Sunday, October 31, 2010

A British View of the Tea Party

A British View of the Tea Party: "

British journalist Andrew Neil assesses the Tea Party movement with some sorely needed perspective. Here he writes an essay about it for the Guardian. Also shown is a trailer for a documentary film he made this past summer for the BBC, Tea Party America.

It’s 2am on a balmy August morning in Lexington, Kentucky, and the hotel car park is a flurry of activity as people arrive in cars and scurry on board two hired coaches, which rev up their engines in expectation of a long drive through the night. There is excitement in the air but also some apprehension: these are ordinary folk from the American heartland on a mission that will take them into the heart of enemy territory – Washington DC. America’s Tea Party is on the move.

Soon we’re gliding in the dark through bluegrass country. On the coach, the talk is of retaking the country from those who currently run it, taking an axe to big government and returning to constitutional basics, when federal government was limited and power resided largely with the states. It’s all said with an evangelical fervour.

“America needs a spiritual renewal,” says a genial man everybody calls Mario because of his spectacular handlebar moustache. “Amen to that,” says an elegant, middle-aged woman sitting next to me. Cutting government down to size will clearly be God’s work.

Like almost everyone else on the bus, both are political novices. Never much thought about politics or even much cared. Now they’re riled up and fully signed up to the Tea Party. They’ve been summoned to the nation’s capital by, of all people, a TV presenter called Glenn Beck who hosts a daily show on Fox News, which has become, in effect, the broadcasting arm of the Tea Party.

He has urged them to flock to a rally to “Restore Honour” to America and my fellow passengers are committed enough to oblige, even if they have to lose a night’s sleep and pay their own way. It’s been billed as a non-political gathering, just a tribute to patriotism and Christianity. Nobody’s much fooled by that.

On the coach, everybody seems an expert on the US constitution. One man, a blue-collar worker, points me to the 10th Amendment: “The powers not delegated to [the federal government] … are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” Another takes me to Article 1, Section 8, which delineates the powers of the federal government. On a strict interpretation, they are pretty limited: largely tax, defence and foreign affairs, though it also tasks the federal government with providing for the “general welfare”, which would seem a get-out-of-jail card for those who think the constitution does sanction big government.

Tea Party activists approach the constitution the same fundamentalist way they approach the Bible: literally…

[continues in the Guardian]


Are You Afraid of the Park? Ghosts, Conspiracies and Other Weird Happenings in Central Park

Are You Afraid of the Park? Ghosts, Conspiracies and Other Weird Happenings in Central Park: "

For a while, Central Park, the 770-acre green oasis in the middle of Manhattan, wasn’t considered a place you really wanted to go. In the early 1980s, there were 1,000+ crimes of various types committed in the park every year, but muggers and vandals aren’t the only creeps that have run rampant there. From its opening in 1857 through today, the park has played host to all sorts of scary things going bump in the night.

A Secret and a Mysterious Death

The weirdness starts at the very beginning with Calvert Vaux, co-designer of the park. If a letter apparently written by Vaux in 1895 is to be believed, he possessed knowledge of a secret of historical importance hidden in the park, as well as a set of papers that could aid in discovering that secret when deciphered. Vaux said in the letter that there were those who wished for the secret to remain hidden and that he feared for his life. He was found drowned in Brooklyn’s Gravesend Bay two months later. Vaux wanted other people to be aware of the secret in the park and the distribution of the “Central Park Papers” is currently administered by David Wise, who sells copies of them through his website.

Are the letter and the secret real, or this is an elaborate game? No one knows, as those who have purchased the papers and discovered the secret are bound by a contract that requires them to fulfill Vaux’s wish to keep their discovery confidential. If you’re in New York, you’ll just have to figure out the truth for yourself.

The Monsters take Manhattan

Over an entrance to Belvedere Castle is a cockatrice, a legendary creature resembling an oversized rooster with a reptilian tail, designed by sculptor Jacob Wrey Mould. While these legendary beasts haven’t been found in the castle, New York City or anywhere else in the world, the park does have it’s share of monsters.

Nick Redfern, author of several books on the paranormal, tells a story about a strange, bipedal humanoid creature spotted at the edge of the park. The thing was covered with rust-colored hair and stood no more than three feet tall. One eyewitness claims the creature charged at him, stopped, stared right into his eyes for several seconds and then disappeared under a bridge.

Not all the park’s monsters are mythical, though. There have been several alligator sightings in and around the park dating back to at least the 1930s, when the New York Times reported that police were searching for a “swarm” of gators seen by two children. In 2007, as part of a restoration project, the park’s lake was dredged and a three-foot-long koi carp and a few 50lb snapping turtles were discovered.

If there’s something strange in your neighborhood…

The Dakota building, located at Central Park West at 72nd St., was named such because when it was first built in the 1880s, the Upper West Side was still “rural” and referred to as “The Dakota Territory.” The Dakota is where Rosemary gave birth to the Antichrist and has been called home by horror master Boris Karloff and at least three ghosts. The first is that of a little boy, first seen by construction workers during a renovation in the early 60s. A few years later, the second ghost, girl dressed in early 20th clothing, was reportedly seen by painters a few years later. Both of these apparitions have made several appearances since then, but no clues as to their identities or reasons for haunting the building are available. The final ghost spotted around the Dakota is that of John Lennon, who lived there for a time and was murdered outside building in 1980. Several people have claimed to see his figure near one of the gated entrances to the park.

