Money As Religion

I Can’t Get You Out of My Head

Part 3 Money Changes Everything

Directed by Adam Curtis

Links to Part 1 and Part 2

Film Review

Part 3 of I Can’t Get You Out of My Head concerns the gradual handover of political power from elected official to banks and financial institutions. Curtis traces this process to Nixon’s 1973 decision to abolish the gold (and silver) standard. Once currencies ceased to have any fixed value, power began to shift to banks (who create the vast majority of our money*) and currency traders. For Curtis, one of the most significant cultural events of the seventies was the publication of a Russian emigre’s 1974 book It’s Me Eddie. The main theme of the novel is that Americans mistakenly believe they are free when they’re really simplified robots controlled by the rules of money.

The 1973 oil embargo (which caused oil prices to skyrocket) reinforced the popular sense that elected officials had lost control over government.

Nixon, who was naturally paranoid, was aware from the onset of his presidency that there were intelligence insiders at the White House plotting against him.** This led to his decision to tape record all his Oval Office conversations, providing ammunition for opponents who forced him to resign. 

Meanwhile in China, Mao’s fourth wife Jiang Qing (see Part 1 Where Has Democracy Gone?) was briefly the most powerful woman in the world. Beginning in 1971, Jiang lost control of the Red Guards, which broke into warring factions. Mao, in turn, removed her from power and exiled troublesome Red Guard leaders to the desert and the provinces. Determined to succeed Mao, Jiang allied herself with three other party officials to form the Gang of Four.

Deng Xiaoping, who would succeed Mao in 1977, immediately had them arrested and imprisoned.

For me, the most interesting segment of Part 3 concerns the discovery by Kerry Thornley, co-founder of Operation Mindfuck (see Part 1 Where Has Democracy Gone?) that many of the individuals New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison implicated in the JFK assassination were involved in the Watergate break-in. Thornley ultimately decided he had been manipulated by intelligence operatives to start Operation Mindfuck and spread phony Illuminati conspiracy theories.


*Contrary to popular belief, private banks create 97-98% of the money in circulated with government creating the 2-3% that exists as notes and coins. See 97% Owned

**Russ Baker probably gives the best account of the conspiracy by Bush Sr intelligence operatives to bring down the Nixon presidency by undertaking a bungled burglary at the Watergate Hotel and implicating Nixon in the operation. See Family of Secrets: The Bush Dynasty, America’s Invisible Government, and the Hidden History of the Last 50 Years*

Shooting and F**king Are the Same Thing

I Can’t Get You Out of My MInd

Shooting and Fucking Are the Same Thing

By Adam Curtis (2021)

Film Review

Link to Part 1: Where Has Democracy Gone?

In Part 2, Curtis helps us understand how six 1968 revolutions (in France, Berlin, Mexico City, Chicago, Prague and London)* all failed. He sees a clear connection between the cult of hyperindividulam, which began in the 1950s, and the move of many radicals away from collective community concerns to a focus on self actualization.  He gives the example of Chicago 7 member Bobby Seale becoming a chef and Tupac Shakur (a Black Panther from birth) becoming a rapper.

Part 2 broadly covers the late sixties and early seventies. It traces the rise and fall of Black power in US and Britain, focusing on the organizing efforts of Afeni Shaku (mother of assassinated rapper Tupac Shakur) and Michael X in Notting Hill London. Curtis observes that Michael X was arrested in Redding in 1967 for “inciting racial violence,” while Conservative MP Enoch Powell’s 1968 anti-immigrant “Rivers of Blood” speech made him the most popular politician in the UK.

Afeni, representing herself, would ultimately get the Panther 21 acquitted of “conspiring to commit bombings” after proving the bombing plot originated with two FBI informants who had infiltrated the Black Panther Party.

In addition to tracing Richard Nixon’s rise to the presidency, Curtis also examines a number of high profile psychological experiments that convinced the ruling elite that trying to change people’s behavior by reasoning with them was a waste of time. Instead they decided the best way to control people was to keep them in a constant simplified dream world.


