Thursday, April 17, 2008

Obama Speech in North Carolina, April 17, 2008


Today Barack Obama made a brilliant and very amusing speech about the insipid "debate" between himself and Hillary wednesday night on ABC television where for the first forty five minutes(!) the various pundits' and "news journalists"(?) asked a number of irrelevant, gossipy, and infantile questions about damn near everything except the major issues facing the United States. Needless to say the spectacle was not only mind numbing but deeply aggravating (it was as if the National Enquirer staff and various celebrity obsessed paparazzi were suddenly interviewing the candidates).

In any event Obama rebounds very well in the video spot above working the crowd with great aplomb, charm, and signifying wit (the brother plays 'the dozens' rather well), Enjoy...The accompanying article is from the New York Times.


About Last Night…
New York Times
April 17, 2008

RALEIGH, N.C. – Senator Barack Obama delivered a mocking critique of Wednesday night’s Democratic presidential debate, telling an audience here that the 90-minute session with Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton exemplified the problems with Washington by not focusing on issues that truly matter to the American people.

“They like stirring up controversy and they like playing gotcha games, getting us to attack each other. And I have to say Senator Clinton looked in her element,” Mr. Obama said. “She was taking every opportunity to get a dig in there. You know, that’s all right. That’s her right. That’s her right to kind of twist the knife a little bit.”

At a town meeting today in North Carolina, where he arrived to campaign in advance of the May 6 primary, Mr. Obama seemed intent on seeking to quell any political fallout from the debate in Philadelphia. Throughout much of the ABC News forum, Mr. Obama was on the defensive, tackling questions about his patriotism, understanding of small-town America and his association with the incendiary remarks of his former pastor.

“That was the roll-out of the Republican campaign against me in November. That is what they will do,” Mr. Obama said. “They will try to focus on all these issues that don’t have anything to do with how you pay your bills at the end of the month.”

With a wide smile, and a sarcastic tone, Mr. Obama sought to brush aside criticism about his performance in what he said was the 21st debate of the presidential nominating fight.

“I will tell you, it does not get much more fun than these debates. They are inspiring events,” Mr. Obama quipped. “Last night, I think we set a new record because it took us 45 minutes before we even started talking about a single issue that matters to the American people. It took us 45 minutes!”

“Forty-five minutes before we heard about health care. Forty-five minutes before we heard about Iraq,” he continued. “Forty-five — 45 — minutes before we heard about jobs. Forty-five minutes before we heard about gas prices.”

While many admirers of Mr. Obama have aggressively assailed the debate’s moderators, Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos, Mr. Obama did not mention them in his remarks today. Instead, he focused his ire on Mrs. Clinton.

“Look, I understand that because that’s the text book Washington game. That’s how our politics has been taught to be played,” Mr. Obama said. “That’s the lesson that she learned when the Republicans were doing that same thing to her back in the 1990s. So I understand it and when you’re running or the presidency than you’ve got to expect it.”

He told the audience that he intended to let the criticism roll off of him. As he spoke, he made a dramatic gesture of wiping off his sleeves and dusting off his dark suit.

“That’s what you got to do,” he said, drawing loud applause from the audience. “That’s what you’ve got to do. But understand this, that is also precisely why I’m running for president – to change that kind of politics.”

After Mr. Obama’s opening remarks, a woman in the audience asked how he intended to forcefully challenge Senator John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee.

“It’s a little hard to do with a fellow Democrat. I’m trying to show some restraint. I won’t have as much restraint with the Republicans,” Mr. Obama said, adding: “That’s the debate that I am really looking forward to. I am confident that that’s the debate the American people are going to want to have.”

“What they are going to figure out is who is the person who can lead this country and actually solve problems,” he added. “We’ve been going through this politics – tit for tat silliness – for decades now.”

Updated | 6:37 p.m. So was that the final debate between the dueling Democrats? CBS News was hoping to sponsor a debate here in North Carolina on April 27, but Mr. Obama has not agreed to participate. A voter here asked him why he had not committed to the debate.

