Trading Places [1983)

At one point in my life I could honestly say that everything I knew about business I had learned from the movie Trading Places.

This film came on TV all the time when I was a kid.

And it never failed to pull me in.

But back to business…it’s that one scene:

coffee, wheat, pork bellies, gold, and (of course) orange juice.

Ok, so I mixed up the order a little bit.

But that’s the “breakfast” of commodities which sits before Billy Ray Valentine (Eddie Murphy) as he is given a crash course in commodities trading by the Duke brothers (Randolph and Mortimer).

It always made a big impression on me…pork bellies.

And now as I descend from the halfway point of my MBA studies this film carries a richer meaning for me.

The gorilla comes with a bill of lading.

That’s not the type of stuff you catch as a six-year-old.

And I must admit that this film is all the funnier when the expletives are put back in.

And the nudity.

Yes, it was usually the sanitized version we saw on TV.

But maybe sometimes…on a special channel…the real version.

At any rate, this is truly an American classic.

Not least because it was produced by a true American hero like Aaron Russo.

Why do I call him a hero?

Because he stood up for something worth standing up for.

It’s no wonder.

Watching this film.

The agog camera views of the World Trade Center.

But let’s stick to the teaching tool at hand.

Trading Places was just that:  a beautiful teaching tool.

In some ways, therefore, it is aiming at the same thing as Le Gai Savoir.

The particular argument at issue is the famous “nature vs. nurture” debate.

Perhaps my attempt to connect John Landis’ wonderful film to Godard is a bit of a reach, but there is real, American beauty at work here.

Consider, for instance, the opening montage of Philadelphia streets set to W.A. Mozart’s overture from the opera Le Nozze di Figaro.

Notice, if you will, the African-Americans playing basketball with a plastic milk crate attached to a piece of plywood…on a telephone pole.

There are some loving politics at work here.

What we have is a film about unity.  Dan Aykroyd.  Eddie Murphy.  Black and white.

There was a positivity to many American comedies of the 1980s.

I remember hearing “feel-good” used as a descriptor for movies (particularly summertime offerings) more than I care to remember.

But they were “feel-good”.

Trading Places, however, is more than just a feel-good film.

It is a film with a conscience.

That’s what makes it timeless.

I’d like to imagine that Aaron Russo’s conscience was already ticking…ticking.

It wasn’t until later that he made truly political films.

I don’t want to attempt a more profound framing than this thing deserves [too late].

Suffice it to say that Trading Places is as applicable today as it was in 1983.

We may no longer bandy-about the word “yuppies”, but we still have Wall Street.

Perhaps the trading pits and quote boards look hopelessly antiquated now.

But so much transfers.

Exeter.  Harvard.  Winthorpe.

And, of course, kindness transfers.  Jamie Lee Curtis.

So there you have it.

Trading Places is acerbic criticism on race in America.  Racism.  Opportunity.

Eddie Murphy will have you laughing your ass off.

This is truly an indispensable bit of 80s comedy…and so much more.

 

-PD

Salvatore Giuliano [1962)

When we dig into history we must wade through many boring reams of paper.

If, for instance, your FOIA request is granted, you might be inundated with a fecundity of information which makes comprehension initially prohibitive.

But we dig anyway…because we are human.

Once in awhile, a decent man or woman will tell us we have the right to know the truth.

If we find their ethics convincing, we might respect them for such a statement.

And so such is the milieu surrounding the story conveyed in Francesco Rosi’s Salvatore Giuliano.

I was tired.

And so I watched and watched and watched…and things became slower.

Nothing seemed to be happening.

It was like a particularly painful silent film.

But the sound eventually makes itself indispensable.

It is the sound of strange relationships.

Like the Mafia and the CIA.

Like the Cubans and the CIA.

Like the Mafia and the Vatican.

Like the P2 Masonic lodge and Operation Gladio.

These strange relationships.

What can we prove?

Should we cower forever beneath the hulking torts of libel and slander?

What balance of justice is there between the free speech of the impoverished and defamation?

I have nothing worth taking.

There’s a reason Palsgraf sued the Long Island Railroad Co. and not the man with the newspaper-wrapped box of fireworks.

Money.

Seeking a remedy at law (as opposed to a remedy in equity).

Such a strange language.

We don’t speak this way other than in legal circumstances.

Today, when Scalia strangely bites the dust…we remember his own supposed connection to the Propaganda Due lodge.

Strange bedfellows.

Blowback.

And Salvatore Giuliano.  A real personage.

