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MAJOR DUNDEE: A LESSON FOR OUR TIME

In Entertainment, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on November 2, 2018 at 12:06 am

Major Dundee is a 1965 Sam Peckinpah Western focusing on a Union cavalry officer (Charlton Heston) who leads a motley troop of soldiers into Mexico to rescue three children kidnapped by Apaches.

Along the way they liberate Mexican villagers and clash with French lancers trying to establish Mexico as a French colony under would-be emperor Archduke Maximilian 1.

The Wild Bunch is universally recognized as Peckinpah’s greatest achievement. It has certainly had a far greater impact on audiences and critics than Major Dundee. According to Heston, this was really the movie Peckinpah wanted to make while making Dundee, but he couldn’t quite get his mind around it.

As a result, Dundee’s virtues have been tragically overlooked. It has a larger cast of major characters than Bunch, and these are men an audience can truly like and identify with:

  • The charm of Benjamin Tyreen (Richard Harris), a Confederate lieutenant forced into Union service;
  • The steady courage of Sergeant Gomez;
  • The quiet dignity of Aesop (Brock Peters), a black soldier;
  • The quest for maturity in young, untried bugler Tim Ryan (Michael Anderson, Jr.);
  • The on-the-job training experience of impetuous Lt. Graham (Jim Hutton); and
  • The stoic endurance of Indian scout Sam Potts (James Coburn).

These men are charged with a dangerous and dirty mission, and do it as well as they can, but you wouldn’t fear inviting them to meet your family.

,Major Dundee

Major Dundee (Charlton Heston)

That was definitely not the case with The Wild Bunch, four hardened killers prepared to rip off anyone, anytime, and leave a trail of bodies in their wake. The only place where you would have felt safe seeing them, in real-life, was behind prison bars.

The Wild Bunch

Dundee is an odyssey movie, in the same vein as Saving Private Ryan. Both films start with a battle, followed by the disappearance of characters who need to be searched for and brought back to safety.

Just as Dundee assembles a small force to go into Mexico, so, too, does Captain John Miller (Tom Hanks) do the same, with his hunting ground being France.

Dundee’s men retrieve the kidnapped children and survive a near-fatal battle with Indians. Miller’s men twice clash with the Germans before finding their quarry, James Ryan.

Before Dundee can return to the United States, he must face and defeat a corps of French soldiers. Before Miller can haul Ryan back to safety, he must repulse a German assault.

Both groups of soldiers—Dundee’s and Miller’s—are transformed by their experiences in ways neither group could possibly articulate. (Miller, being a highly literate schoolteacher, would surely do a better job of this than the tight-jawed Dundee.)

Dundee’s soldiers return to a United States that’s just ended its Civil War with a Union victory—and the death of slavery. Miller’s soldiers return to a nation that is now a global superpower.

Of course, Ryan was fortunate in having Steven Spielberg as its director.  With his clout, there was no question that Ryan would emerge as the film he wanted.

Peckinpah lacked such clout. And he fought with everyone, including the producer, Jerry Bressler, who ultimately held the power to destroy his film. This guaranteed that his movie would emerge far differently than he had envisioned.

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Sam Peckinpah

In 2005, an extended version of Dundee was released, featuring 12 minutes of restored footage. (Much of the original footage was lost after severe cuts to the movie.)

In this new version, we fully see how unsympathetic a character the martinet Dundee really is. Owing to Heston’s career of playing heroes—such as Moses and El Cid—it’s easy to overlook Dundee’s arrogance and lethal fanaticism and automatically view him as a hero.

If he is indeed that, he is a hero with serious flaws.

And his self-imposed mission poses questions for us today:

  • Where is the line between professional duty and personal fanaticism?
  • How do we balance the success of a mission against its potential costs—especially if they prove appalling?
  • At what point—if any—does personal conscience override professional obligations?

Whether intentionally or not, in Major Dundee, Peckinpah laid out a microcosm of the American history that would immediately follow the Civil War.

Former Confederates and Unionists would forego their regional animosities and fight against a recognized mutual enemy—the Indians. This would prove a dirty and drawn-out war, stripped of the glory and (later) treasured memories of the Civil War.

Just as Dundee’s final battle with French lancers ended with an American victory won at great cost, so, too, would America’s forays into the Spanish-American War and World Wars 1 and 11 prove the same.