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GOP Plans Attacks on the EPA and Climate Scientists

GOP Plans Attacks on the EPA and Climate Scientists: "
by Neela Banerjee

Washington —

If the GOP wins control of the House next week, senior congressional Republicans plan to launch a blistering attack on the Obama administration's environmental policies, as well as on scientists who link air pollution to climate change.

read more


Argentina: Grassroots Unionism Fights Official Union Corruption and Violence

Argentina: Grassroots Unionism Fights Official Union Corruption and Violence: "

By Marie Trigona - October 31, 2010

The death of [grassroots trade unionist] Mariano Ferreyra reflects...[the] tradition of union bureaucracy and attacks against workers which has reared its ugly head...However, the diversity of opposition slates and delegate's assemblies fighting for democratic union representation reflects a growing grassroots labor movement, which continues to grow despite corrupt and violent practices on the part of official union leadership.

read more


La Santa Muerta (Saint Death) Documentary

La Santa Muerta (Saint Death) Documentary: "

“Trailer for the documentary La Santa Muerte (Saint Death), directed and produced by Eva Aridjis, narrated by Gael García Bernal, distributed by Seventh Art Releasing. Film synopsis: In Mexico there is a cult that is rapidly growing- the cult of Saint Death. This female grim reaper, considered a saint by followers but Satanic by the Catholic Church, is worshiped by people whose lives are filled with danger and/or violence- criminals, gang members, transvestites, sick people, drug addicts, and families living in rough neighborhoods. “La Santa Muerte” examines the origins of the cult and takes us on a tour of the altars, jails, and neighborhoods in Mexico where the saint’s most devoted followers can be found.”

Whoa… the DVD was only officially released on October 7th, but quickly checking Amazon, I see the distributor’s already run out of stock! Hopefully they’ll have it back in, soon.

Post tags: Crime, Cryptohistory, End of the World, Fairy Tales, Film, Religion, Testing your faith


Florida: Tar-like substance found inside large fish - Fisherman says oil "getting into the food chain"

Florida: Tar-like substance found inside large fish - Fisherman says oil "getting into the food chain": "I just got this from a friend fisherman in Florida. It just shows that the oil did not disappear but is slowly getting into the food chain."

Noise Demo Road Trip

Noise Demo Road Trip: "

No One Is Illegal and allies put together a solidarity caravan on Hallow's eve in solidarity with Tamil refugees being held in prisons after having arrived in BC.

The group has been holding weekly noise demos at Burnaby Youth Detention Centre, and today visited Alouette Correctional Centre for Women and the Fraser Regional Correctional Centre as well.

Even though the reception from correctional facility staff was hostile, the demo made itself seen and heard with banners, a variety of noisemakers and Tamil music.


Happy Halloween from William S. Burroughs (Remix Video)

Happy Halloween from William S. Burroughs (Remix Video): "

William S. BurroughsOnce upon a time, there were witches … in this classic remix, the silent film Haxan is wed in an unholy matrimony to the laconic snarl of William S. Burroughs narrative aplomb.

For those of you with a big appetite, we’ve got a special sweet hidden away. Check out this great little recitation of Poe’s “The Red Death” — also read by William S. Burroughs — at Joe Nolan’s Insomnia.

Read and watch more at Joe Nolan’s Insomnia


Saturday, October 30, 2010

Bisphenol-A now linked to male infertility

Bisphenol-A now linked to male infertility: "A controversial chemical used for decades in the mass production of food containers and baby bottles has been linked to male infertility for the first time.

Bisphenol-A (BPA), known as the 'gender bending' chemical because of its connection to male impotence, has now been shown to decrease sperm mobility and quality.

The findings are likely to increase pressure on governments around the world to follow Canada and ban the substance from our shelves."

Bill Hicks - In Hell "Everyone here's a non-smoker"

Bill Hicks - In Hell "Everyone here's a non-smoker": "99% of people in hell are Christians..."

Rand Paul ‘head stomper’ charged with misdemeanor assault

Rand Paul ‘head stomper’ charged with misdemeanor assault: "A volunteer for Rand Paul's Senate campaign has been charged with misdemeanor assault after being filmed stomping on a progressive activist's head during a debate, Kentucky news sources report. Timothy Profitt of Bourbon County, Kentucky, has admitted to being the person seen stomping on MoveOn activist Lauren Valle's head and shoulder as she tried to [...]


Israeli settlers burn church in Jerusalem

Israeli settlers burn church in Jerusalem: "A hundred year old church was burned Friday by right-wing Israeli settlers, who broke a number of windows of the church and hurled Molotov cocktails inside.

The damage to the church was substantial, with burn damage throughout the first floor of the building.

The church was built in Jerusalem in 1897, and housed the Palestinian Bible College until 1947, when parishioners were pushed out by Jewish armed gangs during the violence accompanying the creation of the state of Israel.

Christians make up 2% of the population of both Israel and the Palestinian Territories - the number used to be around 15%, but many Christians from the Holy Land have emigrated due to the harsh conditions of the Israeli occupation, and discrimination against them by the Israeli state."

The "Free Press 4": Safety and Rights of Journalists in Canada

The "Free Press 4": Safety and Rights of Journalists in Canada: "

By Vidya Kauri - October 26, 2010

The scale of physical violence and intimidation against these reporters appears to be unprecedented in Canadian history. The Committee to Protect Journalists...does not have any incidents in its files that resemble what took place at the G20...[J]ournalists in Canada have been barred, inconvenienced and threatened with danger from doing their job in the past. However, it is unheard of for police to intimidate, harass, arrest and abuse without any warning and at the drop of a hat.

read more


France Says No

France Says No: "

By Serge Halimi - October 30, 2010

President Nicolas Sarkozy’s character, his arrogance and determination to crush the “enemy” have aroused wide opposition. But one man’s whims do not account for all the sound and fury. This is a response to a fundamental and unjust change of social direction chosen by European governments with allegiances ranging from confident right to compliant left, on the pretext of dealing with the financial crisis.

read more


UBCIC Calls for Resignation of Minister of State for Mining Randy Hawes

UBCIC Calls for Resignation of Minister of State for Mining Randy Hawes: "

Objection to Comments by Minister of State for Mining

Dear Premier Campbell,

We are writing to strongly object to the unwarranted and insulting comments by the BC Minister of State for Mining Randy Hawes on multiple occasions, which have only served to reiterate and promote racist stereotypes about First Nations culture. By Resolution 2010-40, the Union of BC Chiefs-in-Assembly call upon you to accept the resignation of Junior Minister Hawes.

