Category Archives: History

“Amigo” – A Review

Written and Directed: John Sayles
Producer: Maggie Renzi
Starring: Chris Cooper, Garrett Dillahunt, Joel Torre
Opening in select cities nationwide: August 19. 2011
Distributed by: Variance Films (

There’s a scene early in John Sayles’ outstanding new film, Amigo, the story of the U.S invasion and occupation of the Philippines during the oft-forgotten Philippine-American War (which lasted officially from 1899 to 1902), in which Colonel Hardacre (played with wry detachment and bemusement by a grizzled Chris Cooper) sits astride his horse barking orders at a group of U.S. soldiers.

“…And get these people out of the dirt, for God’s sakes,” Colonel Hardacre orders, “we’re supposed to be winning their hearts and their minds.”

That expression reminds the viewer, of course, of the failed U.S. involvement in Vietnam, as well as any number of U.S. invasions and subsequently disastrous occupations right up to the present quagmires in Iraq and Afghanistan.
That may very well be the intention in John Sayles’ latest film project, which brings to light a forgotten chapter of both U.S and Filipino history, as well as the beginning of U.S. Imperialism around the world.

Amigo comes on the heels of the publication of John Sayles’ new novel, the nearly 1,000-page, A Moment In The Sun (McSweeeneys Books). I spent a few hours with John Sayles and his longtime partner/producer Maggie Renzi in Chicago earlier this summer( It was the second-to-last stop of a book tour in which Sayles and Renzi crisscrossed America by automobile, stopping in basically any independent bookstore they could find to promote the novel.

Sayles told me the book, broader in scope than the film, had its genesis in a screenplay, Some Time In The Sun, written five years ago but not considered viable at that time. Both the book and film mark the beginning of American intervention well beyond our own borders. Sayles has long felt the Philippine-American War was a story that had been hidden in the dark recesses of U.S. and Philippine history for far took long and that the time had come to tell at least a part of the story.

In short, it was a tale dying to be told.

When Amigo begins, all appears to be well in the baryo. Rafael (played with understated emotion by Joel Torre) displays his role as the head Amigo of the village, resolving a minor crisis involving a garden that has been torn apart by a pig, which come to think of it is not a bad metaphor to begin with. Soon all hell breaks loose in the baryo as U.S troops, poorly trained and under the supervision of Lieutenant Compton (the versatile and hugely talented Garrett Dillahunt) move in and assert their power. We soon find that Rafael is not only the head Amigo, but he also has a brother, who leads the local band of guerrillas hiding out and determined to fight the Americans. It’s the type of set-up destined to end badly.

In fact, the baryo in which most of Amigo takes place seems to be a microcosm for what is happening all over the Philippines. When the Americans arrive, the Filipinos are forced to release the Spanish village priest from where he is being held captive. Padre Hidalgo (played with outstanding deception and guile by Yul Vazquez) is caught in the crossfire and torn between protecting the baryo and his obligation to his homeland. The Padre quickly becomes the interpreter for the U.S. platoon, surreptitiously editing and changing the translations of the words he interprets. Crafty Padre.

Like all Sayles films, one recognizes immediately the complexity of life in the baryo and that this tale will be told, like all Sayles films, from many different perspectives. Sayles has a knack for being able to convey the complexities of any situation in an understandable way and this film is no exception. He has great respect and expectations for us, the audience to follow what can be a complicated script, but he also knows the tricks by now (this is Sayles’ 17th feature film) to help us along. Sayles’ style is different, indeed, from many other American filmmakers who present the world only in black and white.

Despite attempts by the U.S. troops to assimilate into the baryo they now occupy, these young soldiers are met by persistent resistance from the guerrillas hiding throughout the tropical island. When they’re not cutting down telegraph wires, they’re killing Chinos or “coolies,” (Chinese immigrants to the Philippines who work for the highest bidder) or attacking the poorly-trained U.S. “greenhorns.” This enrages the Colonel who believes that force and might are the only means to victory in the Philippines. He orders the screws to be tightened. Under his direction, the movement of the Filipinos is restricted by guards and barbed wire and slowly the process of starving the enemy into submission and surrender is employed.

Finally, in an attempt to find the whereabouts of the guerrillas, the Amigo is tortured by a process then called “the water cure” (now called “water boarding” and frequently used with the same unsuccessful result against Iraqi and Afghan prisoners). The Amigo nearly drowns, but agrees to lead the U.S. forces to the guerrilla hideout.