Ben Tyreen’s commentary on the barbarism of French troops (“Never underestimate the value of a European education”) would be echoed by twentieth-century Americans uncovering the horrors of Dachau and Buchenwald.

And America would learn to project its formidable military power at great cost. Toward the end of the movie, Teresa Santiago (Senta Berger), the ex-patriot Austrian widow, would ask Dundee: “But who do you answer to?

It is a question that still vividly expresses the view of the international community as this superpower colossus hurtles from one often-disastrous conflict to the next.

NUREMBERG COMES TO AMERICA

In Bureaucracy, Entertainment, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on October 24, 2018 at 12:12 am

Those who have seen the classic 1960 movie, “Judgment at Nuremberg,” will remember its pivotal moment.

That’s when Burt Lancaster, as Ernst Janning, the once distinguished German judge, confesses his guilt and that of Nazi Germany in a controlled, yet emotional, outburst. 

Addressing the court—presided over by Chief Judge Dan Haywood (Spencer Tracy)—Janning explains the forces that led to the triumph of evil.

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It’s not hard to imagine, in the future, an equally conscience-stricken member of the Donald Trump administration, standing before the bar of justice, making a similar statement: 

“My counsel would have you believe we were not aware of the ICE concentration camps. Not aware. Where were we?

“Where were we when Trump began shrieking his hate across the country? When Trump called our free press ‘the enemy of the people’?

“Where were we when Trump openly praised Vladimir Putin and attacked those in the FBI, CIA and other Intelligence agencies sworn to protect us?

“Where were we when the victims of Trump’s hatred cried out in the night to us? Were we deaf? Dumb? Blind?

“My counsel says we were not aware of Trump’s treasonous collusion with Vladimir Putin—and his intention to betray American freedoms in exchange for the Presidency. He would give you the excuse we were misled by the lying rhetoric coming out of the White House.

“Does that make us any the less guilty? Maybe we didn’t know the details, but if we didn’t know, it was because we didn’t want to know.”

Consider Trump’s effect on:

Race relations:

  • Since Trump’s election, attacks on non-whites by Right-wing—and white—Trump supporters have increased. According to The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), there has been a rapid increase in youth bullying during and since the 2016 campaign: 
  • The bullying effects of the Trump presidency—dubbed the Trump effect—are devastating, particularly when it comes to bullying of minority groups, especially those who are easily identifiable and/or who are singled out by the president’s statements or actions.”   
  • On August 11-12, 2017, white supremacists from across the country gathered in Charlottesville, Virginia, for a  “Unite the Right” rally.  On August 13, a Nazi sympathizer rammed his car into a group of counter-protesters, killing a woman and injuring 19 other demonstrators.
  • Refusing to condemn the Fascistic demonstrators, Trump said: “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides.”

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Donald Trump

The rule of law:

  • On May 9, 2017, Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, who was conducting an FBI investigation into well-documented contacts between Trump’s 2016 Presidential campaign and Russian Intelligence agents.
  • Trump has repeatedly and publicly attacked his own Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, for recusing himself from the above-mentioned investigation. (Sessions did so because of his own documented ties with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.)
  • Trump has repeatedly attacked the integrity of Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller, who has continued the FBI’s probe into ties between Russia and Trump’s 2016 Presidential campaign.
  • Trump has called on Sessions to investigate “all of the corruption” of Trump’s critics and those investigating him, including Hillary Clinton, James Comey, and Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
  • In short: He wants to use the FBI as his private secret police against anyone who has ever criticized, investigated or run against him.
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Trump as liar:

  • From 2011 to 2016, Trump falsely accused Barack Obama as being born in Kenya, not—as evidence proves—Hawaii. This was an effort to de-legitimize Obama as President of the United States.
  • During the 2016 Presidential campaign, Trump falsely accused the father of his political rival, Texas United States Senator Rafael “Ted” Cruz, of being a party to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
  • After taking office Trump falsely accused former President Obama of illegally wiretapping him at Trump Tower.
  • By August 1, 2018, the Washington Post reported that Trump had made 4,229 false or misleading statements since taking office.

