses, the more he draws the masses to him. The mass is the weak, cowardly, lazy majority of people. One can never entirely win the broad mass. The best elements from the mass must be put in a form where they can be victorious. That is the task of a brilliant mind. We thank fate that it has given us one of these minds, a mind superior to all others, whom we willingly serve. That is the proof that we will win. If others find their wisdom in majority rule, but a movement is led by one person, that movement will win. When it wins is irrelevant. It will win because that is the way things are. Look around as much as you want. You will everywhere see our movement's intellectual foundations.

The task of the leaders and followers is to drive this knowledge ever deeper into the hearts of our shattered nation. Each must make that clear, each must think things through. Everything we do must be clear. We will never give up. If everything is clear, one does not have to be an outstanding speaker. If he can say it all in a few words, he is a propagandist. If we have an army of such propagandists, from the littlest to the Führer himself, and if each spreads our crystal-clear knowledge to the masses, the day will come which our worldview takes over the state, when our organization seizes the reins of power, when we are no longer members of a slave colony, but rather citizens of a political state that we ourselves have formed.

That is our task on this planet: to create the foundation on which our people can live. When we do that, this nation will create works of culture that will endure for eons in world history!



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Sunday, January 06, 2008



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Friday, January 04, 2008

Bills Of Right

2008 will be one of the most interesting years in modern American history, they're telling me.

The story goes that there is an ancient Chinese curse: "May you live in interesting times."

As we enter this phase of our development - and I say "we" because I am an American too, you know, even though I don't live in the U.S. and I have a couple different passports and my California driver's license has expired and I'm starting to use strange spellings like "armour" and "colour" and "aeroplane", not to mention using "tidy" as a verb - it is important to know your rights.

So here's the Bill Of Rights:

The architects of the Constitution - and the Constitution IS the United States of America, I believe - would not shut up about the fact that all rights belong to the people. All of rights. All of them. And all the power. Yep. All of it. All of that power, it belongs to the people who live in all those (now 50, then 13 or so) states.

So there was a bit of a ruckus about adding a "Bill Of Rights" to the Constitution in the first place: "If the people retain all rights and power, then what are we doing telling them what their rights are?" Thomas Jefferson was one of those who pushed for a Bill Of Rights. He strongly believed that people in government are invariably tempted to exert power over others to detrimental effect, and anything you can do to curb government power is probably a good thing.

So Jefferson said in a letter to James Madison - regarding those who were saying "Bill of Rights, Schmill of Rights!":

"[The objection has been raised that] experience proves the inefficacy of a bill of rights. [This is] true. But though it is not absolutely efficacious under all circumstances, it is of great potency always, and rarely inefficacious. A brace the more will often keep up the building which would have fallen with that brace the less. There is a remarkable difference between the characters of the inconveniences which attend a Declaration of Rights, and those which attend the want of it. The inconveniences of the Declaration are that it may cramp government in its useful exertions. But the evil of this is short-lived, trivial and reparable. The inconveniences of the want of a Declaration are permanent, afflicting and irreparable. They are in constant progression from bad to worse." 

And James Madison wrote to Jefferson:

"My own opinion has always been in favor of a bill of rights; provided that it be so framed as not to imply powers not meant to be included in the enumeration. At the same time I have never thought the omission a material defect, nor been anxious to supply it even by subsequent amendment, for any other reason than that it is anxiously desired by others. I have favored it because I suppose it might be of use, and if properly executed could not be of disservice."

And Jefferson wrote to Madison:

"A bill of rights is what the people are entitled to against every government on earth, general or particular; and what no just government should refuse, or rest on inferences."

And Madison wrote to Jefferson: 


And Jefferson wrote back to Madison:


And then after a few years everyone finally said:

"Yeah. We like it. Let's do it."

Here is what one of the most important documents in Western Civilization says:

The Preamble to The Bill of Rights

Congress of the United States
begun and held at the City of New-York, on
Wednesday the fourth of March, one thousand seven hundred and eighty nine.

THE Conventions of a number of the States, having at the time of their adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added: And as extending the ground of public confidence in the Government, will best ensure the beneficent ends of its institution.

RESOLVED by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America, in Congress assembled, two thirds of both Houses concurring, that the following Articles be proposed to the Legislatures of the several States, as amendments to the Constitution of the United States, all, or any of which Articles, when ratified by three fourths of the said Legislatures, to be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of the said Constitution; viz.

ARTICLES in addition to, and Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America, proposed by Congress, and ratified by the Legislatures of the several States, pursuant to the fifth Article of the original Constitution.

Note: The following text is a transcription of the first ten amendments to the Constitution in their original form. These amendments were ratified December 15, 1791, and form what is known as the "Bill of Rights."

Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Amendment II

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Amendment III

No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

Amendment IV

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Amendment V

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Amendment VI

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.

Amendment VII

In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

Amendment VIII

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

Amendment IX

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Amendment X

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.


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Thursday, January 03, 2008

Night and Fog (1955)

"A concentration camp is built like, a stadium or a big hotel. You need contractors, estimates, competitive bids. And no doubt a bribe or two. Any style will do. It's left to the imagination - Swiss style; garage style; Japanese style; no style at all. The architects calmly plan the gates through which no one will enter more than once. Meanwhile - Burgher, a German Communist; Stern, a Jewish student from Amsterdam; Schmulszki, a merchant in Cracow; Annette, a schoolgirl in Bordeaux - all go on living their everyday lives, not knowing that there is a place, a thousand miles away, already awaiting them. "

I watched Alain Resnais's "Night and Fog" (1955) this morning, on DVD, with my 6 month old ...


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Wednesday, January 02, 2008

2008 In Review

In his wistful article at Counterpunch.org, writer John Ross takes a look back at the year 2008.

Yes, 2008.

A Preview of 2008
A Year to Forget

by John Ross

A death sentence for the human race, the end of the Iraq war, a Mafia hit on President-elect Rudolph Giuliani, the assassination of Barak Obama by a deranged Hillary fanatic, a cross-border terrorist attack by Al Qaeda of Mexico, and the massive round-up of Mexicans in the U.S. were some of the highlights that made 2008 one of the most absurdly messy years for the Planet Earth since that orb fell out of the firmament. 

Here's a month-by-month round-up of salient events:


The flood of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi refugees tricked into returning to Baghdad by housing czar Ahmad Chalabi's false promises of shelter sparks renewed Sunna-Shiia bloodshed. In response to a series of horrific car bombings, George Bush calls a halt to the projected U.S. drawdown, angering both troops and Republican hopefuls seeking to de-escalate the unpopular war as a campaign issue.

Meanwhile Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, whose regime has been plagued by monumental corruption, takes sick and falls into prolonged coma. Chalabi makes a grab for control setting off a wave of car bombings in Baghdad that cost over 400 lives.

In further evidence that global warming is accelerating beyond scientific calculations, a colony of penguins is discovered nesting on a tributary of the Amazon.


Al-Maliki dies, apparently poisoned by weapons-grade plutonium pellets. The U.S. blames Iran and threatens to bomb Tehran's non-existent nuclear weapons facilities but holds off at the last minute as Shiias all over the Middle East rise up - some of Saudi's richest fields are in the midst of Shiia populations. Petroleum prices zoom to $150 a barrel as the threat to Saudi production looms.

Venezuela's Chavez, reacting to Washington's threats to attack his ally Ahmadinejad, cuts off oil shipments to the U.S. and signs contracts with China. By the end of the month a barrel of petroleum cost $200.

In a gristly incident at the Bronx Zoo, polar bears eat a dozen of their keepers in what may have been a global warming-related event.


Ahmad Chalabi is "elected" Iraqi prime minister replacing the poisoned Maliki. Sunna and Shiia mobs riot in Iraqi cities to protest the convicted embezzler's power grab.

Responding to the renewed instability, Bush extends tours of duty for thousands of U.S. troops who had expected to be rotated home at the end of the month. The order triggers an unprecedented strike by disgruntled soldiers effectively shutting down General Petraeus's war for a week. Bush, whose popularity has slipped to 12%, threatens to charge the strikers with treason. Blackwater Worldwide is sent in to scab.

Meanwhile on the domestic front, Obama/Edwards pull ahead of Hillary and Bill Clinton in the battle for the Democratic nomination after her liaison with a boy toy senate page is revealed. On the Republican side, all signs point to a Giuliani-Tancredo ticket as the Coloradoan's inflammatory anti-Mexican rants find scratch with the U.S. electorate -Tancredo had bowed out of the race in December in favor of Romney but jumped back in when he found out Mitt was a Mexican (you could look it up.) If the current trend holds up, the Giuliani-Tancredo pairing will be the first-ever all-Italian ticket outside of the old country.

As Antarctic glaciers melt and the southern Pacific Ocean rises at a record clip, the island of Tasmania disappears. Australian coastal cities are reported under water with residents taking refuge in skyscrapers. Sydney declares itself the "Venice of Australia."


In Iraq, a record month of U.S. casualties - 239 - sends morale plummeting. The U.S. blames Iran and once again threatens to flatten its fictitious nuclear weapons facilities and, once again, does not.

Back in the U.S., conservative estimates indicate that over a million Americans went homeless over the past winter in fall-out from the sub prime crisis, most of them renters evicted when their landlords defaulted - rents have tripled across the country as the result of the crisis. Led by Katrina survivors, thousands of homeless citizens set up a "Hooverville" on the Capital Mall. Police are unable - or unwilling - to remove the largely black squatters.

