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By Joshua Davis
June 15, 2008

The scene is high school students looking unusually confident and serious.  Young people any instructor would be happy to have in a classroom setting.  Some jargon is used, but most viewers will see nothing out of the ordinary.  Then the speeches begin, and all hell breaks lose.  These kids are speaking at speeds so fast that very little is understood.  If you were in the room with them, you would have little reason to stay longer than a few minutes.  Something must be wrong.  Are the judges going to leave the room in disgust? Certainly this can not be normal; did these kids take an overdose of an often prescribed drug to address ADD?   Weird. Alien. Pointless. Why?

This is the opening of the movie Resolved. Up until this point it would seem obvious that debates should be easy to film.  In national politics, they are often televised and have served as a way to document key parts of political history.  But after jolting the viewer with the opening, the narrator explains that the highest level of high school policy debate started to take a turn in the 1960s to what is called “spread” (SPeed-READing).  Spread involves speaking rapidly in order to get out as many arguments as possible.  One debater started speaking faster and others just kept increasing their pace until nearly all debaters at the highest level were speaking at a rate of 300 to 400 words-per-minute.  The speed at which the debaters speak does not make for comfortable observation.  The film explains that since spread became the norm, only those who have participated in or coached debate can now effectively follow the debates.

Despite this potentially barrier, the filmmakers were still able to create a compelling film that is well balanced between explaining the competition that is debate and how the lives of the debaters affect their approach to the activity and its potentially exclusive nature.   Read the rest of this entry »


By Bryan Newbury
June 11, 2008

Just a day after clinching the Democratic nomination for the presidency, Senator Barack Obama received helpful words from his erstwhile (so Democrats hope) adversary, Senator Hillary Clinton. It was at an AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) convention, where she assured the audience that Obama would be a friend to Israel. The elephant sitting at table three could have pointed out that this goes without saying. In the United States, support for Israel is a requirement, whether running for state senate, the House of Representatives, or county clerk, let alone president.

It is understood by anyone who even casually follows politics, yet it retains elephant in the room status. This is one of the many “whys” regarding the influence of the Israel lobby, one that – like most of the others – will likely never be discussed in our media, and certainly not in our legislature. 

Dutch public broadcaster VPRO presents a balanced and knowledgeable look at the question, and it is vexing to contemplate why our PBS avoids the issue. As with so many things dealing with Israel or the Jewish Diaspora, it is tricky footing for any commentator. The dual nature of the Jewish people, that Janus face of perseverance and victimhood, opens any interrogation to a host of charges, along with observations that can tread easily into the realm of conspiracy theory. The deftest minds of the ages have fallen prey, and the current state of affairs hardly makes it any easier. Thus, the host of “whys,” such as: Why does the United States give more money to Israel than any other nation, though it is a comparatively wealthy nation state?; Why do we consistently veto any United Nations resolution that is infinitesimally critical of Israeli policy or action?; Why is it that the truism, as stated by Eric Hobsbawm, that “(t)he default position of any state is to pursue its interests,” seems to belie our relationship to this small Near Eastern nation?; fall into a dead zone of inquiry here. 

It would be simple to dismiss these questions, and others, as the stuff of conspiracy theory… as wild-eyed Anti-Semitic claptrap… were it not for the fact that a documentary such as this is virtually impossible to make or distribute in the United States. The findings and opinions contained therein would be rightly condemned as Illuminatiesque soothsaying, were it not for the palpable intimidation and atmosphere of silence cultivated by allies of the Israel lobby, the same kind of silencing that serves as primordial breeding ground for over-reaches and conspiracies. The only cure for hatred and darkness, to paraphrase Dr. Martin Luther King, is love and light.

Just why these tactics are employed, in academia, international affairs, and even domestic issues, isn’t addressed directly by the film, nor is it the subject. In quite objective fashion, The Israel Lobby chooses to poke the elephant by pointing out that these tactics do exist, and that the aforementioned groups are subject to the sort of chilling effect that they portend. Read the rest of this entry »


A Reaction, by Bryan Newbury
June 2, 2008

You might have seen a satirical Onion video this February about Diebold accidentally leaking the 2008 general election results. You might have laughed. You might have stopped to consider the likelihood of this fake news piece being, in many ways, more efficacious than hours of election coverage on mainstream networks. The laughter might have subsided when the realization hit.

For those of you who did indeed experience that, Uncounted will serve as a thought-provoking sermon to a convert. For those of you that might have, but haven’t seen it as yet, click the link. We’ll wait.

All right. Now, for everyone left outside of groups A and B (which one can only suppose fall into the ostrich camp, the third congressional district of Oklahoma, or the mainstream media), the film should serve as a wake-up call. It’s tough out there, but you’ve been hitting the snooze button for about a decade. While you were sleeping, we might have lost our democracy.

Uncounted, much like Hacking Democracy, is information dense and utterly shocking, if a bit uneven in strictly aesthetic terms. In the course of a short 81 minutes, David Earnhardt addresses the principle issues driving successful election fraud. We start, naturally, in Ohio, circa 2004. One can almost feel the tingling, as the ghosts of strongmen and box stuffers throughout the ages, from Chicago to New Orleans and beyond, simultaneously quiver with admiration and kick themselves with envy while witnessing the myriad of methods used to attain scandalous levels of voter disenfranchisement. Uncounted illustrates the oppressively long lines, the purging of voter rolls, the undervotes (more on this to follow), and, of course, the voting machines. This reviewer can relate on the latter only through the words of the eternal Viv Savage: “Quite exciting, this computer magic.” Read the rest of this entry »