Clancy Sigal

Are the Brits Crazy or Just Pissed Off and Unheard Till Now?

“If you’ve got money, you vote in. If you haven’t got money, you vote out.” —Manchester working-class woman

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When Hollywood Calls, Who Can Resist?

The White House is sore that actor Sean Penn got to one of the world’s most notorious killers and torturers, El Chapo Guzman, boss of the mushrooming Sinaloa drug cartel, before the corrupt Mexican government got around to it. Obama’s spokesman calls it “maddening” that entrepeneurial Sean Penn got to Guzman before the federales. The government shouldn’t have sent marines and soldiers after Guzman, which took months after his last pre-arranged “escape” from a Mexican prison; Obama simply should have waved a movie contract at the drug lord which would have flushed him out in seconds.

Guzman’s downfall is pure Hollywood. Sean Penn, accompanied by a beautiful Mexican TV soap actress, goes south of the border for a Rolling Stone seven-hour interview with the fugitive involving “talks to produce a movie about his life.” Law enforcement “were able to zero in on his whereabouts through his contacts with lawyers and producers.” Penn writes that after Guzman’s recent tunnel escape from prison, “the drug lord’s attorneys were overwhelmed by overtures from Hollywood studios to produce a movie based on his life.” No showbiz dummy, Guzman “decided to produce his own.”

In other words, Mexican marines, shooting it out with Guzman’s bodyguards, interrupted a classic pitch meeting. Poor El Chapo. Didn’t he learn anything from the fates of John Dillinger, Bonnie and Clyde, and Carlos the Jackal, all brought down by their thirst for personal publicity?

As far as I can tell, Guzman, the second most powerful Mexican next to trillionaire Carlos Slim, was the straight goods speaking to Penn about his global reach. Bragging, but probably truthful. “I supply more heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana than anybody else in the world [with] a fleet of submarines, airplanes, trucks and boats.” Rival cartels like Los Zetas must go crazy with envy—as they begin setting up their own pitch meetings.

Special pleading, factual accuracy and limitless ego are all mixed up in Guzman’s interview. “Where I grew up [as a poor peasant boy] there was no other way, and there still isn’t a way to survive,” except by the drug trade: "The only way to have money to buy food, to survive, is to grow poppy.” 

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Why #‎YouAintNoMuslimBruv Has Gone Worldwide

You ain't no Muslim, bruv!”

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Terrorism and Paris: Why Hemingway Matters So Much to Parisians and All of Us

Who says that an aging man’s misty memory of the best time in his life isn’t as bona fide as the “facts”?

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The Really Really Rich Fund Presidential Campaigns...Except for Bernie's

Due to the excellent legwork of three New York Times reporters (Confessore, Cohen and Yourish), and Federal Election Commission reports, on which I rely, the meaningless phrase “campaign finance reform” takes on flesh and blood. We now have a clearer idea of something we more or less knew; that our real rulers are overwhelmingly white, rich, right-wing, older and male, and live in guarded mansion-fortresses in places like Indian Creek Road and River Oaks, Texas, and Bel-Air, up the hill from me in Los Angeles. 

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In Praise of the Brave People Who Do Good Acts That They Risk Being Demonized for

This Sunday is an anniversary of the execution by beheading of young Sophie Scholl, her brother Hans and their school friend Christopher Probst who formed the shortlived anti-Nazi “White Rose conspiracy” in Munich, Germany in WW2.  Medical students in their early 20s, they were religiously-inclined skiing and hiking pals caught handing out leaflets asking for passive resistance to the Hitler regime.  A school janitor turned them in for tossing leaflets down a stairwell.  Although there are streets, schools and plaques to their memory in Germany, none of the White Roses survived to tell their story. In court, before the notoriously sadistic Judge Freisler, Sophie said:  “Somebody, after all, had to make a start. What we wrote and said is also believed by many others. They just don't dare express themselves as we did.”  As if to prove her words, at the time most Germans kept away from this deeply Lutheran family.

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In the Midst of Awards Season, Why the 'Money Scene' Is What I Look For in a Movie

My son and I argue movies all the time.  He thinks that the Academy and other film industry prizes are well deserved while I can’t recall a Golden Globe or Oscar for a movie I truly enjoyed.   He says I’m “biased”.  Of course, I am.  Prejudiced, blind, narrowminded, nostalgic and inconsistent like most movie lovers.

