Citizen Koch ** State and corporate takeover of schools ** U.S. Government warrantlessly seizes emails after 180 days

Citizen Koch – worth viewing

I recently watched a documentary called Citizen Koch. From articles I have read, I gather that this film was originally scheduled to air on PBS, but was pulled when mega-wealthy donors affiliated with the Koch brothers threatened to pull their funding. David Koch has donated $83 million to PBS since the 1980s, the same period during which public/government funding was dramatically withdrawn.

It is not the best documentary in the world. However, it does illustrate how a few mega-wealthy donors are controlling U.S. politics, both by purchasing candidates directly and by dumping money into propaganda campaigns aiming to convince the public to vote in the mega-wealthy’s interests. According to Citizen Koch, these efforts primarily target Republicans, as well as disgruntled Republicans who have joined the Tea Party.  A major contributor to the Tea Party is Americans for Prosperity (AFP), which the Koch brothers founded.

Another “organization with ties to the Koch Brothers, Freedom Partners, gave… $236 million to conservative organizations, including Tea Party groups…”  The majority of Freedom Partners board directors are “long-time employees of the Koch brothers,” and Freedom Partners has “been called ‘the Koch brothers’ secret bank’ for its function as a vehicle to provide large donations to external organizations that advance causes supported by the Kochs.” (Wikipedia)

Most of the Republicans I know are honest, sincere people.  However, many listen to Fox News exclusively, or nearly so. However, for the past 20 years, Fox news has been run by Roger Ailes, a professional propagandist.

“A memo entitled A Plan for Putting the GOP on TV News, buried in the Nixon library, details a plan between Ailes and the White House to bring pro-administration stories to television networks around the country. It reads: ‘Today television news is watched more often than people read newspapers, than people listen to the radio, than people read or gather any other form of communication. The reason: People are lazy. With television you just sit—watch—listen. The thinking is done for you.'” (Washington Post, Richard Nixon and Roger Ailes 1970s plan to put the GOP on TV, by Melissa Bell).

“The idea as initially envisioned doesn’t appear to have gotten off the ground. But Ailes obviously did do ‘more work in this area,’ first with… Television News Incorporated (TVN), a right-wing news service Ailes worked on in the early 1970s, after he got fired by the White House. According to Rolling Stone, TVN was financed by conservative beermonger Joseph Coors, and its mandate sounds exactly like a privately-funded version of Capitol News Service: ‘[TVN] was designed to inject a far-right slant into local news broadcasts by providing news clips that stations could use without credit—and at a fraction of the true costs of production.’ Ailes was ‘the godfather behind the scenes’ of TVN… and it was where he first encountered the motto that would make his career: ‘Fair and balanced.’ (

But, back to Citizen Koch…  The documentary also illustrates how the Kochs now divide and conquer by taking over State elections. By taking over state by state, they chip away at the National whole — without threat of nationwide outcry or rebellion. In the documentary, the Koch candidate becomes Governor of Wisconsin, and a Republican majority is put into power. Before long, legislation is being proposed to destroy unions. Many who voted Republican are shocked. This was supposed to be the peoples’ party, and the first thing they do is attack the rights of the people to negotiate their salaries? A motion is made to remove the Governor, so the Koch brothers create an entertaining media campaign promoting the Governor’s cause and their interests. Now many voters did not fall their tricks. “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice…” But just enough did, with 53% voting to keep the Koch candidate in place, and allowing the anti-union legislation to proceed. Once Wisconsin was secured, the same tactics were used to take down unions in Michigan.

Meanwhile, here in Arkansas, our newly-elected Republican officials have been busy. Every week, it’s another jaw-dropping story. Their latest proposal is to change our State constitution. Our high court justices would no longer be elected by the people, but appointed by the Governor. The justice candidates would be selected by a 15-member commission — whose members are also appointed by the Governor.

No Child Left Behind – School districts being turned over to corporations

Frankly, I’m also suspicious of the recent State takeover of the Little Rock School District. And through an internet search, I see that school districts are being taken over by States nationally — taken over by States and turned over to corporations. A troubling trend, but one I was forewarned of some time ago.

Nine years ago, I met a teacher, who had devoted her life to her profession. She was invited to attend a meeting in Oklahoma’s capital, on the new No Child Left Behind directives. She returned from the meeting infuriated. She said that the plan was to gradually fail all schools, and to turn education over to corporations. Seems that she was right in her interpretation.

Once an email is written, the U.S. Government has warrentless access once 180 days have passed

Why am I still shocked. The headline reads:  ‘180-day rule’ lets U.S. see old emails without a warrant, by Lindsay Wise of the Tribune News Service.  The first four paragraphs of the story read:

…The federal government can read any emails that are more than six months old without a warrant.

Little known to most Americans, ambiguous language in a communications law passed in 1986 extends Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure only to electronic communications sent or received fewer than 180 days ago.

The language, known as the ‘180-day rule,’ allows government officials to treat any emails, text messages, or documents stored on remote servers — popularly known as the cloud — as ‘abandoned’ and therefore accessible using administrative subpoena power, a tactic that critics say circumvents due process.

