This video is clearly a feel good propaganda film about Iran’s response to it’s first wave Covid outbreak in February 2020. The brutal sanctions regime by the US and its allies has made it difficult for their doctors their to obtain respirators, lab and personal protective equipment and some drugs.
I found it remarkable how resilient and self-sufficient the country has become after more than a decade of sanctions. Both their hospitals and mosques are staffed by paid and volunteer sewing brigades to make reusable protective masks and coveralls for doctors and nurses.
In addition, Iran’s Covid’s specialists seemed less inclined to put their critically ill Covid patients on respirators (perhaps because they don’t have as many?). This may explain their good recovery rate (60-70%) of hospitalized Covid patients – compared to US Covid patients.*
Mouse Utopia and the Blackest Pill – #PropagandaWatch
Directed by James Corbett 2020
The main purpose of this documentary is to debunk the fear of overpopulation popularized by British East Indian Company agent Thomas Malthus in 1798 and Paul Ehrlich, author of the 1968 book The Population Bomb.
Corbett begins by examining a series of “Mouse Utopia” experiments researcher John B Calhoun conducted for the National Institutes of Mental Health in the 1960s. In Calhoun’s experiments, colonies of mice enjoyed immediate gratification of all their physical needs except for living space. As colonies got more and more overcrowded, the mice became increasing self-focused. They eventually ceased all social interaction, including reproduction, and eventually died out.
The film goes on to explore how numerous researchers and foundations have subsequently applied Calhoun’s Mouse Utopia findings to human culture, to help promulgate the myth that the world is hopelessly overpopulated. Many of these ideas found their way into fictional books and films apocalypse driven by overcrowding in the sixties and seventies.**
Corbett also links the 1972 Club of Rome report Limits to Growth to overpopulation mania, but I’m not sure I agree with him. In addition to addressing population growth, Limits to Growth also raises concerns about depletion of non-renewable resources and environmental degradation.***
*2020 was the first time in history lockdowns (ie quarantining healthy people) were used to control the spread of contagious illness.
**Corbett gives the example of the 1973 Soylent Green an ecological dystopian thriller about the year 2022, in which the cumulative effects of overpopulation, pollution and some apparent climate catastrophe have caused severe worldwide shortages of food, water and housing.
***The Club of Rome is an elite roundtable group consisting current and former heads of state and government, UN administrators, high-level politicians and government officials, diplomats, scientists, economists, and business leaders. According to the abstract, rapid population growth was only one of five parameters (along with accelerating industrialization, widespread malnutrition, depletion of nonrenewable resources and a deteriorating environment) MIT scientists commissioned by the Club of Rome considered in their complex system modeling experiments. See https://www.isprambiente.gov.it/files/agenda21/1972-the-limits-to-growth.pdf
This short film exposes the role of British Petroleum (BP) and other fossil fuel companies in inventing the concept of “carbon footprint,” in their effort to transfer blame for the climate crisis to each of us individually. In doing so, they cleverly distract attention from their own gigantic role – spending hundreds of millions lobbying against carbon taxes, fossil fuel regulation and government subsidies of renewable energy.
In 2005, BP was the first fossil fuel company to acknowledge climate change as an issue. Around the same time they paid Ogilvy and Mather, a PR firm, to popularize the notion of “carbon footprint,” in essence making all 7 billion of us individually responsible for global warming. Thanks to Ogilvy and Mather, BP ultimately spent far more on promoting its solar energy project than it spent on the actual project.
Any real solution to the climate crisis will require an end to the massive carbon emissions produced by bloated militaries, by government subsidies of fossil fuel companies and by government expenditures on highways, bridges and other infrastructure. All our areas in which we have virtually no personal control.
This two-part documentary series consists of footage Russian exile Vitaly Mansky filmed between December 31, 1999 and December 31, 2000 as videographer for Putin’s first presidential campaign. It jives quite nicely with the CIA/State Department version of Putin’s Career.
Part 1 is mostly footage of Putin’s predecessor and mentor Boris Yeltsin and his family watching the March 26, 1999 election returns, in which Putin received 51.2% of the vote.
Both the filmmaker and his family clearly preferred Yeltsin and were hostile from the outset to Putin’s presidency.
There is also significant historical inaccuracy in the narrative Mansky offers as background. First he misconstrues the election of Boris Yeltsin in 1996 as the first “free and democratic election” in Russian history. This ignores major evidence of CIA meddling in the 1996 (and possibly 1991) election. See
Mansky also ignores the coup Yeltsin launched in 1993 abolishing the Russian legislature and ordering Russian tanks to fire on lawmakers when they refused to disband.