But as you may guess, the day-long trek through the flora and fauna of the Philippines is a ruse, and a wild goose chase ensues. Instead of being taken to the guerrillas’ headquarters, the troops are led by the Amigo into the middle of a deadly ambush. Casualties are taken on both sides. A fuming Colonel Goodacre, now at the end of his rope, decides the Amigo must be die by quite another rope: The Amigo must hang or be “stretched,” to use the barbaric parlance of the day.

Sayles’ Amigo ends, much like every U.S. occupation, with little or nothing truly accomplished. I won’t give away the exact circumstances of the film’s conclusion, other than to say that this is a film that will stay with you long after you leave the theater.

It’s little wonder that this ignoble and embarrassing period of U.S. history was covered up and left out of both U.S. and Philippine textbooks, while the heroics of Teddy Roosevelt on San Juan Hill were a part of every school kid’s education. It’s said that the victors are the ones who get to write the history books, and when there are no victors, perhaps it doesn’t get written at all.

However, the real victor is John Sayles and Co. for shedding light on this little-known “moment in the sun.” George Santayana’s quote that “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” seems very much applicable here, and its certainly never too late for the truth to see the light of day. Amigo is clearly as good a film as John Sayles has ever directed and certainly ranks up there there with the like of Brother From Another Planet, Matewan and Lone Star. Time will tell if Sayles legion of fans and the general American public will agree.

One thing is for certain. In 2001, writer and director John Sayles has been one busy amigo!

(Four out of four stars and highly recommended viewing.)

You can get more info and also request that “Amigo” be shown in your city here: Also visit the Amigo Facebook page here: (!/AmigoTheMovie)


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The Fantastic, Incredible, Amazing and Totally Confounding World Of Human Beings

I was thinking about humanity today.

I know what you might be thinking. Doesn’t this guy have anything better to do that to sit around and think about…humanity? I mean, when it comes to thinking (which itself is becoming more and more rare), contemplating the future of the human race is a pretty dangerous thing. It can take you down some pretty tricky alleys. Thinking about why human beings behave the way we do is actually pretty frightening. Hell, if you think too much, you might end up…depressed or worse

But earlier I was watching a British television program, Penn & Teller: Fool Us. The basic idea of the show is that magicians from around the world go on this British Saturday night prime time television program, hosted by a bloke who I believe is a magician or the U.S. equivalent of Jay Leno (ie: Not too funny), and try to perform magic tricks that fool the great magic duo of Penn & Teller.

Penn is the guy on the left, a sort of spoof of a carnival barker who’s also a master magician and at six feet eight inches tall is a rather imposing figure. The guy on the right is named Teller and he is probably one of the most well-read and respected magicians in the world. But like Harpo Marx’s character in the Marx Brothers films, Teller is mute. He never speaks, not never, not no way, no how. (Although he does speak in private, he “holds his tongue” whenever Penn & Teller are performing. But magic fascinated me because it can be used to entertain, but also to deceive. Lately, there’s been more than too much deception by politicians in America. So it put me in a very thoughtful, rather cynical mood.

Later in the day, I was doing the rather dull task of mopping the kitchen floor. To me, mopping is a lot like raking leaves. It’s a job that never ends. Also, mopping is not the most demanding psychological task. It gives a person like me a chance to ponder some of life’s larger questions. For instance, one thing I was thinking about was why we now have have an elected body of representatives in Washington who refuse to agree on…anything! For example, there’s been endless debate on taxation and how much money the rich and the poor in this country should be forced render unto our government. Also up for debate has been how that money should be spent; whether it should be used to buy more guns and tanks and weapons to destroy other human beings or, perhaps, on ensuring health care for all Americans, something that we could do as a nation, if we wanted to.

So there I was mopping away my Sunday afternoon afternoon. I began thinking specifically about how humans are capable of fantastic, incredible and amazing things. Humans, as most would agree, are at the top of the food chain, meaning that we’re smarter than chimps and dolphins, we can use our thumbs (which come in very handy when you’re mopping) AND (this is the biggie, so here it comes…) WE CAN REASON. Yes, our ability to use a tiny portion of our brains to reason is the one thing that differentiates us from Harry the dog and Kitty Cat and the rest of the animal kingdom, of which we are, of course, the master of for all time. Yes, human beings are the master race. And if you don’t believe me, check out what good old Charles Darwin had to say way back in the 19th Century:

Darwin established that all species of life have descended over time from common ancestry, and proposed the scientific theory that this branching pattern of evolution resulted from a process that he called natural selection.– Wikipedia, (that Internet resource of complete and total accuracy.) Ha ha.