Trump as traitor: 

  • Trump has repeatedly praised Russian President Vladimir Putin, both during his Presidential candidacy and since taking office. In fact, Putin remains the only major public figure that Trump has never criticized. 
  • On July 22, 2016, Trump said at a press conference in Doral, Florida: “Russia, if you are listening, I hope you are able to find the 33,000 emails that are missing [from Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s computer]. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.” 
  • Hours later, the Main Intelligence Directorate in Moscow targeted Clinton’s personal office and hit more than 70 other Clinton campaign accounts. 
  • On July 16, 2018, President Trump attended a press conference in Helsinki, Finland, with Russian President Vladimir Putin. There he sided with Putin against American Intelligence agencies—such as the FBI, CIA and National Security Agency—for Russia’s subversion of the 2016 Presidential election: 
  • “I have President Putin. He just said it’s not Russia. I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be, but I really do want to see the server.” 

Since 1945, historians have brutally condemned the vicious and destructive reign of Adolf Hitler and those who supported him.

Future historians will condemn just as harshly the equally vicious and destructive reign of Donald Trump—and those who now support him.

HYPOCRISY ON BOTH SIDES OF THE STADIUM

In Bureaucracy, Entertainment, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on October 1, 2018 at 12:35 am

A war is flaring in football stadiums across the country.

It’s a symbolic war—with football players literally “taking a knee” on one side and with President Donald Trump and his Right-wing minions symbolically waving the Stars and Stripes on the other.

And it’s fueled, on both sides, by a stadium-sized dose of hypocrisy.

For players, “taking a knee” during the playing of the National Anthem before the start of a football game means protesting against racial injustice and police brutality aimed at blacks.   

For the Right, refusing to stand for “The Star Spangled Banner” is unpatriotic, perhaps treasonous. They claim it’s insulting to the military—and especially those soldiers who have died in America’s wars.

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick first took a knee on August 14, 2016. 

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Colin Kaepernick 

During the 49ers’ first game of the pre-season, Kaepernick sat on the bench during the National Anthem both then and in their next game.  

On August 26, he did so again. The next day, he explained his reason for ,it: “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.” 

On August 29, Trump—still a Presidential candidate—thrust himself into the budding controversy: “I think it’s personally not a good thing. I think it’s a terrible thing. And, you know, maybe he should find a country that works better for him. Let him try. It won’t happen.” 

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Donald Trump

One year later, on August 12, 2017, Oakland Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch sat for the anthem during preseason, on his first game back post-retirement. 

The next day, Seattle Seahawks defensive lineman Michael Bennett sat for the anthem. He gave as his reason the “Unite the Right” rally of white racists in Charlottesville, Virginia. 

On September 17, Trump—now President—told a rally in Alabama that refusing to sing the National Anthem showed “disrespect of our heritage. Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out, he’s fired.'” 

On September 23, Trump, on Twitter, called for NFL players who “disrespect our great American flag” to be fired. Later on in the day, he called for a boycott of the NFL. 

On September 24, infuriated by Trump’s insults, NFL players across the country linked arms, took a knee, or stayed in the changing room during the National Anthem. Every game featured some form of demonstration.

Since then, the confrontation between players “taking a knee” and Trump and his Right-wing shills has mushroomed. 

Oakland Raiders Kneeling

By Keith Allison from Hanover, MD, USA [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

During 2017, there were 987 fatal police shootings; 223 blacks were shot and killed by police (23% of all fatal shootings), and 68 of the victims were unarmed. 

Yet these protests have not led one police department to change its “use-of-deadly-force” policies. No State legislature has offered reform legislation. Nor has Congress.

Blacks are still getting shot by trigger-happy police—often while they’re unarmed and unresisting   

So where does the hypocrisy come in? 

On the part of the players:

  • These protests have caused police shootings to be largely forgotten—while the kneeling players are claiming the media’s attention. 
  • The kneeling players consider themselves heroes—and are considered heroes by many within the black and white communities.
  • Yet there is nothing remotely heroic about kneeling for about a minute before you’re about to earn tens of thousands of dollars just for knocking a ball around a stadium. It’s a cheap and easy way to win applause while risking nothing.
  • These players’ celebrity could be put to far better use by appearing before legislative committees urging reforms in police “use-of-deadly-force” policies

On the part of the Right:

  • Donald Trump, for all his boasts of patriotism, was a five-deferment draft dodger during the Vietnam war. Four deferments cited academic reasons and the fifth cited bone spurs—which usually result in small pointed outgrowths of bone—in his heels.
  • Many of those attacking the patriotism of the kneeling players have similarly refused to enter military service.
  • Standing for the National Anthem is likewise a cheap and easy way to declare yourself a patriot.
  • It’s akin to taking forced loyalty oaths: You take the oath, “prove” your integrity—and can then betray national security secrets almost with impunity.