Mr. Obama said that if he took part in the North Carolina debate, it could take away time from campaigning in Indiana, where the primary is also May 6.

“We’re trying to figure out what our schedule looks like,” he said. “But I’ll be honest with you. We’ve now had 21, and look, in the previous three, you know, we did very well and so it’s not as if we don’t know how to do these things. I could deliver Senator Clinton’s lines. I’m sure she could deliver mine.”

It was unclear if that answer satisfied the voter’s question.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Jules Dassin, Artist and Citizen: 1911-2008


The following obituaries of the courageous blacklisted American director, writer, actor, and activist Jules Dassin, the maker of such wonderful and important films as Night and the City, Brute Force, The Naked City, Never on Sunday, and Rififi appeared on April 1. We pay homage to a man whose tireless dedication as artist and citizen always led him to fight for justice, creative expression, and political/aesthetic freedom and independence no matter where he was in the world and no matter what criminal "authorities" or governments tried to dictate otherwise. Goodbye Mr. Dassin. Your profound legacy can be found in both your life and work, which we deeply appreciate and honor.


Jules Dassin, Filmmaker on Blacklist, Dies at 96

By Richard Severo
New York Times
April 1, 2008

Jules Dassin, an American director, screenwriter and actor who found success making movies in Europe after he was blacklisted in the United States because of his earlier ties to the Communist Party, died Monday in Athens, where he had lived since the 1970s. He was 96.

A spokeswoman for Hygeia Hospital confirmed his death but did not give a cause, The Associated Press reported.

Mr. Dassin is most widely remembered for films he made after he fled Hollywood in the 1950s, including “Never on Sunday” (1960), with the Greek actress Melina Mercouri, whom he later married; “Topkapi” (1964), with Ms. Mercouri, Peter Ustinov and Maximilian Schell; and the 1954 French thriller “Rififi.”

But before his blacklisting he had also carved out a successful Hollywood career making noir movies like “Brute Force” (1947), a prison drama starring Burt Lancaster and Hume Cronyn; “The Naked City” (1948), an influential New York City police yarn that won Academy Awards for cinematography and editing; and “Thieves’ Highway” (1949), about criminals who try to coerce truckers in California.

Mr. Dassin’s last major effort before his exile was “Night and the City” (1950), a film shot in London starring Richard Widmark (who died last Monday) as a shady but naïve wrestling promoter and Francis L. Sullivan as a predatory nightclub owner. Some critics called it Mr. Dassin’s masterpiece.

“Dassin turned Londontown into a city of busted dreams and nightmare alleys,” Michael Sragow wrote on in 2000. “He mixed the fantastic and the real with masterly ease.”

The producer Darryl F. Zanuck had assigned the film to Mr. Dassin just as Mr. Dassin was to appear before the House Un-American Activities Committee. He never did testify, but testimony by the directors Edward Dmytryk and Frank Tuttle, who recalled Mr. Dassin’s Communist Party membership in the 1930s, was damning enough to sink his career.

Mr. Dassin left the United States for France in 1953 because, he said, he was “unemployable” in Hollywood. In Paris, unable to speak much more than restaurant French when he arrived, he encountered hard times and remained largely unemployed for five years. In need of money, he agreed to direct “Rififi,” a low-budget production about a jewelry heist. A memorable sequence is of the robbery itself, lasting about a half-hour and filmed without music or dialogue.

Mr. Dassin also acted in the movie, under the name Perlo Vita, playing an Italian safe expert. He won a best-director award for the film at the 1955 Cannes Film Festival. By the time he wrote and directed “Never on Sunday,” a comedy about a good-hearted prostitute (Ms. Mercouri), the anti-Communist witch hunt in the United States had been discredited, and he had been accepted again.

