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Maginot "It Just Doesn't Matter" (San Francisco, CA United States)

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The Last Samurai (Widescreen) (2 Discs)
The Last Samurai (Widescreen) (2 Discs)
DVD ~ Koyuki Kato
Price: CDN$ 6.99
76 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars The Samurai Kid, July 14 2004
"The Last Samurai" is a breathtaking, historical, panorama that examines the blending of cultures and the clash of competing value systems. In this film, Tom Cruise plays Nathan Algren a twelve year old boy who has moved from New Jersey to the California Coast with his single mom. While adjusting to his new environment, Algren practices Bushido (the way of the warrior) from an instruction book and from a few introductory classes that he learned at the local YMCA in his hometown.
He also befriends a local girl who, unfortunately is hounded by her ex-boyfriend, an arrogant and aggressive teenager who cruises around town with his friend on dirt bikes. When the ex-boyfriend catches Algren and the girl together a fight ensues and Algren is beaten and humiliated. This prompts Algren to go to the local Bushido dojo where unfortunately he discovers that the ex-boyfriend is the star pupil and the instructor is a sadist.
Fortunately, Algren meets Mr. Miyagi an old Samurai warrior who works as a handyman in Algren's rental unit. When Mr. Miyagi realizes Algren's dilemma he takes him on as his lone pupil and teaches him the way of Bushido. Mr. Miyagi orders Algren to paint his fence, wax his car, and strike girlie-man poses on a post by the sea shore all the while promising that this will teach him how to wield a Katana like no other Caucasian man has ever done before.
And somehow it works. All of Mr. Miyagi's household chores turn out to be magic Samurai conditioning techniques that convert Algren into the Unstoppable White Warrior (UWW). From here an epic battle takes place between Algren and the ex boyfriend and his evil cohorts. I won't give away the outcome of this incredible battle scene except to say that Cruise does a lot of grunting, his eyes puff out during some of the more visceral moments of combat and his beard flutters in the wind like the calm of the butterfly.

The Price Of Loyalty: George W. Bush, The White House, And The Education Of Paul O'Neill.
The Price Of Loyalty: George W. Bush, The White House, And The Education Of Paul O'Neill.
by Ron. Suskind
Edition: Hardcover
89 used & new from CDN$ 0.07

5.0 out of 5 stars Another Honest Conservative Gives the Scam Away, March 23 2004
Conservative After Conservative Nails Bush
In this collaborative work, veteran Wall Street Journal reporter, Ron Suskind, and former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neil provide us with an insider's view of the Bush regime. Prior to 2000, O'Neil was best known for his legendary tenure as CEO of Alcoa, which he transformed it from a moribund company to one of the nation's most profitable. Following the Coup of 2000, O'Neil received a call from his old friend and colleague, Dick Cheney to come serve the Bush Regime as its treasury secretary.
O'Neil accepted the offer and, upon assuming his responsibilities, he expected to utilize his fiscal acumen and problem solving abilities with like-minded colleagues. Instead, O'Neil found that far from honoring conservative fiscal values, the Bush regime had embarked on a radical program to provide a series of unsustainable tax cuts to the nation's wealthiest people. When asked, during a prolonged recession, whether it was wise to provide America's wealthiest people with yet another tax cut Cheney stated that it was his right to do this since the Republicans had recently won the mid-term elections.
O'Neil also sheds light on some of the personalities that he encountered in the White House. Most were radical ideologues whose focus was locked exclusively on its fiscal and military goals regardless of whether they served national interests or not. Among other things, O'Neil confirms that Bush and his entourage were obsessed with invading and occupying Iraq well before the attacks of September 11th, 2001.
Perhaps most disturbing is O'Neil's observation of George W. Bush's cognitive skills and personality. O'Neil found the Bush often appeared to be vacant and expressed practically no policy opinion at all. Add to this the fact, that Bush addressed his staff with odd nicknames (O'Neil was "Pablo" and Colin Powell was "balloon foot") and what emerges is the picture of an incompetent frat boy who has somehow been handed the keys to the most powerful position on Earth.
What's shocking about this book is not so much what it reveals, but what it confirms. Anyone who has spent the last few years reading beyond the consolidated corporate media will not be surprised by O'neil's content so much as his context. Here is a conservative, a business leader, and a Bush insider essentially saying, "Yep, your worse fears about this regime are true. They're ideological, corrupt, and incompetent, and the last thing they're focused on is solving the nation's problems in a rational manner." [...]