There he is…Charlie Darwin, a very serious fellow, indeed, who certainly spent more than his share of time mopping the kitchen floors and thinking about humanity. (Or maybe he had the maid mop for him.)

But if human beings are the top of the pops, the bees knees, the best and the brightest of all living things, then I would like somebody to step up to the plate and explain to me a thing or two. Firstly, I’d like to know why human beings cannot seem to stop killing one another. Since the beginning of recorded history, we humans have hellbent on a crazed and insatiable bloody rampage intended to murder or maim anybody who looks, acts or behaves different from us. It seems to be part of a terrible dichotomy; our ability to at once love and hate one another. Our history as humans is a degrading, beguiling time together filled with either great progress and achievement that can takes your breath away, or else endless murders, wars, conquests, and genocides that should make you and I ashamed to call ourselves humans.

Check it out. 160 million people were killed in the the 20th century alone due to fighting and endless blood lust. Why? This may sound naive, but I’d like a good answer to why human beings seem unable to stop killing one another? Why can’t we all just get along? Why can’t humans make love and not war? Despite the overpopulation of certain areas, it’s a big old world out there and there’s still plenty of space on the planet for everybody. And there should be plenty of food for all too if we could only find a way to distribute it without greed getting in the way. If we could use our brains to create new eco-systems and new resources for energy we could stop living on top of each other and use all the wonderful natural resources that Planet Earth has to offer.

After all, it is a beautiful blue ball. But what we make of it is not so beautiful.

The sad news is this: It may be too late to save the planet. In the last few weeks and months we’ve seen record breaking heatwaves, tornadoes, earthquakes and floods all over the world. Do you think Mother Earth is trying to tell us something? Do you think we might be on the wrong course and in dire need of redirection?

But still there are legions of people who continue to deny “Global Climate Change”. “It’s gotta be some kind of socialist propaganda that Al Gore is still trying to spread,” they say. It can’t possibly have anything to do with these useless giant SUV’s that clog our roads coughing out poisonous, toxic carbon monoxide. And it couldn’t be our oil and coal burning plants belching out endless streams of black smog. And please, please, please don’t tell me that it was all predicted to happen this way and that we are entering the “end times” prophesied in the bible or the Koran or some other book written by crazed extremists. Cause they’ve been predicting the end times practically from the start.

We are in trouble, folks, both locally and globally and nobody is doing a damned thing about it. Sadly, if this isn’t just the decline and fall of the imperialist United States, it could be something much, much worse.

Several years ago, the writer Cormac McCarthy published, “The Road.” It the story of a father and son walking through a ruined America, searching for food, warmth and people who hadn’t yet gone insane. McCarthy never specified the cause of all the destruction. Instead, he wrote of the terrible realities of a society in which people had abandoned all morality and decorum. He painted a picture of a world, that you and I don’t would not want to live to see. A world in which wandering rogue gangs stalk the countryside, enslaving of the weak and old, committing acts of thievery, murder and even eating each other to stay alive. The horror, indeed.

I pray that there is still time left for human beings to recognize their common interests, needs and desires and instead of fearing and fighting and warring we can begin to work together to save the planet, save humanity and save ourselves.

The future is in your own hands.

How will you use your hands? Will you use them to help or to hurt? To build or to burn?

As they say, the rest is up to you.

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Chris Hedges On The Death Of Osama bin Laden

This is the transcript taken from a speech made by Christopher Hedges last night, upon hearing of the death of Osama bin Laden at a Truthdig fundraising event in Los Angeles.

I know that because of this announcement, that reportedly Osama bin Laden was killed, Bob wanted me to say a few words about it … about al-Qaida. I spent a year of my life covering al-Qaida for The New York Times. It was the work in which I, and other investigative reporters, won the Pulitzer Prize. And I spent seven years of my life in the Middle East. I was the Middle East bureau chief for The New York Times. I’m an Arabic speaker. And when someone came over and told Jean and me the news, my stomach sank. I’m not in any way naïve about what al-Qaida is. It’s an organization that terrifies me. I know it intimately.

