Monthly Archive for March, 2009



Sparing no expense in its determination to pique the interest of its demanding, easily distracted readership, the Daily Event has sent reporter Dale Arden hurtling at near light speed–and great personal risk–through a space/time wormhole into the future. This is her first dispatch.


SPACE STATION MAMMON, March 27, 2059…Plagued by non-performing loans, fund redemptions and collateral calls the planet Gliese 581c edged closer to bankruptcy yesterday.

Trading on the Gliesian “Astral” was halted after it plunged to As11,000 to the dollar on the Near Space Currency Exchange.

Rhapsodia, which is what Gliesians called their planet, B.C. (Before Contact) had been trying to negotiate bridge loans and an extension on payments due, said Chief Monetizer Etaoin Shrdlu, but “our terrestrial counter-parties have turned their backs on us.” He said that Gliese 581c with a mass 1.5 times the size of earth is “too big to fail,” and warned that “unless we receive emergency aid we’ll all be consumed in a financial super nova that will reduce our bi-solar system to a shantytown of barren asteroids.”

In Beijing, Galactic Reserve Bank Chairman Heng Mao agreed that “we cannot easily overcome the gravity of this situation,” but accused Gliese of “gamma ray rhetoric.”

“The Gliesians have created an unsustainable consumer economy based on easy credit, baseless speculation and chaotic deregulation,” Heng said. “To bail them out now would be to throw more money down a black hole.”

The Earth-Gliese Articles of Confederation promise “sempiternal harmony” to the peoples of both planets, but in recent years the union has been shaken by accusations of mismanagement, malfeasance and corruption. This is a tragic development to elderly earth scientists who remember the morning of April 24, 2007 when news came from the La Silla Paranol Observatory in Southern Chile that an exoplanet had been discovered orbiting the red dwarf Gliese about 20.5 light years from earth. To the gleeful astronomers who had been “planet hunting” for years it was a possible kindred spirit in the vast, ever-expanding universe. Orbiting in what they called “the Goldilocks zone,” not too hot or too cold, it had atmospheric conditions that could support life forms similar to earth’ s. The temperature range was between 32 and 104 degrees Fahrenheit. Some computer models posited a rocky, mountainous surface; others detected a “seaworld” of temperate oceans with a profusion of life forms flourishing beneath the surface.

Radio waves were instantly beamed from observatories and satellites all over the planet. For years there was no response, but the scientists persisted. Then on December 24, 2015, a faint wave was received. Some described it as “tentative, almost reluctant.” Later it emerged that the Gliesians, a shy people, had been unnerved by this bombardment of signals, not understanding that there was an intense competition on earth to see who would be the first to communicate with them.

Scientists on both planets worked tirelessly to develop a rudimentary code. A technology was perfected to transmit graphics…then photographs…then videos. Linguistics specialists created a new language and soon the planets were conversing with fluent comprehension.

In those heady days the two planets were exhilarated to learn that they were not alone in the universe. Every bit of information was a revelation. The computer models had been half right. Gliese 581c was half-rock, half-ocean. In grainy images transmitted across 20.5 light years the rock people looked like centaurs, half-being, half-vehicle with bulbous heads and four suction casters for climbing. The sea dwellers were like mermaids, half-being, half-motorized tail. Anthropologists were amazed at how closely they resembled creatures from earthly myths. But some were alarmed. On Fox News Network Bill O’Reilly warned that “these Gliesians obviously visited earth in our prehistory, planted commands in our preconscious minds, and now plan to return to enslave us.”

In spite of their physical differences the Gliesians were a united people. They were stressless and amiable, each group supplying the needs of the other. They had achieved voluntary immortality, controlling their moments of what they called “inception” and “cessation.” Eager to please their new friends on earth they agreed to change the name of their planet to Gliese.

“They live in tranquil cooperation,” Dr. Phil said, and was overheard muttering to an assistant: “if this spreads to earth it will put us all out of business.”