Second he totally misconstrues the reason for Yeltsin’s resignation in 1999. Mansky would have us believe the latter resigned for health reasons. The filmmaker neglects to mention the Russian economy had collapsed in 1998 (due to Yeltsin’s sell-off of state assets to US interests and criminal oligarchs) and that Yeltsin faced major mutiny in the Russian military (due to their strenuous opposition to the NATO bombing of Serbia). See How Putin Outwitted the Russian Oligarchs
Third he totally omits any mention of the Russian oligarchs, who in conjunction with Wall Street consultants caused the economic crisis (and a 20 year drop in average life expectancy) by systematically looting post-Soviet Russia of most of their industrial wealth.
Digital Disconnect: How Capitalism is Turning the Internet Against Democracy
Directed by Ridley Scott (2018)
Based on media critic Robert McChesney’s book by the same name, this is a thoughtful exploration of the growing debate whether the Internet makes us smarter (by giving us access to information) or dumber (owing to information overload and algorithms that trap us in unique information bubbles* and bombard us with corporate/government propaganda, “fake news” and orchestrated distraction).
McChesney begins by tracing the steady transition from the Internet’s early egalitarian, democratic, community-focused roots to its present domination by four major corporations (Facebook, Amazon, Apple and Google).
McChesney begins by dispelling the myths we our taught in school – that capitalism is synonymous with democracy. He points out that capitalist economic systems are very common under totalitarian systems, eg China, Chile under Pinochet and Italy under Mussolini. Class society and inequality are fundamental aspects of capitalism, as is the tendency for monopolies to drive small and medium sized companies out of business.
He points to a number of significant government decisions that have enabled the inevitable corporate takeover of the Internet, first created in 1969 (at taxpayer expense) as the military project Arpanet.
In 1985, the US military transferred Internet oversight to the National Science Foundation (an independent agency of the US government). While under NSF control there was a specific ban on using the Internet for profit-making purposes.
Under the 1993 Communications Act, the Clinton administration repealed this ban, allegedly to increase competition and reduce costs. This, combined with an FCC ruling exempting telecoms and cable providers from an obligation to share their cable networks with Internet service providers (ISPs), would allow three telecoms monopolies (Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T) to dominate the entire US broadband network. Thanks to this monopoly power, US Internet enjoys the highest access costs and lowest Internet speeds in the world.
McChesney devotes the final third of the film is devoted to an analysis of the importance of surveillance (data collection) in enabling the Internet monopolies to derive income from their services. By collecting massive amounts of data on our online lives (and selling this date to other corporations), corporate monopolies produce complex algorithms enticing us to purchase ever more stuff we don’t really want or need.
*Google, Facebook and Amazon all use complex algorithms to only show you news and search items that reflect your past Internet history.
Without this context, the naive viewer gets the impression that Facebook is uniquely vulnerable to manipulation of its content by foreign intelligence trolls, which is far from the truth.
Part I covers the period from Facebook’s launch in 2004 to the 2015 manipulation of Facebook by Russian trolls to demonize the fascist Poroschenko government Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland installed in Ukraine in 2014.
Like all the big tech companies, Facebook derives most of its profits by collecting data on its users, which they use to target them with product ads and/or sell it to third parties for similar purposes. I was really surprised to learn the Federal Trade Commission first filed charges against Facebook in 2010 for selling user data to other corporate interests without their permission. Facebook would settle the case by promising to “plug the gap” that was allowing this to occur.*
According to the filmmakers, US policy makers first realized that Facebook could be misused by bad actors shortly after the world’s first Facebook revolution, the so-called Arab Spring in Egypt.** Later in 2011, the Muslim Brotherhood would also use Facebook to come to power in Egypt.
*Given the scandal that erupted in 2017 over Facebook’s sale of user data to Cambridge Analytica, clearly this “gap” was never plugged.
Part 2, which covers the period 2016-2018, mainly concerns the 2016 election and the algorithm behind Facebook’s news feed. The platform’s most popular feature, the latter provides users with their own personalized view of the news, based on links they have viewed, liked, and shared in the past. This algorithm, first heavily used by Obama’s presidential campaigns, allows politicians to microtarget individuals and groups most likely to respond to specific messaging.
By 2016, 62% of Americans derived most of their news from Facebook, in part because nearly all US news outlets were publishing directly into Facebook’s news feed. During the 2016 primary and general election, there were over one billion campaign posts on Facebook. The Trump campaign alone spent $100 million on Facebook advertising.