But I’m also intimately familiar with the collective humiliation that we have imposed on the Muslim world. The expansion of military occupation that took place throughout, in particular the Arab world, following 9/11—and that this presence of American imperial bases, dotted, not just in Iraq and Afghanistan, but in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Doha—is one that has done more to engender hatred and acts of terror than anything ever orchestrated by Osama bin Laden.

And the killing of bin Laden, who has absolutely no operational role in al-Qaida—that’s clear—he’s kind of a spiritual mentor, a kind of guide … he functions in many of the ways that Hitler functioned for the Nazi Party. We were just talking with Warren about Kershaw’s great biography of Hitler, which I read a few months ago, where you hold up a particular ideological ideal and strive for it. That was bin Laden’s role. But all actual acts of terror, which he may have signed off on, he no way planned.

I think that one of the most interesting aspects of the whole rise of al-Qaida is that when Saddam Hussein … I covered the first Gulf War, went into Kuwait with the 1st Battalion, 1st Marines, was in Basra during the Shiite uprising until I was captured and taken prisoner by the Iraqi Republican Guard. I like to say I was embedded with the Iraqi Republican Guard. Within that initial assault and occupation of Kuwait, bin Laden appealed to the Saudi government to come back and help organize the defense of his country. And he was turned down. And American troops came in and implanted themselves on Muslim soil.

When I was in New York, as some of you were, on 9/11, I was in Times Square when the second plane hit. I walked into The New York Times, I stuffed notebooks in my pocket and walked down the West Side Highway and was at Ground Zero four hours later. I was there when Building 7 collapsed. And I watched as a nation drank deep from that very dark elixir of American nationalism … the flip side of nationalism is always racism, it’s about self-exaltation and the denigration of the other.

And it’s about forgetting that terrorism is a tactic. You can’t make war on terror. Terrorism has been with us since Sallust wrote about it in the Jugurthine wars. And the only way to successfully fight terrorist groups is to isolate [them], isolate those groups, within their own societies. And I was in the immediate days after 9/11 assigned to go out to Jersey City and the places where the hijackers had lived and begin to piece together their lives. I was then very soon transferred to Paris, where I covered all of al-Qaida’s operations in the Middle East and Europe.

So I was in the Middle East in the days after 9/11. And we had garnered the empathy of not only most of the world, but the Muslim world who were appalled at what had been done in the name of their religion. And we had major religious figures like Sheikh Tantawi, the head of al-Azhar—who died recently—who after the attacks of 9/11 not only denounced them as a crime against humanity, which they were, but denounced Osama bin Laden as a fraud … someone who had no right to issue fatwas or religious edicts, no religious legitimacy, no religious training. And the tragedy was that if we had the courage to be vulnerable, if we had built on that empathy, we would be far safer and more secure today than we are.

We responded exactly as these terrorist organizations wanted us to respond. They wanted us to speak the language of violence. What were the explosions that hit the World Trade Center, huge explosions and death above a city skyline? It was straight out of Hollywood. When Robert McNamara in 1965 began the massive bombing campaign of North Vietnam, he did it because he said he wanted to “send a message” to the North Vietnamese—a message that left hundreds of thousands of civilians dead.

These groups learned to speak the language we taught them. And our response was to speak in kind. The language of violence, the language of occupation—the occupation of the Middle East, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan—has been the best recruiting tool al-Qaida has been handed. If it is correct that Osama bin Laden is dead, then it will spiral upwards with acts of suicidal vengeance. And I expect most probably on American soil. The tragedy of the Middle East is one where we proved incapable of communicating in any other language than the brute and brutal force of empire.

And empire finally, as Thucydides understood, is a disease. As Thucydides wrote, the tyranny that the Athenian empire imposed on others it finally imposed on itself. The disease of empire, according to Thucydides, would finally kill Athenian democracy. And the disease of empire, the disease of nationalism … these of course are mirrored in the anarchic violence of these groups, but one that locks us in a kind of frightening death spiral. So while I certainly fear al-Qaida, I know its intentions. I know how it works. I spent months of my life reconstructing every step Mohamed Atta took. While I don’t in any way minimize their danger, I despair. I despair that we as a country, as Nietzsche understood, have become the monster that we are attempting to fight.