On the other side of the country in California, pods of gray whales beach themselves in a mass suicide thought to be tied to global warming. In a related scandal, clean-up officials on action figure governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's payroll are caught selling the dead whales to Japan to supplement that island nation's blubber-starved diet.


Amidst increasing tensions, the Turkish Military takes advantage of the spring thaw to launch a full-scale invasion of Iraqi Kurdistan on the pretext of combating cross-border attacks by Turkish Kurd guerrillas. When U.S. and Iraqi troops rush into the region to repel the aggression, Turkey revokes U.S. landing rights at Inchelik airbase from which 70% of U.S. supplies are ferried into Iraq.

Meanwhile, Muqatar al-Sadr's Mahdi Army rises in Basra where huge pipeline explosions shut down production in southern Iraq. The mounting instability drives oil prices up to $250 a barrel, $6 a gallon at the U.S, pump as Bush's rating slip to an all-time low at 6%.

In San Francisco, tensions are running high in that upscale city's black enclaves after indicted slugger Barry Bonds has his bail revoked when the usually tight-lipped home run king explodes and calls the federal judge in his perjury trial "a racist peckerwood on steroids."

Any doubts that global warming isn't a done deal are dispelled by catastrophic flooding on the Danube that puts six European nations under water and destroys millions of acres of cropland, threatening food supplies. The U.S. blames Iran.


As the U.S. situation in Iraq grows untenable and social tensions boil over across the U.S., the New York Times reports on a secret meeting of a disaffected group of high-ranking generals including Petraeus and fired Joint Chiefs of Staff chief Peter Pace with vice president Dick Cheney at which suspension of the November election and a declaration of martial law are mulled.

With the Republicans trailing precipitously in the polls, the U.S. appears to be on its way to electing its first black president. Both Bush and Giuliani-Tancredo, the GOP frontrunners, endorse the Petraeus-Pace-Cheney plan to call off the elections.

Global warming is thought to be responsible for an outbreak of deadly Ebola fever in the Washington D.C. area. Among the 108 victims: Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

In a desperate effort to hold the Court's "black" seat for a right-wing fanatic, Bush nominates equal opportunity foe Ward Connolly, passing up Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice who promptly resigns. Condi subsequently fulfills her lifetime dream of becoming National Football League commissioner when Roger Goodell dies in a hot air balloon accident.


Barak Obama is stabbed at a July 4th barbecue in Chicago by a deranged Hillary follower wielding a meat fork and dies on the way to hospital. Later that afternoon, Bush declares the U.S. on maximum terrorist alert after a missile loaded with explosives sails across the Mexican border and takes out the Army Intelligence Center at Fort Huachuca, Arizona, killing veep Dick Cheney and 398 U.S. soldiers - Cheney was at the Center for a July 4th ceremony.

In a somber televised address to the nation, Bush expresses his condolences to Obama's family and breaks down in tears announcing Cheney's death in the Huachuca bombing. The beleaguered president announces the suspension of the November elections and decrees martial law. Bush pins the attack on a previously unknown group, "Al Qaeda of Mexico", which he claims is an Iranian front.

Within 24 hours, a team of private bounty hunters are dispatched by Blackwater Worldwide from its operational base on the Mexican-U.S. border at Potrero California to capture those responsible for the Huachuca attack and days later, the alleged terrorists are cornered on a Sonora ranch.

U.S. troops are airlifted out of Baghdad and dropped into northern Mexico under amended provisions of the ASPAN or North American Agreement on Prosperity and Security, which allows for the deployment of the U.S. military on Mexican soil in the event of a terrorist threat. Anti-American riots break out in Mexico City where President Calderon is accused of collaborating with the Yanqui invaders. The Mexican Congress votes to impeach,


As U.S. troops push deeper into Mexico, Bush's popularity rebounds to 70%. A nauseating wave of anti-Mexican sentiment breaks across the U.S. Mexican businesses are burnt down throughout the country. Taco stands are carbonized and the U.S. House of Representatives votes to remove all taco items from its cafeteria restaurant. Mexicans are lynched by mobs in South Carolina and Maricopa County, Arizona. In downtown Los Angeles, an Arab American is mistaken for a Mexican and beaten to death.

In this wildly xenophobic atmosphere, the White House promulgates an executive order authorizing the round-up of all suspected Mexicans and their relatives found on U.S. soil. Mass ICE raids in Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, and New York City corral 300,000 Mexican look-alikes who are interned in FEMA camps in remote eastern Oregon.