By this point a number of foreign actors had also discovered the enormous value of sensational, violent, and political divisive posts in driving users to their Facebook site. For example, a group of Macedonian hackers used bizarre Trump posts (eg Pope endorses Trump) to lure users to commercial sites that earned them hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue.
Likewise a St Petersburg group called the Internet Research Agency (believed to be linked to the Russian government) spent $100,000 to promote a series of pro- and anti-Trump, pro- and anti-immigration, and pro- and anti-gun posts. A spokesperson for US intelligence claims the controversies this generated adversely affected the 2016 presidential elections: that is it caused a lot of Trump supporters, who normally stay home, to go to the polls.
Far more ominous, however, were the use of Facebook by Philippine dictator Rodrigo Duterte to demonize Filipino human rights activists, and its use (according to the UN Special Rapporteur) to inflame Buddhist violence against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, to inflame Sri Lanka’s majority Sinhalese against the country’s Tamil minority, and to inflame Hindus against Muslims in India.
I found this documentary really disappointing, owing to the mostly one sided view it presents of modern technology. Many Silicon Valley gurus predict 25% of unskilled robots will be replaced by robots by 2025, with as many as 60% of blue and white collar jobs replaced by mid-century. Already software programs are making key administrative decision regarding mortgage applications and insurance claims, as well as assisting doctors with diagnostic and treatment decisions (they make fewer mistakes than doctors).
What bothered me most about the film were all the claims made about industrialized farming and industrialized medicine improving our quality of life by making food cheaper and rendering people “disease resistance.” Although industrialized agriculture makes food cheaper, the food it produces is far less nutritious, in addition to being contaminated with toxic chemicals and frequently pathogenic organisms. Meanwhile the industrialization of farming has also destroyed 90% of our topsoil, in addition to contaminating much of our drinking water.
Moreover health in most people is deteriorating, not improving, with a decline in US life expectancy. Recent decades have seen an exponential increase in chronic illness, due to air pollution and toxic contamination of our water and food.
The filmmakers also wrongly attribute the 40 year increase in lifespan last century to the marvels of modern medicine. The vast majority of epidemiologists attribute the spike in life expectancy among white Europeans to improved nutritional levels. With minority life expectancy closer to that of developing countries, it seems safe to assume that increasing European longevity relates to their ability to monopolize an unfair share of the Earth’s resources.
The last half of the film concerns the transhumanist movement, which seems to focus mainly on anti-aging research and ways of using artificial intelligence to allow very rich white people to live forever by uploading their consciousness to a computer platform.
Anyone with a public library card can view this documentary free on Kanopy. Type “Kanopy” and the name of your library into your search engine to register.
The Entrepreneurial State: Debunking Public vs Private Sector Myths
By Mariana Mazzucato
Anthem Press (2013)
This book totally shatters the lie that the free market makes the US the world’s greatest economic power. Mazzucato leaves the reader with absolutely no doubt the exact opposite is true: the US became an economic powerhouse after World War II as a direct result of massive government intervention – more so than any country in history except for China.
As Mazzucato’s research ably demonstrates, capitalism doesn’t work without massive state investment in research and development because no private investor (ie neither banks nor venture capitalists) will risk investing in new technologies that require 15-20 years to produce returns.
Without massive state intervention, there is no economic growth – anywhere. This is why austerity budgets adopted by most of the industrialized world have been so damaging. According to Mazzucato, austerity itself is directly responsible for current global stagnation (with a decade of near zero growth). Moreover industrialized countries with the lowest level of state-subsidized research and development (Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal) are the ones struggling the most economically.
The book mainly focuses on US programs that have financed technological research and development – via grants to universities and researchers, loans, loan guarantees, and subsidies. Not only does this funding support basic research (which venture capitalists almost never fund), but it also assists private corporations in commercializing these new technologies. She emphasizes that without strong support by alleged free market champion Ronald Reagan for massive state intervention (during the 1980s), there would have been no personal computer and Internet revolution the following decade.
The main federal agencies responsible for funding technological research and development (R&D) are National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)*, National Institutes of Health (funds research for nearly all new pharmaceuticals before handing them over to pharmaceutical companies), Small Business Administration, National Science Foundation (developed Google’s search algorithm), ARPA-E, and Department of Energy (helps private industry bring clean energy technologies to market).