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Another Take On “Carnival Barkers” – Guest Blogger Danny Schechter

Today I am honored to feature a guest blogger and personal hero in the field of journalism, “News Dissector” Danny Schechter from his “Facts and Truth” column.


How Media Outlets Became The New “Carnival Barkers”

By Danny Schechter
Author of The Crime of Our Time

How should we understand this latest and most troubling insight into the reality of our media ecology?

In the aftermath of the resolution of the Great Birther bash-up, even as President Obama tried to lay the issue at rest by producing the document that showed, proved, verified, documented, and validated his birth in one of the great states of our disunion, it was said that its release would only fuel more debate, and convince no one.

In other words, in the end, this long debated fact didn’t matter.

Facts no longer seem to matter on other issues, too, as articulated in the now infamous memo issued by retiring Senator Jon Kyle whose office, when confronted with evidence that he misspoke on the matter of how much money Planned Parenthood spent on abortions—he claimed 90%, the truth was but 3%, issued an advisory that said, “The statement was not meant to be factual.”

The Jon Stewart’s Daily Show and Stephen Colbert had a lot of fun with that but one thing that’s not funny is that even when media coverage discredits or exposes some canard, public opinion is not necessarily impacted.

It doesn’t change the minds of those whose minds are made up.

Once some people buy into a narrative or worldview they seem to be locked into a way of thinking. For some, efforts to discredit a conspiracy theory offer more evidence that the conspiracy is valid, because why else would THEY want to refute it.

If you don’t trust the President, don’t believe he is an American or do believe he is a socialist, nothing he or his supporters say will change your mind. After all, what would you expect them to say?

So even refutation can turn into reinforcement and trigger more stridency.

Dismissing critics as “silly,” as Obama has done, only annoys them and makes them more determined to cling to their ideas, attitudes and anger.

The values (and prejudices) people grew up with often shape their worldviews. Their parochialism limits what they are exposed to. Their schooling and narrow range of experience seem to have had little impact in broadening their views.

Political scientist Thomas Patterson describes this as “The process by which individuals acquire their political opinions is called political socialization. This process begins in childhood, when, through family and school, Americans acquire many of their basic political values and beliefs. Socialization continues into adulthood, when peers, political institutions and leaders, and the news media are major influences.”

Writes Edward Song on Huffington Post, “For example, people who believe in health care reform value helping the poor and needy. For progressives, it is moral to help the poor. ‘

For conservatives, helping the poor is helping people who are irresponsible, and goes against their principle of individual responsibility. The conservative’s solution to poverty is called “Tough Love.” Whether you believe in helping the poor is a matter of values and not a matter of logic. Believing otherwise is the big progressive mistake over the last 40 years.”

Conservative columnists like John Hawkins seem to subscribe to this view too. Writing on, he argues,

“The sad truth of the matter is that most Americans don’t pay much attention to politics and those that do often just parrot doctrine instead of investigating issues with an open mind. This allows lies, myths, and dubious assertions to live on long after they should have shriveled and died in the light of day.”

Surprisingly, he also quotes JFK: “No matter how big the lie; repeat it often enough and the masses will regard it as the truth.”

Media outlets play a role in fashioning a culture of repetition, producing armies of “ditto heads” who are exposed to message-point pseudo journalism that they in turn regurgitate to advance partisan agendas. This approach is built into the design of the new polarizing and politicized media system.

This leads in the words of Vietnam War chronicler Tim O’Brian to how “you lose your sense of the definite, hence your sense of truth itself.” He was writing about military wars abroad but his insight applies to political wars at home as well. We are all becoming casualties of a media war in which democracy is collateral damage.

No surprisingly, the dominance of conservative media produces more people who align themselves as conservatives and will only understand the world that way. The shortage of progressive media outlets limits the mass the circulation of progressive perspectives. No wonder the media marketplace is so devoid of competing ideas.

Beyond that, media outlets legitimize virtually all controversies as valid, however contrived they may be, just to have something to talk about. This legitimates subjects with the noise of continuing blather and contentious discussion featuring superficial analysis by unqualified pundits.

One consequence, according to GOP political consultant Mark McKinnon is that voters cast ballots on attributes not issues. “They want to see the appearance of strength in leaders, and are less persuaded by what they say.”
That means, news programs ultimately trade in fostering impressions, not conveying information. Viewers trust their feelings over facts.