As you rush to purge your Gmail and Dropbox accounts, however, be forewarned that even deleted files still could be fair game, as long as copies exist on a third-party server somewhere.

The story makes me angry. But I’m also angered to think that the story may have been released to intimidate those who report disturbing political trends online. “Beware, you who oppose us, we’re keeping account. And some day we’ll come to get you.”

Les Miserables with Anne Hathaway, 2012 — Powerful and riveting A few weeks ago, when my husband and I saw the preview  for Les Miserables, I said, “I want to see that.”  I usually like movies with Anne Hathaway, so that sold me a bit right there.  But Les Miserables is a famous play that I’ve never seen.  I wanted to increase my cultural awareness. My … Continue reading

Life of Pi entertaining and thought-provoking

I just got back from seeing the movie Life of Pi. Although the movie was fanciful, I had no trouble suspending disbelief. My husband seemed equally captivated. I can’t even imagine seeing this movie without the 3-D effects. The visuals are stunning. The ending is thought-provoking, and I won’t say more than that for fear of giving it away. It’s much more than the story of a boy and a tiger.

The Master starring Joaquin Phoenix — Like its lead character, no future

We scanned the newspaper, looking for a movie to go to. Arkansas Democrat Gazette reviewer Piers Marchant gave The Master a 90/100. The movie starred Joaquin Phoenix! “How can we go wrong?” we thought.

When only a dozen or so people entered the theater, that might have been a tip-off that it was time to request our money back. Movies, like restaurants, attract crowds when they’re good. An empty parking lot is a warning sign.

But what we needed here wasn’t a warning sign, but a wall preventing entry. This movie was horrible. Joaquin Phoenix gave his usual, splendid performance as a disturbed individual. But the character had absolutely no redeeming features. None. I frankly didn’t care what happened to him because he was so repulsive.

The supporting characters were equally repulsive or, at best, flat. Didn’t much care what happened to them either.

The film meandered, and went nowhere. The “big reveal” at the end of the movie was subtle enough that my husband missed it entirely. My reaction was more like, “That’s it?”

Basically, The Master is a two hour and sixteen minute character study of a man who becomes brain dead after years of drinking his own moonshine , which he concocts using a variety of substances including turpentine. There’s no dramatic change in the character’s thinking. Understandable since he isn’t even capable of thinking.

Save your money. Watch the trailer. It’s actually more interesting (and thankfully shorter) than the film. And if you’re thinking the trailer seems pointless and weird — well then, you’ve captured the essence of The Master.

Director Jay Russell speaks at the 2012 Little Rock Film Festival

Director Jay Russell spoke at the 2012 Little Rock Film Festival. Russell’s film credits include My Dog Skip, The Water Horse, and Tuck Everlasting. Jay presented a clip of his first major film End of the Line, which according to the Internet Movie Database (IMDB), tells the story of “two railroad workers from Clifford, Arkansas [who] become heroes when they hijack … Continue reading

Producers Tim Jackson and Courtney Pledger discuss pitching movies

According to producer Tim Jackson, colleague Courtney Pledger is an expert at pitching stories. “She would stand in hallways holding up a book saying, ‘this would make a great movie.’ She has built a career on finding [and marketing] material.” Together, Tim and Courtney gave tips to young filmmakers on “hip pocket pitches” at the … Continue reading

The World Before Her — a gem at the Little Rock Film Festival

One of the exciting things about a film festival, is that you never know what you’re going to stumble upon. Quality ranges from awful to exceptional. The World Before Her, directed by Nisha Pahuja, is that occasional gem. And having walked out of at least one film with shaky, out-of-focus cinematography (Beasts of the Southern Wild), I feel compelled to say that it’s a joy to watch a film with something to say, artfully stated, with crisp imagery (cinematographer Mrinal Desai).

The movie follows two extremes in modern India. Young women in a Hindu nationalist camp learn to become dangerous militants,  soldiers in an upcoming war with Christians, Muslims, and anyone else threatening Indian culture (as they perceive it). Another group of young women submit themselves to painful skin bleaching and Botox sessions, in order to win the Miss India Pageant. The prize? Being embraced by the modern world.

At the “Indian taliban” camp, the most militant girls lead the newcomers. Pachi is one of these leaders. She admittedly enjoys terrifying her charges, and lives a life largely controlled both by the camp and her domineering father. Her father beats her, and then become angry when she cries. He boasts that he burned her foot with a hot iron when, at seven years of age, she lied about doing her homework. In response, says Pachi, “I’m becoming heartless.” She reprimands herself. Her father has a right to beat her. After all, he helped give birth to her and then allowed her to live, even though she was a girl.

The film also follows beauty contestant Ruhi and her very supportive family. Ruhi’s mother hopes that she wins the pageant, so that she can escape the small town in which they live and enter a world where there are choices. But even as Ruhi and those competing against her prepare, they find themselves in Burka-like garb. The girls are draped in white sheets, so that only their legs are exposed for a photo shoot. It’s a perverse fantasy of the photographer to shoot only “strong, muscular legs” undistracted by womens’ beautiful bodies or personalities.

Because the movie is fascinating, I’d like to tell you more. But it would be a crime to spoil such a wonderful film. Enjoy the trailer but, more importantly, be sure to watch the movie.