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Frankie Vaughan: Glasgow’s Gang culture of the 1960s
10.19.2012
07:28 pm
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Gangs have been synonymous with Glasgow since the 1800s. The poverty, squalor and terrible overcrowding of this great industrial city led to a harsh indifferent attitude to life and self-preservation.

The Penny Mob came out of the East End of the city. They had their own rules, dress code and even collected fees for a shared fund to pay police and court fines - hence their name. The Penny Mob elected their own chairmen to take charge of collecting money for the fund and its distribution.

The Penny Mob bred many rivals, who they fought for territorial dominance of a few blocks of street. The San Toys operated out of the Calton, a district close to the city center, and they fought with the Tim Malloys. Battles were brutal, bloody and quick. Fights often took place in Glasgow Green, a large municipal park to the east of the city, on the banks of the River Clyde. These were called “square gos” - one-on-one fights, where gang leaders slugged it out with each other. More often than not, these ended in pitched battles between rival factions.

Gangs spread throughout the city - each district, or block, was demarcated with its own gang. The South Side had some of the most vicious gangs, including the Mealy Boys, the McGlynn Push and the Gold Dust Gang, which operated out of the Gorbals. Gangs used bars and drinking dens as their HQs and meeting places, from where they planned their next territorial battle.

By the First World War, gangs were rampant across the city, with the most infamous being the Redskins that ruled the East End. Unlike previous gangs, the Redskins preferred swords, hatchets, machetes, razors and lead-weighted clubs rather than fists. They also operated as a major criminal organization, running protection rackets on local shops and businesses, and were involved in extortion, burglary and random mugging.

The Redskins fought rivals like the Calton Black Hand, the Bloodhound Flying Corps, the Hi-Hi’s, the Kelly Boys from Govan and the Baltic Fleet, which ran out of Baltic Street. The Redskins were eventually crushed by the police who were not afraid to use their own brutal tactics to quell the gangs.

Gangs always flourished during times of poverty. The 1930’s Depression saw a rise in violence and a new wave of gangs using cut throat razors as their weapon of choice, not just on their enemies (where they were used to inflict the “Glasgow Smile”), but on innocent members of the public.

In the 1960s, singer Frankie Vaughan famously visited one of Glasgow’s most troubled areas - Easterhouse. Here the singer successfully co-ordinated an amnesty between rival gangs, raising thousands of pounds to pay for amenities and youth centers. Vaughan, who had starred with Marilyn Monroe in Let’s Make Love, and had a highly success singing career, became a hero to the community.

By the 1970s, gangs had lost much of their appeal as judges gave out stiff sentences - a 2-5 year jail term for carrying a razor blade. Some gang members moved into more serious crime, running drugs and extortion rings, and carrying out major bank robberies across the city.

Today, though Glasgow has changed dramatically for the better, it still has an unfortunate reputation, In part because it is sadly still one of most violent cities in Western Europe. The homicide rate for males aged between 10 and 29 is on a par with the countries Argentina, Costa Rica and Lithuania. Not other cities but whole countries. A stabbing occurs every 6 hours. Many more go unreported. Alcohol-related death rates are 3 times the British average. And there are parts of Glasgow have the lowest life expectancies in Europe.

Yet, I love this city, for there is a great humanity amongst the people of Glasgow, that reflects a genuine belief things can and will get better.

This documentary focusses on Glasgow gangs during the 1960s, interviewing various gang members and looking at Frankie Vaughan’s involvement in bringing an amnesty to parts of the city.
 


 
With thanks to Racket Racket.

Posted by Paul Gallagher
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10.19.2012
07:28 pm
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Get in the weekend mood with The uplifting sounds of Jim Jones’ People’s Temple Choir!
10.19.2012
11:26 am
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“He’s a friend – to the friendless
He’s a father – to the fatherless
He’s your joy – he’s your sorrow
He’s your hope – for tomorrow”
(“He’s Able”)

This week I’ve been busy putting various menial finishing touches to an exciting forthcoming Headpress release on music and the occult by Mark Goodall, Gathering of the Tribe: Music and Heavy Conscious Creation. The collection includes essays on various “occulted” artists ranging from Captain Beefheart to John Coltrane, the Beatles to the Wu Tang Clan, and features contributions from Mick Farren, David Kerekes and myself, among others.

For the last day or two, I’ve been mostly embroiled in the book’s final chapter “Mindfuckers: Cult Groups, Outsider Artists and Their Sounds,” and so by osmosis have ended up predominantly listening to music made by psychopathic demagogues and their unfortunate minions. Most distinctive of these, perhaps, is the saccharine, sunny, seventies pop gospel of Jim Jones’ People’s Temple Choir, almost all of whom would be wiped out in the Jonestown massacre about five years later, resulting in the re-release of their 1973 He’s Able album with a far darker cover (see above) than the one in which it first appeared. The playlist below treats you to the entire life-affirming record – which was once described as, “coming out of your stereo speakers like a sunbeam through a stained glass window.” 