*See 1968: The Year That Rocked the World

 

Where Has Democracy Gone?

Can’t Get You Out of My Head

Part 1 Bloodshed on Wolf Mountain

Directed by Adam Curtis (2021)

Film Review

Adam Curtis has come out with another great documentary series this year, the first to be widely promoted since his 2016 series Hypernormalisation. The theme of this series is understanding why our democratically elected representatives have handed governance over to unelected financial, banking and managerial technocrats (eg the EU, UN, World Economic Forum) instead of representing us.

I confess to being somewhat addicted to Curtis’s work. The erasure of history has been essential to the end of the democratic process, and his work is full of hidden history that people aren’t taught in school.

In Part 1, Curtis outlines the gradual rise in hyperindividualism that happened both in the West and the Communist East following World War II. He begins by examining overall trends in public attitudes in post-war Britain facing the collapse of her empire, in Communist China in the prelude to the 1966 Cultural Revolution and In the US during the “white flight” to the suburbs.

The segments on Britain mainly focus on the political career of Michael X, born in Trinidad as Michael de Freitas, a black revolutionary and civil rights activist in 1960s London. The evolution of his political career continues in Parts 2 and 3.

The segments on China focus entirely on Jiang Qing, a movie actress and the fourth wife of Mao Zedong. Branded mentally ill and confined to virtual house arrest for many years (on the orders of Joseph Stalin), she was recalled to power in 1959 when Mao’s enemies sought to depose him. She assisted him in launching the 1966 Cultural Revolution that effectively disposed of them.*

The sections on evolution of US culture focus on the social isolation, anxiety and mild paranoia white Americans experienced when they abandoned the close knit communities of US cities.

For me the most interesting segment of Part 1 concerns a friend who served in the Marines with Lee Harvey Oswald named Kerry Thornley. Thornley, with friend Greg Hill, created the Discordian religion and Operation Mind Fuck. Their main work was to parody the upsurge in conspiracy theories by planting the fabricated conspiracy in numerous media outlets that the Bavarian Illuminati was behind the major political assassinations of the 1960s (among other false conspiracy theories).


*The Cultural Revolution was a violent sociopolitical purge in China lasting from 1966 until 1976. It was launched by Mao and his wife Jiang Qing to encourage students and working people to rise up and violently attack any teachers, bosses and party leaders suspected of abusing their authority.  See An American in Mao’s Cultural Revolution

 

Stieg Larsson: The Man Who Played with Fire

Stieg Larsson: The Man Who Played with Fire

Directed by Henric Georgsson (2018)

Film Review

This is a fascinating documentary about the late author of the award winning Millenium series. Despite reading all three books and watching both the Swedish and the English versions of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, I had no Larsson, an investigative journalist, faced the same threats in real life (from Sweden’s right wing Nazi movement) as his heroine.*

Larsson’s primary occupation was a a graphic designer for TT, a Swedish multimedia news provider. He investigated the Swedish far right in his spare time, founding the Swedish anti-racist magazine Expo. He and other Expo staffers received regular death threats, with one couple nearly dying in a car bombing. He gave all Expo volunteers explicit training in the safe way to open letter bombs.

Larsson died unexpectedly of a heart attack in 2004. His three novels were published posthumously in 2005.


*In 1986, Swedish prime minister Olaf Palme was assassinated by far right extremists

Can be viewed free on Beamafilm.

 

Hidden History: White House Slaves

The Invisibles: The Untold Story of African American ...

The Invisibles: The Untold Story of African American Slaves in the White House

by Jesse J Holland

First Lyons Press (2017)

Book Review

This fascinating book recounts the personal histories of individuals slaves owned by US presidents between 1789 and 1861. Twelve of the first eighteen presidents owned slaves. Of founding fathers who became president, only John Adams and John Quincy Adam (who were Quakers) didn’t own them. Jefferson and Adams owned slaves despite speaking out against slavery.

