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Archive for the ‘War’ Category

(Originally published by the late, great Earthblog.net, May 19, 2007)

America Freedom

“I would advise movie theatre managers to hand out vomit bags. You may end up needing one.” — Todd David Schwartz

“Ye shall know the truth, and it shall upset ye.” — Michael Ventura

I never call anybody a paranoid conspiracy nut, for this simple reason: the high probability that things are even worse than the most extreme nightmares of the most paranoid of conspiracy nuts. Aaron Russo, who made the movie America: Freedom to Fascism, is not the first person to have noticed that our country’s domestic and foreign policies are run by bankers. Mussolini, an expert on fascism if ever there was one, defined fascism as corporatism. When multinational corporations, the government, and the bankers are working together, that’s all it takes. Presto: the New World Order.

The beginning of the end, as any wild-eyed political theorist will attest, was the passing of the Federal Reserve Act in 1913. By strange coincidence, the federal income tax started that year too, after the alleged ratification of the 16th Amendment. I say alleged, because as recently as 2003, a judge declared the 16th amendment never was properly ratified. President Wilson later admitted he had accidentally ruined the country. During all the years when America bitterly denounced Communism, it’s ironic how no one mentioned that the graduated income tax and the “national bank with State capital and an exclusive monopoly” are two of the ten planks of the Communist Manifesto.

These blows to the American economic system were followed up in 1934 by a devastating punch when we went off the gold standard. Paper money, which had previously consisted of receipts that you could trade for gold, became just paper. One school of thought holds that printing paper money not backed by gold is just the same as counterfeiting. So the Morgans, Warburgs, Rockefellers, et al, now had a license to steal, via the Federal Reserve which can print (or counterfeit, depending on your orientation) any amount of money it cares to. It’s a private bank, uncontrollable by either the President or Congress.

Did you know that we don’t have to pay federal income tax? No kidding. This is because “gain” is the taxable thing, but swapping work for money is an even exchange, with no gain involved. That’s one of the basic arguments. There is no law that requires the average American worker to pay this tax. If there were, they would have showed it to us by now. Ask any IRS goon, or indeed any government official, to show you the law, where it says you have to file a 1040, and they’ll show you the door. If, like Aaron Russo, you arrive at their office with a camera to record their answer to the big question, first the guards will tell you not to film, and then some Homeland Security personnel will show up.

Actually, it’s not fair to lump all IRS people together as goons. America: Freedom to Fascism rounded up a bunch of ex-IRS employees who renounced the dark side and came back with impressive stories to tell. There’s the former criminal investigator who accused the agency of violating people’s rights, and was told to resign. And the former special agent who quit paying and won’t start again until they show him the law. One ex-employee of theirs who stopped filing and paying was asked a question by an interviewer, phrased in such a way that it implied he was getting away with something. He replied that he isn’t getting away with anything, as he has no obligation to obey a law that doesn’t exist.

The hunt for this elusive law rivals the legendary search for the Holy Grail. It just doesn’t seem to be anywhere. A pesky group called We the People are always stirring up trouble: they offer a $50,000 reward to anybody who can show the law; they start a class-action lawsuit against the IRS to make them show the law. A guy from the Tax Honesty movement goes on a hunger strike. But all these efforts are in vain. In 2005 some judge ruled that the government doesn’t have to show us the law. The law that affects every living American, the law that if we disregard it, we can lose all we own, including the right to exist outside a prison. The law that never was.

When that ruling came down, the mainstream press, as usual, ignored the issue – one that, admittedly, is not conveniently reducible to sound bites. It takes several whole meals, actually, before a person can begin to absorb and digest the enormity of the income tax scam. Tax resistance is a huge subject with a long history and a lot of angles. There’s the “voluntary compliance” aspect, the Fifth Amendment aspect, the slavery aspect, the linguistic aspect. “Direct unapportioned tax” is the key phrase here – look it up some time. There’s the IRS = Mafia aspect, namely, the income tax is nothing but an extortion racket on a titanic scale. Of course, even when the Supreme Court is against them, the decisions don’t apply to the IRS, which doesn’t have to obey the Supreme Court. Who says so? The IRS, of course.