Hands up who’s in the mood for a refreshing glass of Kool-Aid?  
 

Posted by Thomas McGrath
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10.19.2012
11:26 am
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Savile de Rais: Jimmy Savile, Serial Killing and High Weirdness
10.15.2012
03:47 pm
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Above is a picture of Jimmy Savile with the prolific serial killer Peter Sutcliffe—aka the Yorkshire Ripper—and boxer Frank Bruno. Savile, who apparently befriended the necrophiliac murderer Sutcliffe through the his enigmatic “volunteer” work at Broadmoor (a high security psychiatric hospital), is introducing the two men, who appear to be sharing what looks a lot like a Masonic handshake.

What the fuck?

The more I read about Savile (I’ve already written about his probable necrophilia) the weirder it gets. There is something literally legendary about him – to me Savile increasingly looks like some kind of latter-day Gilles de Rais, the profligate aristocrat, pedophile and black magician who rode into battle alongside Joan of Arc and was later convicted for the deaths of over five hundred children.

What might Savile have to do with dead children? We’ll get to that. But first let’s look at the evidence that suggests he may have been… a spy (or spymaster).

Don’t take my whacky word for it! Let us instead refer to a 2008 Daily Mail article that began with the sentence “Deep cover is not the phrase which springs to mind when you meet Jimmy Savile,” before going on to consider what credibility there was in the following assertion made by Savile himself.

“I guess I am like Forrest Gump (…) I am like a sewing machine needle that goes in here and goes in there, but I am also the eminence grise: the grey, shadowy figure in the background. The thing about me is I get things done and I work under cover.”

Although the article goes on to tentatively soften some of Savile’s remarkable claims to world historical prestige, all are left pretty much intact. They include Savile’s extremely intimate friendships with successive UK Prime Ministers (including “11 consecutive Christmases at Chequers” with Margaret Thatcher) and several very high profile British royals – Princess Diana actually referred to Savile as “a sort of mentor for Charles” (nice) – and the fact that Savile “spent an afternoon entertaining the wives of the G7 leaders back in 1991 at John Major’s invitation.” (What did he regale them with? Tales of Broadmoor high-jinx with the Yorkshire Ripper?)

Beside Savile’s remarkable ability to insinuate himself at Chequers and Buckingham Palace, we can also chalk up the apparent ease with which the Catholic and enthusiastic Zionist strolled into the corridors of power in Israel, which he visited to record a 1975 Jim’ll Fix It (the following incredible anecdote is corroborated by Savile’s BBC producer Roger Ordish):

“I arrived at this reception and I was wearing a pinkish suit with short sleeves. When President Ephraim Katzir came to me, he asked how I was enjoying my visit to Israel.I said I was very disappointed: the Israelis had won the Six Day War but they had given back all the land, including the only oil well in the region, and were now paying the Egyptians more for oil than if they had bought it from Saudi Arabia. I said: ‘You have forgotten to be Jewish’. He said: ‘Would you like to tell my cabinet that? ‘Next morning, I went to the Knesset and they interrupted a cabinet meeting and I told them the same as I had told him.”

Strange privileges and experiences for a mere TV presenter don’t you think? A TV presenter, furthermore, who appeared to have endeavored to commit at least one sex crime every day of his adult life, while remaining blissfully immune to prosecution or even arrest…

Which brings us – reluctantly – to the shadow of dead children. Savile, notoriously, was photographed at Jersey’s infamous Haut de la Garenne children’s home (and is said to have been “named several times” by abuse survivors there). As many are aware, Haut de la Garenne is very frequently alleged to be the scene of one of history’s biggest cover-ups. To cut a long and exceedingly depressing story short, children’s body-parts and an apparent torture chamber beneath the orphanage were overnight reclassified as harmless bits-and-bobs a few days after embattled investigators – who had been regularly complaining of institutional hostility and interference – were replaced at the behest of Jersey’s authorities. Proceeding this, some of the abuse allegations were halfheartedly pursued, but many investigators and journalists feel that the real and unimaginable depths of the story – depths purportedly dark enough to bring down entire governments – were sealed up.