It all seems so reminiscent of the “strategy of tension”…Operation Gladio…the “anni di piombo” (Years of Lead)…

And I’m sorry to say that Wikipedia seems pruned and poised to mislead on these subjects.  While the contributors have made certain that Daniele Ganser is profusely maligned, I find Mr. Ganser’s research and writing on the above subjects far superior to the damage-control tone of Wikipedia.

It is the same sort of failure (this damage-control tone) which pervades the potentially groundbreaking Wikipedia page on “9/11 conspiracy theories”.  Some very important (rich) people have much at stake in keeping the (false) narrative constrained to a very tight frame.

Compare, for instance, the Wikipedia articles on “9/11 conspiracy theories” (don’t even bother reading the whitewashed main article on 9/11) and “flat earth”.  There is no urgency to conceal in the flat earth article. The same, sadly, cannot be said for the “9/11 conspiracy theories” travesty.

And what does all of this have to do with Salvatore Giuliano?

Well, my friends, sometimes our enemies have very colorful histories.

Consider, for instance, Osama bin Laden.

The U.S. Republican presidential candidates (particularly the deplorably daft Marco Rubio) are (while no worse than their opposing party) willfully ignorant concerning 9/11.

Rubio and company (the six remaining Republican presidential candidates) have bought hook-line-and-sinker every bit of repugnant narrative which has emanated from the U.S. federal government since day one:  9/11/01.

How closely did we work with Osama during Operation Cyclone?

Charlie Wilson’s War doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface.

And what was the nature of the relationship between the CIA and the Pakistani ISI?

The much-maligned Michael Ruppert seems to have been right on the money in describing a confluence of oil, drugs (opium), and geopolitical chess when tracing the cui bono of 9/11 to the bonanza of Afghanistan.  Of course, Iraq would soon follow.

And so what of Thierry Meyssan’s claims regarding the translation of the words al-Qaeda from the Arabic to the English as “the base” or “the database”?  Such a translation seems entirely plausible when considering Osama’s coursework of business administration at King Abdulaziz University in Saudi Arabia.  It is, therefore, a strange mesh of false jihad (for show) and organizational acumen.  It seems that the billions (before adjusting for inflation) which flowed from the CIA to the mujahideen were, at least to some significant extent, used to fund Osama’s organization in Afghanistan during the Soviet war (1979-1989).

This is usually the place at which the spin doctors attempt to interpolate the concept of blowback.  The idea that we “abandoned” Osama after we were done with him.  But I don’t buy that for a second.  He was too valuable.  He was, literally, an investment.

Michael Ruppert said in his excellent tome Crossing the Rubicon that (to paraphrase) “the CIA is Wall Street”.

Ah, but I keep leaving Salvatore Giuliano in the dust.

Mostly because I don’t want to spoil it.

This is an essential film, but it is a lot of work for the piece of meat.

I can’t say on first viewing that it is little.

To truly appreciate this film one would need a significant knowledge of Italian history in the 20th century.  I barely caught the Garibaldi reference (and he died in 1882).

Strange alliances.  Corruption.  Italy.  Sicily.

And the Communists who peacefully organized on May Day to petition the government for assistance with running water and electricity (in 1947).  (!)

The century would go badly for socialists in Italy.  And that was no accident.  They have NATO to thank for many problems.  But they also have their own security services to blame as well.

Such a fear of communism.  Like today.  Such a fear of Islam.

And sadly, covert operations done in the coldly-utilitarian spirit of “the ends justify the means”…

But pay particular attention to the effort needed by the police (or was it the carbinieri?) to place the body (habeas corpus) in a convincing sprawl for a chalk outline.  Yeah…whoops!  Once again, the “death” of bin Laden is instructive.

It takes great lengths to hold no one accountable for internal weaknesses in such massive crimes.

And so perhaps with Salvatore Giuliano, the more apt metaphor is Lee Harvey Oswald (or, closer still, Jack Ruby).

 

-PD

 

Magnum Force [1973)

It begins like Vertigo…like Vivre sa vie…that barely noticed, unnecessary action of a person more or less staying still.  Blinking perhaps.  It is not quite corpsing.  More subtle.  It is a bold statement from director Ted Post.  By the end of the credits we feel like those early audiences of The Great Train Robbery:  staring down the barrel of a gun.

Post does a remarkable job of continuing the suspense of the previous film in this series (Dirty Harry) while working with an even more complex (and germane to our present times) plot.  Inside job.

Over the course of the film we are made to suspect several different people…all of these essentially variations on the inside job trope.  Almost like a continuum of LIHOP and MIHOP.