Like any other struggle, the tax resistance movement has chalked up a lot of martyrs. Russo’s movie recounts the truly heartbreaking story of the famed prizefighter Joe Louis, one of the most severely damaged victims, though far from the only one. There are guys like Irwin Schiff, who have been at this for decades, refusing to back down, despite whatever the government throws at them. The real ugly part is, you don’t even need to intentionally thumb your nose at the IRS to attract its retribution. Russo interviews people whose homes and business have suffered terrorist attacks by IRS troops. They can just come in and grab everything you have without ever even charging you with any crime, never mind such a quaint formality as a conviction. How is anyone able to hear these stories and not get up and grab a weapon right now?

Did you know that all money from individual income tax goes to pay off interest on debt? In other words, all the income tax you’ve ever paid has gone to the bankers. You remember the bankers – the ones that took over the country in 1913-34. None of the federal income tax you’ve ever poured into the insatiable maw of the IRS has gone to pay for services. The states pay for highways and schools. Corporate taxes pay for defense. Federal income tax pays the bankers. It is, says Aaron Russo, that simple, and that terrible.

He mentions the number of millions of people who refuse to file federal income tax returns. It’s questionable, given the nature of the matter, how accurate such a number can be. But a great many people have said no to filing a 1040. The reason is, they prefer not to lie, because it’s very punishable. A dire crime, is lying to the IRS. The agency goons are the only ones who get to lie, such as by telling us we owe them anything in the first place – the greatest hoax ever perpetrated by any government, anywhere. Even Hitler’s big lies wore off after a few years, and the people caught on. But we’ve believed and gone along with this income tax swindle, how many years now?

Russo introduces us to Marcy Brooks, who was a juror in a trial where someone was accused of not filing tax returns. First, she realized that a government witness had lied, contrary to what could be seen on videotape. Then, she paid attention when the defendant said, “You show me the law that requires filing and I’ll be glad to do it.” Later on, during their deliberations, the jury asked the judge for a copy of that law. He refused, saying “You have everything you need.” They jury didn’t like that, and returned a verdict of Not Guilty.

In trials having to do with tax evasion, as in so many others, the jury nullification concept is precious. We should all regard it as a great privilege to be on any jury, especially one where something as heinous as the income tax is concerned. A citizen armed with awareness of the right of jury veto is one of the most powerful people on earth.

When America: Freedom to Fascism was released, it didn’t make as large an impression on the American public as some people had expected. Possibly, the film covers too much. It gives an overview of the various features of the Patriot Act and the Executive Orders, of which most people have managed to stay blissfully unaware. And oh, right, the Real ID Act. And the seemingly unstoppable movement to put RFID spychips in everything, everywhere, including paper money. Each one of these problems deserves a movie in its own right.

If you’re not calling for the vomit bag yet, try this: a harrowing video clip depicting the arrest of a woman attacked by the police with a taser. The really ugly thing about this weapon is, the suspect is immobilized and debilitated. Then the cop can order some action – “Take your hands out of your pockets,” “Put your hands up,” whatever – which the suspect is no more able to comply with, at that point, that a quadriplegic would be – so the cop hits them with the electricity again. This is not what we expect to see in our country.

So here we have a movie that began as a quest to find out if there is, in fact, a law requiring Americans to pay taxes on their incomes; a movie that espouses freedom and deplores the concept of world government, and that shows us things the Founding Fathers would resist to the death. Why hasn’t America: Freedom to Fascism garnered the attention it deserves? Why aren’t crowds roaring through the streets, demanding change, on account of the things we’ve seen here?