Well, it is possible that the universe does not favor alleged institutional child abuse after all. “Foul deeds will rise, Though all the earth o’erwhelm them, to men’s eyes,” as Shakespeare put it, and the manner in which these (alleged) foul deeds have risen back up is fascinating. In short, hardly an article has been penned on Savile these last weeks that has not been adorned with the aforementioned photographic evidence of his visit to Haut de la Garenne: the image is like some stubborn morsel of something the mainstream media was long since instructed to digest. For doesn’t Savile’s very presence at Haut de la Garenne give immense credence to the allegations that there has been a cover-up there, not to mention the wide whispers that extremely prominent members of British and Jersey society regularly “visited” the place?

Then there is the longstanding allegation that Savile procured boys from Jersey orphanages for former British Prime Minister Edward Heath to rape and molest on the latter’s yacht. A month ago that would have looked like an extremely wild conspiracy theory. But now…

Savile was a Knight of the Crown, a Knight of the Vatican, a (probable) necrophiliac, a pedophile, the buddy of serial killers and future kings, a children’s TV presenter, a pop mogul and many more things besides… has there ever been a stranger Englishman? It would appear that when Savile died his considerable protection died with him, and the establishment are happy for him to now suffer public and relentless vilification. But his activities, place and prominence in British society is so strange, so sinister, that it is a like a chink in the armor of the very establishment that’s allowing his corpse to fend for itself, and through this chink some pretty astonishing things can be glimpsed.

I am indebted to the remarkable and remarkably strange Aangirfan blog for 99% of the above links and leads.

Posted by Thomas McGrath
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10.15.2012
03:47 pm
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James Ellroy: An early interview with the Demon Dog of American Literature
10.15.2012
10:07 am
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James Ellroy lies in a darkened room brooding about the past. He thinks about his mother, Geneva Hilliker Ellroy, who was murdered in 1958, when Ellroy was 10-years-old. The killer has never been found.

Ellroy was born and raised in Los Angeles. When his parents divorced, Ellroy lived with his mother in El Monte during the week, and spent weekends with his Father.

His father, Armand Lee Ellroy, was an accountant and one-time business manager for Rita Hayworth. Ellroy usually adds his father had a massive schlong, and schtooped anything that moved. His father gave Ellroy a copy of Jack Webb’s book The Badge. Ellroy read the book obsessively.  He read the story of Elizabeth Short, aka The Black Dahlia, whose severed, mutilated body was discovered on a vacant lot, on the west side of South Norton Avenue, between Coliseum and West 39th, in 1947.

Ellroy merged his mother’s murder with the Black Dahlia’s. He fantasized how he’d save the Dahlia and marry her. He fantasized how he’d save his mother. The fantasies were inspired by guilt and depression.

Before Geneva’s murder, his parents had been going through a rough time. His father was poisoning Ellroy’s mind about his mother. His father let Ellroy do what he wanted. His mother had rules. When she died James had wanted to be free of her. Now he was, he felt guilty.

He grew up lanky, and geeky. He was awkward around girls. He was a WASP at a Jewish school. He hated to be ignored. Ellroy played at being the weirdo. In the schoolyard he riffed on the Black Dahlia, serial killers, and Nazis. He made it look like he didn’t care what others thought. It worked. It made him untouchable.

He flunked school and prowled the neighborhood. He peeped on girls he could only dream about. He broke into their houses, sniffed their panties, drank their parents’ booze, looked in medicine cabinets and popped pills, stole what he wanted. They never knew.

Ellroy lived off T-bird, and the wading from Benzedrex inhalers. It made him grind down his teeth. He tripped. He became homeless. He stole. He did gaol time. His life was in freefall - the parachute was an abscess on his lung, the size of a man’s fist.

Ellroy prayed for a second chance. He got it. He turned his life round and started writing crime novels. Influenced by Hamnett rather than Chandler. At first hooked around his own experience as caddy on a golf course, then the large multi-narrative, police procedurals, re-telling the history of modern America. Ellroy was riffing on the things he obsessed about, the Black Dahlia, sex, violence, bad, bad, bad men coming to grips with their humanity.

He wrote the L.A. Quartet, which included The Black Dahlia, and L.A. Confidential. Then a book about his search for his mother’s murder, My Dark Places. He never found him. Closure is bullshit, he says. Then the trilogy Underworld U.S.A., which includes American Tabloid, and the brilliant Blood’s A Rover.

Now, Ellroy is one of America’s greatest living novelists, and very few come close. He still lives in L.A. and writes everyday, long hand, ink pen, legal pad, and lies in darkened rooms brooding about the past.

This is a rare clip of James Ellroy, in his trademark Hawaiian shirt (worn in pouring rain), interviewed for the French program Cinéma Cinémas in 1989.
 