It begins with the strange rookie cops…taking some target practice in the middle of the night.  Traffic cops.  Kinda like those strange power-downs and repairs at the WTC leading up to 9/11/01.  Something weird going on…

Eastwood smells it like the late John O’Neill of the FBI.  But let’s back up to Briggs:  Hal Holbrook.  Reminds us of another “Lieutenant”…Richard Holbrooke.  Should we be surprised that Richard’s original name was Goldbrajch?  Of course not.  Should we be surprised that he attended Brown University?  Of course not.  [see:  Victoria Nuland, Roberta Jacobson, etc.]

Holbrooke served with “diplomats” like John Negroponte and Frank Wisner.  Negroponte attended Yale…specifically Davenport College.  Ah, Davenport…the alumni of this residential college include both Bush presidents, William F. Buckley Jr. (we’re really racking up the CIA/Skull & Bones points so far), Samantha Power, etc.  It should be noted the physical proximity of the Skull & Bones “Tomb” to this residential college:  literally a stone’s throw (right around the corner).

Wisner established the Operation Mockingbird propaganda program on behalf of the CIA.  He also established “stay-behind” networks in Europe post-WWII.  One can’t help wonder if these were the same (the Italian one at least) which were (was) activated for the false-flag terror in Italy as part of the “strategy of tension” (Operation Gladio).  We won’t even get into Mossadegh and Árbenz.  We will, however, point out the very interesting word found within the Iranian PM’s name depending on transliteration:  Mossadegh vs. Mosaddegh.  It seems Wikipedia is going with the latter spelling (interesting considering the recent admission [finally!] by the CIA that they overthrew the democratically-elected leader of Iran in 1953).

Back to Holbrooke…managing editor of Foreign Affairs (the official CFR publication) from 1972-1976.  Holbrooke, like all good spooks, eventually ended up on Wall Street (Lehman Bros.)  Ugh…  Did you know the American Academy in Berlin has a Henry Kissinger Award???  …and that it was awarded to George H.W. Bush in 2008?!?  Talk about a double whammy!!  This “cultural exchange” was the brainchild of Holbrooke.

Chalk up for Holbrooke membership in the Trilateral Commission.  He was also on the steering committee of the Bilderberg Group (I refuse to capitalize).  All of this is a long set up to say that Hal Holbrook’s character Briggs couldn’t be more like Richard Holbrooke in terms of apparent philosophy.

When people like Briggs and Holbrooke have former Airborne Rangers and Special Forces at their disposal, things will end very badly for all involved.  Unfortunately, the four rookie cops are some sick fucks!  They’ve bought into the twisted philosophy of their ringleader Briggs.  The Lieutenant must have been an early pioneer in the militarization of American police.

But the fuckers in charge forgot to check the titty bank (and the snatch bank).  Enter Clint Eastwood.

The super-death in Technicolor and Panavision is not enough to shake the monk Harry Callahan from his herringbone duty.  A can of Schlitz and a cold burger:  Harry gets the job done.

Yeah, Davis is a little too prompt to the crime scene…kinda like FEMA on 9/11 with their Tripod II drill which so serendipitously helped Rudy Giuliani establish a new base after his bunker was brought down by controlled demolition (WTC 7).  It’s splitting hairs to fixate on the date (September 10th, 12th, either way).  They were there at Pier 29.  Strange, don’t you think?

Bless you Ted Post, John Milius, and Michael Cimino for bringing us this death squad wake up in 1973.  Rogue elements.  It’s what people like Alex Jones have been saying all along.  It’s not the whole police force.  It’s not the whole CIA.  It’s not the whole military.  The criminal segments are elements (with high-level moles).

Enter Jade Helm.  We hope Steve Quayle is wrong, but the idea is not outlandish (knowing what we do about our government).

May God make me misjudged.  Like Callahan.  The death squads can’t persuade him.  Not like this.

Ruppert’s ghost lives on in cached posts.
It’s who you least suspect.  No, not quite.  Open your eyes.

We hate the goddamn system, but rough justice works both ways.  Abide by nothing, expect the same.  Dirty Harry is the cleanest of the bunch.

May God help us to survive the outgunned moment.  Maybe it’s the USS Forrestal.  James was right about Palestine.  And now Wayne Madsen has strangely dispensed with the Drew Pearson citation.

Here be monsters!

-PD

The 39 Steps [1935)

Oh, to be a spy.  At once the dream of the adventurous and the curse of the actualized.  Why?  Why does Robert Donat let Annabella Smith come home with him from the music hall???  Perhaps it is her allure…  Her strange foreign accent.  Once you take the first step, the case collapses to become a chute…a slide.

Perhaps Richard Hannay (Robert Donat) was simply curious.  We know how the cat ended behaving thusly…

Perhaps Hannay was horny?  It was, after all, 1935…things were lightening up a bit.  No Tinder, but still…one might luck out at the music hall.

