Evening Blues Preview 2-16-15
This evening's music features blues and soul singer Johnny Adams.
Here are some stories from tonight's post:
A.O. Scott, the New York Times film critic, tweeted for the hard of understanding, “FEATURE FILMS ARE NOT HISTORY. THEY ARE HISTORICAL FICTION.”
They are right — Hollywood is not a classroom. The problem, however, is that movies, despite the bonfires of distortion in many of them, can shape our understanding of political events just as much as think tank reports or Pulitzer-winning books. For instance, a lot of major movies are taught in schools. It is disingenuous for the screening room cognoscenti to pretend that films are of no political consequence and shouldn’t be critiqued for historical accuracy — and that’s particularly true for war films.
As Don Gomez, a soldier and blogger, wrote about “Zero Dark Thirty,” which portrayed torture as playing a crucial role in finding Osama bin Laden, “Filmmakers can always deflect criticism by saying ‘It’s a movie, not a documentary,’ which is true. But that ignores the reality of how it will be consumed — how they know it will be marketed and consumed.” And guess what — opinion polls show a majority of Americans think torture worked, just as ZDT said it did, even though an exhaustive Senate report concluded it did not.
A recent study conducted by Notre Dame researchers Todd Adkins and Jeremiah J. Castle indicated that movies are more effective in shaping political opinion than cable news or political ads. In the study, different audiences were exposed to different films and the evolution of their political beliefs was tested before and afterwards; there were statistically significant shifts. “Viewers come expecting to be entertained and are not prepared to encounter and evaluate political messages as they would during campaign advertisements or network news programs,” the authors wrote — meaning that viewers are not aware they are being targeted with political messages, so they are more likely to be persuaded by what they see on the screen. ...
When it comes to blockbuster tales about our ongoing wars in the Middle East and Central Asia, the wrong lessons are deadly. If, as “American Sniper” suggests, people believe that Iraq was filled with crazed savages who had no reason to attack the foreign army in their midst, we risk engaging in more warfare in the region, because fighting sub-human Muslim fanatics is far easier to justify than killing and maiming innocent civilians, which is a lot of what actually happened.
There is some pretty good detail in this article, it's worth clicking the link and reading in full:
KHANZHONKOVE, Ukraine — School was out for summer, and Ukrainian artillery fire was creeping ever closer, so, after lengthy deliberations with his parents, Sasha Vasin joined the rebel militia. He was 15 years old. “I wanted to do it from the first day. I couldn’t look at people dying anymore,” he said. ...
The stories of people like Sasha Vasin show how Ukraine’s central government has a far tougher task ahead than just winning back territory. In the very areas Ukraine is fighting to regain, near-constant artillery bombardment and a crippling economic blockade have hardened attitudes to the point of no return. Almost every day, shelling claims the lives of civilians: someone’s mother, husband, child. And every day, reconciliation between millions of Ukrainian citizens here and the Ukrainian government seems even further off.
A new cease-fire deal agreed on Thursday has raised hopes that Ukraine may be able to quell its war with Russian-backed rebels at last. In the last 10 months, the war has killed over 5,400 people, displaced a further million, and devastated large parts of Ukraine’s two easternmost provinces, once the country’s industrial heartland. ...
Officials in Kiev say that the rebels are doing all the shelling to discredit Ukraine. In Donetsk, that line has about as much credibility as Moscow’s denials its troops are fighting alongside the rebels do in Western capitals. “Everyone here is against Ukraine. When you hear the cannonade, you look at things differently,” said Ekaterina, a 20-year-old woman who declined to give her last name for fear of being expelled from the Ukrainian university where she is completing her studies online. “You don’t have to be a soldier to see where they’re firing from.”
The shelling is only one danger facing pensioners like Potemkina: They also face destitution and starvation. After it became clear last fall that Ukraine had little hope of regaining the rebel republics quickly despite a shaky cease-fire deal, Kiev cut off all state financial support for the area. The move was an attempt to call Russia’s bluff and force it to support the unrecognized rebel republics, whose leaders admit the region is not remotely economically viable alone. Instead, it disproportionately targeted the elderly, poor, and vulnerable. Potemkina must now travel to Ukrainian-held territory to get her pension. The trip can take days, thanks to an onerous new pass system instituted by Kiev — not to mention the frequent fighting that plagues the only four open exit points. Though the new cease-fire deal calls upon Ukraine to restore benefits and public workers’ salaries in the east, the uptick in fighting since its conclusion suggests things may well never come to that.
Greece and its European creditors began fresh talks on Monday over the country’s request to ease its bailout terms, but expectations for a quick deal are low despite a fast-approaching deadline.
Optimism was curbed by German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, who said he's very skeptical that a solution can be found at the meeting in Brussels.
Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis and the chairman of the 19-nation eurozone, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, declined to speak to reporters as they arrived at European Union headquarters in Brussels, some four hours ahead of the meeting’s scheduled start time.
Germany’s Schaeuble said Athens was in no position to make demands.
“I feel sorry for the Greeks,” he added. “They’ve elected a government that’s behaving pretty irresponsibly at the moment.”
In an Op-Ed in the New York Times Monday, Varoufakis said Greece is not looking to avoid paying its debts.
“We are asking for a few months of financial stability that will allow us to embark upon the task of reforms that the broad Greek population can own and support, so we can bring back growth and end our inability to pay our dues,” he wrote.
Time is short. If no deal is reached by February 28, Greece's banks could be cut off from affordable funding from the European Central Bank. A serious deterioration in Greek banks’ finances could cause depositors to withdraw money, potentially causing a collapse in the banking system. Ultimately, that could force the government to leave the eurozone — a move informally dubbed Grexit — so that it can print its own money and rescue its banks.
Blind hog, meet truffle...
Senate Republicans are seizing on the global tax scandal engulfing HSBC to delay the confirmation of Loretta Lynch, Barack Obama’s nominee for attorney general, the Guardian can reveal.
The Republican chairman of the Senate judiciary committee, Chuck Grassley, was on Friday preparing a fresh tranche of questions for Lynch about the huge cache of leaked data showing how HSBC’s subsidiary helped conceal billions of dollars from domestic tax authorities.
Grassley and another Republican senator are planning to investigate whether Lynch could have done more to stand up to the world’s second largest bank.
Lynch negotiated a controversial settlement with HSBC in 2012, after the bank admitted to facilitating money-laundering by Mexican drug cartels and helping clients evade US sanctions.
Now there are questions over why she did not also pursue HSBC over evidence that its Swiss arm helped US taxpayers hide their assets.