But analysts soon found that there was one area in which the Gliesians were deficient: They had no economy.

“They were less sophisticated than the most primitive village in the Amazon,” says economist Elliot Gruber-Yonge. “They didn’t even understand potlatch.”

“We had been humbled by their superior lifestyle,” adds psychologist Anne Grosspiske. “Now we realized we had something to teach them.”

Economists set to work helping the Gliesians build an economic system.

“First, we created a currency, the astral, which would replace barter and capricious generosity as a way of dispensing and acquiring services ” says Gruber-Yonge. “Then, we encouraged the Gliesians to value their assets. This was tremendously exciting as they realized that some of them owned property that was more valuable than their neighbors.” A flourishing real estate market grew up overnight. Luxurious caves and underwater palaces were built. Earth attorneys helped the Gliesians devise a legal system to enforce contracts and settle disputes.

“The next step was to get the Gliesians to value their own labor,” says Gruber-Yonge. “Many were delighted to see that their skills were worth more than their neighbors.” Compensation schedules were created. An elite separated itself from the mass. Comparative wealth created rich and poor, upper and lower class…” Gruber-Yonge pauses with a reverent look. “It was alike watching the six days of creation.”

The inevitable conflicts of a flourishing economy caused tension and resentment, which the legal system expanded to resolve. Police agencies were created to enforce the laws. Prisons were built.

Meanwhile, bankers on earth created an exchange to trade in Gliesian stocks, property and currency. The Chinese, who had run out of places on earth to invest, were enthusiastic about this new market. Astrals were converted to dollars. Fortunes were made.

“The Gliesians were amazed at how we could create wealth out of thin air,” says Gruber-Yonge. “They formed hundreds of corporations for their new stock exchange. They checked the prices every day. Used their astrals to invest in the earth markets.”

Earth bankers converted stimulus billions into astrals, which they lent to Gliesian monetizers, who then lent them to their fledgling capitalists and returned the interest to earth in the form of astrals, which were quickly converted into dollars. Earth bankers traded astral futures among themselves and made gigantic bets in the Gliesian markets.

“Gliesians were fascinated by the concept of leverage,” Gruber-Yonge says. “To them it was magical. They praised us to the sky.”

With the astral pegged at one to two dollars profits were astronomical.

“In a leveraged developing economy there are no losers,” Gruber-Yonge says. “A fishtail (we called them rockheads and fishtails) borrowed a milliion astrals to build an underwater yo yo factory and sold it for forty million three months later.”

But slowly, imperceptibly a consumer economy took hold.

“Gliesans were purchasing and manufacturing products they didn’t really need,” says Gruber-Yonge ruefully. “They were caught up in a spending and leveraging frenzy. Then, they woke up one morning and there was nothing left to buy.”

With sagging demand factories closed, jobs were lost, loans and mortgages were delinquent. Earth banks began to report losses as Gliesians defaulted. The astral plunged. The dollar was in crisis. The Chinese, enraged that once again their trillion dollar investment had been devalued, called for the creation of “an intergalactic reserve currency that is disconnected from individual planets and remains stable.”

Earth governments intervened and nationalized the banks, wiping out the Gliesian shareholders.

Gliese, faced with massive unemployment, plunging property values and social unrest, appealed to earth.

“Your greed has brought us to the brink of this precipice. You will create more credit for your banks and recover your wealth, but we are ruined.”

And now the Gliesians learned a new economic concept–the write-off. Earth bankers sent their regrets. There was nothing they could do.

This morning in what was described as an energy-saving move, Earth switched off its communication links with Gliese.

As the signal faded, a Gliesian could be heard lamenting:

“We’ll never be able to call ourselves Rhapsodia again.”


NORTH HOLLYWOOD, Ca, March 5…At the age of 102, blacklisted screenwriter Art Ostrovsky says he is witnessing something he never thought he would live to see–the overthrow of Capitalism. 