Whiteout: The CIA, Drugs and the Press
Whiteout: The CIA, Drugs and the Press
by Alexander Cockburn
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 12.37
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It�s the Liberal Media, Stupid!, March 22 2004
First published in 1998, "Whiteout" is a meticulously documented account of the CIA's decades long role as an international drug peddler and of the surprising support it received in this capacity from America's purportedly liberal press. Authors Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair provide a detailed history of the CIA's drug business and its alliance with organized crime around the globe beginning with its precursor organizations in World War II (Naval Intelligence and the Office of Strategic Services) through the mid nineties.
While the authors span the CIA's fifty-year history of assassination, gruesome torture, and collaboration with evil figures such as drug lords and Nazi war criminals, the principle villain in this book is actually the American liberal press and not the agency itself. To be sure the agency has done some horrific things, but to anyone who has read their history, little of this is new or surprising and believers in "realpolitik" may even find them justifiable according to America's national interest. The latter point is often shallow and difficult to hold up under scrutiny but probably not worth examining here. Perhaps the only readers who'll find this book's portrayal of the CIA offensive are those whose view of the agency has been formed by James Bond movies and popular television shows such as "JAG", "Alias", and "The Agency". Sorry to burst your bubble folks, but don't worry, the tooth fairy isn't real either.
The centerpiece of whiteout is veteran San Jose journalist, Gary Webb who in 1996 broke the story that:
"For the better part of a decade, a San Francisco Bay Area drug ring sold tons of cocaine to the Crips and Bloods street gangs of Los Angeles and funneled millions in drug profits to a Latin American guerrilla army run by the US Central Intelligence Agency."
Webb had stumbled on this story almost accidentally, but could verify it with irrefutable evidence including the sworn grand jury testimony of one of the drug dealers who was also on the DEA payroll, as well as DEA and FBI documentation. One of the most damning aspects of Webb's story was not so much that the CIA subverted congress by funding a secret war that the legislature had refused to, but that it knowingly-and with great indifference-launched a drug epidemic that ravaged America's inner cities with addiction, violence, and murder.
Despite such hard evidence, which the San Jose Mercury News made available on its Web site, Webb and his paper were hounded mercilessly by liberal publications such as The Washington Post, The New York Times, and the Los Angeles Times. At first Webb's editor supported and encouraged him, but soon he caved in to the mounting pressure from these other publications and subsequently retracted the story. After bravely enduring an unprecedented attack on his work and professional qualifications, and after finally losing the support of his own paper, Web subsequently resigned and went on to publish his findings in book form.
Why, one might ask, would the liberal press go after one of its own instead of picking up the story and perhaps supplementing it with additional research? Cockburn and St. Clair argue that for a variety of reasons the liberal press-its reputation aside-is and always has been extraordinarily cooperative with the CIA. Several senior editors at the Washington Post, for example, make no secret of the fact that for years they have acted as agency "assets" and continue to collaborate with it to this day. Add to this the attitude of individuals such as the Washington Post's Katherine Graham who believe that most Americans are infants whose perceptions need to be managed by self appointed media parents such as herself. (Graham once stated: "We live in a dirty and dangerous world. There are some things the general public does not need to know, and shouldn't. I believe democracy flourishes when the government can take legitimate steps to keep its secrets and when the press can decide whether to print what it knows.")
Whether it collaborates directly with the government or simply takes it upon itself to manage our perceptions on its own, the press hardly serves a democratic or informative purpose in matters such as its treatment of Webb's story. And when you factor in the press's complacency regarding the three most important stories of the past few years (The attacks of September 11th, the colonization of Iraq, and the wave of corporate crimes) it becomes evident that the press is a prime contributor to the "dirty" and "dangerous" aspects of the world we live in.

Terror In The Name Of God
Terror In The Name Of God
by Jessica Stern
Edition: Hardcover
32 used & new from CDN$ 2.03

4.0 out of 5 stars Fighting Terrorism with Brains Not Political Rhetoric, March 15 2004
In this lucid, intelligent study, Professor Jessica Stern brings us face to face with members of some of most notorious terrorist organizations around the globe and introduces us to their point of view without making excuses for them or losing site of the fact that they are premeditated mass-murderers. This is not only a remarkable feat but also an extremely necessary one. Famous strategists have argued throughout history that the only way to defeat a powerful enemy is to understand how it thinks. This is especially true of global terrorism whose practitioners are often stateless, furtive, flexible, and remarkably regenerative. Few people are as qualified to examine this subject as Stern. Not only has she researched and taught terrorism at prestigious government organizations and universities in the United States, but also, she personally interviewed numerous terrorist cadres and leaders both in captivity and while they were at large.