 

Posted by Paul Gallagher
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10.15.2012
10:07 am
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Savilegate: Will the Jimmy Savile sex abuse scandal finish off the BBC?
10.14.2012
10:48 am
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When asked by a reporter in 2001 whether he was concerned if he would be remembered as a “conning pervert and abuser when he died,” Jimmy Savile replied:

‘If I’m gone that’s that. Bollocks to my legacy. Whatever is said after I’m gone is irrelevant.’

The reporter then asked if Savile was ‘into little girls’, to which the BBC presenter replied:

‘I’d rather not even opinionate on this. I’ll leave it to the psychologists to sort out the psychology of child abuse.’

Every day a new allegation emerges about Jimmy Savile. These allegations now cover 6 decades, and include allegations of the rape of children, mentally ill patients and the sexual assault of a disabled girl. The police are currently investigating over 300 lines of inquiry.

Savile’s attacks occurred in hospitals, clubs and the BBC. And it is the latter organization that is coming under considerable scrutiny by the police.

The question is how did the BBC employ such an individual, when there were known allegations against him? And what was the everyday culture at BBC that could allow Savile’s behavior to go unnoticed? Uncommented upon? Even tolerated?

A glimpse of how things were at the BBC can be found in Stephen Fry’s second volume of autobiography, The Fry Chronicles (pages 296-297 of the paperback edition), where he described a meeting with the BBC executive Jim Moir in 1983.

Hugh [Laurie] and I were shown into his office. He sat us down on the sofa opposite his desk and asked if we had comedy plans. Only he wouldn’t have put it as simply as that, he probably said something like: ‘Strip naked and show me your cocks,’ which would have been his way of saying: ‘What would you like to talk about?’ Jim routinely used colourful and perplexing metaphors of a quite staggering explicit nature. ‘Let’s jizz on the table, mix up our spunk and smear it all over us,’ might be his way of asking, ‘Shall we work together?’ I had always assumed that he only spoke like that to men, but not so long ago Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders confirmed that he had been quite as eye-watering in his choice of language with them. Ben Elton went on to create, and Mel Smith to play, a fictional head of Light Entertainment based on Jim Moir called Jumbo Whiffly in the sitcom Filthy Rich & Catflap. I hope you will not get the wrong impression of Moir from my description of his language. People of his kind are easy to underestimate, but I have never heard anyone who worked with him say a bad word about him. In the past forty years the BBC has had no more shrewd, capable, loyal, honourable and successful executive and certainly none with a more dazzling verbal imagination.

Now retired, Moir recently told the Guardian that he had no knowledge of any allegations against Savile during his term at the Beeb, as either exec or as Head of Light Entertainment.

“There is so much talk about rumours, but I can tell you that neither from external sources or internally, neither by nods and winks or by innuendo, did I receive any scintilla of this story whatsoever, or discuss it or his behaviour with my superiors. There was not a scintilla of this either from Roger Ordish, his producer for 20 years.”

Should we be surprised? Not really. But it makes sense that Moir didn’t hear any allegations when it was seen as okay to use sexist, aggressive and offensive language such as ‘Strip naked and show me your cocks,’ or, ‘Let’s jizz on the table, mix up our spunk and smear it all over us,’ on a regular basis. This kind masturbatory boy’s club culture covers up for a lot of unacceptable behavior.
 
More on Savilegate, after the jump…
 

READ ON
Posted by Paul Gallagher
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10.14.2012
10:48 am
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Creep Out: Gary Glitter goes on ‘Jim’ll Fix It’
10.02.2012
06:24 am
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“We will haunt you in your dreams forever, luv!”

As Paul Gallagher has already comprehensively explained for Dangerous Minds readers here (and here), it seems that one of the BBC’s most popular family entertainment shows in its entire history, Jim’ll Fix It, might more accurately have been called Jim’ll Groom Ya, consisting as it did of a very widely alleged sexual predator and pederast, Jimmy Saville, granting special favors to an endless succession of children and teens…  some that he tried to extract favors from in return. They probably should have called the show Jim’ll Fuck It, but maybe not.

Why does it comes as no surprise that Gary Glitter, the English glam rock chart topper who enjoyed twenty-six execrable UK hit singles over three decades before his reputation was “irreparably tarnished”–as Wikipedia puts it in wry understatement–by convictions for child sex crimes both in the UK and Vietnam would have been a guest on the show? And, wouldn’t you know it, Mr. Glitter and Sir Jimmy coincidentally happened to be good buds. Indeed, they were so friendly that Saville gallantly stood up for Glitter in a 2009 interview (reportedly included in tomorrow’s ITV expose). Referring to Glitter’s 1999 conviction for possessing a computer full of child pornography, Saville boldly attested that his old friend “didn’t do anything wrong” because “he had not tried to show them in public or anything like that” (my emphasis).