His rheumy eyes brighten, his crabbed fingers tremble around a glass of vodka. “I waited 80 years for the Revolution to come to America,” he says. “Now I can feel it in the wind…”

In this rundown garden apartment complex off Magnolia Boulevard in North Hollywood, Ostrovsky is a puzzle to his neighbors, mostly new arrivals from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. They call him “el viejito” in humorous reference to a popular brand of Tequila and know him as the skeletal old man teetering on his walker in a daily promenade around the courtyard, with a stoic West Indian home care worker in attendance. They occasionally look in on him in the cluttered apartment where along with floating dust devils, spider webs and the resident mouse scurrying in the crawl space he has lived for sixty-two years, among fading photos of the authors, politicians, actors and directors he knew in the “Movement.” 

Ostrovsky is convinced that the economic crisis and the new administration of President Obama provide an opportunity to change the world. He urges his neighbors to participate in “bourgeois” politics. “Marx said that capital is reckless to the health and length of life of the laborer unless under compulsion from society,” he says. “I warn them not to let the bosses pit them against each other the way the studios did to us.”  He fishes a bent Marlboro out of a crumpled box…”The old ones smile behind their hands, but the young ones hear me. They will carry the torch.”

Ostrovsky may be the last surviving founder of the Screenwriter’s Guild. No one knows…

“In the movie business sentiment is reserved for the successful,” he says. “Lawson, Cole and Ornitz were the stars because they wrote the major features. I was just a laborer in the vineyards. I licked the envelopes and ran the mimeograph…”

Blacklisted in 1953 for his refusal to testify about his Communist affiliations he has stayed faithful to the Marxist view of history. 

“Marx predicted that the capitalists would be the agents of their own destruction,” he says with a triumphant gleam. “Now the financiers are pleading for the nationalization of the banks and major industries as the only way to save their personal wealth. The parasite is begging the host to keep it alive.” 

Born in Harlem in New York City in 1907, Ostrovsky was raised in an orthodox Communist family. His father was a founder of the Fur and Leather Worker’s Union. His mother was a leader of a historic 1909 strike against the Triangle Shirtwaist Company, which won union representation for seamstresses. 

“When I was nine years old a little boy named Serge was brought home to play with me,” Ostrovsky says. “He was very serious and said his father was going to make a big revolution in Russia and chase out the Czar. I laughed at him, but my mother pulled my ear until I cried and said his father was Trotsky, a great man.. 

“That serious little boy became an engineer and returned to help rebuild Russia,” Ostrovsky says. “He was arrested and shot during Stalin’s purges of the ’30′s.”

On September 16, 1920, a horse cart loaded with 100 pounds of dynamite and 500 pounds of cast-iron slugs exploded across from the J.P. Morgan headquarters on Wall St., killing 30.   

In the crackdown on Communists and Anarchists that followed Ostrovsky’s parents were deported to Russia and he was sent to live with an aunt in Coney Island.

“My parents became political commissars in charge of collecting grain from collective farms,” Ostrovsky says. “During the Great Famine of the 1933, they were killed by a mob of starving Ukrainians.”

Ostrovsky grew up to become a loyal member of the Communist Party. 

“We believed in the words of Nicola Sacco that every human life is connected to every other life through threads that you cannot see,” he said. “We fought for the rights of the workers against the bosses and their gangster goons,” he said. “For the martyrs who were framed by the corrupt judicial servants of the exploiters.”

In 1931, Ostrovsky rode the rails to Scottsboro, Alabama to support the defense of a group of black teenagers who were accused of gang raping two white women.

“When everyone else abandoned them the Communist party came to their defense,” Ostrovsky says. 

During the 1932 presidential campaign he traveled to Los Angeles with the Communist candidate William Z. Foster. They were arrested on charges of “criminal syndicalism.”