This book warrants a couple of cautionary statements. First, readers should not confuse it with sociologist, Mark Jurgensmeyer's similarly titled study, "Terror in the Mind of God" which was published in 1998. In that book, Jurgensmeyer provides a sociological study of global terrorists that adduces common modes of thought to a variety of terrorist organizations around the globe. Second, this book will not appeal to anyone who clings to the comforting but woefully inadequate belief that terrorists are simply "evil doers" who are "jealous of our freedoms." Terrorism certainly is an evil phenomenon, and many sections of this book depict the author's moral struggle to empathize with people who plan and carry out unspeakable acts. But as Stern points out, we can only effectively combat terrorism when we place ourselves in the minds of terrorists and attempt to understand their thinking.
TERRORIST ORGANIZATIONS
One of the most important contributions of this book is the fact that it provides a functional taxonomy of terrorist organizations. Stern demonstrates that terrorist movements range from individual practitioners and leaderless groups, to complex hierarchical organizations, and ultimately to massive, transnational "franchises" that incorporate all others. Individuals or "lone wolf avengers" as Stern calls them include examples such as the notorious Unibomber, while at the other end of the scale massive, transnational terrorist "franchises" include al Quaeda which recruits a variety of different people for different roles whether they are skilled specialists, or merely individuals that possess the required citizenship and language skills for a specific operation.
TERRORIST MOTIVATIONS
Perhaps more important is Stern's examination of terrorist motivations. In many cases, terrorist organizations-however reprehensible their acts may be-do possess legitimate grievances most of which center around brutality and humiliation suffered at the hands of a more powerful force. But in numerous instances, Stern finds that terrorists often depart from their original grievances until they are committing acts of terror as both a business and a lifestyle. In Kashmir, for example, Stern found that terrorists who originally opposed the brutal treatment of Kashmiri citizens by Indian police and soldiers later benefited from their plight because it provided them with a source of funding and recruits. Ironically, these same terrorists eventually collaborated with corrupt Indian military officials and members of India's organized crime in order to further achieve their goals. Their original "mission" became obscured and the terrorists-as so often happens-began to operate more out of economic necessity and habit than in order to redress a grievance.
TERRORISM AS A PRODUCT
As strange as it may seem, Stern notes that terrorist organizations must often market themselves and vie for funding in the same manner as NGOs and startup companies. In order to attract financial backers and popular support, terrorist organizations frequently try to sell their missions. Prior to the attacks of September 11th for example, al Quaeda rarely mentioned the plight of the Palestinians. But after the attacks, al Quaeda immediately mentioned the Palestinians in their broadcast speeches in order to attract the sympathy of moderate Moslems who might otherwise be alienated by the scale and brutality of September 11th.
TERRORISM AND GLOBALIZATION
Despite their outspoken opposition to globalization, many terrorist organizations, like their counterparts in the business world, fully exploit it in order to develop trans-national capabilities. Al Quaeda for example has franchise groups all over the world and in the past it has acquired financially insolvent groups such as Egyptian Islamic Jihad. In South America's un-patrolled tri border area (where Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina meet) terrorist groups from all over the world including white supremacists from the United States and Islamic fundamentalists from the Middle East regularly meet to exchange logistics and tradecraft. For this reason, intelligence agencies fear that in the future al Quaeda could "outsource" some of its missions to white supremacist terrorist organizations within the United States effectively making it the Haliburton of the terrorist world.
AMERICAN TERRORISTS
Anyone who views terrorism as the bi-product of a "Clash of Civilizations" or "Us vs. Them" scenario should read Stern's first chapter very carefully. Here, Stern describes a radical, white, Christian terrorist organization in the United States that planned in 1986 to poison urban water supplies to bring about The Apocalypse. More disturbing is the fact that despite their radically different ideologies, foreign and American terrorist groups largely sympathize with each other. Terrorists whom Stern interviewed from both camps expressed sympathy with the goals and actions of their counterparts in America or the Middle East.
Stern's book leaves us with challenging questions and conclusions about terrorism. Since terrorists often depart from their original motives until they are acting out of mere greed and excitement, it is clearly impossible to defeat them with a strategy of appeasement. At the same time, we must recognize that as long as people feel humiliated, defeated, or excluded from progress and development terrorist organizations will have a never-ending supply of willing recruits. Stern provides us with an excellent starting point for effectively combating terrorism. But it is up to us to elect leaders who are competent and capable of performing this task instead of merely talking about it.

Keystone Bold Text Pew Bible-KJV
Keystone Bold Text Pew Bible-KJV
by Bible
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 11.68
23 used & new from CDN$ 10.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Blue Print of Civilization and Decency, March 10 2004
The Holy Bible is probably one of the most influential and important examples of literature in the world. The core message of this monumental work can be found in the Ten Commandments of The Lord, which are summarized as follows.
I AM THE LORD THY GOD AND THOU SHALT NOT HAVE ANY STRANGE GODS BEFORE ME.