The Takla Lake First Nation and the International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard law jointly produced a study titled 'Bearing the Burden: the Effects of Mining on First Nations in British Columbia.' Rather than address the serious recommendations made in the report, Junior Minister Hawes called the report 'hogwash' and 'completely flawed' and suggested Harvard 'look in its own backyard or concentrate on places with more egregious offences against indigenous people.' Minister Hawes' comments were shockingly offensive, not supported and clearly historically inaccurate, given the substantial hardship that Indigenous peoples have endured due to federal and provincial legislation and policy.

We were absolutely appalled that Junior Minister Hawes has also gone on record saying 'some First nations reject mining for a more traditional lifestyle- those ways are linked to lower birth weights, higher birth rate deaths and lower life spans. Improving these outcomes requires sharing the wealth and jobs that come from mining.' We understand he refused to apologize for these unsupported and ignorant comments.

Junior Minister Hawes has boldly stated support for Taseko Mine's proposed Prosperity Mine and extremely controversial efforts to replace the Xeni Gwet'in and the Tsilhqot'in Nation's Teztan Biny (Fish Lake) and surrounding area with a massive open pit mine and tailings pond, and detrimentally impact nearby Esketemc territory as well. He has publicly criticized the Tsilhqot'in, who he said are 'putting a lake before their kids.' Again, this comment is insulting, unwarranted, inaccurate, and fails to consider listening to what First Nations want.

In 2005, you and the Province of BC committed to a government-to-government New Relationship with First Nations in BC based on respect, recognition, and accommodation of Aboriginal Title and Rights. In the spirit of the New Relationship, we would like to meet with you in order to discuss the seriousness of Minister Hawes' comments and review the absolute need for mining reform in British Columbia beginning with a real review of the Harvard study recommendations.


Grand Chief Stewart Phillip


Chief William Charlie


Chief Bob Chamberlin



Minister of State for Mining Randy Hawes

First Nations Summit Task Group

BC Assembly of First Nations Regional Chief Wilson-Raybould

Takla Lake First Nation

UBCIC Chiefs Council

PDF Copy:


Judge tells McDonald's to pay $17,500 for making employee fat

Judge tells McDonald's to pay $17,500 for making employee fat: "A former manager of a McDonald’s franchise in Porto Allegre, Brazil, sued the hamburger chain for making him gain 65 pounds while he worked with them for over a dozen years. McDonald’s must pay him $17,500 as recompense for his weight gain, a Brazilian court ruled on Tuesday. The 32-year-old man, whose identity wasn’t disclosed, complained that the company's policy of mandatory food sampling caused him to balloon from about 155 lbs. to 231 lbs. while working at their restaurant in southern Brazil.

The man said that he felt forced to taste everything on the menu to ensure the quality of the food because McDonald's hired undercover customers to randomly visit restaurants and report back on quality. Also, he blamed the free lunches consisting of burgers, fries and ice cream, which contributed to his excessive weight gain during the course of employment.

Judge Joao Filho agreed with the man, and issued a ruling against the company, ordering them to pay $17,500 to the ex-employee. 'We're disappointed with this preliminary court ruling, as it's not an accurate representation of our highly regarded work environment and culture.' said a McDonald’s spokesman.

McDonald’s countered the manager’s claims, noting that several healthy options are available for the employees. “The chain offers a large variety of options and balanced menus to cater (to) the daily dietary needs of its employees,” it said. “We're disappointed with this preliminary court ruling, as it's not an accurate representation of our highly regarded work environment and culture,” McDonald's said in a statement. “This case is still a pending legal matter and it would be premature to draw conclusions at this time.”

Little owl attacks invisible prey

Little owl attacks invisible prey: "

The Shaming of America

The Shaming of America: "

By Robert Fisk - October 25, 2010

As usual, the Arabs knew. They knew all about the mass torture, the promiscuous shooting of civilians, the outrageous use of air power against family homes, the vicious American and British mercenaries, the cemeteries of the innocent dead. All of Iraq knew. Because they were the victims.

read more


Genesis P. Orridge Quits Throbbing Gristle...

Genesis P. Orridge Quits Throbbing Gristle...: "

A statement from Throbbing Gristle’s website, via the Quietus:

In the evening 27th October TG members and their associated managements

received two emails from Genesis P-Orridge stating he was no longer

willing to perform in Throbbing Gristle and returned to his home in New York.

Cosey, Sleazy & Chris have concluded that once more, and for the time being,

Throbbing Gristle has Ceased to Exist, at least as a live entity.

Therefore, and with deepest apologies, TG must cancel their scheduled

performance at Archa Theatre, in Prague, Czech Republic on 30th October.

It being too short notice to offer an alternative set.

In order not to disappoint fans of the old quartet, Cosey, Peter & Chris

have offered to perform live under the name X-TG at Arena Del Sole, Bologna, Italy

on 2nd November & at Casa Musica, Porto, Portugal on 5th November.

We are awaiting confirmation from both the Bologna & Porto Promoters.

