Marfa Girl review: Larry Clark’s bad kids visit the Mexican border

November 25th, 2012 § 0

Larry Clark likes to make movies which shock. Particularly about teenagers. They fuck and swear and sometimes kill (Bully). On the other hand, William Golding’s Lord of the Flies is on the reading list in most English language high schools around the world. Nothing Larry Clark has done can outdo the horror of those kids on an island.

Marfa Girl Adam Mediano Inez Mercedes Maxwell
Marfa Girl Adam Mediano with lovely Inez Mercedes Maxwell

Homo sapiens are a brutal and savage species, probably responsible for the elimination of Neanderthal man and since then we have sent thousands of species into extinction, from mammoths, to bison, to the dodo. If there’s a bad animal around, we’re it.

Clark like Golding is busy with representing the what is, ripping off of your rose-coloured glasses and then stomping on them to boot. Yes, your girlfriend in high school betrayed you. Deliberately. And your son’s girlfriend is probably betraying him now too. It’s just what people do. Your wife probably cheated on you at least once or twice too. Go and read Jane Goodall’s study of chimpanzees: how they mate and how they stalk their neighbours and kill.

Anyway back to Marfa Girl: it’s the same unlikeable group of teenagers smoking up and screwing as we’ve seen in other Clark movies. This time it’s on the US/Mexican border. There are some very dislikable adult border patrol officers and some slightly less dislikable promiscuous kids. It’s a film about ideas and loyalties. There are some extended Socratian dialogues between kids and cops, cops and cops.

Marfa Girl review: Larry Clark's bad kids visit the Mexican border Continues »

(Published) cell phone research indicates no radiation

September 24th, 2012 § 0

dr ben goldacre bad pharma
dr ben goldacre bad pharma

Bad Pharma, a new book by Ben Goldacre, looks into the research practices of big pharmacy. Apparently any negative information about new drugs is systematically suppressed even in the academic environment:

In 2010, researchers from Harvard and Toronto found all the trials looking at five major classes of drug…: were they positive, and were they funded by industry? They found more than 500 trials in total: 85% of the industry-funded studies were positive, but only 50% of the government-funded trials were. In 2007, researchers looked at every published trial that set out to explore the benefits of a statin….This study found 192 trials in total, either comparing one statin against another, or comparing a statin against a different kind of treatment. They found that industry-funded trials were 20 times more likely to give results favouring the test drug.

…In 2003, two [systematic reviews] were published. They took all the studies ever published that looked at whether industry funding is associated with pro-industry results, and both found that industry-funded trials were, overall, about four times more likely to report positive results….

In general, the results section of an academic paper is extensive: the raw numbers are given for each outcome, and for each possible causal factor, but not just as raw figures….In Fries and Krishnan (2004), this level of detail was unnecessary. The results section is a single, simple and – I like to imagine – fairly passive-aggressive sentence:

“The results from every randomised controlled trial (45 out of 45) favoured the drug of the sponsor.”

How does this happen? How do industry-sponsored trials almost always manage to get a positive result? Sometimes trials are flawed by design. You can compare your new drug with something you know to be rubbish – an existing drug at an inadequate dose, perhaps, or a placebo sugar pill that does almost nothing. You can choose your patients very carefully, so they are more likely to get better on your treatment. You can peek at the results halfway through, and stop your trial early if they look good. But after all these methodological quirks comes one very simple insult to the integrity of the data. Sometimes, drug companies conduct lots of trials, and when they see that the results are unflattering, they simply fail to publish them.

Still feeling confident about your industry sponsored cell phone radiation tests?

(Published) cell phone research indicates no radiation Continues »

PC John Lovegrove lied about assault: why has Lovegrove not been charged with perjury?

September 12th, 2012 § 0

This black high school student in England was charged with assaulting a police officer. Fortunately for the young man, there was a CCTV camera trained on the incident. Very fortunately the police didn’t get to that CCTV camera first.

PC John Lovegrove had charged the young man with assaulting a police officer:

Lovegrove claimed the youth, who was handcuffed behind his back at the time and forced to the ground by police, rolled over and, in doing so, caused grazing and bruising to the officer’s knuckles. The youth was also accused of spitting.

The CCTV cameras showed the youth to be “lying there like a dead fish”. Lovegrove went on to accuse the young man of drug use as he had cigarette papers on him.

PC John Lovegrove lied about assault: why has Lovegrove not been charged with perjury? Continues »

LSE Chairman Chris Gibson-Smith: Occupy target should be politicians and not brokers, Oh the hypocrisy

October 30th, 2011 § 0

Chris Gibson Smith
LSE Chairman Chris Gibson Smith knew the score going in:
this statement on opportunities dates from 2009

The London Stock Exchange does not appreciate being targeted by the Occupy Movement. To deflect attention, the brokers are blaming the politicians for enacting the policies for which they lobbied. LSE Chairman Dr Chris Gibson-Smith speaks out:

“There are unintended consequences of free markets,” he added. “It’s not capitalism that has been the problem, but irresponsible governments and politicians who have allowed the financial system to explode by permitting the build-up of ludicrous amounts of debt and leverage.

“No one ever said that free markets could or would be self-regulating. That’s where people over the past few decades have got it wrong, and many are still in denial – look at Alan Greenspan, [the former chairman of the Federal Reserve], who is still defending free markets.”

Gibson-Smith is quite right of course but it would have been nice of him to speak up earlier. The cynicism and hypocrisy of our ruling class rivals that of Louis XVI’s court.

EFSF Euro Bailout Fund yet another banker scam: Robert Sulik the sold reasonable voice

October 13th, 2011 § 0

Regarding the Euro bailout funds, Slovakia should be proud to be the country to cry out the Emperor has no clothes. Europe’s banks cannot be allowed to fail is an axiom of which I’m getting very tired. We had it last year with “too big to fail”.

Why should banks operate on other rules than small businesses? If at Foliovision, I invest our time and money badly no one is coming to rescue us. Despite our real contribution to the Slovak economy as a genuine exporter, we live by market rules.

Banks apparently live by different rules. When they crank risk up and make bad investments, the politicians in their pockets ride to the rescue with packages which can make up to 10% of GDP. The money the politicians are giving away to the banks are the taxes small successful companies like us pay.

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The whole scheme resembles a casino operating on the following principle: the players who win are allowed to take away their winnings. Well and good. But when they lose, they are allowed to run up an unlimited tab. When the tab has gone up too high and they can’t even pay for their meals and drinks, the tab is reset. The money they squirreled away at home when on a winning streak doesn’t get touched. They keep their houses.

Any idiot could win under such circumstances. Why are these derivatives traders are considered “masters of the universe”? There were other words for such parasites in past centuries. Let’s start with Highwaymen.

The EFSF (European Financial Stability Facility) is an obligation which I do not want to take on for myself or for the next generations. It’s clear Greece is going belly up: they have not tightened their belts to the extent required for further support. Let Greece resolve its own issues. As a major tourist resort with a mild climate, Greeks are unlikely to starve or freeze to death.

On the other hand, a Greek default would cost Italian, French and German banks a lot of money. Good. Let them be more careful with their investments going forward.

Like Robert Sulik, I’m not anti-Euro.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: If the euro only causes problems, why doesn’t Slovakia’s government just pull the country out of the euro zone?

Sulik: I don’t see the euro as the problem. It’s a good project. Everyone involved can benefit from it — but only if they stick to the ground rules. And that’s exactly what we’re demanding.

But the existence Euro should not be an excuse to take taxpayers’ money and hand it off to fat cat bankers who pad their salaries and bonuses and expenses at will.

All the treaties signed up to date do not allow this kind of financial shenanigans and I see no reason to cave in now. Back to Sulik:

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Which ground rules should we be following?

Sulik: We have to observe three points: First, we have to strictly adhere to the existing rules, such as not being liable for others’ debts, just as it’s spelled out in Article 125 of the Lisbon Treaty. Second, we have to let Greece go bankrupt and have the banks involved in the debt-restructuring. The creditors will have to relinquish 50 to perhaps 70 percent of their claims. So far, the agreements on that have been a joke. Third, we have to be adamant about cost-cutting and manage budgets in a responsible way.

If the banks go down, people will lose their savings is another sword held over European voters necks. Nonsense. Nearly all countries have depositer insurance. If a bank cracks, the depositors will get their money. Shareholders and management may not. Next time, perhaps they will be more careful.

We live in a climate of fiscal restraint in Slovakia. It seems to be working as we are a growth economy. Time for other Europeans to catch up with Slovakia and China.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Nevertheless, banks could run into significant problems should they be forced to write down billions in sovereign bond holdings.

Sulik: So what? They took on too much risk. That one might go broke as a consequence of bad decisions is just part of the market economy. Of course, states have to protect the savings of their populations. But that’s much cheaper than bailing banks out. And that, in turn, is much cheaper than bailing entire states out.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Does one of your reasons for not wanting to help Greece have to do with the fact that Slovakia itself is one of the poorest countries in the EU?

Sulik: A few years back, we survived an economic crisis. With great effort and tough reforms, we put it behind us. Today, Slovakia has the lowest average salaries in the euro zone. How am I supposed to explain to people that they are going to have to pay a higher value-added tax (VAT) so that Greeks can get pensions three times as high as the ones in Slovakia?

SPIEGEL ONLINE: What can the Greeks learn from the reforms carried out in Slovakia?

Sulik: They have to make cuts in the state apparatus. The Slovaks could also give them a few good ideas about the tax system. We have a flat tax when it comes to income taxes. Our tax system is simple and clear.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: One last time: Do you honestly believe the euro has any future at all?

Sulik: I believe the euro has a future. But only if the rules are followed.

Yesterday I was speaking with a highly placed Greek political figure. I commiserated with him about the conditions of the loans: selling off most of the national assets to the banks and international financiers. He laughed charmingly and looked me in the eyes.

“Why should we be worried? What has been privatized can be renationalised after a change of government. What belongs to the Greeks remains with the Greeks. We will never be made slaves in our own land.”

At last the cynical bankers have met a match in cynical Greeks. One must not only beware of Greeks bearing gifts. One must be careful of Greeks accepting gifts.

It’s very sad to watch humanity tumble down the path to revolution and ruin and war again. The right to skim the cream from the economy with little or no contribution to the collective well being did not work out very well for the Ancien Regime in France in 1789. Men, women and children were pulled from their houses and beheaded to put an end to misuse of privilege.

When the world banking system is destroyed, the ill gotten gains and privileges of our current generation of politicians and bankers will avail their children very little. We are heading to a global reset. Hopefully, a minimum fo blood will be spilt. But if we are not careful, the inequal redistribution of wealth will lead to an endless world war.

How foolish the greedy can be.

Guest Post: Migrants Must Eat Cats and Dogs

January 10th, 2011 § 11

[This shocking tale comes from Nikos Rapti’s weblog at Zdnet. It sounds more like the plot of a horror film but alas it’s real life in 2011.]

As mentioned in some of my ZNet Commentaries, during the 1941-1944 Nazi occupation in Greece there was a famine in Athens, in 1941, that claimed the lives from starvation of about 200,000 Greeks. At that time there was a rumor [?] that the Italian occupiers were eating the cats of Athens as a … delicacy. I do not think that Greeks, in general, ate cats or dogs, even while dying of starvation. I did not and I survived.
 
One of the journalistically most honest papers in Greece is the satirical weekly “To Pontiki” [The Mouse]. It was started in 1979 by Kostas Papaioannou as an almost one-person endeavor and it evolved into the most authoritative paper of Greece. Three of the ZNet people have already met Kostas on the island of Aegina where he now lives in retirement. I had been writing for “To Pontiki” during its first two decades of publication. The paper was taken over by other people after Kostas’ retirement.
 
Today, January 6, 2011, seventy years after the Nazi instigated famine, I went to the kiosk in my neighborhood and bought ”To Pontiki” of this week. On page 3 the title reads: ”SHOCK: They grab and eat dogs”. 
 
The article describes the unbelievable situation in a neighborhood of Athens where the immigrants who have flooded the area having reached the lowest point of misery and hunger grab and eat the cats and the dogs in the neighborhood; the stray or the pets of the Greek residents. The Greek residents became aware of this gradually, as they noticed that the stray cats and dogs were disappearing.

Guest Post: Migrants Must Eat Cats and Dogs Continues »

The Economist editors November 20 advice: Act Unfriendly, Cater to Businessmen, Encourage Usury to the Poor

December 11th, 2010 § 4

The Economist logo

I’m probably just going to let my Economist subscription lapse at the end of January.

While I do having access to the whole world in a single news publication, sorting through the corporate disinformation is awfully tiresome.

Their editorials are particularly poorly thought out.

Let’s take the week of 20 November:

Saving The Euro

The Economist position: The Irish are wrong to fight receiving bailout money and the Germans are wrong to insist they raise the absurd corporate tax rate of 12.5% which got the Irish into this bind in the first place.

Too much of the EU’s motivation seems to be to punish Ireland for its Anglo-Saxon ways—especially its highly competitive 12.5% tax rate on corporate profits, which helps it attract foreign firms. Raising this would be madness….A new generation of firms, including computer-gaming outfits like Activision Blizzard and Zynga, are joining the established operations of Intel and Google. Ireland’s workforce is young, skilled and adaptable. Rents are coming down even faster than wages.

Guys, the Irish have been busy selling the family silver faster than the Germans can replace it. Corporate tax rates of 12.5% in a single member state, only betray the whole Eurozone. Low rents for starving Irish potato farmers is not why we set up the Euro zone.

The Economist editors November 20 advice: Act Unfriendly, Cater to Businessmen, Encourage Usury to the Poor Continues »

Paean to the Oceans: Dark Side of the Lens

October 4th, 2010 § 2

dark side of the lens whales
dark side of the lens whales
dark side of the lens gulls
dark side of the lens gulls
dark side of the lens diver
dark side of the lens diver

This film is supposed to be about surfing and underwater photography.

For me it is about the sea and it is a paeon to this monument of beauty spanning most of the planet.

I see this and I wonder how we continue to relentlessly despoil this unrepairable wonder with oil spills, deslickers, polluted rivers, radioactive waste.

The wickedness of civilisation, at least in its capitalist extant, is to borrow the profit of today against the misery of tomorrow. Man has been at this a long time though. The folk of Easter Island expired when they consumed their entire food chain.

Even archeology has not been enough to sober world leaders apart from that fleeting glimpse of a president Gore.

But back to the film and the ocean. Don’t miss the splendid soundtrack and the free poetry of the voiceover. Here’s a few strong phrases.

i never set out to become anything particular, only to live creatively…

my heart bleeds celtic blood and I’m magnetised to familiar frontiers…

if i only scrape a living it’s a living worth scraping..


DARK SIDE OF THE LENS

Both words and music strongly wrought by subject and filmmaker Mickey Smith. 

A small SEO thanks to energy drink Relentless for making this possible. Via ISO50.

Fracking: America not just destroying Iraqi countryside but destroying its own

August 15th, 2010 § 0

On their website Vanity Fair has published one of the most substantial pieces of reporting which I’ve seen from that (in)famous society journal in many years. Apparently extracting "clean" natural gas, "the bridge to the future" is not a clean process. In fact, fracking (getting at the natural gas) can and does destroy aquifers. Surface vegetation will continue to look okay (fed by rainwater) but animals depending on the aquifer below via wells, i.e. humans may not survive.

natural gas fracking
natural gas fracking

Read and be horrified at the havoc wrought by the 2005 exemptions for oil and gas companies to the Clean Air Act by Dick Cheney cohorts while in governments:

Although fracking was never regulated by the federal government when it was a less prevalently used technique, it was granted explicit exemptions—despite dissent within the E.P.A.—from the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Clean Air Act, and the Clean Water Act by the Energy Policy Act of 2005, the wide-ranging energy bill crafted by Dick Cheney in closed-door meetings with oil-and-gas executives. While the average citizen can receive harsh punishment under federal law for dumping a car battery into a pond, gas companies, thanks to what has become known as the Halliburton Loophole, are allowed to pump millions of gallons of fluid containing toxic chemicals into the ground, right next to our aquifers, without even having to identify them.

One can take some heart at the courage of the activists working to prevent this happening to the Delaware river.

If Americans will pollute Iraq with depleted Iranium, their corporations will not hesitate at poisoning their own countryside and water table with some of the most toxic chemicals known to man. If there was ever an indictment of laissez-faire capitalism, here it is. The men running these oil and gas corporations are as bad as street pimps. They are prepared to destroy the lives of others to enrich themselves.

Strangely this important story didn’t run in the print edition of Vanity Fair. Somebody has their priorities wrong at Vanity Fair, given the fluff which most of the recent issue included (heiress bimbos in the Hamptons). But kudos to whoever commissioned the article, kudos to the writer Christopher Bateman and videographer and kudos to the web team who insisted on running it after the final story was rejected for print.


Vanity Fair may also want to look at how they manage their European subscriptions. A US subscription is $20 for two years. A non-US subscription is $68 for one year. That’s a pricing differential of seven times. I can’t believe that our Eurozone eyes are not worth enough to Vanity Fair’s advertisers to make it worthwhile to set up a printing and distribution center somewhere in Europe. Somewhere inexpensive and central like Slovakia perhaps.

La France: Liberty, Fraternity, Egality or Totalitarianism, Fratricide and Genocide

December 16th, 2009 § 2

French like to make themselves out as the home of liberty, fraternity and egality.

Alas, a short delve into their history indicates more totalitarianism, fratricide and genocide.

Let’s start with the Huguenots. At the wedding of the Huguenot King Henri Navarre (later Henri IV) with the sister of the French king Margaret Valois, the Huguenots were lured into Paris in August 1572. There the queen mother Catherine de Medici set the mob on them after the royal wedding. Several thousands murdered in the streets and drowned in the Seine within days. Twenty thousand protestants murdered in Paris, another fifty thousand in the rest of France within the next two months. Nice way to celebrate a marriage.

Subsequently the Protestantism were outlawed by King Louis XIII in the Edict of Fontaineblue in 1685. Persecution carried on until 1787, by which time there were only 200,000 from an original peak of 2 million Huguenots left in France. In fairness, they weren’t all murdered or forced to convert to Catholicism. Many Huguenots managed to escape into exile.

With hardly a chance to catch their breath, the Parisans organised the French Revolution which resulted in up to 40,000 deaths by guillotine alone. The number of innocents to perish in that number is likely in the range of 90%.

But they weren’t done yet. After the Revolution, the seaboard province of Vendée refused to give up Catholicism and to participate in conscription rose against the Revolution in 1793. (Ironically enough the cities of the Vendée like la Rochelle were Huguenot free cities and strongholds before the Huguenots were all starved and murdered in La Rochelle, a city of 27,000 reduced to 5,000 in 1627 by Cardinal Richelieu and Louis XIII.)

In the Vendée, the Republican French decided to raze the place. At Nantes, mass drownings took 4000 lives in 1793. Another 200,000 of a population of 800,000 were to die at the hands of the Republicans. General Westermann reported to the National Convention in 1794:

There is no more Vendée, my republican fellow citizens! It died beneath our sabers along with its women and children. I have just buried them in the swamps and woods of Savenay. According to your orders, the children were trampled to death beneath the hoofs of our horses; their women were slaughtered so that they couldn’t bring any more soldiers into the world. The streets are full of corpses; in many places they form entire pyramids. In Savenay we had to make use of massive firing squads because their troops are still surrendering. We take no prisoners. One has to give them the bread of freedom; however, mercy has nothing to do with the spirit of the revolution.

Curiously, the Israelis argue that the measures they are taking against the Palestinians are no different from the French did to one another and the British and Americans and Spanish to the Native Indians.

If the Israelis had gotten back to Jerusalem a hundred years earlier, they would have had a point. But apparently, Israel was created in response to save people from genocide not to advance its cause.

Surely we can do better now. Apartheid in South Africa was dissolved with a minimum of bloodshed.

The Romans were constantly murdering one another’s armies and razing the southern cities of Italy.

Civilisation seems to be another word for mass bloodshed.

It is a blessing to live in decades of relative peace, within secure countries and set borders. We should appreciate it more. It isn’t often this way. Bloody wars, civil and external, appear to make up about half of human history.