Mr. Dassin also had a role in the movie, as a bookish American from — like Mr. Dassin himself — Middletown, Conn., who tries to reform the prostitute. His directing and screenwriting were nominated for Academy Awards.

The movie was a moneymaker and its title song was a hit, though some critics found the script predictable. Ms. Mercouri became Mr. Dassin’s second wife in 1966, two years after he directed her in “Topkapi,” another film about jewel thieves, the prize in this case being gems from the Topkapi Palace Museum in Istanbul.

Jules Dassin was born in Middletown on Dec. 18, 1911, one of eight children of Samuel Dassin, an immigrant barber from Russia, and the former Berthe Vogel. Shortly after Jules was born, his father moved the family to Harlem. Jules attended Morris High School in the Bronx.

He joined the Communist Party in 1930s, a decision he recalled in 2002 in an interview with The Guardian in London. “You grow up in Harlem where there’s trouble getting fed and keeping families warm, and live very close to Fifth Avenue, which is elegant,” he told the newspaper. “You fret, you get ideas, seeing a lot of poverty around you, and it’s a very natural process.”

He left the party in 1939, he said, disillusioned after the Soviet Union signed a nonaggression pact with Hitler.

In the mid-1930s, Mr. Dassin studied drama in Europe before returning to New York, where he made his debut as an actor in the Yiddish Theater. He also wrote radio scripts.

He went to Hollywood shortly before World War II erupted in Europe and was hired as an apprentice to the directors Alfred Hitchcock and Garson Kanin. Soon he was directing films for MGM, including “Reunion in France,” a Joan Crawford vehicle with John Wayne in which her character comes to believe that her fiancé is a Nazi collaborator.

His later movies were often joint efforts with Ms. Mercouri. They included “He Who Must Die” (1957), about life overtaking a Passion play in a village on Crete; and “La Legge” (1959), a noirish melodrama with Gina Lollobrigida, Marcello Mastroianni and Yves Montand.

One film without Ms. Mercouri was “Up Tight!” (1968), a remake of a John Ford classic, “The Informer,” set in a poor black neighborhood, with a script by its star, Ruby Dee. It was Mr. Dassin’s first film in the United States since he had left.

The year before, Mr. Dassin had directed the Broadway musical comedy “Illya Darling,” based on “Never on Sunday,” for which Ms. Mercouri was nominated for a Tony Award. The couple lived in Manhattan during the run.

The same year, 1967, Ms. Mercouri, an ardent anti-Facist, lost her Greek citizenship for engaging in what Greece’s rightist government called “anti-national activities.” In 1970, Mr. Dassin was accused of sponsoring a plot to overthrow the junta. The charges were later dropped.

When the regime lost power in 1974, he and Ms. Mercouri returned from exile, which had been spent mainly in Paris. Ms. Mercouri entered politics, becoming a member of Parliament and later culture minister. They had homes in Athens and on the Greek island of Spetsai. Ms. Mercouri died in 1994. They had no children.

Mr. Dassin’s first marriage, to Beatrice Launer, from 1933 to 1962, ended in divorce. Their son, Joseph, who became a popular French singer, died in 1980. Mr. Dassin is survived by two other children from his first marriage, Richelle and Julie Dassin, an actress, as well as grandchildren.

Toward the end of his life, Mr. Dassin ran the Melina Mercouri Foundation, which tried to induce the British Museum to return the Elgin Marbles, sculptures taken from the Parthenon nearly 200 years ago. In September, a museum is set to open at the foot of the Acropolis displaying plaster casts of the works.

Mr. Dassin ended his directing career in his late 60s on a disheartened note, when his film “Circle of Two” (1980) — about an aging artist (Richard Burton) who is infatuated with a teenage student (Tatum O’Neal) — did poorly at the box office. Mr. Dassin never made another film.

He had always been demanding of himself and often critical of his own work. In 1962, with his best films largely behind him, Mr. Dassin told Cue magazine: “Of my own films, there’s only one I’ve really liked — ‘He Who Must Die.’ That is, I like what it had to say. But that doesn’t mean I’m completely satisfied with it. I’d do it all over again, if I could.”

Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company

Director Jules Dassin Dead at 96

Connecticut-born director Jules Dassin, who achieved his greatest fame after being blacklisted in the U.S. in the 1950s and becoming an exile abroad, has died in Athens at the age of 96. After leaving the U.S., he initially moved to Paris where he met and later married Greek actress Melina Mercouri. She starred in his most celebrated film, 1960's
Never on Sunday, which he wrote and directed. He became such a part of European cinema in the years that followed that many Americans pronounced his name as if it were French. He and Mercouri settled in Greece following the overthrow of the military junta there in 1974, where they became one of the country's best loved couples. Mercouri eventually became the country's culture minister and Dassin became a Greek citizen. Mercouri died of lung cancer in 1994.

Director Jules Dassin Dies
1 April 2008 (WENN)

Filmmaker Jules Dassin has died following a short illness. He was 96. The American director passed away in an Athens, Greece hospital on Monday. Dassin, who is best known for his Oscar-winning 1960 movie Never On Sunday, was married to the late Greek actress and culture minister Melina Mercouri. Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis says,
"Greece grieves the loss of a rare human being, an important creator and a true friend. His passion, energy, fighting spirit and nobility will never be forgotten." Dassin started his career as an actor and theatre producer; his breakthrough came when he became an assistant to legendary filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock in 1940. He moved to France in the early 1950s after he was named as part of Hollywood's "communist faction" during a House Of Representatives Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) hearing. Dassin went on to marry Mercouri, who starred in his Never On Sunday, which won the Oscar for Best Original Song and for which Dassin received two Academy Award nominations for Best Director and Best Writing, Story And Screenplay.

Political and Economic Elites vs. the Working Class Vote in 2008


The following article by Randy Shaw from 'Beyond Chron: The Voice of the Rest', a San Francisco based alternative online daily of political news and commentary, is an excellent and well informed take on the ideological and political implications of the ongoing media battle between the Clinton Machine and Barack Obama over the national working class vote. With the upcoming Democratic Party primary in Pennsylvania looming on April 22 Shaw points out that what is really at stake in this "war of words" between the candidates over the present disposition of this major class group and crucial voting bloc is nothing less than a national referendum on the future direction of the economy and general domestic policy in the United States come the general election in November.


Frenzy Over Obama’s “Bitter” Working Class Shows Elites Seek McCain-Clinton Race
by Randy Shaw

Apr. 14‚ 2008

This weekend conclusively disproved two claims: that media coverage has favored Obama over Clinton, and that the Illinois Senator is favored by corporate America. In a week in which the Clinton family’s $109 million earnings were essentially ignored, when Bill Clinton’s receiving money from China business interests involved with the crackdown in Tibet is overlooked, and when the Clinton campaign created a new set of whoppers about Hillary’s Bosnian trip, the traditional media preferred to criticize the rather obvious claim by Barack Obama that working-class voters are “bitter” over the nation’s betrayal of their interests. And in emphasizing Hillary Clinton’s false framing of Obama’s words, no traditional media outlet had the guts to juxtapose her account of a happy, smiling “optimistic” working class with the virtually identical analysis routinely given by our President, George W. Bush. If anyone doubted that corporate America is desperate for a McCain-Clinton status quo race, this weekend closed the case.

Whenever one thinks that Hillary Clinton cannot sink deeper into Richard Nixon, Lee Atwater and Karl Rove style-politics, we are proved wrong. This weekend, Clinton led the media on a frenzy over Barack Obama’s social analysis of working-class America – a critique that would be an “A” paper on college campuses but which, in Clinton’s angry world, she describes as evidence of Obama’s “elitism.”

A Bitter Working-Class

Yes, Barack Obama has committed the gravest of sins. He has told the truth about the federal government’s longtime contempt toward the social and economic security of its working-class.