Well, Hannay has the misfortune of true cloak and dagger.  Annabella Smith…Hannay asks if she’s ever heard of persecution mania?  Yes, a good question until she comes stumbling from the kitchen with a knife in her back.

And so Hannay sees her fears materialize before his very eyes.  Sure, she could have stabbed herself in the back, but it’s not bloody likely!  And what’s this?

Her last words…cryptic…and a map of Scotland clutched in her hand.

Hanney has become a believer.  It is that moment when hypothetical (suppose she’s right?) becomes, to a certain extent, proven.

No time to split hairs quibbling…she makes it clear with her last breath:  they killed me and you’re next.

Why trust?  Perhaps the spy becomes tired.  She is, after all, a mercenary in a foreign country.  Yes, she is protecting the Kingdom, but for a price…  Her homeland is elsewhere.

And so an act of transference occurs.  Robert Donat now bears the burden of a secret…a hint of a secret…a trail.

He has a couple of choices.  The decision he makes ends up saving his life, yet it is completely counterintuitive.

He decides to get the hell out of there.  Annabella Smith is dead on the bed.  Hanney makes a deal with the milkman (1935) and creeps off towards the train station.

To Scotland.

Things begin to go very hard for Mr. Hanney.  He is pursued relentlessly.  A daring escape from a train stopped on a bridge brings him eventually to the Scottish moors and the village circled on Annabella’s map.

On the way he must overnight with a farm couple…  The man of the house is an overbearing null…the woman, an angel trapped in an unhappy provincial cage.

This is really the beginning of the James Bond idea.  In 1935, they shared but a kiss.

Now, if you have made it this far you will be spared further spoilers…because that is not the purpose of my site.  This isn’t Cliff’s Notes.

We must talk of the Central Intelligence Agency of the United States.  Perhaps you have noticed the news element of my homepage?  It is really not fair to criticize our CIA…it is too easy.  There can be no doubt as to the difficulty of their work.

As a citizen of the USA I have dreamed of being a secret agent…just as many people do.  It would be a treasonous dream for me to wish employment by the MI6.  I am not British.  So my thoughts have turned now and again to my own country’s external intelligence organization.

Oh, I am too old to be a covert agent…too out of shape to have a fistfight with a Daniel Craig type.

But we remember certain things from our readings.  Wall Street = CIA.  This was Michael Ruppert’s assertion in his excellent book Crossing the Rubicon.  May Mr. Ruppert rest in peace.  No doubt he tried to do the right things during his time on this earth.  It was not until recently that I learned of his death.

Perhaps I began studying business as a roundabout way to court adventure.  There is no doubt that my future is not on Wall Street.  In fact, I don’t see much future at all.

Why?  Because I am like Robert Donat’s character in this film.  I can’t leave well-enough alone.  Killing in self-defense or in the defense of others can be honorable, but stretched to its limits by tenuous connection it eventually becomes murder.  When I read about the leading intelligence agencies of the world, I get the whiff of murder.  I get the scent of those who are “just following orders”…just like those good little Nazi soldiers.

It is this thirst for justice which makes me unemployable.  I know it.

And so I soldier on.  I do my cardio.  I lift my weights.  I study my texts.  I enrich my mind.

I am just a loner with my films.  I would like to contribute, but I was born of no prestigious family.  I don’t speak Dari or Pashto.

There are two camps of which I wish to be part of neither.  Camp one holds that everything America does is just and good. Camp two holds that nothing America does is just nor good.

I do not wish for a clean slate.  It is not possible.  Those who wish for the collapse of society are fools.  They are wishing for their own death and are far too optimistic about the practicality of starting over.

Now, dear film lover…you must be asking what this has to do with The 39 Steps.

Mr. Memory.

Office of Strategic Services.

Office of the Coordinator of Information.

Robert Sherwood.  movie critic.  Vanity Fair.  Dorothy Parker and Robert Benchley.  Algonquin Round Table. Rebecca and Foreign Correspondent.  Hitchcock.  Yes, it is a tenuous link.

Continuing…

Admiral John Godfrey.  “M”

Centre for Spastic Children, Chelsea.

…and finally

William Stephenson (c’est-à-dire) James Bond

the Icelandic orphan

alluded to in Casino Royale (2006)

to wit

British Security Coordination

Camp X (Whitby, Ontario) [the original Farm]

Ian Fleming, Roald Dahl

Rockefeller Center (35th and 36th floors of the International Building)

under the cover of British Passport Control Office

For better or worse, CIA is MI6.  Where does one stop and the other begin?  To what extent is this a private army for the corporate members of the Council on Foreign Relations (Royal Institute of International Affairs)?

Surely we’re all playing by the Chatham House rules here, aren’t we, gents?

-PD