We hope fans will appreciate and enjoy this new project and the trio is looking

forward to performing exciting new and radical electronic musics together.

Full refunds are available at the point of purchase if required.

Industrial Records Ltd, London. 29th October 2010

Read and comment. From"

After One Year and Some Reality Checks, Public Enemy's Crowdfunding Experiment a Success...

After One Year and Some Reality Checks, Public Enemy's Crowdfunding Experiment a Success...: "


We just received word that our fund raising campaign has completed. This is truly a great moment for us and we owe it all to our fams on SellaBand – our true ‘Believers’

As the title of this entry suggests, it has been a long and winding road. We’ve had explosive starts, media attention, corporate troubles, media criticism, recalculations and finally resurgence. When its all said and done, the bottom line is that we never lost faith in ourselves, our fams and the future of fan funding as a model.

We’re over here in Europe killing shows. Moscow and Sofia are in our rear view mirrors and we’ve got a lot more on tap. We’re going to be celebrating this with our fams, so we hope to see you on our winding road…

Read and comment. From"

Curse of Herod? Man who found tomb dies after fall at digging site

Curse of Herod? Man who found tomb dies after fall at digging site: "The Israeli archaeologist who unearthed the tomb of the biblical king Herod died from injuries sustained during a fall at the site of the dig, the Israeli antiquities authority said."

Walmart Corporation Defeated by Two Movements in Mexico

Walmart Corporation Defeated by Two Movements in Mexico: "“The victories are a reminder that citizens united can beat the world's largest retail corporation.”

By Fernando León

Special to The Narco News Bulletin

October 29, 2010



(Image): "


[Reposted from Hanzel]


First look at Terry Gilliam's Halloween scary-racetrack movie! [First Look]

First look at Terry Gilliam's Halloween scary-racetrack movie! [First Look]: "
What's the real truth about the 'cursed' speedway at Talladega? Terry Gilliam uncovers the truth in his spooky short film The Legend of Hallowdega, appearing online Halloween night. You can watch the trailer now, at the link. [Legend of Hallodega] More »


The scariest (and least scary) sharks attacks you've seen yet [Video]

The scariest (and least scary) sharks attacks you've seen yet [Video]: "
Last Saturday, a cameraman swimming off the coast of Maine was attacked by an eight-foot porbeagle shark. Without further ado, here's footage of that real-life shark attack contrasted with Jaws' death in the Jaws 2 coloring book. Enjoy. More »


Bat Disease Threatens Ecological Catastrophe

Bat Disease Threatens Ecological Catastrophe: "

As a biologist with more than four decades of
experience in the field, Thomas Kunz is not prone to over exaggeration.
He likes the data to do the talking. But when it comes to describing the
recent deaths of more than a million bats across the eastern United
States he is unequivocal.

read more


Friday, October 29, 2010

New York Judge rules 6-year-old can be sued

New York Judge rules 6-year-old can be sued: "New York - A girl can be sued over accusations she ran over an elderly woman with her training bicycle when she was 4 years old, a New York Supreme Court justice has ruled.

The ruling by King's County Supreme Court Justice Paul Wooten stems from an incident in April 2009 when Juliet Breitman and Jacob Kohn, both aged four, struck an 87-year-old pedestrian, Claire Menagh, with their training bikes.

Menagh underwent surgery for a fractured hip and died three months later.

In a ruling made public late Thursday, the judge dismissed arguments by Breitman's lawyer that the case should be dismissed because of her young age. He ruled that she is old enough to be sued and the case can proceed."

Millions march in France against pension cuts

Millions march in France against pension cuts: "Millions of workers and students took to the streets across France Thursday to protest final approval by the National Assembly of President Nicolas Sarkozy's pension 'reform' bill. The French economy was still crippled by gasoline shortages due to ongoing refinery and port strikes.

The General Confederation of Labor (CGT) estimated that about 2 million people participated in the day of action, down from 3.5 million in the previous national mobilization, held October 19. The government, which has given lowball estimates of previous days of action, said the turnout was 560,000 as compared to 1.1 million on October 19.

The demonstration had overwhelming popular support, with 65 percent of the population approving it, according to the most recent Le Parisien poll. The Sarkozy government, on the other hand, has fallen in recent polls to a record low 29 percent approval rating.

In line with numerous statements by government and media officials aimed at discouraging strike action, Labor Minister Eric Woerth said the 'significant slowdown of the mobilization' meant there could be 'an exit from the crisis in coming days or weeks.'"

Rent-seeking in the 21st century: where eBay, free software, Foxconn and the MPAA come from

Rent-seeking in the 21st century: where eBay, free software, Foxconn and the MPAA come from: "Over on O'Reilly Radar, Jim Stogdill has a fabulous piece on the economic theory of rents as they apply to technology businesses, open source, cloud computing, spectrum auctions, and other chewy, boingy subjects. This is exactly the kind of economist talk I love: the stuff that makes you slap your forehead and say of course, that's how it works:

Obviously digital distribution has also damaged the traditional channel model of the music, film, and photography markets. The impact of this is that the tail-end of the curve can probably shift business models and still make the same money (by touring, selling FLAC files, whatever). But the head -- where the record companies are -- will struggle to extract rents like they used to. As they realize this, they do what rent holders who are losing always do: dispense patronage from their existing franchise and try to influence the law to make their rents more permanent.

Apple has historically lived on rents derived from superior design, which is a very hard thing to do consistently. So they've earned their rents so far. Recently, they've gotten even smarter. The App Store is an MBA's dream because it combines network effects with classic distribution channel control and slotting fees. It also has strong barriers to exit. Interestingly, Foxconn (and its employees) mostly continue to work at opportunity cost levels of renumeration. Rents stay with the leverage and are not evenly distributed through the supply chain.