This sin is grave because it exposes the dishonesty of the American Dream. The Dream says that if we work hard and play by the rules, our economic fortunes will advance over that of our parents.

Well, that has not been the reality for millions of hard-working Americans for some time now. And since the flip side of the American Dream is that failure is attributable to individual shortcomings, millions of working-class people are embittered both by the falseness of the Dream, and the lengths to which politicians have gone to stifle social and economic fairness.

Does bitterness over government unfairness lead the working-class to practice what Richard Hofstadter deemed long ago as “the politics of resentment”? Nixon and George Wallace sure thought so, and both made political careers appealing to such bitterness.

As with his speech on race, Barack Obama appealed to the intelligence of the American people. And our traditional media – the same media that has elevated anti-intellectualism from the days of Joe McCarthy, Nixon, Wallace and Ronald Reagan to that of George W. Bush – is boosting Hillary Clinton’s cynical attacks on Obama for telling the truth.

80% Believe the Nation is on Wrong Track

If I had not heard Hillary Clinton with my own ears, I would not have believed she could make the statement on Saturday that her travels in Pennsylvania revealed an “optimistic” and hard-working people who were not “bitter” about their situation.

I guess she’s only talking to the 20% of Americans who believe the nation is on the right track.

Optimistic? The only politician speaking optimistically about the current state of the United States is President Bush. Add Hillary Clinton to the increasingly small list of politicians who have no clue as to how people in this country really feel.

Clinton is the Bitter One

The biggest shortcoming of the media’s coverage of Obama’s comment could be its failure to note the irony of Hillary Clinton accusing someone else of being “bitter.” Clinton is the bitter candidate in this race, and the only serious presidential candidate in decades that is as equally acerbic and sarcastic is Clinton’s good friend, John McCain.

Why did the media not turn Clinton’s charges against her? Because of insecurity about its own avid support for the free trade and elitist economic policies that have so damaged the working-class over the past thirty years.

And Clinton has had the media on the defensive since Iowa about unfair coverage. Bill Clinton attacks the media coverage of Hillary in every press event, and one need only check the New York Times letters page to find a gaggle of Clinton-backers convinced that the male-dominated media has it in for Hillary.

Corporate America Wants McCain-Clinton

It would be great to believe that Hillary Clinton’s ability to direct media coverage to her latest attack is just coincidence, or an example of effective staff. But activists know too well how the media frames coverage to suit its favored candidate (see Bush v. Gore, 2000)

How did the alleged Clinton-hating Times handle Obama’s “bitter” comment? Well, it not only put the non-story on its Sunday front page, but ended the article with a quote from a “Democratic strategist” who claimed that Obama’s comment “could mean he’s rendered himself unelectable.” He also said it would “offend rural voters.”

The strategist, David Saunders, is known for an ability to attract the “Bubba vote” in rural America, using Nascar, bluegrass music etc. But he was working for John Edwards when Obama won the Iowa primary, and Obama has defied critics throughout the primary season with his ability to win rural votes.

Saunders is certainly entitled to his opinion. But his comments should not have been used at the end of the article, with the Times giving them more weight than was merited.

And Obama has won the majority of endorsements from rural newspapers in Pennsylvania. Guess they don’t but the line that it is “elitist” to say that the working-class is bitter over its betrayal by national politicians.

The more corporate America hears Obama, the more they are concerned that they cannot control him. In contrast, corporate America bought the Clinton’s back in the 1980’s, and John McCain has danced to their economic tune for most of his career.

With the nation’s recession deepening, and the popular mood turning grim, people are open to a degree of change that was considered unimaginable only two years ago. A McCain-Clinton race will bottle up this desire for change, while Obama is increasingly seen as too great a risk to the status quo.

Obama’s lead over Clinton remains insurmountable. But that won’t stop the traditional media elite from doing its best to get Bill Clinton, Mark Penn, and the whole gang back in the White House in January.