Most is known about the individual slaves owned by Washington, Jefferson and Madison. At the time of the revolution, Washington owned 150 slaves. He would bring some of his house slaves with him to New York (the first US capitol) when he assumed the presidency in 1789. Things got more complicated when the US capitol moved to Philadelphia in 1790.  Pennsylvania, which abolished slavery in 1780, had a law automatically granting freedom to any slave who remained in the state longer than six months. This meant Washington had to send his slaves back to his Mount Vernon plantation every six months to retain ownership.* This process likely led to of them to escape.

The chapter on Jefferson’s slaves includes his relationship with 15-year-old Sally Hemmings and the six children he had by her. Sally and her children remained at Jefferson’s Virginia plantation, though her brother James served as a French-trained chef in the Jefferson White House.

Madison owned 100 slaves. Like Washington and Jefferson brought his house slaves to the White House to serve as domestic servants.

In addition to chapters on slaves owned by Monroe, Jackson, Van Buren, Harrison, Tyler, Polk, Taylor, Andrew Johnson and Grant, there are excellent chapters on the history of the transition from indentured servitude to slavery and the early states to abolish slavery (Vermont 1777, Massachusetts 1783 and New York 1827).

One of the best chapters concerns the vital role slaves played in constructing the White House. One of the most important jobs they performed was digging up clay for bricks, although they also quarried stone used in interior walls and served as carpenters. The US paid their owners a wage for their services.


*This six-month rule was largely responsible for the decision to create a separate district as the nation’s capitol (Washington DC). The Southern slave states of Maryland and Virginia gladly gave up some of their state territory to accommodate slave-holding presidents.

Allen Ginsberg and the Long Battle to Preserve Free Speech

Howl

Directed by Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman (2010)

Film Review

Prior to watching this biopic, I had virtually no knowledge of the life or poetry of US poet Allen Ginsberg (1926-1997). The film revolves around the obscenity trial for his 1955 book Howl and Other Poetry. A San Francisco prosecutor brought obscenity charges against the book’s publisher Lawrence Ferlinghetti, rather than Ginsberg himself.

The film intersperses scenes from the obscenity trial with coffee house scenes in which Ginsberg reads excerpts from Howl, with scenes from a interview in which Ginsberg talks about his life, and surreal animations based on passages from the book.

I was previously unaware that Ginsbeg was with friends with Jack Kerouac (Ginsberg had a crush on him even though Kerouac was straight). Nor that Ginsberg found a publisher for Kerouac’s book On the Road after the obscenity trial made Ginsberg and Howl world famous.

Much of Howl relates to the new perspective Ginsberg gained on US society after being locked up in a mental hospital for eight months (he agreed to the admission after being arrested for riding in an unknowingly stolen car – the hospital released him after he promised to become heterosexual).

For me the most moving scene was the closing argument Ferlingetti’s lawyer gives at the obscenity hearing. He states we all have an innate desire to censor things we disagree with or that make uncomfortable – “it takes all the force of reason and the legal system to resist it.”

The film can be viewed free on Beamafilm

That Other Wall Street: Commodities Trading

Floored

James Allen Smith (2009)

Film Review

This documentary concerns commodities trading, which many investors view as a sophisticated form of gambling. The Chicago Board of Trade, which first began operation in 1848, is one of the world’s oldest futures and options exchanges. It’s original purpose was to help provide income upfront for the farming sector. Investors would buy and trade contracts for future delivery of cattle, hogs, corn. wheat and other commodities – guaranteeing farmers and food processors a fixed price for their product. Together with the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, the Board of Trade eventually began trading in non-food commodities, as well as currencies, options,* and other financial instruments.

The film also focuses on the transition that occurred in the late nineties in the late nineties when computerized trading replaced the traditional Pit and the Open Outcry system.  Filmmakers interview many former traders who have lost their livelihoods owing to the shift to electronic trading.