Remember, one of the most profitable formats on cable TV is not news but wrestling driven by cartoonish characters and invented confrontations. Is it any wonder that ratings hungry news programs take a similar approach to political combat. They are in the business of producing numbers for advertisers more than explanations for viewers.

John Cory commented on the media role in legitimating the birther issue and turning it into a form of entertainment, calling it ” a sorry and sad day for America.”

“What does it say about our ‘media’ that they have spent so much time and so much effort promoting crazy over reality? That our ‘media’ relishes circus clowns jumping out of their clown-cars and spraying clown-seltzer everywhere and then giddily covers the wet and stained audience reaction while ignoring the burning of fact?”

So, it is the media system itself, not Donald Trump or some crazy, that is the real “carnival barker” in the President’s words, Their programs program the audience by constantly and continually framing issues in a trivial matter. Manipulating emotion is their modality, doubt their currency and cynicism their methodology, except, of course, on issues like the economy, Israel or US wars.

The shame of it is that they know what they are doing, know what the impact of what passes for “coverage” will be, but do it anyway.

News Dissector Danny Schechter, former WBCN radio news anchor and network producer. Danny edits

He writes the News Dissector blog (

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“The Motorcycle Diaries” – Not Just Another Road Movie

For the last six years I’ve heard nothing but raves about the on-the-road, buddy film, political manifesto “The Motorcycles Diaries,” but for some reason or other I never got around to watching it. Until the other night, and I am here to add to that chorus and raves and recommend it as one of the great films of the past 25 years.

The truth is, after viewing it, I can’t get this film out of my head; from the gorgeous images that showcase the intense beauty of South America, the passionate camaraderie and love between a 23 year old Che Guevara and his hilarious, sidekick, best friend Alberto Granado, to the gradual political and social transformation of Ernesto “Che” Guevara as he encounters the poor, indigenous people who populate his home in the southern hemisphere. I recommend it not because the cinematography is gorgeous (it is) or because the actors are tremendous (they are) or because it’s a really fun road trip that will make you want to hit the road yourself (it will). I recommend it because like all great art, it will change you, or at least the way you see this part of the world.

“The Motorcycle Diaries” is set in 1952 and is based on the actual diaries kept by Che Guevara, who was then a medical student one semester away from graduating when he decided to go on a long journey up and down that long continent of South America with his friend, biochemist Alberto Granada. Before they go, the two amigos trace out an outline of their journey which they plan to mount atop Alberto’s outdated Norton 500 motorcycle, nicknamed by Alberto “The Mighty One.”

The two men, their bodies, sacks and packs of food and other provisions, are perched like a tremendous behemoth upon this tiny motor bike. And even though their eventual destination is a leper colony in Peru, where they hope to help the sick and dying, these are two young men looking to discover new places and the fun and adventure that is sure to greet them along their intended 8,000 kilometer (5,000 mile route).

They hop aboard “The Mighty One” and head out from Buenos Aires, Argentina across the flatland and up into the Andes and through its snow covered mountains, down the coast of Chile and across the Atacama Desert, where eventually “The Mighty One” breaks down and is sold as scrap. You want to give God a laugh, it is said, tell him your plans.

The tone of the film shifts slowly from one of rambunctious hilarity to something different with serious sociopolitical implications. In their travels, Che and Alberto encounter a group of traveling migrants on the road to Venezuela, and Che (or “Fuser”, as Alberto has earlier nicknamed him) begins to get to know the peasants and downtrodden people of South America. Listening to their stories at night alongside a campfire and under moonlit skies, we see the slow metamorphosis that is happening within Che, as he hears these sad stories of lives lived under the terrible hardship of poverty. One couple tells of how their lives were uprooted and ruined because of their communist beliefs, as many of the others nod in political solidarity.

Finally, when Che and Alberto visit a copper mine, Guevara’s frustration and anger come to a boiling point as he sees with his own eyes the terrible treatment of the men who are merely trying to seek out enough money to feed their families. All this time, Che feverishly documents in a diary consisting of numerous notebooks exactly what he is witnessing and does not want to forget.

For most of the film, Alberto serves as somewhat of a foil, a source of comic relief versus the more serious and gentlemanly young Che. Alberto wants to sing, dance, drink wine and make love. Che seems more interested in learning as much as he can about a world he never knew existed. But both men are moved tremendously and muse both politically and philosophically when they reach the most breathtaking stop on their already transformative journey, the Peruvian ruins of Machu Picchu.