This commandment instructs the reader not to worship any other deity but The Lord. For example, if a person worships protectionist market forces under the misleading rubric of "free trade" as do key members of the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank, then according this commandment, they would be doomed to eternal damnation.
THOU SHALT NOT TAKE THE NAME OF THE LORD THY GOD IN VAIN
This commandment instructs the reader not to mention God's name in a casual, self-serving, or superficial manner. For example, when politicians invoke the name of The Lord to help win elections as does a certain president who used to have a drinking problem, they are taking His name in vain and according this commandment, are doomed to eternal damnation.
REMEMBER TO KEEP HOLY THE LORD'S DAY
This commandment instructs the reader to observe the appropriate rites and behavior on Sunday since that's the Lord's day and the Sabbath day, and definitely not a time to work or to mess around. For example, if people were to take a duck hunting trip together on Sunday as did Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and Vice President Dick Cheney, then according this commandment, they would be doomed to eternal damnation.
HONOR THY FATHER AND MOTHER
This commandment instructs the reader to honor his/her father and mother. For example, if, a certain president were to have bad mouthed his father during a youthful drinking binge and subsequently were to have challenged him to go "mano-e-mano", then according this commandment he would be doomed to eternal damnation.
THOU SHALT NOT KILL
This commandment instructs the reader not to kill. For example, if a certain governor of Texas were to willfully execute a convicted murderer despite her pleas for clemency, and if he were to subsequently mock her by laughing and saying, "Please don't kill me! Please don't kill me!" then according this commandment, he would be doomed to eternal damnation.
THOU SHALT NOT COMMIT ADULTERY
This commandment instructs the reader not to cheat on his or her spouse. For example if anyone emulated the behavior of famous adulterers like Bill Clinton, or those less known for their adultery such as Mike Bowers, Newt Gingrich, Bob Dole, Michael Deaver, Dan Burton, Bob Barr, Rudolph Giuliani, Strom Thurmond to name a few then according this commandment, they would be doomed to eternal damnation.
THOU SHALT NOT STEAL
This commandment instructs the reader not to steal. For example, if one were to deliberately purge the voter roles of eligible African American voters to prevent them from voting for the opposition candidate as did Florida Secretary of State, Kathleen Harris, and Governor JEB Bush in 2000 in order to steal an election that they otherwise could not win, then according this commandment, they would be doomed to eternal damnation.
THOU SHALT NOT BEAR FALSE WITNESS AGAINST THY NEIGHBOR.
This commandment instructs the reader not to lie about other people. For example, if a best-selling, rightwing, political writer were to deliberately lie about liberals in her books "Slander" and "Treason" or if a president were to deliberately lie about a foreign dictator's weapons capability then according this commandment, they would be doomed to eternal damnation.
THOU SHALT NOT COVET THY NEIGHBOR'S WIFE
This commandment instructs the reader not to want or pursue his neighbor's wife. If a man did this, as did Representative Henry Hyde, whose actions ultimately broke up a family, then according this commandment, he would be doomed to eternal damnation.
THOU SHALT NOT COVET THY NEIGHBOR'S GOODS
This commandment instructs the reader not to want or pursue his/her neighbor's stuff. Oh, you know, for example if your neighbors south of the border have lots of bananas like Nicaragua does, or copper, like Chile does, or an abundance of other natural resources as Brazil does then it would be a sin to want these things so badly that you depose their elected leaders and put oppressive dictators in their place who are sympathetic to your desires. And if your neighbors on the other side of the world have a whole lot of oil, then ... well, you get it: according this commandment, coveting that stuff will make you doomed to eternal damnation.

Pretty Woman  10th
Pretty Woman 10th
DVD ~ Richard Gere
Offered by M and N Media Canada
Price: CDN$ 35.55
14 used & new from CDN$ 5.66

4.0 out of 5 stars Lots of Fear and Trembling, March 9 2004
This review is from: Pretty Woman 10th (DVD)
Blessed was the day, the day that Vivian Ward (Julia Roberts) chose to sell her flesh for coin.
Blessed was the day, the day, that after having sold her flesh to countless sinners, Vivian Ward met a really good looking and wealthy sinner named Edward Lewis (Richard Gere).
Blessed was Edward Lewis, the ruthless tycoon who performed leverage buyouts of all his rival's companies beginning with his hated father's but not ending there.
Blessed was the leverage buyout, an exclusive and cutthroat mode of business operations in which private equity firms specialized in the high-risk process of accumulating capital from very wealthy investors and subsequently using it to buy failing companies and then selling off their parts for gains of up to 25% or, for staggering losses of equal or greater proportion.
Blessed was the metaphor of the leveraged buyout since blessed Edward Lewis, used his massive accumulation of capital to "buy out" blessed Vivian Ward's body for the night.