Saville’s statement betrays a personal “philosophy” ideal for one leading such a quintessential double life: on the one hand, a light entertainer and philanthropic “saint,” and on the other a prolific sex offender (allegedly or whatever). The moral dimension, for Saville, apparently enters only in so far as what is or is not public, which is to say on television: if someone is abused and it isn’t on primetime – to paraphrase the old Zen adage – did it really happen?

Which is what makes the following excerpt from Jim’ll Groom Ya Jim’ll Fix It so uniquely disturbing, as it sees the two friends and former national treasures collaborate to make a young lady’s “dream” of being a singer come true. The lady in question, while not exactly the full ticket, is twenty-one, thank Christ (guests on Jim’ll Fix Itwere predominantly, but not unanimously underage), though this doesn’t seem to deter either sexual predator from getting their sleaze on.

Glitter’s actual performance is something else. I don’t think I’ve seen him in action since I was a kid and he was singing Christmas songs, but what must have at the time looked to any sentient observer like just a bloated parody of glam rock (meets rap?), has retroactively become something ten thousand times more sinister than Alice Cooper must’ve seemed in 1972. Glitter’s entourage – his “gang” – stomp about in bondage-wear for a minute, until Gary himself enters, prowling the stage and glowing bright red, for all the world an actual fucking demon (the tune is even called “Red Hot”). The manner in which Saville and Glitter enclose the half-witted woman at the end is pretty damn creepy too (”Shy, Gary?”). At least he didn’t perform “Do Ya Wanna Touch Me? (Oh Yeah!).”  Now THAT might’ve been too OTT.

All in all, it’s easily the scariest performance I’ve ever seen. Looking at this shit in retrospect, that tens of millions of adults considered this – and Jim’ll Fix It in general – good family entertainment blows my tiny mind.
 

 
After the jump, the presciently named 1974 Gary Glitter documentary Remember Me This Way…

READ ON
Posted by Thomas McGrath
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10.02.2012
06:24 am
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‘The Other Side of Jimmy Savile’: The rape allegations that will not go away
10.01.2012
06:26 pm
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This week a documentary called Exposure: The Other Side of Jimmy Savile will be broadcast in Britain on ITV1. The documentary centers on allegations made by 5 women against the DJ, and former Top of the Pops and Jim’ll Fix It presenter. It is claimed Sir Jimmy Savile committed acts of serious sexual assault, including rape, against girls as young as 12, whilst an employee of the BBC in the early 1970s.

The attacks are alleged to have taken place at various locations, including hotels, Savile’s Rolls Royce and at the Top of the Pops studio at BBC Television Center, which Savile is alleged to have described as a “happy hunting ground”..

A former detective, Mark Williams-Thomas carried out the TV investigation into the claims against Savile, in particular the presenter’s sexual activities at the BBC, which the program claims were an “open secret” at the BBC.

In response to the allegations which have appeared in various newspapers, the BBC issued a denial that it had investigated allegations of misconduct against Savile, but “no such evidence has been found.”

“Whilst the BBC condemns any of behavior of the type alleged in the strongest terms, in the absence of evidence of any kind found at the BBC that corroborates the allegations that have been made it is simply not possible for the corporation to take any further action.”

It’s the kind of bureaucratic doublespeak one expects form the BBC, which does not explain the fact some BBC employees were aware of Jimmy Savile’s sexual activities.
 

 
More on ‘Exposure: The Other Side of Jimmy Savile’, after the jump…
 

READ ON
Posted by Paul Gallagher
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10.01.2012
06:26 pm
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The (not so great) Great Dicktator: Saddam-lookalike’s porn film abduction
09.24.2012
11:36 am
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I last visited New York in July 2003, around the time the coalition of the willing were getting stuck into dividing Iraq’s spoils between their affiliated corporations, and generally laying the foundations for almost a decade of chaos and sectarian slaughter.

Whenever I’m in the US, it’s always a huge treat for me to gorge myself on the vaguely satanic schmaltz pumped out by its television stations, which at that time naturally consisted of lots of chipper propaganda concerning the occupation (back in the UK, the propaganda was much dourer, and sometimes outright agonized). One very memorable moment was hearing some general-or-other “confide” to some newscaster-or-other that one of the main problems with the freshly “liberated” Iraqis – and so one of the principal challenges faced by the “liberators” – was a want of indigenous “entrepreneurial spirit.”