As Che and Alberto both observe with disgust the contrast between this centuries old ruin of Machu Picchu with the the ugly, polluted city of Lima to the south, they find themselves wondering aloud how such beauty and majesty can be so devastatingly destroyed into the waste and greed and avarice they see far below them.

Che speaks of dreams of revolution against rampant capitalism, but is warned by the more practical Alberto who answers, “A revolution without guns? It will never work.” Prophetic words indeed. In the end, the two weary travelers reach their final destination, the leper colony where Che cares for those in dire need of medical attention, refusing the custom of wearing medical gloves, and instead bravely, nobly choosing instead to meet the lepers with his bare hands.

As the film comes to a close, Ernesto “Che” Guevara makes a birthday toast, his first real political statement, in which he confirms how he has been so radically changed and hints at what those changes will mean for his future. In an attempt to put words into action of one day bridging the widening gap between the “haves” of the world and “have-nots,” Che plunges into the dangerous Amazon river and swims from the safe side where the caretakers live and eat over to the sick side, where the lepers are dying. He emerges from the water, a man newly baptized by the water and ready to begin a new, more radical life.

This is a film which will have a powerful effect on you. It will change you in many ways, not the least of which might be the way you think of Ernesto “Che” Guevara, a true man of the people.

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Johnny Comes Marching Home

Dateline: August 19, 2010
By REBECCA SANTANA, Associated Press Writer
KHABARI CROSSING, Kuwait – A line of heavily armored American military vehicles, their headlights twinkling in the pre-dawn desert, lumbered past the barbed wire and metal gates marking the border between Iraq and Kuwait early Thursday and rolled into history.

For the troops of the 4th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, it was a moment of relief fraught with symbolism but lightened by the whoops and cheers of soldiers one step closer to going home. Seven years and five months after the U.S.-led invasion, the last American combat brigade was leaving Iraq, well ahead of President Barack Obama’s Aug. 31 deadline for ending U.S. combat operations there.

It took longer than anybody could have imagined. But this morning while you and I slept, the last combat troops officially left Iraq, bringing an end to more than seven years of needless killing and destruction, an endless waste of U.S. defence dollars and most tragically, the overwhelming murder and maiming of tens of thousands of young American men and women. Not to mention the untold hundreds of thousands of dead and wounded Iraqis. That toll will never really be known and their lives will be destroyed forever.

After all the yellow ribbons calling for the U.S. government to “bring ’em home” and desperate pleas of the parents of soldiers killed in Iraq and the millions of plain old U.S. citizens who saw the writing on the wall many years ago, Americans finally elected a new president with the sense and sensibility to know when to “bring ’em home.” President Barrack Obama has now delivered on his promise to end the combat mission in Iraq; a mission fraught by graft, greed and corruption, a crusade to locate weapons of mass destruction that were never found and most likely never existed, an exercise in American shock and awe that has left an estimated 4,415 U.S. soldiers dead and many more thousands wounded . Never to see another sunrise. Never to feel the promise of a new morning. But at least this marks the beginning of the end of U.S. presence in Iraq. At last they are coming home.

There will still be a strong American presence in Iraq, some 50,000 troops left behind for one final year in what is termed a “non-combat role.” (Although they are called non-combat troops they will still carry weapons and accompany Iraqi troops on certain missions when requested to do so, so take that with a giant grain of salt.)

There will still be additional U.S. and Iraqi deaths and danger still lies ahead for these remaining troops. But officials tell the Associated Press that for the most part those soldiers left behind will be cleaning up the final remnants of the American presence and doing their best to prepare the Iraqi government, military and police force, such that it is, for life without U.S. troop involvement.

But make no mistake. This morning’s final combat troop departure is historic and justified. It’s been a long time coming, but now it’s here.

So please allow me, as one of the millions who has been part of the effort to “Bring “Em Home” from Iraq to enjoy today’s news with pride and relief. And thank you to President Obama, to members of the U.S. Congress who have been in the trenches trying to end this senseless occupation, to other leaders around the world who have called on the United States to do the right thing, and to artists and entertainers – all of them citizens entitled just like you and me to speak out, who have used their power and celebrity to call for an end to the war in Iraq.