It got off to a pretty good start. As of June 2006, Russo’s office reported that the film had been screened in several cities to sold-out audiences who granted it standing ovations. And it’s been seen online over a million and a half times. But somehow it just didn’t gain the momentum and recognition that, for instance, Fahrenheit 9/11 did. Comparisons between these two works are inevitable. In fact, one such comparison was made by Todd David Schwartz of CBS, who said Russo’s movie “makes Fahrenheit 9/11 look like Bambi.” So, why did it make less of a noise?

A few theories, in no particular order:

Moviegoers are attracted by Michael Moore’s humorous, in-your-face demeanor – although Russo, whose approach is more sophisticated, is no less charismatic a figure.

Moore’s film took the public’s virginity and exposed the entirety of what the government’s jockstrap concealed. Russo’s film kicked it up a notch, confirming that those who rule us do, indeed, utilize every orifice of every beast, including the Domestic Taxslave.

Even with all its many ramifications and secrets, the 9/11 attack was a discrete event, with boundaries of place and time, and thus easier to journalize about than a horror that’s been ongoing for decades. This whole matter of the Federal Reserve and fiat currency and inflation, requires some knowledge of the “dismal science” of economics, and it offers no visuals to match the spectacular cinematic fare of burning towers and heroic rescuers. It’s easy to get upset and demand that the government solve the problem of planes crashing into towers, but the problem of unbridled, unlegislated taxation and play-money currency won’t be tackled by government. Rather, the government has to be tackled by us, but people are not yet ready to do anything on that scale.

It may be that one factor working against America: Freedom to Fascism was a tendency to take it for granted that the movie would lead to immediate and widespread outrage, resulting in drastic action. Because of this very assumption, Earthblog.net chose not to review it when it was first released, since the site’s main purpose is to throw light on under-illuminated issues and events. The feeling was, it would be redundant to comment on a movie already destined to saturate the media like the death of a pope or a porn star.

Then there was Russo’s illness, which meant spending time in a European cancer clinic, not the best place from which to run a film publicity campaign. And, like every other worthy project, getting the film released needed lots and lots of money – like half a million dollars. And although at that time the Freedom to Fascism website had 11,000 incoming links, it could always have used more publicity.

People will pay to be upset, no question. But when they slap down their dollars at the box office, they want to be upset by the sight of nubile teenagers dismembered with pruning shears, not by a list of the fifty kinds of taxes they’ve paid in the last 24 hours.

People will also pay, many thousands in some cases, to not be upset. They travel to Sedona and other venues where seminars and workshops can teach them to calm down and stop stressing out. People desire peace of mind, and a certain percentage of us believe in looking for things to be joyful about, not things to take offense over. Some very wise and spiritual people insist that the only possible argument, and certainly the only potent one, that can be made for peace is to model the behavior they’d like to see everyone abide by. If a person is fortunate enough to reach a plateau of life that offers peace and creativity, what’s so wrong with wanting to cherish that and make the most of it? If more people had peace and creativity in their lives, they wouldn’t go around acting like thugs, on whatever scale of thuggery they happen to participate, whether petty or grand.

But of course, there are no personal solutions. When even one is in chains, no one is free. The world doesn’t work unless it works for everybody. We know this. But while the thugs won’t change and become like us, neither do we want to change and become like the thugs, which kind of precludes seizing up weapons and taking to the streets. (The good news is, one “call to action” doesn’t involve guns: Refuse the national identity card and any thing that looks like it. Repeal the Real ID Act and anything that acts like it. )

When one watches such a film as America: Freedom to Fascism, there is a certain sense of futility. Because the filmmakers aren’t just trying to expose the wrong, they want something done about it. And who knows how to fix this mess? What Russo shows is so big and so serious, and it’s been going on for two generations – who are we going to punish? The greed-heads who started it are all dead, leaving their progeny to benefit from their rape of the American working person – not to mention the middle class, which has all but disappeared without a trace.