Finally, there is one truth takes precedence over all others: There is no reason to play “The Star Spangled Banner” at football games—or any other sports event  

The reasons:

  • There is nothing inherently patriotic about attending any sports game:
  • The country isn’t being threatened.
  • No one is risking anything in its defense.
  • There are no casualties (save those suffered by athletes earning kingly salaries).
  • No one’s life is made any better by watching the game—or the protests.

Police brutality remains a serious matter.  But “taking a knee” and its opponents most definitely isn’t.

WHEN TYRANTS FALL OUT

In Bureaucracy, Entertainment, History, Politics, Social commentary on August 14, 2018 at 12:09 am

Just as opposites can attract, so, too can similarities repel.

Take Joseph Stalin and Adolf Hitler, for example.

Both:

  • Admired strength and despised weakness.
  • Built their careers by appealing to hatred—Hitler of Jews, Stalin of non-Communists.
  • Were colossal egotists—insisting that they be referred to as geniuses and saviors and ordering that their portraits and statues be displayed everywhere.
  • Ruled by terror—exterminating millions and imprisoning other millions in a network of concentration camps. 
  • Signed a non-aggression treaty, partly because each feared the other, and partly to gain half of Poland.

Joseph Stalin

Yet for all their similarities Hitler and Stalin inevitably became deadly enemies.

Hitler hated Communism and coveted “living space” for Germans within the Soviet Union. And Stalin hated Fascism and saw “Hitlerite” Germany as his most dangerous enemy. 

On June 22, 1941, Hitler ordered the invasion of the Soviet Union. Only after suffering at least 25 million casualties did Stalin see his armies repel the Nazi invaders and conquer Germany.

Adolf Hitler

Fast forward 73 years since the end of World War II in 1945.

Stalin and Hitler are dead—and so is the death-struggle they shared. In its place stands the conflict between President Donald Trump and his former White House assistant, Omarosa Manigault-Newman.

The relationship between these two dates to 2004, when she became a participant in the first season of The Apprentice, NBC’s “reality” TV series. Her rudeness and ruthlessness toward other contestants quickly made her “the woman America loved to hate,” according to Jet magazine.

She returned in the seventh season of The Apprentice as well.

TV Guide included her in its 2013 list of “The 60 Nastiest TV Villains of All Time.”

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Omarosa Manigault-Newman

(By Photography by Glenn Francis of PacificProDigital.com)

In 2008, she appeared on Celebrity Apprentice—where she was again fired after failing to sell more artwork than a rival team. 

During the 2016 Presidential race, she served as Trump’s Director of African-American Outreach, although she had absolutely no credible ties to the black community.

In February, 2016, she appeared on a segment on Maria Bartiromo’s Fox Business show. Fox panelist Tamara Holder said that she would like Trump more if he expressed support for Black Lives Matter or put forward a plan to improve inner cities.

Manigault argued that the topic of the discussion should be limited to Trump’s criticism of the Iraq war. In doing so, she mispronounced Holder’s first name.

Holder: “It’s Tamara.”

Manigault: “It’s the same difference, boo. You want to come on with big boobs, then you deal with the pronunciation of your name.”

“Wait a second,” Bartiromo interrupted. “Why are you bringing up Tamara’s boobs?”

Manigault: “Because she started going back talking about, ‘Oh, you were a Democrat and you supported Hillary Clinton.’ If you want to get personal, we can get personal.”

Manigault wasn’t bothered that blacks regarded Trump so poorly in polls: “My reality is that I’m surrounded by people who want to see Donald Trump as the next president of the United States who are African-American.”

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Donald Trump

And, in September, 2016, she famously predicted: “Every critic, every detractor will have to bow down to President Trump. It’s everyone who’s ever doubted Donald, who ever disagreed, who ever challenged him. It is the ultimate revenge to become the most powerful man in the universe.”

Just as Hitler—for all the similarities he shared with Stalin—inevitably turned on him, so did Manigault turn on Trump.

When Trump moved into the White House on January 20, 2017, Manigault moved in with him as his director of communications for the Office of Public Liaison.

In June, 2017, she invited the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) to visit the White House. And she signed the invitation: “The Honorable Omarosa Manigault.” 

This is not a title given to political aides. And it’s not used by those referring to themselves.

The arrogance offended some members of the Caucus, which declined the invitation.

