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June 01, 2005


Yesterday would have been the 60th birthday of the late German filmmaker Reiner Werner FassbinderFassbinder_1 , whose work I always appreciated. The website of the Fassbinder Foundation has a wealth of material (in English) on this important cinematic creator, who was also a pioneer in bringing gay themes to the screen in some of his major films. One can also profit greatly from reading a fascinating collection of Fassbinder's brilliant film criticism and other essays, The Anarchy of the Imagination. And Green Cine Daily  yesterday had a long list of articles on Fassbinder (half in German, half in English). One of the best of them is a profile by Gary Morris for Bright Lights.....

SELL THE GOLD TO FREE THE THIRD WORLD OF DEBT: That's the proposal examined in their weekly Focus on the Corporations column this week by the excellent duo of Russell Mokhiber (editor of the Corporate Crime Reporter) and Robert Weissman (editor of the Multinational Monitor.) They report that: "It is now clear a Gold_bullion_1 compromise agreement among the rich countries over cancellation of IMF debt can only be reached if sale of IMF gold  is a component of the financing package for debt cancellation. But a decision to sell some of the IMF's stock of gold is being blocked by the gold industry, led by the world's largest gold producing corporation, Newmont Mining Co. Newmont and the industry say that IMF gold sales will lower the world gold price, but they ignore a proposal from the IMF itself that would ensure IMF gold sales have no net impact on the world gold market." Read the entire column by clicking here....

FRENCH PRESS INDEPENDENCE TAKES ANOTHER HIT: The Lexpress journalists and editors of the major French newsweekly L'Express are threateniing a strike tomorrow, in protest against a move by the paper's new owner -- Serge Dassault, head of a powerful military-industrial corporation -- that threatens its editorial independence, reports today the daily news bulletin of Le Nouvel Observateur. Dassault, one of the world's most important makers of armaments and military aircraft, has been gobbling up important media organs these last few years, offering himself the conservative Paris daily Le Figaro as well as the influential L'Express -- founded by the legendary Jean-Jacques Servan-Shreiber in 1953 Jjss_mauriac_f_giroud_1 (in the photo at right taken at the mag in 1953, l. to r., one sees J.J.S.S., Nobel Prize laureate Francois Mauriac -- who wrote a famous "Bloc-Notes" column in L'Express -- and L'Express co-founder Francoise Giroud). Since then, the mag has had a succession of owners (including the mad Brit nationalist entrepreneur Sir Jimmy Goldsmith). It's disconcerting to see the highly politicized cannon merchants of the Dassault family empire in control of such important media outlets (Serge recently had himself enthroned a Senator by the UMP, the conservative party of Jacques Chirac-- to whom the Dassaults have been huge contributors -- and Serge's son Olivier is a UMP deputy in parliament). What's provoking the strike threat by the L'Express journalists? Dassault recently purged the independent board (composed of representatives of the mag's editorial staff, owner, and personalities outside the magazine) that oversees the newsmag and its editorial -- substituting Dassault's own liegemen. This is seen as another move to subordinate L'Express to Dassault's personal, conservative and mercantile agenda (just as he's already been doing at Le Figaro). And its more evidence of the decline in quality in the French press (see my earlier dissection of "The Crisis at Le Monde")...

THE DUTCH VOTE NO: If there was any doubt that Sunday's French referendum rejecting the proposed European Constitution had killed that dreadfully corporate-conservative document, today's massive No vote against it in the Netherlands -- 62.2%, against 37.8% for the Yes -- is definitely the final nail in the Constitution's coffin. Netherlands_flag As Radio Netherlands reported on its English-language website (a good source of info on what's happening in the Low Country), "Surveys show that the Dutch had several reasons for voting 'No' to the constitution. These included concerns that the Netherlands is losing influence in the EU and about a perceived dominance of larger member states. Other factors were dissatisfaction with the single currency, the Euro, and the refusal of other eurozone nations to comply with the requirements of the Growth and Stability pact."

Tomorrow's The Guardian also takes that view -- and adds some nuances:

"The Dutch are wary of forfeiting their veto in European policy-making. As the biggest per capita net contributors to the Brussels budget, they also feel bullied by the bigger countries and let down by the single currency, seen to have brought steep price rises while the currency's rulebook has been flouted with impunity by Germany and France. The economy is stagnant and unemployment has risen to 7%.

Growing anti-Muslim sentiment, opposition to EU membership for Turkey, and fears over losing control of immigration policy all contributed to the debacle for the pro-European camp, producing a surly and hostile electorate. The no camp was helped rather than hindered by a hapless government pro campaign which was late in getting off the ground and appeared to take the electorate for granted." Also, there's a good backgrounder on racial tensions in the Netherlands in the March Le Monde Diplomatique.

Bush_abbas "MAHMOUD ABBAS' MISSION IMPROBABLE": That's the title of a perceptive new analysis of Palestinian President Abbas' White House visit with George Bush, just out from Middle East Report. Among the pertinent observations from Mouin Rabbani and Chris Toensing: "Rather than looking to US-sponsored bilateral negotiations to produce a comprehensive peace treaty, Sharon is in the process of imposing a new relationship with the Palestinians negotiated directly with Washington that in his view will be sustainable for a generation, with or without Palestinian consent and cooperation. If Washington is prepared to support him, Sharon is ready to implement a further series of unilateral withdrawals that, while consolidating Israel's position within the Occupied Territories, will involve real and visible movement on a scale exceeding redeployments from Palestinian population centers conducted pursuant to the Oslo accords of 1993 and 1995. If, however, Bush insists upon a revival of bilateral Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, Sharon will give him nothing, and stall and procrastinate unless (or until) he is literally compelled to part with existing assets.

"Given this menu of options, conscious as ever of domestic political calculations, and preoccupied himself with Iraq and his "transformational" vision for the region, Bush seems almost certain to take the path of leastresistance. Seen from the White House, it simply makes no sense to provoke acostly conflict with a close and politically influential ally in order to achieve less than is being offered. The price Sharon is demanding in return -- chiefly, endorsement of the West Bank separation barrier and US recognition of strategic settlement blocs and the Jewish character of the Israeli state -- are things Bush is inclined to accept even without excessive prodding....It is at least clear that the Bush administration has not yet attempted to compel Sharon to part with any component of his strategic vision. By choice or by default, the Bush administration is still acting, in the words of former Clinton official Aaron David Miller, as "Israel's lawyer." If the White House does adopt a tougher stance toward its Israeli ally, this may come too late for the 'partner for peace' in Ramallah." There's a lot more in this first-rate analysis: read it all by clicking here.

ONE MORE REASON I HATE FOOTBALL: Today's San Francisco Chronicle reports: "It was meant to be funny -- but no one is laughing now in the San  Francisco 49ers' 49ers_logo front office over an in-house training film that featured off-color racial jokes, lesbian porn, a spoof of gay marriage and a trio of buxom, topless blondes frolicking with team public relations director  Kirk Reynolds." You can see the tasteless video by clicking here.

WAL-MART EXPOSED: Robert Greenwald, whose documentary Walmart_logo_1 Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism was a hilarious, biting sendup of ol' Rupe's network, has a new film out. Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price, sent film crews to three continents to demonstrate the rapacious, inhumane exploitation that enables the giant discount store to offer you those low prices. I caught part of it today on C-Span, where it was shown at the Take Back America Conference sponsored by the Campaign for America's Future. You can watch a trailer for Greenwald's truly terrific film by clicking here. Organize a screening in your community -- find out how by clicking here.

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