And this thing is so big, it’s overwhelming. You can’t just write a letter that’s going to put a stop to the thievery and make restitution to all the Moms and Pops who’ve been crunched up in the jaws of the income tax monster. It’s easy to be a patriot when all you have to do is say “I support the troops” or “I vote”. What’s not easy is to go out and overturn the Federal Reserve system. That’s messy. People are not ready to address this.

When a cop beats up a bartender in another city, it’s pointless to get involved, because outsiders won’t have much impact on a local matter. But when the entire government and the system that funds it are corrupt from top to bottom, there are no outsiders. And it is overwhelming. The whole system would need to be ripped apart, and we’d have to change the country in major ways, to stop enforcing this law that doesn’t exist. It’s better to pretend we don’t understand, and unfortunately most people don’t even need to pretend.

In those who consider themselves politically hip, reactions to America: Freedom to Fascism range from familiar disgust to severe revulsion, though there is not much surprise. But to anyone not accustomed to looking beneath the surface, there’s enough here to drown them. The IRS and Federal Reserve are the main focus, but Russo touches on enough other things to make you want to give up and bury yourself in the mundane triviality we call life in the USA. Reading Lost Rights is less fun than watching American Idol, but it would be a real good idea to make the switch.

There is a belief that anyone who sees things getting worse is a card-carrying member of the Tinfoil Hat brigade. There seem to be a lot of Americans who, even when the irrefutable proof stares them in the face, even when they find themselves inside the barbed wire perimeters, will still be saying “Russo is a paranoid conspiracy nut.” That’s the sad part.

However, there is cause for optimism. Just because this powerful film didn’t rile everybody all up the first time around, doesn’t mean it isn’t doing a lot of good. When an idea enters someone’s head, it does not always flourish right away. Just because a person is exposed to an idea, it doesn’t mean they’re gonna jump up and turn their life around within 24 hours. An idea can burrow in, lie dormant for years, and then show up later under the most surprising circumstances and in the most astounding ways. So it’s good to never discount the delayed reaction effect.

Problem is, we don’t have a whole lot of time left to wait around while that natural process takes place.

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According to Amy Wallace in Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Carlos Castaneda and his inner circle were big movie fans. She tells about going with him in 1981 to see his friend Hector Bebenco’s award-winning film Pixote and says,

This heartbreaking story of an impoverished Brazilian boyhood, told in Portuguese (in which Carlos was fluent), moved him to the point of tears; it was so reminiscent, he said, of his past.

Some of the sorcerer’s favorite films were The Barefoot Contessa, Bladerunner, The Seventh Seal, and Tora, Tora, Tora. He also loved Grade-D martial arts movies and all war movies. During the illness approaching death, Wallace says Castaneda would only watch war movies. How spiritual is that?

His favorite singers were Javier Solis of Mexico and the Argentinian Boule de Neve.

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Two federal marshals are on a boat, headed for the institute for criminally insane, located on an island. Once landed, they have to hand over firearms, and are told the rules they must observe. Ward C is for the worst homicidal maniacs, and, only has 27 inmates, but it’s a Civil War-era fort about as big as the Pentagon. (The sensible thing would be to section off part of the huge building for prison use, and shut off access to the unused portion, which in this case would be the greater majority of the interior space. It’s a scandalous waste of tax dollars. But it has to be that way, for the numerous stalking and chase scenes that take place in the corridors and dungeons.) (The entire institution has seemingly hundreds of staff and employees, for 60-some patients. Somebody’s congresscritter needs a talking-to.)

Leonardo DiCaprio plays marshal Teddy Daniels, who has a serious case of PTSD, complete with flashbacks and hallucinations, as a result of being a liberator of concentration camps during the war. One of the administrators of the institute for the criminally insane is a former German citizen, so that gets Daniels’s back up.

The other chief shrink is Dr. John Cawley, played by Ben Kingsley. It’s nice to have such a good face that baldness doesn’t matter. He explains to the marshals about the escaped patient, which is what they came here to investigate. She’s gone, “as if she evaporated,” and her case psychiatrist left the island for vacation this morning. My first thought is, the chief shrink killed her. Then it gets really complicated, a tricky psychological thriller.

The storm blows out the phone lines. The staff is called together for interrogation, which seems kind of risky, because who’s watching the inmates? Daniels quizzes a nurse about group therapy the previous night. She schools him about how they deal with a lot of really dramatic situations, so group therapy “usually isn’t a big part of our day.”

Everybody who works at the place pretty much stonewalls and stymies the investigation. Daniels threatens to call in the FBI, and tells his partner the main reason he came here was to blow the whistle on the mind control experiments being conducted. And the institution is funded by a special grant from the House Unamerican Activities Committee. Top-secret evil needs to be exposed. Then it gets even more complicated. There’s a lot of derring-do, including the scaling of cliffs by a federal marshal who is better than Spiderman at clinging to vertical surfaces.

How did the entire Board of Overseers manage to get to the island in the hurricane? Around that point was when I started to catch on. But at the end, I still wasn’t sure.

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So here’s this nice family with two kids, a boy and a girl, and we get the happy-homelife shots to establish what a happy homelife they have, a lovely genteel life with their own greenhouse where Harrison cultivates exotic blooms. Plus, Harrison and Sarah are still passionately involved lovers.

He’s a photojournalist who wants to get out of the game, and even though Sarah is some kind of news person too, she also wants him to stay home and be safe. Harrison’s boss convinces him to stick with it a bit longer, and Harrison says okay, but after their discussion is over the boss says, “Anyway, you’re under contract, remember?” which is a gratuitous jab, because he had already obtained agreement – just the kind of thing a bastardly boss is likely to do.

Harrison and Sarah go to an awards ceremony where Harrison gives a speech and there’s a beatnik-looking guy in the audience (Kyle Morrison, played by Adrien Brody) whose expressions range from bored to snarky. From reading the box I know Harrison will be lost someplace, and my prediction is: the beatnik-looking guy with the attitude is the one who will help Sarah look for him, and probably make a pass at her.

In the men’s room, where Kyle is “powdering his nose.” (Astonishingly, and though it’s so obvious, I’d never before run across this euphemism for snorting coke.) There’s an argument with Harrison who, we are given to understand, is in the habit of taking the moral high ground. Kyle tells him about an independent photographer he knows, who was unable to get an assignment from anyone, but went to the war zone on his own, “And now he’s fuckin’ dead – on his own nickel.” Which is probably the best line in the script.

Because he’s been accused of being a sellout (and because he’s under contract!) Harrison goes to the war and word comes back that he’s dead beneath a collapsed building. In her soul, Sarah knows this is not true, and goes to the war to find him, and of course immediately lands in deep shit. She’s rescued by a band of photojournalists including – of course – Kyle. They tell her to go home, but she won’t, so they help her look for Harrison. (What I’m wondering is, where do they get the gasoline to go tooling around in this war zone? That’s the kind of gritty detail a discerning viewer wants.)

All the while, of course, the photojournalists are snapping pictures of whatever atrocious death scenes they stumble across while trying to reach the town where they believe Harrison is, if he’s anyplace. Nobody actually makes any accusations about what these ghouls are doing taking pictures of dead bodies, but Kyle explains to Sarah anyway: “They know that our photos are going to tell the story of this war…If we don’t take them, nobody will. They want us to do what we do.”( I mention this because it is an oft-encountered theme, e.g. Medium Cool.)

Of course Kyle gets killed (without having had the opportunity to make a pass at Sarah) and of course after many ordeals, Sarah finds her husband, catatonic and badly burned, in a hospital that is currently under attack. The siege ends just in time, and they make it back home and a year later Harrison snaps out of his catatonia and switches to taking pictures of flowers. The end.

Related: The Dreamers (photographers as voyeurs theme)

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