Blessed was Philip Stuckey (Jason Alexander), Edward's heinous attorney, whose crass request and subsequent forceful demands for Vivian's flesh-selling services aptly contrasted Edward's more gentlemanly approach thus making him look like a sweet guy instead of a villain for subjecting Vivian's flesh to a leveraged buyout.
Blessed was the fact that this film made flesh selling actually look pretty cool since it could land a gal in a pretty nice hotel with a wealthy, handsome, but somewhat morose and deeply misunderstood leverage buyout tycoon.
Blessed was flesh selling which might be my next career if I get canned from my completely un-cinematic job for authoring documents such as this one.
Blessed was the way that Edward didn't really save Vivian from the streets since, once it looked like their brief affair was over, she pretty much opted out of that lifestyle anyway.
Blessed was the fact that there wasn't a pimp in the film to slap her around and say, "You think you're getting out of this racket just like that? Get out there and go make me some more money!"
Blessed was the fact that flesh selling had not ravaged Vivian's body nor subjected her to countless potentially lethal forms of sect-chew-Ali transmitted ills.
Blessed was the fact that Vivian really had more of the intelligence and personality that suited her to garden parties than to a life of flesh selling on the streets.
Blessed was the way that Vivian transformed Edward from a morose and heartless destroyer of other people's livelihood into a saint who would gladly fork over some investment capital to try to make a failing business succeed.
Blessed was the fact that this capitalized on the hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold stereotype that's been with us since biblical times.
Blessed was the fact that this film ended.
Blessed was the fact that I never saw it again.
Blessed was the fact that my students in Taiwan really liked it and asked me what I thought of it.
Blessed was the fact that I said, "Well, I think it teaches girls that hooking is a pretty viable career choice."

War is a Racket: The Antiwar Classic by America's Most Decorated Soldier
War is a Racket: The Antiwar Classic by America's Most Decorated Soldier
by Smedley D. Butler
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 11.28
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars War: Who Profits from it and who Pays for it, March 4 2004
"War is a Racket" is marine general, Smedley Butler's classic treatise on why wars are conducted, who profits from them, and who pays the price. Few people are as qualified as General Butler to advance the argument encapsulated in his book's sensational title. When "War is a Racket" was first published in 1935, Butler was the most decorated American soldier of his time. He had lead several successful military operations in the Caribbean and in Central America, as well as in Europe during the First World War. Despite his success and his heroic status, however, Butler came away from these experiences with a deeply troubled view of both the purpose and the results of warfare.
Butler's central thesis is that regardless of the popular rhetoric that often accompanies warfare, it is waged almost exclusively for profit. He advances this argument in three decisive examples.
EXAMPLE 1: CORPORATE MILITARY PROFITS RESULTING FORM WAR
In an early version of "follow the money", Butler provides pre- and post-World War I data on some of America's leading corporations to demonstrate the surge in profits that they experienced from the war, often totaling several hundred percent. While some companies, such as Dupont, arguably produced goods that contributed directly to America's military victory in 1918, others such as saddle manufacturers did not. Even when these companies failed to contribute directly to the war effort, they still managed to lobby the government to retrain or expand their contracts. Its as though powerful, well connected oil services company today were to contract with the government to supply oil to the military during a foreign campaign and then deliberately overcharge it.
EXAMPLE 2: INVESTING IN OTHER NATIONS' WARS
Butler argues that the United States practically doomed itself to entering the First World War the moment it began lending money and material to the allies. Once the allies were faced with certain defeat, argues Butler, they approached American government and business officials and flatly told them that unless they were victorious they would not be able to repay their staggering debt. In the event that Germany and the axis powers won the war, they would have no motivation to assume and repay the allied debt to the United States. America entered the First World War, according to Butler, in order to guarantee the repayment of its massive military loans to the allies. No allied victory meant no repayment, which meant no profit. Thousands of American soldiers were killed or maimed, argues Butler, to protect corporate profits.
EXAMPLE 3: THE MILITARY AS A COROPORATE THUG
Based on his own service experience in Central America and the Caribbean Butler argues that most American military interventions in small countries were done in order to "clear the way" for American corporations to set up shop and commence pillaging. It would be as if the United States were to occupy an oil-rich nation and then start doling out "rebuilding" contracts to some of its largest and best-connected corporations.
WHO PAYS FOR WAR
Having focused on who profits from war, Butler then examines who pays the price. The answer, unsurprisingly enough is the average taxpayer and the young people who are either slaughtered in wartime or who return home physically and psychologically damaged. Sadly, Butler points out, once these young people are no longer useful they are ignored by their own government and are left to suffer without assistance. It's as though a president were to employ a lot of rhetoric about supporting our troops while using them to occupy and oil-rich nation, but were to secretly slash their hazardous duty pay and veterans benefits.