The phrase entrepreneurial spirit, which can hardly even be enunciated in an English accent (or shouldn’t be – just as Americans do well to steer clear of certain British swear words like “wanker” and “bollocks”), and furthermore conjures – to a Brit – profoundly mundane images of people opening pet shops and pizzerias, clearly possesses some strange sacred quality to various right-wingers across the pond. The general even lowered his voice as he intoned the words, as if to imbue the phrase with its proper dignity, but also spare the blushes of any passing Iraqis that might be within hearing range, swinging by on crutches or whatever (they had, after all, quite recently been subjected to the tough love of Shock and Awe).

Not that, the general immediately added, this unnatural insufficiency was down to some genetic or even cultural predisposition. Hell no. On the contrary, the entrepreneurial spirit – which God Himself lovingly blows into the ear of every human baby – had been contorted, thwarted, crushed (I doubt he used those exact adjectives) by the greed-sapping weight of Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship. But, sure as day follows night, this general could personally testify that, during the few short months coalition forces had been raping, robbing, killing and – you know – occupying Iraq, the green shoots of renewal were already visible.

Well, almost ten years later, and a remarkable story doing the rounds in some of our gaudier news organs last week suggests that the instinct to imaginatively exploit any given circumstance for monetary gain (in which the invasion of Iraq arguably provided a veritable masterclass) is indeed rediscovering its organic apogee among Iraqis.  

Mohamed Bishr (pictured above), is a middle-aged Egyptian bearing a striking resemblance to a certain golden Kalashnikov-loving former Iraqi dictator, a back-handed “gift” from Allah that has seen him repeatedly attacked, and also – I’m guessing – sparked several Saddam-is-alive-and-well-and-living-in-Egypt rumors a la Elvis and Hitler.

For most, Bishr’s uncanny likeness was just that, but one man’s sovereign state is another man’s oil reserves, so to speak, and a few weeks back some men with “Iraqi or Syrian accents” (they are broadly thought to be the former, naturally) approached Bishr and offered him a princely $333,000 to star in a porn film, apparently intending to afterwards palm off the footage as genuine.  Our long-suffering doppelganger, however – a devout Muslim – kept his honor, turning down this opportunity to become (presumably) the world’s best paid porn star, at which point the gentlemen, who may or may not have been organized criminals, became increasingly threatening, eventually kidnapping Bishr off the street and bundling him into the back of a van at gun point.

In reports, Bishr complains of his abduction having taken place in plain sight of numerous bystanders, who apparently “did nothing.” We understand how you must feel, Bishr, but try to see it from their perspective. One minute they’d be thinking, “fuck me, isn’t that Sadddam Hussein?” and the next they’re watching Sadddam Hussein get stuffed into a van with a gun to his head. Absolutely anyone, having pinched themselves, would be sure to keep their head down.

Fortunately, having been threatened and roughed up a bit, Bashr’s abductors let him go (the whole thing rather resembles Bob Dylan’s recent video for the splendid Duquesne Whistle”). Casting aside the small issue of Bashr’s right to “self-determination,” you have to concede that, while they might still be lacking that Anglo-American capacity to stick to your guns until you see the money, these were some pretty ingenious gangsters. The entrepreneurial spirit, it appears, is finally spreading its wings across the Middle East. Yeehaw!

 

Posted by Thomas McGrath
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09.24.2012
11:36 am
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America gets its own Pussy Riot: What books on your shelf would the FBI call ‘terrorist literature’?
09.19.2012
05:04 pm
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Police state in Portlandia?

Between 60 to 80 FBI officers, working in conjunction with agents of the Joint Terrorism Task Force, armed to the teeth and wearing paramilitary uniforms, stormed the homes of several suspected “anarchists” in Portland in late July.

The house where Dennison Williams and Leah-Lynn Plante live was one of them. When Williams heard loud noises and saw a flash grenade go off, he began yelling that he was upstairs and unarmed. He told Sarah Mirk from The Portland Mercury:

“I was scared,” he said. “The police in this town have a history of shooting people, I was worried they would accidentally shoot me.”

According to Williams, FBI officers entered his room with assault rifles and kept them aimed at him while they handcuffed him. They put him in a chair for about 30 minutes while they searched his house. Williams says there were about 15 FBI officers in the house, plus one Portland police officer on the street outside. According to the property receipt Williams received from the officers, the feds seized several items, including his computer, phone, hard-drive, two thumb drives, and various clothes (including black jeans, black t-shirt, and a black bandana). They then served him a subpoena to appear at a grand jury in Seattle next Thursday, August 2nd.

Williams is not sure exactly what the grand jury is meeting about, but that likely they want to ask him about other people. The FBI has said only that the raids are part of an ongoing “violent crime” investigation.