Apple also finds itself in the odd position of Karmic enforcer. The software developers that once helped destroy content owners' iron-clad grip on distribution now find themselves selling their creations for 30 percent of $.99. Karma is a bitch.

Google extracts amazing rents through a combination of innovation and network effects, although they have really struggled to duplicate their core search / AdSense monopoly. Innovation is keeping Google ahead of Schumpeter for now, but hasn't yet created a second vortex of network effect monopoly. So Bing is an important threat if its share continues to grow. Emerging and effective competition in the area where you are extracting rents will have a non-linear impact on your bottom line. If all goes well (in a Schumpeterian sense), both Bing and Google's search franchises will be rent free in an economic sense. Good for people buying ads, bad for people that hope Google will keep taking the cash thrown off to innovate in other areas (like creating an Office rent-neutralizing alternative in the cloud). It's like watching a pair of Ultra Kaiju trying to choke each other out over Tokyo.

Points of control = Rents


Films opening today in Vancouver

Films opening today in Vancouver: "


The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest

Heart of a Dragon

Inside Job

Jean-Michel Basquiat : The Radiant Child

Saw 3D


7 Ways The Mafia Made The U.S. A Better Place: ‘Renegade History’

7 Ways The Mafia Made The U.S. A Better Place: ‘Renegade History’: "

7 Ways The Mafia Made The U.S. A Better Place: 'Renegade History'

- Prohibition Raid -

Imagine an America without jazz. Imagine an America in which alcohol is still illegal. Imagine an America without Broadway, Las Vegas, or Hollywood. Imagine an America with no racial integration or freedom to be gay in public. In my new book, “A Renegade History of the United States”, I show that all you have to do is imagine American history without organized crime … Here are 7 ways that gangsters made America a better place:

By the end of the 19th century some 300 Sicilian mafiosi controlled substantial portions of the New Orleans economy, most significantly the many brothels, saloons, and nightclubs that defined New Orleans as the pleasure capital of the South. When respectable Americans shunned the new music called “jass” as black and criminal jungle music but many others demonstrated a willingness to pay to hear and dance to it, New Orleans gangsters happily made it their business. The first buildings in which the music eventually renamed “jazz” was played professionally — brothels in the Storyville district near the French Quarter — were owned by Sicilian mobsters. In 1917, a teenaged Louis Armstrong received his first wages for playing the trumpet at a tavern owned by Henry Matranga, leader of the Matranga family and arguably the most powerful criminal in the early 20th-century United States. Armstrong and the other black inventors of jazz such as Buddy Bolden, Freddie Keppard, and Joe Oliver also received their first pay from George Delsa, manager of Anderson’s Rampart Street café, one of the first clubs to feature jazz, who used his Mafia connections to protect the club and the prostitutes who worked there from the police.

In Chicago and New York, Italian and Jewish gangsters operated many of the most important early jazz clubs. Al Capone, who controlled several of the clubs in Chicago that introduced jazz to mainstream audiences, was an aficionado of the music and was the first to pay performers a better than subsistence wage. Mob-owned clubs on State Street in Chicago employed the musicians who made jazz a national phenomenon, including bands fronted by Armstrong, King Oliver, Fletcher Henderson, and Benny Goodman. According to one performer, “the worst places on State Street always had the best music.” The same was true in New York City, where, according to one jazz musician, the clubs where the music was being invented rather than just performed for mainstream audiences were “run by big-time mobs not tramps . . . who had a way of running them better than anyone else.”

According to the scholar Jerome Charyn, “There would have been no ‘Jazz Age,’ and very little jazz, without the white gangsters who took black and white jazz musicians under their wing.”

Organized criminals were primarily responsible for making Prohibition the most spectacularly unsuccessful moral reform movement in American history. Beginning on January 16, 1920, the day the Eighteenth Amendment went into effect, rumrunners employed by Italian and Jewish crime syndicates delivered liquor all along the coasts of the Pacific, Atlantic, and the Gulf of Mexico. In the North, giant sleds carrying cases of liquor were pulled across the border from Canada. Thanks to these efforts and the overwhelming desire of Americans to drink, consumption of sacramental wine jumped by 800,000 gallons during the first two years of Prohibition. Speakeasies, many of which were owned by criminals, could be found in every neighborhood in every city in the country. In Manhattan alone, there were 5,000 speakeasies at one point in the 1920s. Women, who had been barred from most saloons before Prohibition, were welcome in speakeasies and became regular customers. When a rumrunner boat escaped a Coast Guard ship off Coney Island one summer day, thousands of people on the beach stood and cheered.

Very few people were more important in the development of Broadway as an entertainment center than Arnold “The Brain” Rothstein, a man credited with turning organized crime into big business (and a major character in the HBO series, “Boardwalk Empire”). Rothstein gained massive wealth first by investing in speakeasies, underground casinos, and horse tracks, then by gambling on poker games, horse races, and sporting events (including the 1919 World Series) that he “fixed.” In the 1920s Rothstein moved into bootlegging and narcotics trafficking and by 1927 was considered to be in control of virtually the entire U.S. drug trade. Along the way, Rothstein, whose unofficial office was Lindy’s restaurant at 49th Street and Broadway, invested heavily in the burgeoning musical theater industry in midtown Manhattan. He financed the opening of several venues, including the famous Selwyn Theater on 42nd Street, as well as various productions that brought tens of thousands of patrons to Broadway and helped establish it as the first entertainment capital of America.