As social tensions rise in the nation's capital following the violent eviction of tens of thousands of mostly black homeless citizens encamped on the Capital mall, Bush moves the White House to the headquarters of the North Command inside a hollow mountain in Colorado.

A cyanide gas cloud believed to be related to global warming settles over Sao Paolo Brazil, killing 3700.


The Sao Paolo tragedy is repeated in Lagos Nigeria as 4500 are asphyxiated after a chemical explosion at a BASF plant.

Leaving only a token garrison behind, U.S. troops withdraw from Iraq and are sent home to combat widespread rioting. Soldiers patrol the streets of Miami, Atlanta, Chicago, New York and Los Angeles. The departure of so many troops from Iraq sends jubilant mobs of Sunna and Shiaa into the streets of Baghdad where they bury the hatchet and celebrate together. "President" Chalabi is dragged from the Green Zone and strung up on a lamppost.

The return of U.S. combat vets suffering from posttraumatic stress is driven home when a battle-crazed marine kills 37 at the Mall of America in Minneapolis over the Labor Day weekend.

Hurricane Begonia smashes into Miami Beach leveling South Beach. The Green Bay Packers in town to open the season against the hapless Miami Dolphins are washed out to sea. The U.S. Weather Bureau predicts a record-breaking hurricane season - the phenomena is thought to be related to global warming.


George Bush declares the U.S. "Mission Accomplished" in Iraq as the last troops arrive back in the U.S. 5789 Marines and soldiers lost their lives during the five-year war. The total number of Iraqi lives lost is thought to top 2,000,000.

Bush, citing a relaxation of tensions, reschedules the presidential elections for November and Hillary Clinton is awarded the Democratic nomination by default. Although she throws herself into a coast to coast blitz, the combined July 4th murder of Obama and the terrorist attack at Fort Huachuca have altered the electoral equation and Giuliani-Tancredo, riding the anti-Mexican tidal wave, have pulled ahead.

Meanwhile, 16 suspected members of Al Qaeda of Mexico captured by Blackwater are caged up at Guantanamo after a tour of CIA torture prisons in Morocco, Jordan. and Poland. The 16 are identified as drug gang members working for "El Chapo" Guzman who had been firing cocaine-stuffed missiles thought to have been obtained in Iran, across the U.S. border for months. The fact that "El Chapo" has been granted sanctuary in Tehran further underscores an Iranian connection to the Huachuca bombing. The U.S. once again threatens to nuke Iran's "nuclear weapons facilities" as the price of oil touches $350.

Back in the Americas, Hurricane Nassar shakes up Cuba and leaves the island without electricity for 10 days. Aging Prime Minister Fidel Castro's respirator shuts down and he gasps his last. Bush celebrates the Comandante's death in his Colorado cave but the response of Miami's anti-Castro "gusanos" is muted by the devastation of that city which FEMA authorities now categorize as being greater than New Orleans.

Finally, the Boston Red Sox win their second straight World Series - the hated Yanquis are consigned to last place in the American league East. All players on both teams are indicted for shooting up monkey glands and human growth hormones.


Giuliani-Tancredo win a fraud-smeared U.S. presidential election as millions of votes disappear from the screens of ballot-tallying computers before election workers' eyes in 17 American cities and states.

Ten days later, during a memorial ceremony at Ground Zero in lower Manhattan, President-elect Giuliani is whacked by the Gambino family who he relentlessly hounded as U.S. prosecutor in the 1980s. Bush blames Iran and issues the usual threat to take out Ahmadinejad's bogus weapons of mass destruction.

Tom Tancredo is sworn in early as president amidst fears of a second mob hit and immediately decrees the annexation of Sonora, Baja California, Chihuahua, and two other Mexican states as a buffer zone against Al Qaeda of Mexico. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of Mexicans held in Oregon are charged with felony sedition, a crime punishable by death.

A late-season Hurricane Xochitl slams into the Texas Gulf setting off blasts at refineries and oil storage tanks so powerful that they can be seen and heard from the moon, filling the Gulf of Mexico with toxic sludge, and sending the price of oil over $400 a barrel.


Nobel Prize-winning scientists gathered in Geneva summon world leaders to that Swiss city to announce that the planet has only six months to live and advises them to fill out their wills and distribute suicide pills to their citizens. The U.S. blames Iran.

War and production fall precipitously as the Earth waits to die. Drunken hordes carouse through the world's cities, invading private property and having public sex.

With a heavy heart, the New York Times announces that Santa Claus has died, a victim of lead poisoning thought to have been caused by the toys he delivers each Christmas.

Christmas is cancelled. The U.S. blames Iran.

John Ross spends his time in the Old Quarter of Mexico City staring into a mottled crystal ball with his fake eye. Write him at johnross@igc.org

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