Among other technological innovations made possible by federal R&D funding:
Tesla electric vehicle
Apple computer, ipod, ipad, iphone, and SIRI (Apple bought SIRI from Stanford Research Institute aka SRI)
the jet engine
aerospace (space) technology
semiconductors, hard drives, microprocessors, hard drive, and RAM technology making personal computers possible
nuclear technology (still massively subsidized by the state in all countries that employ it)
*NASA and DARPA were not only responsible for creating the Internet but for helping private industry to commercialize it.
I picked up this book believing Harari was an anthropologist. He’s actually an Israeli historian and professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. His area of of specialty is medieval and military history.*
The book is aimed at a sixth grade reading level and and displays a disappointing lack of scholarship (Harari has mentioned in several interviews that “meditation” is a primary tool he uses in research). Largely based on popular pseudo-scientific mythology, it seems aimed at promoting Harari’s pet theories linking history and biology to conclude humans have no serious alternative to the pro-corporate political/economic regime we currently live under.
Many of his assertions blatantly contradict existing research evidence:
Harari devotes a whole chapter to the history of money, which he erroneously traces back to barter. This is a discredited myth first promulgated by Adam Smith in his 1776 Wealth of Nations. Recent anthropological research indicates that primitive credit creation (rather than barter) was the true precursor to coins and notes.
He states Columbus died erroneously believing he had discovered islands off the west coast of India, which is totally unsupported by the contemporaneous letters and diaries (See Lies My Teacher Told Me).
He maintains industrialized agriculture was essential to the development of industrialized cities, which totally overlooks major cities India built in a country devoted almost exclusively to pre-industrial agriculture. At present industrialized agriculture only produces 20% of the food we eat. See Capitlaism, Colonialism and the Failure of Industrial Agriculture
He promotes the discredited myth that fields and and feed lots have become vastly more productive thanks to artificial fertilizers and pesticides, hormones, and GMOs. More than two decades of research reveals otherwise – that industrial monoculture agriculture produces far fewer calories per acre than traditional polyculture methods that emphasize soil health. Other research reveals industrial farming methods are systematically degrading and depleting topsoil, as well as killing vital soil organisms and pollinators (such as bees).
He also promotes the discredited serotonin model of happiness promoted by drug companies, despite hundreds of studies showing SSRIs are no more effective in alleviating depression than placebo.
Some of his claims are just plain ludicrous (even for 2011):
Since 1945 no independent nation recognized by the UN has been wiped off the map. (He conveniently overlooks Palestine)
The world has seen no international wars since 1945. (What about the US wars on Yugoslavia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Pakistan and Yemen?).
Famine has been eliminated (He seems to overlook the 800,000 – 1,000,000 million people who die annually from malnutrition and malnutrition-related illness).
He assures us that prophecies of resource scarcity are “probably misplaced” (ignoring well-documented collapse of fish stocks, die off of bees and other pollinators, freshwater shortages, and topsoil depletion).
He maintains if we are sick in modern society, health insurance steps in (Is he joking?)
The World Today: False Choices – US Primaries 2016
This 2016 program was first broadcast the day after Super Tuesday, in which Bernie Sanders was the clear winner in three states. The documentary provides important perspective for the upcoming 2020 primares. In it, British historian and activist Tariq Ali interviews Liza Featherstone, author of False Choices: The Faux Feminism of Hillary Clinton. The latter is a collection of essays by left-leaning feminists.
Featherstone brands Clinton as an “elite” feminist – in contrast to “true” feminists, who are antiwar, anti-imperialist and and anti-racist. Featherstone also brands Gloria Steinem and Madeleine Albright as elite feminists, for publicly belittling young women for supporting Bernie Sanders. A massive backlash would force both women to apologize.
Both and Ali and Featherstone agree on Sanders and Trump being protest candidates against a corrupt political establishment. Neither can see much difference between Clinton and the Bushes, given they all support the same neoconservative wars of empire. Ali highlights Clinton’s deliberate vote seeking among moderate Republicans, abandoning working class voters (eventually labeling them “deplorables”) comprising the traditional Democratic Party base prior to 1980.
Ali also reminds us that Sanders is the first socialist US presidential candidate in over 100 years. He attributes the allure of socialism for US youth to post-Cold War childhood free of constant anti-communist propagandizing. He gives the example of the election of socialist Kshama Savant to the Seattle City Council in 2013 and 2015 (she was just re-elected in November 2019).
Both Ali and Featherstone correctly predict that Trump will win the Republican nomination. They erroneously predict Clinton winning the presidency.