Today the most visited tourist destination in the United States, the Strip in Las Vegas, would be just a street in the desert were it not for gangsters. As with other illicit but popular amusements, gambling was first made profitable by those who most thoroughly disregarded social norms. In the 1930s, Meyer Lansky, leader of a Jewish crime organization known as the Syndicate, controlled more gambling operations in the western hemisphere than anyone, with major casinos in Miami, Saratoga Springs, NY, and Havana, Cuba. Then he set his sights on a dusty little town in Nevada with a population of about 10,000. In 1945, Lansky broke ground in Las Vegas for what would become the Flamingo hotel and casino. He handed over the operation to Bugsy Siegel, a rising star in Lansky’s syndicate and a prominent playboy who headed the mob’s operations in Los Angeles. Soon, the Flamingo became the foundation on which Las Vegas as we know it was built. The Syndicate essentially invented what is known as the “complete experience” resort. Instead of limiting its offerings to just a casino and simple accommodations, as had been the norm until then, the Flamingo staged spectacular theater productions and featured lavish rooms and massive swimming pools. Guests had no reason to ever leave the grounds. From then on, the hotel proved a smashing success, encouraging the Syndicate to devote much of its resources to building more resorts along the Strip. By the middle of the 1950s the Strip was lined with hotel-casinos, most of which were owned and operated by professional criminals, and Las Vegas was made.

Soon after he invented the motion picture camera and projector, Thomas Edison formed his own movie production and distribution company. In 1908, Edison joined with nine other film companies to form the Motion Picture Patents Company, a monopoly that attempted to control the making, distribution, and showing of all movies in the United States. Edison and “The Trust” pledged to make only movies that promoted wholesome, Christian, and “American” values. But on the Lower East Side, a group of entrepreneurial Jewish immigrants used Edison’s inventions to produce and screen their own films, which were shown in thousands of nickelodeons — five-cent movie theaters — in working-class neighborhoods all over the country. These “outlaw” filmmakers started out as vaudeville and burlesque promoters, and many of their movies were sexier, more violent, and far more entertaining than the bland fare put out by the Edison monopoly.

The great inventor was furious that “Jewish profiteers” were stealing his patent, getting rich from it, and using it to spread “smut” across America. So too were law enforcement officials. In 1907 a judge in Chicago wrote that the nickelodeons “caused, indirectly or directly, more juvenile crime coming into my court than all other causes combined.” Shortly thereafter the Chicago city council passed an ordinance granting power to the chief of police to censor motion pictures played in the city. In New York in 1907, soon after the police commissioner recommended that nickel shows be wiped out entirely, Mayor George McClellan was so moved by the evidence of immoral motion pictures polluting the minds of his citizens that on Christmas Day he ordered that all of the illicit motion picture houses be shut down.

Moral condemnations and court injunctions didn’t stop the proliferation of nickelodeons that showed unseemly fare and violated Edison’s patent, so the inventor and his colleagues hired squads of thugs to shut them down. They seized film, beat up directors and actors, forced audiences out of theaters, smashed the nickelodeon arcades and set fire to entire city blocks where they were concentrated. But fortunately for the Jewish renegades, they lived and operated in neighborhoods where hundreds of soldiers stood ready and able to protect them — men like “Big” Jack Zelig, “Lefty Louie” Rosenberg, “Gyp the Blood” Horowitz, Joe “The Greaser” Rosenzweig, and the leaders of the notorious Yiddish Black Hand, Jacob “Johnny” Levinsky.

From the colonial period through the early 20th century, the less “respectable” a saloon, brothel, or dance hall was, the more likely it was to allow the mixing of races. This was especially true of establishments owned by criminals.

An early and notable example was the tavern in colonial New York City owned by John Hughson — a thief, smuggler, and member of a gang of slaves, free blacks, prostitutes, and other criminals. Hughson’s tavern, near the site of what became the World Trade Center, was, according to court records, one of many low-class businesses that gave free and enslaved blacks a place “to resort, and be entertained privately (in defiance of the law) at all hours.” A group of slaves who were regular customers at the tavern regularly bought and sold stolen goods with Hughson. They called themselves the Geneva Club, and they probably began one of the first and largest slave revolts in America.

In March of 1741, a fire swept through the New York governor’s house and Fort George on the southern tip of Manhattan. One week later, the home of Captain Peter Warren of the British Navy caught fire. Over the next month, houses, stables, and warehouses went up in flames across the city. Substantial evidence linked the fires to the members of the Geneva Club, all of whom were hanged or burned at the stake for plotting the rebellion.

In the mid-19th century, places called “concert saloons” gained popularity in cities across the U.S. Concert saloons — which by the end of the century were among the most popular sites of public socializing and entertainment in the country — offered liquor, music, dancing, and sex for sale. Many of the concert saloons in big cities were owned by criminals or African Americans or both, and most were known to host racially mixed clientele.

Brothels were also incubators of cross-racial relations. During the height of Jim Crow, the period in the late 19th and early 20th centuries when lynchings were weekly events, countless thousands of black men had sex with white women with impunity in brothels. Police and moral reformers frequently reported on the high incidence of interracial sex in brothels. Especially common were “black and tans,” which employed white and black prostitutes and catered to white and black customers. In big western cities like Denver, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, the typical brothel contained not just black and white prostitutes but also women from China, Japan, Mexico, and all parts of Europe.

Though famous for their ultra-masculinity, gangsters were nonetheless instrumental in fostering and protecting the gay subculture during the hostile years of World War II and the 1950s. Vito Genovese and Carlo Gambino, leaders of the largest and most powerful crime families in New York, began investing in gay bars in the early 1930s.

