Thursday, October 8, 2009

Capitalism: A Love Story

"I Am in Awe of Propaganda"

Those are the words of a Flint, Michigan Catholic priest in Michael Moore's "Capitalism: A Love Story," talking about the influence of free market advertising and its ability to cow, coerce and walk away straight-faced after convincing you that the long-term fleecing you've agreed to is a good thing. It has usurped the "Do Unto Others As You'd Have Them Do Unto You" religious teachings he espouses far more than any "Russian Revolution" could. The capitalist religion espouses "Do Unto Others Before They Do Unto You."
You can't drill a dry hole or pick an empty pocket.

Religion plays a large part in Moore's latest screed as those priests (and their bishop) must take the side of the flock rather than the shepherd leading them to the slaughterhouse for rendering. The business tactics designed to entice and lure home-owners into a better deal by re-financing, then hedge-funding those deals as a separate money-generating entity leaves the sheep without faith, with little hope and depending on charity. The talk-show pundits would castigate these folks for making "poor life choices" (even while hawking such deals on the air).

Moore is preaching to the choir. The entire nation witnessed the results of the collapsing house of cards the banks were dealing, and an election-facing legislature was brow-beaten with the same heavy-handed scare tactics to act...or else...that had been used falsely in the build-up to the Iraq war. The results of the many trillion dollar bail-out? M.O.S. or S.O.S., depending on your definition. At this point in time, the banks are taking the tax-payers' money, displaying a new stinginess with loans and rewarding their C.E.O.'s and auditors with the same lavish bonuses and benie's collected during the good times, while suddenly balking at the re-institution of checks and balances that got us into this mess in the first place.

The mind reels at the arrogance, the impudence and downright thuggery. "But it's what the market will bear," comes the cry. "But barely" is the response.

Moore saw the election of Obama last year and took hope. Not in Obama; his Treasury is part of the same
Goldman Sachs cabal of the Clinton-Bush years that created the mess. The hope is in the grass-roots effort to elect him. The boots on the ground (and the pitch-forks and torches in the fists) that might stop the electorate from being used as pawns in a massive chess game where the top 1% wage-earners of the United States increase their holdings at the expense of...everything.

Moore begins his film with old footage of a talking head warning the faint of heart or "prone to upset" to take their children and leave the theater. The next is an educational film from the Encyclopedia Britannica (taking advantage of the old Roman sets at Cinecitta) to tell about "The Fall of Rome," which they ascribe to a "disparity (between rich and poor) and the irresponsibility of its leaders."

Makes the 1950's seem like rabble-rousing, I'm sure.

The Titles are done over security footage of bank-robbers and by the end of the film, it only feels like retribution ("Do Unto Others..."). Those already with a
Moore-sized chip on your shoulder (and that MUST be painful), will be grousingly suspicious that Moore takes on Democrats and liberals as well as Republicans and conservatives in this one, tracing the current crisis to the G-S infiltration of the Clinton White House, and skewering Christopher Dodd and Barney Frank for their complicity in the swindle (as if that would convince anyone to see Moore differently). It is at its best documenting the struggles of middle-class families deluged with debt, whether from medical bills (ahem!) or from changed conditions of their sold mortgages, and saves its most venom explaining the practices of corporations in treating their employees as "Meat or Pets"** by secretly taking out life insurance policies on them (whether the employees have it themselves or not), benefiting from their deaths—a practice known in the Insurance Industry by the "add-insult-to-injury" term "dead peasants" policies. The film is snarkily entertaining though the director spends far too much time in front of the camera (the pointless debates with security guards gets old mightily fast), and he leaves in a jab at himself as he stands outside Goldman Sachs looking for financial advice. "Don't make any more movies!" comes a reply from one of the Masters of the Universe.**

More bad advice. Just what we need.

"Capitalism: A Love Story" is a matinee. See ya at Ace Hardware-group rates on pitch-forks!

* Moore's original title for "Roger and Me" (1989).

** Tom Wolfe's bromide for stocks and commodities traders in "Bonfire of the Vanities."

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