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Movie Review: Ghost Dog

The main character of GHOST DOG, who not-coincidentally is called Ghost Dog, is a modern-day assassin who lives his life based on the ancient teachings of the Hagakure, a book containing the philosophies of the Samurai. Every once in awhile during the film, a quote from the book appears on-screen and we get to see how Ghost Dog interprets its lessons.

In my humble opinion, the best book that is published every year is Project Censored’s annual “report” on the top 25 under-reported news stories of the year. The new edition just came out a couple weeks ago: CENSORED 2000. Once again, the book kicks major ass. And like the stories and issues that are the main focus of CENSORED 2000, the book itself is not that well known or discussed.

I’ve talked about Project Censored elsewhere on the Underground Film Journal, but I don’t think I’ve gone into great detail about the organization or their annual report. I don’t remember where I found out about them, but this is the third year I’ve bought the CENSORED book and I’ve found each volume to be educational, entertaining and frightening.

Project Censored was founded over twenty years ago by Carl Jensen, but is now run by Peter Phillips. Nah, their names don’t mean anything to me, either, other than what I just said above. And the Project is affiliated with a progressive university in California, Sonoma State University. Nah, I don’t know much about that either.

But the Project collects articles from non-mainstream news and small-circulation magazines, such as IN THESE TIMES (my personal fave), COVERTACTION QUARTERLY, DOLLARS AND SENSE, THE NATION and MOTHER JONES. Then students at the University, do tons of library research to determine just how “under-reported” the stories are. After those determinations are made and a good selection of important but neglected articles are decided upon, they are sent out to a panel of judges to be ranked and whittled down to the Top 25. This year the panel of judges included Robert McChesney, Howard Zinn, Michael Parenti and Susan Faludi. Those names probably don’t mean anything to anyone unless they read the types of independent magazines like I listed above, except for Susan Faludi who is semi-famous as a controversial feminist writer.

Now, like the little parables that fuel GHOST DOG, I want to show how I’ve applied what I’ve learned from CENSORED 2000:

Tonight I was watching ABC’s WORLD NEWS TONIGHT with Peter Jennings, which I watch almost every weeknight because it really pisses me off and my blood needs to remain in a constant state of boiling. One of the news stories discussed tonight was the list the government releases every other year of known cancer causing toxins. This is such a genius list that this is the first year second-hand smoke made it on there (and as Peter Jennings assured me, “That must mean ‘tobacco’ smoke”). The main focus of the ABC news report was that saccharin was removed from the list this year and Peter mainly chitchatted with some “expert” about that.

However, almost as an afterthought, one of the items mentioned on the list was tamoxifen. I wouldn’t have known what tamoxifen was if I hadn’t read my handy CENSORED book. Discussion of tamoxifen was included in the number three top censored story, “Financially Bloated American Cancer Society Fails to Prevent Cancer” (An aside: if you give money to the ACS, please stop. Over half of the funds collected by this “charity” go to pay their executive’s salaries.)

To find out more about tamoxifen, I had to flip to Chapter 2 of CENSORED: “Censored Déjà vu: What Happened to Last Year’s Stories”. The number two censored story last year was “Chemical Corporations Profit Off of Breast Cancer”. Originally just a breast cancer fighting drug, tamoxifen’s maker, AstraZeneca, conducted a four-year study to test the drug as a preventative medicine. It was given to over 13,000 women who were thought to be at “high-risk” of getting breast cancer.

The good news is that breast cancer incidence in these women was decreased by almost half. The bad news that these women developed twice the incidence of uterine cancer. This is why it made the government’s list. Also, what’s missing from the government list of cancer-causing toxins (and thus, ignored in the ABC news story) is that the women in the tamoxifen test study also had three times the rate of blood clots in the lungs and 50% of more cases of blood clots in major veins. Five women in the placebo group died of breast cancer. But then five women in the tamoxifen-receiving group also died, three from breast cancer and two from drug side effects.

That’s one example. Four of the other Top 25 stories revolve around the war in Kosovo. Did this war, while it was happening, make sense to anybody? Why did the U.S. bother with this poor, underdeveloped country with no strategic value? If you said “oil”, you’d be partly correct. While the U.S. would like to build an oil pipeline through the Balkans to transport the rich reserves from the Caspian Sea, there are also valuable mines in the country containing lead, zinc, cadmium, silver, gold and coal thought to be worth over $5 billion we would like to get our mitts on. But what about all that horrible “genocide” you ask? The number 12 story is: “Evidence Indicates No Pre-War Genocide in Kosovo and Possible U.S./KLA Plot to Create Disinformation”.

Well, we have Hitler to blame for all this. Because of what that stupid, evil prick did, all politicians have to do now is call up images of a holocaust and we become gung-ho for the cause. Saddam Hussein became a “Hitler” after he invaded Kuwait. Then here we are again in Kosovo fighting over oil pipelines, but hardly anyone bothers to research that when stories of “rape camps” and “genocidal massacres” make the six o’clock news. Plus, there’s lots more to this than I’m going into here. I don’t want to waste too much of your time. You should just go read the book.

And finally, sorry GHOST DOG for the lack of attention. It’s a really cool movie. You should go check that out, too. Wickedly entertaining in that subtle Jim Jarmusch way.

Click here to find out more about Project Censored.

Click here to buy CENSORED 2000.