THE SOLUTION: END WAR PROFITEERING
Butler's solution to preventing the carnage and social injustices of war is to eliminate business leaders' ability to make a profit from war or to avoid serving in it themselves. He also argues that those who put their lives at risk should have a say in whether or not to wage war. This may sound like a lot of idealistic, socialist nonsense, but thing about it. Would the United States have invaded an oil-rich nation if its unelected president had been forced to serve in the front lines as part of the process? Would business interests have supported the war if they never stood to profit from it? Probably not.
"War is a Racket" also contains other interesting factoids including General Butler's successful prevention of a right-wing coup against President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Unfortunately, no one of General Butler's caliber was able to prevent a similar coup from taking place in 2000.
General Butler also makes a persuasive case for the United States to remain isolationist and to avoid involving itself in the coming European war (This book was published shortly before World War II.). Using his considerable grasp of military logistics, Butler counters many of the prevailing arguments of his day that Hitler posed a direct military threat to the United States. Unfortunately, no one of General Butler's caliber was available to counter a similar argument that right wing policy makers advanced about a tiny oil-rich nation in the Middle East posing a direct military threat to the United States.
To anyone who doubts the veracity or efficacy of this book, I have a humble but useful suggestion. Ask yourself who makes money off of war. Then ask yourself if they ever make the physical, mental, or fiscal sacrifices for war. Finally ask yourself who ultimately makes the sacrifices and pays the prices. Most people who favor war either profit from it, or are seduced by the idea of it. General Butler's book is a concise, and brilliantly argued treatise on the reality of war. Of course most people prefer a beautiful idea to harsh reality, and that is why propagandists and politicians are so successful.

Ben-Hur (Widescreen)
Ben-Hur (Widescreen)
DVD ~ Charlton Heston
Offered by stephensstuff
Price: CDN$ 24.95
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5.0 out of 5 stars Ben-Him, Feb. 18 2004
This review is from: Ben-Hur (Widescreen) (DVD)
First released in 1959, "Ben Hur" is one the grandest, if not the most courageous exploration of sublimated hoe-more-sect-chew-all love between men.
The film takes place in Judea during Jesus Christ's lifetime. It begins when boyhood friends, Messala (Stephen Boyd) and Judah Ben-Hur (Charlton Heston) are reunited in Jerusalem as young men. Messala is now a Tribune in command of the Roman legions that occupy Judea and Judah is both a prince and a wealthy merchant who objects to the Roman occupation in principle but does not overtly oppose it. Under the pretext of discharging his duty as a Roman soldier, Messala urges Judah to inform on any friends or acquaintances that refuse to accept Roman rule. When Judah refuses to comply with this request, Messala turns it into a demand stating that Judah is either for him or against him.
In reality, Messala is sublimating his repressed sect-chew-all desire for Judah and expressing it in consciously acceptable terms. Messala and Judah spent their boyhood together until the age of fourteen when Messala was sent to Rome. Undoubtedly the separation was difficult for both boys but for obvious reasons it traumatized Messala much more. In the first place, Messala was separated from Judah during the advent of his sect-chew-all maturity and before he could resolve any burgeoning sect-chew-all feelings for him. But at the same time, Messala was also transposed from an environment in which he enjoyed relative physical and personal freedom (He and Judah hunted together, and men in Judea are cool about crying when they are upset.) to one in which he underwent rigorous, depersonalizing indoctrination as both a Roman citizen and as a military officer.
Few things could have produced a more disastrous result since Messala now not only repressed his feelings for Judah, but also lacked adequate emotional tools in which to resolve them. As a result, instead of returning to the lost paradise of youth (One he references when he asks Judah if he still hunts jackals and wolves.) Messala attempts to indoctrinate Judah in the same way that he was. On the surface Messala is commanding Judah, but on an emotional level he is actually pleading with him, essentially saying "Look, I can't go back to what we were so let's love each other by having you become what I am." If Judah could properly identify the emotional process at work then he could possibly avert disaster. For example, he could say, "Forget about all this governing Judea stuff, let's talk about you and me." But because Judah fails to recognize the emotional process at work, he inadvertently rejects Messala's emotional advances with catastrophic results. Messala's identity is now trapped in an in-between state since he cannot return to his youthful past and Judah will not join him in his adult present. As a result, in order to prevent his own psychic annihilation, Messala must now destroy Judah-not so much because he rejected him but because his continued presence reminds him of what he has lost forever. For this reason, Messala has Judah condemned as a galley slave and imprisons his mother and sister in the local dungeon where all three face certain death.