“It’s related to political opposition, it’s related to political dissent,” says Williams. “They’re trying to create a wedge within people who are resistors… They’re specifically pursuing anarchists.”

The FBI search warrant states that they are looking to seize items which may be evidence regarding the crimes of conspiracy to destroy government property, interstate travel with intent to riot, and conspiracy to travel interstate with intent to riot. Those items include: Clothing and related items work during commission of offenses; paint; sticks and flags similar to those used or carried during the commission of the offenses, and material for making flags; anti-government or anarchist literature, documentation or communications related to the offenses, flares, computers or electronic storage media of any kind.

On July 10th, Seattle police officers staged a similar raid on the house of some Occupy Mayday protesters in Seattle. On the day Williams’ house and two other houses in Portland were searched, the FBI served grand jury subpoenas to people in Olympia and Seattle, as well. Williams was not sure how many people were served subpoenas, but thinks it is somewhere around seven people, and says he “will not cooperate” with the grand jury. Anyone who refuses to testify when subpoenaed can potentially face jail time. (Emphasis added)

Read that last sentence again. Grand jury subpoenas have also been served to activists in Olympia and Seattle. Apparently, these subpoenas involve the investigation of May Day vandalism, according to the Seattle Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, who urged in a statement that the U.S. Attorney’s Office drop the subpoenas because they feared they were being used “as a pretext for harassing political activists.”

The Seattle lawyers guild spokesman Neil Fox said it was the seizure of political literature from those subpoenaed that most concerned his organization:

“It concerns us any time there are law-enforcement raids that target political literature, first amendment-protected materials,” Fox said. “There’s a chilling effect these things have on people.”

With these coordinated raids and grand jury subpoenas, the Feds are announcing that they’re going to tighten the screws on leftist activists by threatening them with prison time if they won’t rat people out. Rat them out for what is still unknown as the subpoenas are sealed and expected to stay that way, according to the FBI. 

It smells like a “fishing expedition” to me, but maybe they aren’t expecting to get any information. Perhaps all they really want to do is to send the earsplitting LOUD AND CLEAR message to would-be far-left activists: “This could happen to you, too!”

Matt Duran, one of the individuals caught up in the Feds’ snare, was thrown into prison on the 16th for civil contempt for his refusal to testify before the Grand Jury Committee against his community. Leah-Lynn Plante also refused to testify, and was released after being re-subpoenaed.

From Leah-Lynn Plante’s statement:

No, I will not answer their questions. I believe that these hearings are politically motivated. The government wants to use them to collect information that it can use in a campaign of repression. I refuse to have any part of it, I will never answer their questions, I will never speak.

It is likely that the government will put me in jail for that refusal.

While I hate the very idea of prison, I am ready to face it in order to stay true to my personal beliefs. I know that they want to kidnap me and isolate me from my friends and my loved ones in an effort to coerce me to speak. It will not work. I know that if I am taken away, I will not be alone. We have friends and comrades all around the world standing behind us, and even though this has been one of the most traumatizing experiences of my life, I have never felt so supported or loved. I can only speak for myself, but I have every faith that the others subpoenaed to these hearings will likewise refuse. And I know that hundreds of people have called the US Attorney demanding that they end this tribunal. Hundreds of organizations, representing thousands of people, signed onto a statement expressing solidarity with those of us under attack and demanding an end to this sort of repression.

From Matt Duran:

My name is Matt Duran and I will do everything I can to resist this Grand Jury. I’m releasing this as it’s come to my attention that the strategy my lawyer and I have been working under will more than likely not work; the prosecution wants to grant me immunity before I even have a chance to testify. I want to make it clear that I am in no way ever cooperating with the state now or ever. Anyone who knows me well enough to be a close friend knows that I will fight with my political allies and for them with every fiber of my being. If I ever did cooperate, it would bring an immeasurable amount of shame upon myself, my community, and my family as they have risked more in resistance than I have in my life so far.

The Committee Against Political Repression has set up a website to post information about the case as it unfolds and take donations for the defendants’ legal defense fund. They declared in a statement of solidarity with those who have been subpoenaed:

…Though the FBI has said that the raids are part of a violent crime investigation, the truth is that the federal authorities are conducting a political witch-hunt against anarchists and others working toward a more just, free, and equal society. The warrants served specifically listed anarchist literature as evidence to be seized pointing to the fact that the FBI and police are targeting this group of people because of their political ideas. Pure and simple, these raids and the grand jury hearings are being used to intimidate people whose politics oppose the state’s agenda. During a time of growing economic and ecological crises that are broadly affecting people across the world, it is an attempt to push back any movement towards creating a world that is humane, one that meets every person’s needs rather than serving only the interests of the rich…

Thank you, Juan Monasterio!