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Trying to Untangle the Darren Wilson Decision at the Breakfast Table

Darren Wilson was an uninvited guest at my breakfast table a day or so ago  in our family’s version of the “national conversation about race” that practically ruined my pancakes. 

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Staying Silent About Violence Against Women Is Despicable

Some years ago I was in a Los Angeles bar when a guy began beating up on his girlfriend or wife, knocking her off her stool while they exchanged insults and fists.  I, Action Hero, intervened and pulled the guy off her.  Furious, she slammed me with her handbag and told me to mind my own effing business.  Both he and she chased me out of the bar onto the sunlit street.  Never again, I swore, do I play referee in a domestic dispute which in this case was assault.
Due to over-coverage, even somebody living on Mars knows each tiny graphic detail of a CCTV camera of Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Rice slugging unconscious his then fiancé now wife Janay Palmer in an Atlantic City casino elevator last February.  And we know all about tin-eared National Football League commissioner Roger Goodell’s blunders and lies in covering up what easily could have been a murder case. 
And, most sadly, Janay’s blaming the media not Ray for their predicament.  “To take something away from the man I love that he has worked his ass off for all his life just to gain ratings is horrific.”  Janay, who has a child with Ray to protect, must be under incredible pressure to unblame her husband and try to salvage their income.  We’ll probably never know her real feelings until and unless she divorces to tell her story unvarnished.
Granted, she has a point.  “No one knows the pain that the media and unwanted [opinions] from the public has cause my family. To make us relive a moment in our lives that we regret every day is a horrible thing.”  Aside from voyeurism, what possible good comes from replaying over and over again her humiliation?  Oh yes, it contributes to that cliché, a “national conversation” about domestic violence.  In plainer words talking about how guys beat the shit out of women.
It’s amazing how easily the victim gets trod underfoot in the noise of powerful figures – including Obama and TV anchors – pointing the finger at Top People most like themselves.  Who cares if Roger Goodell keeps his $40 million a year job? 
Until the Ray Rice incident I was following what appears on the surface to be an unrelated sexual atrocity.  It happens in one of my favorite pit stops, the old coal-and-steel town of Rotherham, south Yorkshire, England.  The town of 250,000 sits in the heart of what used to be the industrial north.  Think Youngstown, Ohio, with its ruined quarries, factories and mills.
Briefly, 1400 (and probably many more) girl children – some as young as 11 - were over a 17 year period until very recently gang raped, tortured, trafficked and had their lives permanently damaged by “multiple perpetrators” usually second-generation Pakistani origin taxi drivers, takeout delivery men and other mobile predators with easy access to mainly troubled white kids from chaotic families. 
"One young person told us that 'gang rape' was a usual part of growing up in the area of Rotherham in which she lived," said the blistering report by Prof. Alexis Jay, former chief inspector of social work in Scotland, who almost burst into tears delivering it.
Officially commissioned reports of sexual exploitation were ignored or disbelieved.   Those charged with protecting the kids – social care agencies, the police from regional crime commissioner Shaun Wright down to foot constable, and almost all the local Labour politicians – enabled the rapists by, in Prof. Jay’s words, 'sweeping it under the carpet', 'turning a blind eye' and 'keeping a lid on it'.
Why?  One reason is that, in an atmosphere of “multiculturalism”, the cops and social workers and elected poobahs didn’t want to “give oxygen” to the far right by drawing attention to the criminals’ ethnicity.  (Most rapists were from rural Kashimir.) 
It took a 2010 court case and some prison sentences for anyone to sit up and take notice.  Not quite true, since it also was the years of hard, at first ignored and often mocked journalism by Rupert Murdoch’s UK London Times’ reporter Andrew Norfolk to finally expose the full story.
Britain has had lots of recent pedophilia scandals mainly implicating Top People (comic Jimmy Savile, children’s entertainer Rolf Harris, high ranking politicians and the so-called ‘BBC ring’).  But Rotherham is different because its crimes against children strike at the very heart not of the Establishment but the socialist-Labour ideal.  (The city has voted Labour since 1933.)  
Men who hate women won’t go down without a fight.  (Poor choice of words.)  Roger Goodell like south Yorkshire’s police boss Shaun Wright refuse to resign because, after all, what did they do wrong? 

It's Open Season on Journalists Working in the World's Danger Zones

Almost everybody, it seems, likes to murder prying reporters or just any man or woman with a plastic press pass hanging around their necks.

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Happy Holidays!