Life, Liberty and Property

The Declaration of Independence guarantees life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I’ve noticed that Republican politicians sometimes prefer the phrase, “life, liberty and property.” It is shocking, and I’m shocked, shocked– that they would fail to get permission before using Aerosmith’s “Back in the Saddle”.

The GOP’s use of the tune “was something we, as the publishers, didn’t approve and would not have approved without going to the writers,” Connie Ashton, director of copyright and licensing at Stage Three, told me. “Aerosmith did not approve of its use and also wanted to have it taken down,” she added.

I’m so sad and disillusioned. One would expect this kind of thing from a scamp like Shepard Fairie, but from the architects of the ownership society, and all those lawyers, you’d think they would have asked first.

Obama Coins a Scam, Obama Still Real Deal

Thanks to Geoff Schoos for passing on this link from Consumerist.com, where we learn that the color Obama coins being promoted by Montel Williams are nothing more than regular coins with stickers on them.

However, the good news is that Obama is still the real deal, and despite the slings and arrows, he keeps pressing for an economic stimulus package to pull us out of this dragging economy.

Back in the Saddle

Don’t anyone say that Republicans aren’t hep to the beat.

Republicans in the House of Representatives are trying to mold success out of what is, at its core, a legislative failure. The most recent bit of gloating: a back-slapping YouTube clip from minority whip Eric Cantor’s office, set to the tune of Aerosmith’s “Back In The Saddle.”

The video is pretty good, it takes talent to pack so much misinformation into 15 seconds. But the comments are better.

The windmills of his mind have shut down long ago, but somehow the playground is still going.
drewziGNY
And I dedicate the song “Attitude Adjustment” to the GOP
notconfindtweenhatnboots
I emailed him “Dream On” but you have a point too.
rich misty

Rock on, Repubs. You’re back in the saddle. But the Pres has the horse and he just rode it across the finish line.

Duck and Cover

I’m in a “Left Behind” mode. That best-selling book franchise tells the story of some poor fools who are stuck on earth and it’s always something. Has the Rapture happened yet? I think not. The Democrats don’t have a filibuster-proof majority and the Republicans managed to water down the stimulus plan. So the chosen are still with us.

Now I’m all for a judicious eye on the taxpayer’s money, but let’s look at this stimulus plan from an emergency perspective:

Doctor- the patient is flatlining!

Defibrillate now! 200 Joules!

Well, I don’t know about that. I think he isn’t trying hard enough. Let’s give him 100 Joules and see if he can make the effort to revive himself.

Defibrillate now!!! 200 Joules!!
Let’s send this to committee.

Every time I drive through greater Providence I see more “for sale” signs and empty storefronts. And things aren’t safe in heaven either. You have to know when to duck and cover

MOSCOW U.S. and Russian officials traded shots Thursday over who was to blame for a huge satellite collision this week that spewed speeding clouds of debris into space, threatening other unmanned spacecraft in nearby orbits.

Okay, that was Thursday. Old news. Here’s from today

DALLAS The Federal Aviation Administration has received numerous reports of falling debris across Texas, which could be related to a recent satellite collision.
Some of the callers around midmorning Sunday reported what looked like a fireball in the sky.

Keep a heads up for incoming. It’s interesting times.

The Clothes of Our Lives

Happy Valentine’s Day to all the lovers out there, myself and my husband included. This year for Valentine’s Day, I treated myself to an hour of cleaning out my clothes closet, deciding on things I could let go. There was a lot. When I was in my 20’s and living on the East Side of Providence, I would go to people’s yard sales up on Benefit street, and women would be selling their practically new Liz Claiborne blazers for $1, and I used to be amazed. I went to a lot of sidewalk sales in New York in the preceding years, and it seemed in Providence the sales were much better.

After I’d come home with my booty and try it on, I remember pondering about who these women were who could afford to give away their clothes for nothing. Well, now I know who they are: I’m one of them.

My father (bless his heart and soul), who could be rather cynical in his world views, used to say that we are a throw-away economy — our economy depends on us throwing stuff away. He even extended the metaphor to our nation’s people at times, saying our working economy functioned as well as it did because we could afford to “throw away” a certain number of people by having a large available pool of low-wage workers in the poor.

I’d like to think he was over the top with his cynicism, but I know there is an element of what he was trying to convey that was true. I’d also like to think we’re evolving away from a throw away economy and more toward a renew and reuse economy. In the best-case scenario, that is what the economic recovery package that has just passed in Congress could bring — a different understanding of why we consume and what we can do to consume wisely and with an eye toward the future of this planet that our children will inherit.

The Slumdog That Didn’t Bark

(Don’t read this if you haven’t seen the movie, because it contains spoilers.)

Gangs of rail-thin children run from a club-wielding policeman, a satellite view of a maze of tin-roofed shacks extends for miles, children climb mountains of trash scavenging for anything they can sell. Acres of plastic bags, garbage and broken junk from their own upper classes and the first world. Slumdog Millionaire ups the ante of dramatized assaults on children, but the incidental scenes of daily life, with all those anonymous child extras, recalls the old saying ‘poverty is violence’.

Slumdog Millionaire is not a feel-good movie, but it’s too simple to call it ‘poverty porn’. It seems to me like a slick blend of reality and movie cliche, with the reality so heavy and compelling that it gives the film more credibility than it deserves. I sat in the Avon theater, overstuffed from an eating binge, and I saw skinny, hungry children running and laughing. An abstraction is now real to me in a way I can’t undo, and I’m glad for it, though it causes me discomfort.

There’s nothing on the net about the Mumbai children who played the small roles except for two of them who supposedly have a trust fund they can access when they finish school. One of the adult professional actors, Anil Kapoor, who plays a nasty talk-show host, has donated his fee for the movie to Plan India, a children’s charity–

“I think it is the good wishes and blessings of the children that were instrumental in the success of the film.” The actor staunchly defends the film, that has been criticised in certain sections for portraying the dark underbelly of Mumbai– dirty slums and poverty.

There’s plenty of footage of real people living without enough food, clean water, privacy or safety, but like the dog that didn’t bark, something is missing. When the three main characters, brothers Jamal and Salim, and a little girl named Latika are orphaned in a religious attack there is no adult anywhere who shows them mercy. No one from their mosque, no teacher from their school, no surviving kin. They live picking trash, until they are lured into a camp of abandoned children run by traffickers.

This leads to a film depiction of violence against a child that is so graphic and shocking that I won’t describe it here. I’ll only say that director Danny Boyle has raised the bar. When the movie was shown to an audience of slum children in Mumbai, that scene made them gasp. They said that they were sure such things happened, but not in their neighborhood.

Vikas Swarup, the author of the novel that inspired the movie, admitted that he was going for dramatic effect.

“This isn’t social critique,” he objects. “It’s a novel written by someone who uses what he finds to tell a story… It may be an urban myth, but it’s useful to my story.”

Violence in a novel is created in the reader’s mind by words on a page. Violence in cinema isn’t mediated that way. It goes straight to the primitive brain that doesn’t know real from fake and sets the heart racing. It’s a powerful stimulant. It works that way in Shakespeare and in slasher movies.

Raising the bar of child abuse has an interesting effect on the viewer’s experience of ‘Slumdog’. When the child Latika, flat chested and baby faced, is abducted by criminals who will force her into prostitution, you think, ‘hey, it could be worse. At least they didn’t do to her what they did to that poor little boy.’ When teenage Salim murders one of the bad guys, you just wonder what took him so long. When the adult Jamal is tortured by corrupt police you figure he’s probably used to it, and actually he looks just fine the next day, without a mark on him.

It kind of feeds into the general heartlessness of the movie. The child extras bring so much real warmth on screen that it’s awhile before you notice that the dog didn’t bark. But this movie shows an India that is without any expression of justice or mercy. Every authority is corrupt and sadistic. No Indian adult shows any interest in the orphans except to beat them or horribly exploit them. The only people who object to this mistreatment are American tourists, and they come off as saps. Salim, the older brother, repeatedly betrays Jamal, and can only redeem himself by dying. The pure relationship is the romantic love between Jamal and Latika. This love can’t prevail unless Jamal becomes rich. The dog that didn’t bark is the lack of any depiction of poor people helping one another to survive.

Danny Boyle was interviewed on NPR and remarked on the organization and resourcefulness of the Mumbai slum-dwellers. If there is such a thing as a universal human nature, then mutual aid is as necessary to survival as food and water. Poor people especially need to look to relationships, because they can’t buy their way out of every problem. That’s the heart that is missing from this movie. Where the dead brother and all the collateral abused children are forgotten in the final screen kiss, there’s lots of money and everyone is dancing.