In August, Manigault appeared at the National Association of Black Journalists convention in New Orleans. She was a panelist on a discussion about losing loved ones to violence.

When the moderator, Ed Gordon, asked her about Trump’s policies and not her personal history with losing family members through violence, Manigault got into a shouting match with him.

On December 13, she was told that she would be leaving the White House on January 20, 2018—one year from the day she had arrived there. She reportedly asked Ivanka Trump to intervene on her behalf, but the request was denied.

Deciding to go right to the top, she headed for the Trump’s private quarters. There she tripped an alarm—which brought guards and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly to the scene.

An enraged Kelly ordered her ejected from the White House. Multiple sources report that she was physically restrained and escorted—cursing and screaming—from the Executive Mansion.

Next day—December 14—Manigault appeared on “Good Morning America.”

The woman who had been Trump’s ambassador to blacks now sang a different tune: “I have seen things that made me uncomfortable, that have upset me, that have affected me deeply and emotionally, that has affected my community and my people. And when I can tell my story, it is a profound story that I know the world will want to hear.”

THE PHYSICS OF BUREAUCRACY

In Bureaucracy, Entertainment, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on August 6, 2018 at 12:06 am

The 1989 movie, Fat Man and Little Boy, provides useful insights into the real-life workings of bureaucracies.

In it, the brilliant and ambitious physicist, J. Robert Oppenheimer (played by Dwight Schultz) comes—too late—to realize he’s made a deal with the devil. 

The same proved true for the J. Robert Oppenheimer of history. 

In 1942, America’s top military officials become convinced that German scientists are furiously pursuing work on an atomic bomb. 

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The full horror of the extermination camps has not yet been revealed.  But “Oppie” and many other Jewish scientists working on the Manhattan Project can easily imagine the fate of Jews trapped within the borders of the Third Reich. This spurs them on to frenzied efforts to build a bomb that will quickly end the war and end that suffering.

But then something unforeseen happens.

On May 8, 1945, the Third Reich collapses and signs unconditional surrender terms. Almost at the same time, the U.S. military learns that although some German physicists had tried to make an atomic bomb, they never even got close to producing one. 

Oppenheimer now finds himself still working to build the most devastating weapon in history—but now lacking the enemy he had originally signed on to destroy. 

Meanwhile, the U.S. Government has invested nearly $2 billion in the Manhattan Project—at a time when $2 billion truly meant the equivalent of $1 trillion today. Is all that money to go for nothing? 

What to do?

Oppenheimer doesn’t have to make that decision. It’s made for him—by his immediate superior, General Leslie Groves (Paul Newman), by Groves’ superiors in the Army, and ultimately by the new President, Harry S. Truman. 

A man smiling in a suit in suit and one in a uniform chat around a pile of twisted metal.

J. Robert Oppenheimer (left) and General Leslie Groves

The bomb will be used, after all. It will just be turned against the Japanese, who are even more hated by most Americans than the Germans. 

It doesn’t matter that: 

  • The Japanese lack the technological skill of the Germans to produce an atomic bomb.
  • They are rapidly being pushed across the Pacific to their home islands.
  • American bombers are incinerating Japanese cities at will.
  • The Japanese are desperately trying to find a way to surrender without losing face.    

What matters is that Pearl Harbor is still fresh in the minds of Americans generally and of the American military in particular.

And that now that the Japanese are being pushed back into their home islands, they are fighting ever more fanatically to hold off certain defeat.

General Douglas MacArthur, who is scheduled to command the invasion of Japan, has estimated a million American casualties if this goes forward.

Oppenheimer, who has taught physics at the University of California at Berkeley, now finds himself being taught a lesson about the physics of bureaucracy: That, once set in motion, bureaucracies—like objects—continue to move forward unless something intervenes to stop them.

So, on August 6, 1945, an American B-29 bomber drops “Little Boy” on Hiroshima.

An estimated 80,000 people die instantly. By the end of the year, injury and radiation bring total casualties to 90,000-140,000.

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The bombing of Hiroshima

On August 9, it’s the turn of Nagasaki.

Casualty estimates for the dropping of “Fat Man” range from 40,000 to 73,884, with another 74,909 injured, and another several hundred thousand diseased and dying due to fallout and other illness caused by radiation.

For Oppenheimer, the three years he’s devoted to creating an atomic bomb will prove the pivotal event of his life. He will be praised and damned as an “American Prometheus,” who brought atomic fire to man.