After three years in the galleys, Judah is partially freed by a Roman Consul who identifies him with his own dead son. Judah subsequently saves the Consul's life and as a result, the Consul adopts him and trains him to race horses in the Roman circus.
The Consul's relationship with Judah is partly paternalistic and partly sect-chew-all-iced. In liberating Judah and training him to ride in the circus, the Consul unconsciously provides him with the sect-chew-all mentoring he requires to resolve his conflict with Messala. After all, in order to race in the Roman games, Judah must think and behave as a Roman, which means that he has now become indoctrinated in the same manner as Messala. This is apparent when Judah returns to Judea and confronts Messala, who can barely conceal his pleasure toward the fact that Judah has come back not as a Jewish prince or galley slave, but as a Roman aristocrat.
The sect-chew-all conflict between the two men is ultimately resolved during the film's climactic chariot race whose sect-chew-all symbolism is all too apparent. The chariot race takes place in a public arena in which men dressed in scanty, flashy costumes drive powerful horses from chariots mounted behind them.
At first Messala dominates this conflict in several manners. Messala has won this race during all the years of Judah's imprisonment and exile, which means that in a sense he has publicly declared his hoe-more-sect-chew-alit-E. Judah is popular as a hometown boy, but his racing skills (in other words, his sect-chew-all prowess) are unknown here although, ironically, they are well known in Rome. Messala acknowledges this during the start of the race when he smiles at Judah and says, "Hail Jupiter, grant me victory today." In doing this, Messala references the fact that they are now competing together in a Roman environment. In this sense, they have fulfilled Messala's original wish that, having lost their childhood bond, they at least become the same type of man. In referencing Jupiter, Messala subtly reminds Judah that the chariot race is a pagan conflict that recreates their lost youth. Messala is saying to Judah, "Good, you're finally here, let's play."
As the race progresses, Messala realizes that he cannot defeat Judah and begins to whip him furiously, which is essentially an open expression of his sect-chew-all feelings toward Judah. At first Judah is indignant, but then he seizes the whip and lashes back at Messala for the first time acknowledging his own sect-chew-all feelings toward him. This sect-chew-all expression literally overpowers Messala who is mortally injured. Shortly before his demise, however, Messala attempts to destroy Judah's hope of finding his imprisoned mother and sister (and thus of returning to their pre-sect-chew-all past). In the throes of death, Messala declares to Judah that "the race" (their sect-chew-all dance) "goes on."

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5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, Hilarious Study of Human Isolation and Intimacy, Feb. 16 2004
"Lost in Translation" is director Sofia Coppola's remarkable study of the isolation and intimacy that people experience in both emotional and geographical environments. The film takes place in contemporary Tokyo where retired B-Movie actor, Bob Harris (Bill Murray) has come to film a commercial for a Japanese whiskey company. Harris spends his days enduring the bizarre yet entirely believable process of shooting a commercial in a country whose language and culture are completely beyond his understanding. He spends his evenings alone in the bedroom, the gym, or the bar of his lavish hotel where practically every moment seems surreal for one reason or another. In the bar, he meets Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson) who has followed her photographer husband, John (Giovanni Ribisi) to Tokyo where he is working on an extended project.
At first, Bob and Charlotte develop a casual friendship based on their mutual sense of loneliness, lack of fulfillment, and their response to the sheer oddity of their surroundings. But soon their friendship develops into a deeper sense of understanding and intimacy, and with this come new complications. Both of them are married to spouses who for one reason or another are inaccessible, Bob is much older than Charlotte, and while he has experienced financial success and built a family, she is still at a point in her life where she is young and unsure of where she is headed. Charlotte almost never sees her husband, and the few times that she does he is busy cavorting with his colleagues and clients. Bob receives regular phone calls from his wife, but they only discuss her remodeling plans for their home.
In the hands of an unskilled filmmaker, this situation would be ripe for all kinds of clichéd and predictable behavior. Instead, Coppola shapes their story with impressive ease and with an extraordinary understanding of the human soul. There is a lot of subtle stuff going on between Charlotte and Bob, but we never get bored or confused as their relationship develops and then conflicts arise. Similarly, despite the fact both characters are lost in Tokyo with its intense, pop-culture energy, the film never condemns or makes fun of that place. Like their personal lives, Tokyo for Bob and Charlotte is simply a space that they inhabit but in which they also feel utterly lost.
While "Lost in Translation" explores some very serious themes it remains a hilarious and low-key film from start to finish. I have to agree with critics or reviewers who state that this is the best role of Bill Murray's career. Johansson also delivers an extremely skilled and subtle performance. There are also many extraordinarily funny scenes in which Bob and Charlotte find themselves interacting with people or in situations that they don't understand. During many of these scenes the film pulls no punches when it comes to fully exposing some of the more bizarre and eccentric qualities of contemporary Japanese culture. Much to its credit, however the film does this in an upfront fashion without stooping to insults or stereotypes-it's simply too honest to do that.