As singer/songwriter Little Steven once wrote, “Undefeated…everybody comes home.” Well, maybe not everybody is coming home today, but this is a damn good start. To my friends and fellow Americans who have played such an important role, simply by speaking out, I say congratulations and urge you to keep up the fight. We all made an impact. Seven years is too long, but it’s better than seventeen. Those yellow flags were heeded and made a difference.

Now, finally, fathers and mothers deployed in Iraq for too long will be reunited with their families. For these men and woman who have so courageously served, this day must be incredibly sweet.

Again, to those who believe in peace, let’s not stop putting pressure on Washington. Let us not stop the clarion call to “bring ’em home” just yet. Because now we must concentrate on ending the conflict, and U.S. involvement in Afghanistan.

In the never ending battle for peace, the work is never truly over.

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“Restrepo” – Life In The Most Dangerous Place In The World

Intense. That’s the best word I can use to describe the film, “Restrepo,” about a company of U.S. soldiers places into a valley in Afghanistan, called the “most dangerous spot in the entire world”

I just saw the movie today and I don’t have the time for a full review. Plus I probably need a day or so to digest what I just saw. So here’s a trailer for the film and I’ll have a complete review for you tomorrow.

Have a fun and peaceful rest of your day.

Love, peace and happiness,

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How The American West Was Really Stolen

When I was knee-high to a grasshopper, my Dad took me to see a movie called “How The West Was Won.” It was full of bogus stories about mountain men and pioneers, cowboys and Indians, gold rush “49ers”, and all kinds of prospectors. It was in living Technicolor, had more than my usual allowed quotient of “bad words” and violence and though I didn’t realize it then, it was complete bull. Unfiltered and unadulterated lies and manipulations.

Lately, I’ve been watching old episodes of the short-lived HBO series “Deadwood,” which ran for just three seasons, from 2004 to 2006, and which for some unknown reason I completely missed when it first aired. I decided to go back and watch “Deadwood” after I watched an excellent documentary series produced in part by Ken Burns and titled simply “The West,” which originally also aired in 2006 and features eight episodes.

I’m partial to documentaries, so I give the edge to “The West” but both series, dramatic and documentary, are outstanding and enlightening. While “Deadwood” takes some minor liberties with the truth, many of its characters are based on real people like Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane who lived for a short time in the town of Deadwood, South Dakota. While “The West” is more arid in its presentation of the facts, “Deadwood,” created by NYPD brainchild David Milch is more colorful and may hold the record for most profanities and vulgarities per minute of any television series in history.

I’m not done watching the series, so I can’t comment completely on either one, but because the American West has been on my mind a great deal lately, I thought I’d share some thoughts. I’m struck by how treacherous and difficult it was for any person to journey into the West, and at the same time I’m shocked by how that experience seems to have impacted the way these people treated the West’s true inhabitants, not to mention their attitudes toward life and death. It seems you had to be more than just a little lucky to complete the journey from New England or Pennsylvania or any place east of the Mississippi to outposts in the West. There was always the risk of attack by the Native Americans, who were considered savages and heathens in the propaganda of the day. And you weren’t killed by the bow and arrow, or later the rifle, chances are you’d find your body being laid to rest the victim of cholera, or dysentery of smallpox or any number of diseases that came and went.

It also occurs to me that the earliest prospectors and adventurers into the West were much more apt to try and make friends with the indigenous people, the many tribes that existed alongside their brother, the buffalo. But once gold was discovered at Sutter’s Mill in California in 1849, the rush was on and all bets were off as to the chance for peace among the white men and the Native Americans. In short, what ensued was a greed rush; a lust for riches and a money grab that turned many good men bad. And in the aftermath came the obliteration of whole people and cultures, violence between once-friendly prospectors fighting for their share of gold and, ultimately a kind of American nightmare that either wiped out or forced onto reservations a majority of the Native Americans and killed nearly all of the buffalo, which was their chief source of furs and food, not to mention their connections to the spiritual world.

Sure there were heroes, men who had good intentions and sought to bring law and order and peace to
the West, but they were few and far between. What history now shows us that the development and occupation of the West, and its inclusion in the United States is a sad sorry story reeking with blood and outright murder.

Sting once wrote, “History reeks with the wrongs we have done,” and this has never been more evident than in the American West.


Filed under History, Television