Santa Cruz Good Times

Wednesday
Nov 26th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Ace of Lies

film_casino_jackSAbramoff exploits eroding democracy in trenchant ‘Casino Jack’
Just in case you’re not outraged enough over the stranglehold by which corporate interests have crippled the American political process, along comes Casino Jack And The United States Of Money to make it all perfectly clear. Alex Gibney’s new documentary is densely packed with information, but persuasive and eye-opening; it charts the course of “uber-lobbyist” Jack Abramoff, from ultra-conservative Young Republican with a James Bond complex in the Reagan ’80s to the most influential political power broker in America—and the disintegrating fabric of American democracy that permitted it to happen.

Veteran doc meister Gibney is no stranger to digging deep and getting the facts on his subjects. His previous films include Enron: The Smartest Guys In the Room, and Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson. The rise of Abramoff, he tells us at the outset, is “a story of personal corruption, and the story of what our democracy has become.”

It starts off with a literal bang, a gangland-style murder in Florida, and a Senate inquiry (conducted by Sen. John McCain) into Abramoff’s shady business dealings with Native American gambling casinos in Texas. What is not immediately apparent is how both incidents are tied to the same massive, tangled, Gordian knot of influence-peddling, election-fixing, contract-selling, legislation-killing pay-to-play political maneuvering that define Abramoff’s career among the DC power elite, a barely–hidden agenda whose long, slimy tentacles reach into the pockets of scores of Republicans (and a few Democrats) in Congress.

Abramoff grew up a movie-buff in L.A. (Gibney tells us he converted to Orthodox Judaism after seeing Fiddler On The Roof.) He became an “Orthodox conservative” in college as a member of Young Americans for Freedom, a group for whom Reagan Republicans weren’t conservative enough. Calling themselves “freedom fighters,” they affected combat fatigues, engaged in “guerrilla warfare,” devoured anti-Commie spy novels, and set out to overthrow the “old order” of Liberalism.

When Republicans gained control of both houses of Congress in 1994, Abramoff and his cronies knew how to take advantage of the prevailing winds of change: anti-tax, anti-government crusaders, the rise of the religious right (via the Christian Coalition), and the wholesale embrace of the bottom-line business principle of trading corporate campaign financing for legislation (or “legalized bribery,” as one commentator puts it). To operate more efficiently in this brave new world, Abramoff found that he and Congressman Tom DeLay shared a  common goal: to “exterminate government rules and regulations.” (Listed among the pesky controls DeLay sought to abolish are the Clean Air Act, HUD, the Department of Education, OSHA, the NEA, and the EPA.)

Abramoff gets rich selling access to DeLay, and the depredations wrought on American democracy by their alliance are appalling. In the Marianas, a U.S. commonwealth in the Pacific and a regulation-free “Neverland” where immigration, labor, and minimum wage laws do not apply, a “cash cow” is created in a garment factory whose workers are virtually enslaved. (One laborer begs a visiting American to buy his kidney so he can pay his debt and  go home to China.) A money-laundering operation called a “think tank” is set up whose supposed CEO is a lifeguard buddy of Abramoff crony Mike Scanlon.

But it’s the his “gimme five” scam—selling protection to Native American tribal casinos, profits which are then funneled back to Abramoff via Scanlon’s bogus company—that finally brings Abramoff under legal scrutiny. (He even has the hubris to leave a damning trail of undeleted emails that rivals the Nixon Tapes for arrogant, gutter-mouthed, racist bravado.)

film_casino_jackFilmmaker Gibney doesn’t paint Abramoff as a lone gunman-style villain (as tempting as that may be as we see Abramoff decked out in Reilly, Ace of Spies, black trenchcoat and fedora for his trial), but as the logical outgrowth of his era. As commentator Thomas Frank points out, “When you turn Capitalism loose without regulations, the Marianas is what you get.” Or, as another observer puts it, “Abramoff couldn’t have flourished if the system itself were not corrupt.”

CASINO JACK AND THE UNITED STATES OF MONEY ★★★

With Jack Abramoff and Tom DeLay. Written and directed by Alex Gibney. A Magnolia Pictures release. Rated R. 120 minutes.
Watch film trailer >>>

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Good Times Holiday Giving

Giving Where It Helps

 

Giving Thanks: The Thought-Form of Solution

We are in the time and under the influence of Sagittarius, sign of the wanderer, good food, good music, and the joy (Jupiter as ruler) that occurs from giving to others while simultaneously giving thanks from our hearts. Having the Thanksgiving holiday during the month of Sag is not a mistake. No other sign understands joy (an aspect of the Soul) as Sag (except Pisces when not in despair). “Sag is a beam of directed and focused light. The beam reveals a greater light ahead, illuminating the Way to the center of the Light,” emitting the Ray of Joyfulness. Thanksgiving is a time for gratitude; in the form of prayers, thoughts, feelings, wishes, hopes and greetings. Gratitude is something we still need to learn. Gratitude creates goodwill. Together, gratitude and goodwill create the “thought-form of solution” for humanity and our world’s problems. Gratitude and goodwill are the prerequisites for the reappearance of the Christ, the Aquarian World Teacher. In Ancient Wisdom texts it is written, “being grateful is the hallmark of one who is enlightened.” Gratitude comes from the Soul—the characteristics of which are love and wisdom (Ray 2). Gratitude is scientifically and occultly (mental, not emotional) a releasing agent. Gratitude liberates us and everything around us. Also a service to others, gratitude is deeply scientific in nature, releasing us from the past and laying open our future path leading to the new culture and civilization, the new laws and principles, the rising light of Aquarian, the Age of Friendship and Equality. The Hierarchy lays much emphasis upon gratitude. Let us be grateful this year and this season together. And so now the days of light illuminating the darkness begin (December’s festivals and feast days). Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. I am grateful for all of you, my readers.

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Film, Times & Events: Week of November 28

Santa Cruz area movie theaters >
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Round About Now

The glory of persimmons, plus Ivéta scone mix and lunch at Assembly

 

What charities would you like to see people support this season?

Judy Allen, Scotts Valley, Consulting

 

Big Basin Vineyards

I was just in the process of purchasing a bottle of Big Basin’s 2012 Homestead in Vinocruz when Matt Ryan walked into the store. Ryan manages the tasting room, sales and the mailing list at Big Basin, and, considering the popularity of their wines, he’s a very busy man.

 

Ashby Confections

Local chocolate maker talks chocolate and self control