I highly recommend this film for its humor, its insight, and for the remarkable performances from Bill Murray, Scarlet Johansson, and the city of Tokyo. Coppola should be highly commended for her creative genius as a director and as a screenwriter.

Dude, Where's My Country
Dude, Where's My Country
by Michael Moore
Edition: Hardcover
93 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Not as good as his others, but still relevant and funny, Feb. 9 2004
In this humorous and insightful book, Michael Moore mounts his trusty steed to once again do battle with the evil forces that are out to destroy the average American: corrupt corporate leaders, extreme right-wing propagandists, and the unelected regime of George W. Bush. In doing this, Moore makes many very important points about the instruments of power and duplicity in the United States. Why is it that the media won't directly question George W. Bush about his and his father's well-documented business relationships with the Saudi royal family and the Bin Laden family? Why did the United States declare war on Afghanistan and Iraq when it was actually attacked by Saudi Arabia? (The attacks of September 11th, 2001 were organized and executed almost entirely by Saudis and not by Iraqis or Afghanis.) Why does corporate criminal Kenneth Lay (former CEO of Enron) get to dictate our nation's energy policy for us in secret meetings with Dick Cheney?
Moore also points out that the terms "liberal" and "conservative" are very misleading in America. Polls consistently demonstrate that regardless of their political affiliation, most Americans hold very progressive views about privacy, health care, the environment, and foreign policy to name a few. Unfortunately, many Americans are consistently duped into voting against their own values by hate politics and by fear, both of which are generated by the army of right-wing propagandists and media outlets that unofficially support America's plutocratic leaders and the Bush Regime.
But Moore views this contradiction with surprising optimism and concludes that since the current right-wing political machine does not represent the values of most Americans, then it is up to us to take back our country. The place to begin, according to Moore is to develop a better understanding of how we have been mislead and manipulated to vote away our interests out of fear. Once we recognize that what he have at the moment is not actually our country, then it is only a simple matter of reaching out and taking it back.
Another hillarious but sadly accurate section of this book is the chapter that deals with how one should talk to a conservative friend or family member about the important issues of our time. More points out that the first and most important thing to do is to assure the conservative individual that no one is out to take his or her money. While this chapter is funny and in many ways insiteful, unfortunately it fails to address the problem of discussing important issues with American conservative most of whom are enamored with themes but deeply opposed to facts. If one takes, the occupation of Iraq for example, most conservatives justify it on the basis of unelected President Bush's initial explanation that Iraq posed a threat to the United States because it possessed weapons of mass destruction and links to al Quaeda. But when the news, and even the unelected president eventually admitted that neither claim was true, the vast majority of American conservatives simply didn't care and instead justified the war on their sense that unelected President Bush is a "decisive" man who takes a "principaled stand" on vital issues. In other words, when American conservatives are faced with the fact that their unelected president lied and as a result, hundreds of Americans are getting killed and the country is going bankrupt, they simply switch to fluff mode: "He seems strong and principaled. We like him!" This doesn't mean that conservatives are stupid, but they do have a tendency to oversimplify things in much the same way that the majority of Germans in the 30s and 40s prefered to blame all of their problems on targeted ethnic groups instead of undertaking a meaningful analysis of what went wrong in their country. For this reason, Moore's suggestions on how to talk to conservatives are humorous but unfortunately uneffective.
Having been exposed to some of Moore's earlier works including "Downsize This", "Stupid White Men", and "Bowling for Columbine", I found this book to be a tiny bit disappointing. Maybe it's just my imagination, but "Dude Where's My Country" seemed a bit more formulaic then some of Moore's other works and also seemed less effective than books such as Al Franken's "Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them."
I also wish that Moore had made a much stronger argument about the Bush Regime's complicity with Saudi Arabia, the country that declared war on the United States on September 11th, 2001 but was given a permission slip to avoid accountability and retribution by both the Bush Regime and the corporate media. Sure, there are a lot of information gaps here thanks to government and media censorship, but Moore could still have made a stronger, clearer case based on the information that is available.
These issues aside, this still remains an excellent and important book. Of course right-wing extremists will automatically dismiss Moore's arguments and the facts that he has marshaled here, but I suspect that the majority of Americans will find this book disturbing, compelling, and surprisingly hopeful. After all, this IS our country, not the exclusive feeding ground of the Bush family and of Kenneth Lay. And to anyone who says, "Yes but Clinton was guilty too," so what. Clinton is not the president right now, and when he was the president, he did not do so much, to destroy the lives of so many, to profit so very few.

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