By the 1950s, most of the gay bars in New York were owned by the mob. Because of the mafia’s connections with the police department and willingness to bribe officers, patrons of mob-owned bars were often protected from the police raids that dominated gay life in the 1950s. The Stonewall Inn on Christopher Street in Greenwich Village had been a straight restaurant and a straight nightclub for many years when it was purchased in 1966 by three associates of the Genovese family and converted into a gay bar.

Many of the Mafiosi who managed the Stonewall and other gay clubs were themselves gay. The Stonewall’s manager was a man named Ed “The Skull” Murphy, a lifelong hood and ex-convict who chose to work as a bouncer at many of New York’s first gay clubs because he found it an easy way to meet and have sex with men. Murphy was also known for his fondness for black and Latino men, which contributed to the Stonewall’s reputation as the most racially diverse bar–gay or straight–in New York City.

The famous raid on the Stonewall in 1969 that gave rise to the Gay Liberation movement was actually part of a federal sting operation directed at the mob. The New York Police Department was not notified of the operation until the last minute, when it was forced by federal officers — who, unlike the city cops, were not on the mob payroll–to conduct the raid. Over the next decade, Murphy and the Genovese family funded the Gay Pride marches that became annual, international demonstrations of sexual freedom, and Murphy rode the route every year in an open-top car wearing a crown and a sash that declared him “The Mayor of Christopher Street.”


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Twenty-First Century Stoic -- Insult Pacifism

Twenty-First Century Stoic -- Insult Pacifism: "insultopedia.jpg

This is the second in a series of three essays, written by a Stoic, about what it means to practice an ancient philosophy in the modern world. (Read the first essay.)

A colleague who had been reading some of my published work told me he was going to comment on it in a book he was writing. I told him that I was delighted that he would do such a thing. Then the axe fell: 'I'm trying to decide,' he said, 'whether, in my response to what you have written, I should characterize you as being evil or merely misguided.'

There was a time when being insulted in this manner would have upset me. I would have done my best to respond with a counter-insult, and whatever I said, I would subsequently have spent time fuming about the incident and thinking about other, more caustic things I could and should have said. I probably would even have spent time plotting revenge. In other words, I would have allowed the insult to ruin my day.

In the incident described, though, I did none of these things. This is because I had come under the influence of those ancient philosophers known as the Stoics and had, as a result, decided to follow their advice regarding insults. Consequently, I responded to the insult with a question: 'Why can't you,' I asked, 'characterize me as being both evil and misguided?'

It may surprise readers that the Stoics would give advice on how best to deal with insults. Is this, one might reasonably ask, a proper activity for a philosopher?

Not for a philosopher whose interests were primarily theoretical and who therefore spent his days contemplating esoteric theories regarding, say, truth, beauty, and justice. The Stoics, though, were wonderfully practical in their philosophy: after determining what things in life were most worth having, they devoted themselves to developing specific strategies for attaining those things.

In the previous essay in this series, I characterized the Stoics as being the victims of a bum rap. Most people think of them as being anti-emotion, as being grim, wooden figures. As it so happens, the Stoics (and in particular, the Roman Stoics, whom I take to be my primary mentors) were not opposed to emotion in general but to negative emotions such as fear, anger, and grief -- what sensible person wouldn't be? They saw nothing at all wrong, though, with the experience of positive emotions. Indeed, they strove to put themselves into a state of mind in which they could take delight in the world around them.

Because they were opposed to negative emotions, the Stoics spent time investigating them. What sorts of events cause them to arise in us? What steps can we take to prevent them from arising? And what can we do to extinguish these emotions when our attempts at prevention fail? As a result of this investigation, the Stoics came to a profound realization: most of the negative emotions we experience are caused by other people. Yes, you can get angry because your car won't start or because your computer loses one of your files, but for every thing-caused negative emotion you experience, you probably experience twenty people-caused negative emotions.

The Stoics acknowledged that other people are the source of some of the greatest delights life has to offer, meaning that it is important for us, if we wish to have a good life, to interact with other people, to befriend them, and even to fall in love with them. The Stoics also realized, though, that such interactions will inevitably give rise to conflicts. Other people fail to keep their promises to us. They leave messes for us to clean up. They fail to reciprocate our love. They also fail to accelerate promptly when the traffic light turns green.


Not only that, but they periodically insult us. Sometimes the insults in question are blatant: your brother-in-law might refer to you as a fat weasel. More often, though, their insults are subtle. A friend, for example, might tell you that the dress you are wearing does a good job of hiding your bulges. Or your co-worker might greet you in the morning with the following comment: 'I don't care what anyone says: you aren't incompetent.'

It is also possible for people to insult you not by anything they say but by what they do. Someone might turn away from you in the middle of a conversation so she can answer a cellphone call from someone whose conversation she apparently values more than yours. And insults can get even more subtle than this: it is possible for people to insult you not by anything they say or do, but by what they fail to do. They might fail to invite you to a dinner party, for example; or if they do invite you, they might insult you by failing to try any of the tuna casserole you brought.

Let us turn our attention, though, back to blatant insults. If you are a normal person, you will likely attempt to respond to such insults with counter-insults. In other words, you will not only fight back, but you will fight fire with fire. The problem with this strategy for dealing with insults is that lots of people aren't any good at repartee. When insulted, they simply stand there, like a deer caught in the headlights. Or if they do succeed in coming up with a caustic reply, it will be hours later, when it is of no use at all.

The Stoics, after investigating the manner in which insults are used as social weapons, devised a radical defensive strategy: they advocated what I call insult pacifism. In the same way as a pacifist in the ordinary sense of the word will refuse to respond to violence with violence, an insult pacifist will refuse to respond to an insult with an insult. Instead, he will respond with no response at all: he will simply carry on as if nothing had been said. Notice that whereas an effective response to an insult requires quick thinking, insult pacifism requires zero cleverness. It is therefore a strategy that anyone -- even someone in a coma! -- can easily employ.