Posted by Richard Metzger
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09.19.2012
05:04 pm
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We’re all Animals: A Peek into ‘Who Killed Teddy Bear?’
09.05.2012
07:39 pm
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Who Killed Teddy Bear? Poster
 
So rarely have I ever been quite beautifully claw hammered by a movie than I was by the 1965 film, Who Killed Teddy Bear? It’s one of those films that can leave you slack jawed over what you have just seen and all the while it just seeps further and further into your consciousness. It’s been days since I last watched it and I still cannot stop thinking about it.

The basic plot revolves around a young, beautiful DJ and aspiring actress, Norah (Juliet Prowse), who soon becomes the focal point of a stalker. He starts off as a creaky voiced, hot and heavy breathing obscene phone caller, making comments like “I know what you look like right now” and “I can make you feel like a real woman.” She’s annoyed at first but gets progressively more rattled as the number of calls grow and violence starts to blossom around her.

Where things get really interesting is that instead of building up the identity of Norah’s mystery obsessive to the very end, we find out who he is midway through the film. The lithe but muscular figure, often shiny with sweat and clad in white briefs, turns out to be the boyishly handsome busboy, Lawrence (Sal Mineo), who works with her at the discotheque. The jolt of seeing former teen idol and Rebel Without a Cause star Mineo as the sexually damaged obscene phone caller with homicidal tendencies is as strong now as it must have been back when it was originally released.

But Mineo’s performance is much more than just a teen dream novelty. He brings some serious depth and layers to Lawrence, creating a character who is alternately sad and frightening, mostly due to his childhood rooted dysfunction. Whether he is taking his mentally challenged sister to the zoo or working out with an intensity that precedes either the hottest sex act or the worst murder, Mineo is a powerhouse here. His Lawrence is right up there with Anthony Perkins in Psycho and John Amplas’s titular role in George Romero’s Martin.

The film itself is a powder keg of beautifully moody B&W cinematography and the grimy underbelly of the human condition. The opening credit sequence alone sets the tone, featuring a blurry undulation of bodies as a little girl watches, clutching her cherished teddy bear. She turns away, only to fall down the stairs, with her face now suddenly blank, as if she is dead or brain damaged. Without a breath of relief, the actual film starts in a cramped, shadowy bedroom, complete with a nightstand littered with lurid publications, featuring titles like French Frills and When She Was Bad. A mirror reflects the image of a man caressing his bare chest while looking at photos of Norah, right before calling her up.

The elements of sleaze continue as Norah encounters police Lieutenant Dave Madden (Jan Murray), a single dad whose fascination with all manners of sexual deviancy infects his home life. (At one point, one of his coworkers mentions how Dave’s young daughter talks like a “vice squad officer.”) Even Norah’s boss, the glamorous ball buster Marian (Elaine Stritch), comes across like an uneasy mixture of maternal and less than pure motive. We even get some now-historic footage of a seamier New York City, with the highlight being Lawrence’s jaunt to an adult bookstore. Seeing shelves lined with girlie mags and books ranging from Fanny Hill, William S. Burroughs Naked Lunch, Hubert Selby Jr.‘s Last Exit to Brooklyn to more purple prose titles like Dance Hall Dyke and My Naughty, Naughty Life is a much beloved peek into the pre-gentrification and Disneyfication of Times Square. 

Who Killed Teddy Bear? is a brave film that gives you no easy answers. Sadly, it didn’t really do a thing for anyone that was involved, career-wise. Mineo did continue to do film, TV and theater work, including staging a controversial version of the prison drama Fortune and Men’s Eyes that featured a young Don Johnson. All of that was cut short in 1976, when he was murdered by a drifter. Elaine Stritch continues to be a monolithic character actress on Broadway, film and TV. Juliet Prowse, Jan Murray and Daniel J. Travanti, who has the small role of Carlo, Marian’s deaf bouncer, all went on to have healthy careers in television. The same could be said for director Joseph Cates, though perhaps that is the biggest shame given that he never was given the chance again to direct anything as nuanced and challenging as Who Killed Teddy Bear?. In an ideal world, this film should have forged a different career direction for Cates and certainly for Mineo, whose wounded eyes and brutal actions are hard to forget.

Who Killed Teddy Bear?
is ripe for proper rediscovery. It’s a mystery why this great film is still not available legally on DVD here in the US. (It did get a release in the UK, though that appears to already be out-of-print.) It is viewable on YouTube, for anyone who does not have access to the UK, PAL formatted disc. Hopefully, it will someday get the proper release that it so justly deserves.
 

 

Posted by Heather Drain
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09.05.2012
07:39 pm
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