Countless Americans—especially those who would have been ordered to invade Japan—revere him for bringing the war to a quick end. And countless Americans condemn him as a man whose arrogance and ambition have enabled mankind to destroy itself.

Upon witnessing the first successful atomic explosion near Alamogordo, New Mexico, on July 16, 1945, Oppenheimer had been stunned by the sheer magnitude of destructiveness he had helped unleash.

Faced with the massive toll of lives taken by the device he had created, Oppenheimer became convinced that the only hope for humanity lay in abolishing nuclear weapons. He vigorously opposed the creation of a “super” hydrogen bomb.

His advice was overruled, however, and construction of this went forward at the same pace that Oppenheimer had once driven others to create the atomic bomb.

The first test of this even more terrifying weapon occurred on November 1, 1952. By 1953, just as Oppenheimer predicted, the Soviet Union launched its own H-bomb test.

In a famous meeting with President Truman, Oppenheimer reportedly said, “Mr. President, I have blood on my hands.”Truman later claimed that he had offered Oppenheimer a handkerchief, saying, “Here, this will wash it off.”

It didn’t.

Accused during the hysteria of the Joseph McCarthy witch-hunts of being a Communist traitor, Oppenheimer found himself stripped of his government security clearance in 1954.

Unable to prevent the military bureaucracy from moving relentlessly to use the atomic bomb, he could not halt the political bureaucracy from its own rush into cowardice and the wrecking of others’ lives.

Although Oppenheimer returned to teaching, at Princeton University, he never recovered from the shame of having lost his security clearance. 

A chain smoker, he died of throat cancer in 1967.

THE IDEAL REPUBLICAN CANDIDATE

In Bureaucracy, Entertainment, History, Humor, Military, Politics, Social commentary on June 15, 2018 at 12:24 am

Many Republican strategists feared that, after Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton had a lock on the White House for 2016.

And the base of the Republican Party continued to demand candidates who were increasingly Fascistic.

The top officials of the Republican Party decided that science held the answer: They would use cloning to create the perfect, unbeatable Presidential candidate.

They directed scientists from the National Institute of Health to resurrect—via DNA samples—several past, hugely popular Republican leaders.

The first of these was Abraham Lincoln: Destroyer of slavery and defender of the Union. The scientists then introduced him to a sample of Republican voters to gauge his current popularity.

The test audience erupted—but not in the way party officials expected.

“Race-mixer!”

“He’s the reason we have all these damn civil rights laws.”

“He destroyed states’ rights!”

To head off a riot, the scientists rushed the startled Lincoln-clone off the stage.

Then they introduced their next resurrected candidate: Theodore Roosevelt, the trust-busting conservationist. 

Again, the test-audience erupted:

“Tree-hugger!  Tree-hugger!”

“He’s the guy who broke up the big corporations—lousy Socialist!”

Startled Republican officials hustled the Roosevelt-clone out of the building.

Finally, they brought out their third choice for victory: A cloned Ronald Reagan.

“Not him!  He legalized abortion in California when he was Governor!”

“Yeah, and his first wife, Jane Wyman, divorced him. We can’t have a divorced guy in the White House!”

Desperate, Republican leaders went into a huddle.

“What are we going to do?” asked one. “Lincoln, Roosevelt and Reagan were our most popular Presidents.”

“Yeah, but that was in the past,” said another. “We need a candidate who speaks to our base today.”

“Hey, I’ve got an idea. But it’s a bit radical. The guy I have in mind wasn’t actually born in the United States.”

“So what?”

“That would violate the Constitution.”

“Screw the Constitution. You know what our friends in the oil industry say: Why spoil the beauty of the thing with legality?”

So the Republicans again ordered the scientists to return to work one last time.

When the last resurrected candidate was presented to the test-audience, the crowd rose as one, shouting: “That’s him!  That’s him!”

“The one we’ve been waiting for!”

“The one who really speaks for us!”

“He’s totally anti-abortion and he hates upity women!”

“Yeah—he hates Socialists, gays and nonwhites, and he really  believes in a strong military!”

“All right, all right, I vill do it,” said the clone-candidate. “But the last time I led people to greatness, they proved unworthy of me.

“So I vill do it again—but only under von condition!”

“Yes, yes!” screamed the test-audience.  “Anything you want!  What is it?”

“Ziss time….”