Insult pacifism may be easy to practice, but is it effective? When I first read about Stoic advocacy of this strategy, I had my doubts. Wouldn't my failure to defend myself against an insult unleash a storm of additional insults from my insulter? Wouldn't she try to exploit my apparent defenselessness? I nevertheless decided to give insult pacifism a try. I have subsequently found it to be a remarkably effective strategy for dealing with insults.

Fail to respond to an insult, and your insulter will at first think you didn't hear the insult. This will throw her off her stride, and she will wonder what to do next. If she repeats the insult, you can say, 'I heard you the first time,' and once again carry on as if nothing had been said. Realize that the person who insulted you wanted to make you upset or even angry. By doing nothing at all, you foil her plans. Indeed, you will frustrate her, and even worse, you might make her look foolish in the eyes of anyone who witnessed the insult.

If you feel that you simply must say something in response to an insult, the Stoics recommend that you respond with self-deprecation or, if you are clever, with self-deprecating humor. In other words, you should respond to an insult by insulting yourself even worse than the insulter did.

Thus, suppose someone points out what she takes to be a character flaw of mine, and points it out not as part of a sincere attempt to help me overcome it but in order to upset me. I am likely to respond as follows: 'Thanks for pointing that out, but to tell the truth, that particular flaw wouldn't even make my own top-five list of the personal shortcomings I need to work on.' Or, if I am in a particularly clever mood, I might say something like this: 'If that is the worst thing you have to say about me, it raises serious questions about whether you know me well enough to competently criticize me.'

To respond to an insult with self-deprecating humor can be devastating to the insulter. She hit us with her best shot, verbally speaking, and we responded not by crying or even wincing, but by chuckling. We turned her attack not only into a joke, but a joke at our own expense! She is likely to feel both frustrated and foolish.

Insult pacifism, though, is only one component of the Stoics' strategy for dealing with insults. It is concerned with our external response to them and is designed to prevent people from insulting us again in the future. The other, more important component of the Stoic insult strategy is concerned with our internal response to insults. For the Stoics, it isn't enough that we look like an insult doesn't upset us; what is important is that it in fact doesn't upset us. It was for this reason that the Stoics advise us, besides practicing insult pacifism, to take steps to remove ourselves from the 'social hierarchy game.' Allow me to explain.

If we are normal human beings, we devote much time and energy doing things calculated to improve our position on the social hierarchy. Thus, the insults we inflict on others are, whether we realize it or not, inflicted primarily because we want to diminish our rivals' social standing relative to our own.

Likewise, in many of the consumer purchases we make, what motivates us is not a desire for the thing we buy but a desire for the social prestige we will gain by acquiring it. People buy expensive watches, for example, not because they have an unusually pressing need to know the time; they buy them because it increases the chance that other people will admire them or, better still, envy them. The same can be said regarding our purchases of new cars, big houses, and fancy clothes. Indeed, if we lost our interest in our social standing -- if, that is, we stopped playing the social hierarchy game -- our material desires would change radically.

Another consequence of withdrawing from the social hierarchy game is that we will care less what other people think of us, and as a result, insults will lose much of their sting -- thus, the Stoics' recommendation that as part of our strategy for dealing with insults, we stop playing this game.

Having said this, I should add that in advocating that we withdraw from the social hierarchy game, the Stoics aren't advocating that we withdraw from society. If we want to be happy, it is important for us, say the Stoics, to form and maintain relationships with other people. Furthermore, although the Stoics think we should stop caring so much about what other people think of us, they don't advocate that we stop caring altogether. We should, for example, care very much what the people we have chosen to be our mentors think of us. We should also pay attention to what our enemies think of us. This is because our enemies will not only be on the lookout for our shortcomings but will unhesitatingly inform us of the discoveries they make. As a result, their criticism can be quite useful if we are interested, as any Stoic will be, in self-improvement.

At present, in my own Stoic practice, my primary focus is on withdrawing, to the extent possible, from the social hierarchy game. I am working to overcome my insulting tendencies. I am also working -- struggling, actually -- to overcome my self-promotional tendencies. Along these lines, I have lately made a practice of pausing, before sending e-mails, to look for and delete material that has no function in the message other than to let the reader know what a wonderful person I am. In many cases, I end up deleting so much material that there is no longer a message worth sending.

Before becoming a Stoic, I spent much time and effort trying to make other people think I was a good person; since becoming a Stoic, I have focused by energy on trying to be a good person. I am striving, in other words, to acquire traits that ancient philosophers would have regarded as virtuous -- traits such as loyalty, courageousness, kindness, and most important, self-control, the trait that makes the other traits possible.

This program of self-improvement, I hasten to add, is still in the early stages: there remains abundant room for improvement! Fortunately for me, it is an area in which rapid improvement is possible. Thus, Stoic philosopher Marcus Aurelius commented that although you may not have it in your power to become a great scholar or great athlete, you have it in your power, at this very moment, to become, say, sincere or industrious; you need only make up your mind that this is how you are going to behave.

©2010, William B. Irvine

In my next 'Twenty-first Century Stoic' essay, I will describe some of the curious side-effects of my practice of Stoicism. An example: it used to be that when I found myself in a difficult situation, I would respond with disappointment. Now I find myself looking forward to episodes in which life tests me. Such predicaments, after all, give me an opportunity to put my Stoic practice to work. And this, as I shall explain, is only one of the surprises that lay in store for me when I adopted Stoicism.