Prior to computerization, it was one of the few ways blue collar individuals could become fabulously wealthy. It was common for Board of Trade pit traders to have no education beyond high school.

In 2007, the Board of Trade merged with the Mercantile Exchange to form the Chicago Mercantile Exchange Group.


*An option is a contract which gives the buyer the right, but not the obligation, to buy or sell an underlying asset or at a specified price prior to or on a specified date.

**Open outcry is the name of a method of communication between professionals on a stock exchange or futures exchange typically on a trading floor. It involves shouting and the use of hand signals to transfer information about buy and sell orders

 

 

Solving the Covid Economic Crisis: Taking a Page Out of History

Brother Can You Spare a Billion?

Directed by Eric Strange (2000)

Film Review

This biographical documentary, narrated by Walter Cronkite, concerns the head of Roosevelt’s Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC), Houston banker Jesse H Jones. The RFC was a national bank owned and operated by the US government (in contrast to the Federal Reserve, which is privately owned). Under the leadership of Jones, the RFC became the “bank of last resort,” lending money to struggling farmers, small businesses and homeowners when private banks refused to give them loans. HR 6422, a bill introduced by Illinois Representative Danny K Davis in March 2020, seeks to address the COVID economic crisis with a National Infrastructure Bank along the lines of the RFC.  (See HR 6422)

Jones, the son of a Tennessee tobacco farmer, left school after eighth grade to help his father. At 19, he moved to Houston to help run his uncle’s lumber yard. When his uncle died four years later, he became the executor of his uncle’s million dollar estate. He used this capital to leverage millions in bank loans to build a chain of lumber yards and over the years, a chain of Houston hotels and skyscrapers. He also ran a Houston bank and was part owner of the city’s major newspaper.

The major cause of the Great Depression that started in 1929 was a contraction in the global money supply, owing to private banks’ extreme reluctance to issue new loans. Then, as now, the vast majority of money (everything but notes and coins) was created by private banks when they issued loans.*

In desperation, President Herbert Hoover created the RFC in 1932, which initially only issued loans to banks (to encourage them to increase their lending) and railroads (1/3 of railroads were already bankrupt and 2/3 on the verge). For ideological reasons, Hoover vetoed a bill Congress passed to allow the RFC to also issue loans to farmers and businesses.

Jones, who first joined the RFC board under Hoover, became its chair following Roosevelt’s inauguration in 1933. The former Houston banker persuaded Roosevelt to expand lending to businesses and farmers, in addition to banks, railroads, mortgage associations, numerous federal infrastructure projects (eg extending power lines to rural American and building aqueduct supplying water to California and to assist struggling states with relief efforts. Putting more money into circulation generated rapid recovery in numerous sectors of the economy.

Rather than fund the RFC via taxation or increasing government debt, the RFC was capitalized via bonds issued to the general public by the US Treasury. It was then given the same power as private banks to create the vast majority of money it lent out.

With the US entry into World War II, the RFC would finance the massive build-up necessary in armaments manufacture. It would be abolished in 1957.

For more information about the bill that would create a National Infrastructure Bank to fulfill the same role as the RFC, contact the Coalition for a $4 Trillion Infrastructure bank at NIB Coalition


*FDR wasn’t the first president to create a national bank. He was following the example of Alexander Hamilton, John Qunicy Adams and Abraham Lincoln.

**See In Memorium: Monetary Reform Hero Stephen Zarlinga

JSOC: America’s Secret Killing Squads

Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield

Directed by Richard Rowley (2013)

Film Review

In this highly troubling documentary (based on Cahill’s book by the same name), investigative journalist Jeremy Cahill describes how he first learned about the Joint Special Operations Campaign (JSOC). He describes in detail how all extrajudicial raids and killings increased substantially under Barack Obama (and Joe Biden, who directed his foreign policy), who used JSOC as their own private assassination squads.

Cahill first crossed paths with JSOC while investigating 2010 night raids killing Afghan civilians in rural areas under Taliban control. He was particularly concerned about a raid that occurred at Gardez, in which a police commander trained by the US and two pregnant women were killed. Surviving families referred to the bearded gunmen (with no apparent link to official US occupying forces) as the American Taliban. The Obama administration totally denied involvement in the Gardez massacre – until a cellphone video surfaced showing bearded English-speaking Americans searching and rearranging the bodies. At this point JSOC admitted responsibility and offered survivors a sacrificial goat as compensation.

During the period Cahill covered Afghanistan, JSOC undertook roughly 1700 night raids a month.

Cahill would go on to investigate similar JSOC night raids in Iraq, as well as illegal US drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen. The latter occurred well before US ally Saudi Arabia declared war on Yemen in 2015. The prominent Yemeni reporter Abdulelah Haider Shaye was arrested and imprisoned for exposing the U.S. cruise missile attack on the Yemeni village of al-Majalah that killed 41 people, including 14 women and 21 children in December 2009. Then Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh announced his intention to pardon Shaye. However he changed his mind after a personal phone call from Obama.

Scahill published a number of articles in the Nation and elsewhere about illegal CIA and special forces activities in Yemen, especially after the father of US citizen Anwar Alawki filed a 2010 lawsuit (with ACLU support) to stop Obama (who had placed him on the kill list) from assassinating him. Despite the suit and the publicity it generated (and a congressional bill seeking to ban extrajudicial assassinations of US citizens), Obama had no qualms about using JSOC to murder Alawki in with a drone strike September 2011 . Two years later, the president would also kill Alawki’s 16 year old son in a drone strike.

For me, the final section of the film was the most interesting. It begins by tracing Alawki’s history as an extremely popular imam in San Diego. Following 9-11, he and hundreds of other US Muslims faced growing harassment and persecution by the US government. In 2006, at the direction of the US government, Yemeni authorities imprisoned Alawki for 1 1/2 years.

Public library patrons can view the full film free at Beamafield.

https://beamafilm-com.eznewplymouth.kotui.org.nz/watch/dirty-wars

Boris Yeltsin and the Soviet Collapse

Boris Yeltsin - Telegraph

Press TV Presents Boris Yeltsin

Press TV (2016)

Film Review

This fascinating Press TV documentary has been produced largely in response to the 2015 opening of the Boris Yeltsin Presidential Center in Yekaterinburg. The film focuses on the deep corruption and cronyism behind the 50% GDP under Yeltsin. In essence, Yeltsin allowed Russian oligarchs and gangsters and Wall Street capitalists to reduce Russia, over the space of eight years, from a first world to a third world economy.

Russia totally lost major sectors of its economy, including its aviation industry. In 1991, Russia had the second largest aviation industry in the world (second only to the US). It also lost most of its skilled scientists, engineers and IT specialists as economic collapse led 11 million people to migrate to the West.

Yeltsin then handed over any state industries that remained intact to friends and family members for a tiny fraction of their value. As these oligarchs accumulated more and more wealth and power, they opened the door for Wall Street interests to loot the country’s valuable mineral resources. This forced the government to borrow from the World Bank and IMF simply to avoid collapse. In turn, the latter forced Yeltsin to eliminate or privatize any public services that remained.

The filmmakers examine in detail the 1993 military coup Yeltsin launched against the Duma when widespread protests led to an attempt to impeach him. The coup killed over 1,000 protesters and civil servants. They also look at the CIA-assisted electoral fraud that enabled Yeltsin to be re-elected in 1996 with an 8% popularity rating.

In 1999 massive unpopularity forced Yeltsin to resign in favor of Putin (see The Real Boris: Yeltsin Democratic Reformer or Brutal Dictator)

The film can be viewed free at http://presstvdoc.com/post/14873