….no more Mr. Nice Guy!”

THE EYE VERSUS THE HAND IN “TAKING A KNEE”

In Business, Entertainment, History, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary, Uncategorized on June 11, 2018 at 12:05 am

To understand the ongoing war between President Donald Trump and the National Football League, you need to first read a crucial passage in Niccolo Machiavelli’s classic work, The Prince

“…For men in general judge more by the eyes than by the hands, for every one can see, but very few have to feel.  Everyone sees what you appear to be, few feel what you are….”

What is taking place is a symbolic war—with football players literally “taking a knee” on one side and with Trump and his Republican minions symbolically waving the Stars and Stripes on the other.

For players, “taking a knee” during the playing of the National Anthem before the start of a football game means protesting against racial injustice and police brutality aimed at blacks.   

For the Right, refusing to stand for “The Star Spangled Banner” is unpatriotic, perhaps bordering on treason. They claim it’s insulting to the military—and especially those soldiers who have died in America’s wars.

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick first took a knee on August 14, 2016. 

During the 49ers’ first game of the pre-season, Kaepernick sat on the bench during the National Anthem both then and in their next game.  

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Colin Kaepernick

On August 26, he did so again. The next day, he explained his reason for it: “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”  

The 49ers issued a statement: “We recognise the right of an individual to choose and participate, or not, in our celebration of the National Anthem.” 

On August 29, Trump—still a Presidential candidate—thrust himself into the budding controversy: “I think it’s personally not a good thing. I think it’s a terrible thing. And, you know, maybe he should find a country that works better for him. Let him try. It won’t happen.” 

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Donald Trump

One year later, on August 12, 2017, Oakland Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch sat for the anthem during preseason, on his first game back post-retirement. 

The next day, Seattle Seahawks defensive lineman Michael Bennett sat for the anthem. He gave as his reason the “Unite the Right” rally of white racists in Charlottesville, Virginia. 

On September 17, Trump—now President—told a rally in Alabama that refusing to sing the National Anthem showed “disrespect of our heritage. Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out, he’s fired.'” 

On September 23, Trump, on Twitter, called for NFL players who “disrespect our great American flag” to be fired. Later on in the day, he called for a boycott of the NFL. 

On September 24, infuriated by Trump’s insults, NFL players across the country linked arms, took a knee, or stayed in the changing room during the National Anthem. Every game featured some form of demonstration.

Washington Redskins Kneeling

By Keith Allison from Hanover, MD, USA (Washington Redskins National Anthem Kneeling) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Since then, the confrontation between players “taking a knee” and Trump and his Right-wing shills has mushroomed. 

Yet these protests have not led one police department to change its “use-of-deadly-force” policies. Blacks are still getting shot by trigger-happy police, often when they’re unarmed and unresisting   

During 2017, there were 987 fatal police shootings; 223 blacks were shot and killed by police (23% of all fatal shootings), and 68 of the victims were unarmed. 

In the wake of the controversy, these shootings have been largely forgotten and it is the kneeling players who are getting the media’s attention

These players’ celebrity could be put to far better use by appearing before legislative committees urging reforms in police “use-of-deadly-force” policies.

Also ignored is that Trump, for all his boasts of patriotism, was a five-deferment draft dodger during the Vietnam war. Four deferments cited academic reasons and the fifth cited bone spurs—which usually result in small pointed outgrowths of bone—in his heels. 

But there is one more factor that overshadows both of these truths:  There is no reason to play “The Star Spangled Banner” at football games—or any other sports event

The song celebrates the bombardment of Fort McHenry by British ships in Baltimore Harbor during the War of 1812. Francis Scott Key, an amateur poet, witnessed the attack and was inspired the next morning when he saw the United States flag still flying triumphantly over the fort. 

Yet there is nothing inherently patriotic about attending any sports game:

  • The country isn’t being threatened.
  • No one is risking anything in its defense.
  • There are no casualties (save those suffered by athletes earning kingly salaries).
  • No one’s life is made any better by watching the game.

And “standing for the National Anthem” is an easy and safe way to present yourself as a patriot. American history is filled with men who “wrapped themselves in the flag” only to betray the Constitutional liberties of their fellow citizens.

This conflict of symbols arouses tempers, but otherwise achieves nothing.

FACEBOOK, WE’RE GLAD TO LEAVE YE: PART FOUR (END)

In Bureaucracy, Business, