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:

When the Academy Awards are handed out, history will be made

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:

The Government Is Losing Territory In Eastern Ukrainians’ Hearts And Minds

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 eurozone partners still far apart as they go into talks

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...

Republicans seize on HSBC scandal to hold up Loretta Lynch's confirmation

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.

Tens of Thousands Join North Carolina Moral March to Protest GOP Takeover, Racism & Islamophobia

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NCTim's picture

... and maybe some Wolfman Washington on guitar.

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The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself. - Friedrich Nietzsche -

joe shikspack's picture

i can't remember if there are more.

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Cordelia Lear's picture

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.

If she had persued them Grassley would be accusing her of being anti-business.

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"Never separate the life you live from the words you speak." --Paul Wellstone

joe shikspack's picture

every now and then, though, the blind hogs of the rethuglican party find a truffle. in this case, in pursuing an obama official for failing to prosecute bankster criminals, they've got a big truffle and they're doing the public an actual service. i'm going to savor it, since the occasion is so rare.

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gulfgal98's picture

I cannot say enough good things about what this man is doing for the people of North Carolina and hopefully this country. He is putting Dr. King's message into action. He believes strongly in grassroots social movements and so do I. This movement covers a wide range of issues, all of which affect us human beings and can be bulleted as such: Voting rights, Environmental justice, Public education, Abortion rights, Social programs, Tax equity, and Racial justice. He is a man who brings people together and searches for common grounds among diverse groups. It is a wonderful, but sadly uncommon trait in today's very divisive climate.

Based upon my own reading of North Carolinians, where I am a part time resident, the issue that seemed to bring so many people together was that of public education. North Carolinians have had a long tradition of being heavily invested in their public education system, one to which they could point to with pride. The tearing down of the education system by the Republican governor and legislature was a bridge too far for so many North Carolinians.

I have read some criticism of Rev. Dr. Barber in that he does focus too much upon voting as a way to address these issues. But I cannot fault him on that because he represents an organization that has fought long and hard to ensure voting rights. Still, he is very quick to point out that the Moral Monday Movement is not affiliated with any political party.

I did notice in his interview with Amy Goodman that he was hoarse, perhaps fighting a cold. I hope he takes care of himself because we need strong moral voices like him in this country.

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"I don't want to run the empire, I want to bring it down!" ~Dr. Cornel West

"There is no instance of a nation benefitting from prolonged warfare." Sun Tzu

"Propaganda is one hell of a drug." Abby Martin

"Politicians are cowards." Mike Gravel

Big Al's picture

I once asked someone why they voted. It was a female and she responded that she votes because of the many
women who fought for her right to vote. People sacrificed greatly so she could have the right to vote.
She wasn't voting to try to stop wars, to try to stop wealth inequality, or to strengthen domestic programs,
she was voting because some people in the past had fought for the right to vote.
To me that's like gays and lesbians fighting for the right to serve in the military, or women fighting for the right
to serve on a submarine. What are they really fighting for? What did they win? They won the right to vote
for an oligarchy is what they won. Or they won the right to fight in wars for the ruling class. They're false
victories because they don't get us anywhere except further ingrained into the ruling class systems.

Not criticizing Dr. Barber, just a comment on voting.

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NCTim's picture

Is a man of integrity and strength. We miss HKONJ this year, but I have seen and heard him speak at HKONJ and Moral Mondays. His focus on voting is not in lieu of other issues. During HKONJ he has spoken forcefully about LGBT, access to health care, education, workers rights to organize, ...

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The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself. - Friedrich Nietzsche -

gulfgal98's picture

He is one of the most inspiring leaders around. When he came to Florida, I just missed hearing him speak. Sad I had the time wrong. He drew over 10,000 in Asheville when he spoke there.

For those who do not know, HKonJ stands for Historic Thousands on Jones Street. http://www.hkonj.com/

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"I don't want to run the empire, I want to bring it down!" ~Dr. Cornel West

"There is no instance of a nation benefitting from prolonged warfare." Sun Tzu

"Propaganda is one hell of a drug." Abby Martin

"Politicians are cowards." Mike Gravel