“I tell the young people that Obama is not the first black man to run in a presidential election,” he says. “In 1932, the Communist Party nominated James W. Ford for as Foster’s running mate. The Party came in fourth with 102,000 votes that year.”

When they were released, Ostrovsky was instructed by cultural Commissar V.J. Jerome to stay in Hollywood. “Movies were seen as a tremendous vehicle for propaganda,” he says. ” A comrade got me a job writing comedy shorts for Vitagraph. My job was to try to portray the class struggle, the nobility of the workers and the essential shallowness of the bourgeoisie.”

Ostrovsky remembers the short unit as the purest expression of collective unity. 

“Writers, actors, directors, technicians all worked together in solidarity,” he says. “We were the proletarians of the studio system and were united against a common enemy–the bosses.”

His proudest achievement was a short in which a young Glenda Farrell, playing a shopgirl, is promised a promotion by her lecherous boss, Guy Kibbee, but fights him off and returns to her poor but honest carpenter boyfriend, Dick Foran.  

“We were positive that the Depression would raise the collective consciousness of the working class and lead to world revolution,” Ostrovsky says. “But FDR and his band of left meliorists kept the people in check.”

The Party viewed the Spanish Civil War  as a proxy battle between the Soviet Union and the Fascist powers.. Ostrovsky was working on a serial in which the hero had to capture a dangerous secret weapon. The Cultural Commissar instructed him to make all his villains Germans or Italians.  But Warner Brothers wanted to sell movies abroad and was loath to offend such good customers. 

“We compromised and made our villains American neo-fascist plutocrats,” Ostrovsky says. “My bad guys were modeled on Henry Ford and John D. Rockefeller. Our subliminal message reached millions of kids in Saturday matinees…”

During the war he worked in an Army Air Corps film unit commanded by Lieutenant Ronald Reagan. “We made morale boosting films for the troops,” he says. “I managed to slip in some pro-Soviet messages…Ronnie never caught on.”

After the war Ostrovsky says “the bourgeois democracies were confronted by the sudden emergence of the Revolution, spreading from Eastern Europe and Asia toward the  West.” 

“The reaction set in,” Osotrovsky says. “Communists were demonized. At the same time a suffocating blanket of prosperous conformity settled over the land.” 

Ostrovsky refused to testify against his comrades and was blacklisted. “The famous writers, the Hollywood Ten, all worked under pseudonyms,” he says. “But the B-writers were finished.”

In the late ’50′s he was given a few pseudonymous scripts on the TV series Robin Hood. “I enjoyed writing stories about a defender of the oppressed. But the series didn’t last.” 

After that, Ostrovsky never worked again. His fourth wife supported him with her earnings as an official of the Los Angeles teacher’s union. Now he lives on her small pension and Social Security. He admits he despaired of ever seeing the Revolution. “In the ’60′s they stifled collective action with drugs and false philosophies of self-realization,” he says. “For the last twenty years they deadened the oppressed with easy credit. Now it’s over.” He turns with grim satisfaction  to the photos of Paul Robeson, Jules Dassin, Dalton Trumbo, Zero Mostel and The Weavers. “Our time has come..”

After a restorative gulp of vodka Ostrovsky grips his walker and pushes open his screen door. In the courtyard some kids are kicking around a soccer ball. Closing his eyes and harking back to a time when he addressed public meetings Ostrovsky calls to them with sudden strength.

“You must grab the moment,” he shouts. “Capital has exhausted the consumer market it created. In a last gasp it commodified itself. It created a world wide market in which capital was the only product. But now the house of cards has collapsed. Capital is like an animal, gnawing at its limbs to extricate itself from a trap that it set for others…

“Obama’s humane democracy will change the economic relations between people. It will open the door for a socialism of equality and eventually for a classless society….”

Steadying himself with one hand, Ostrovsky raises his fist.

“I believe in the ultimate victory of the Fourth International,” he cries

The kids stop their game and applaud.

“Bravo Art,” they shout. “Ole…”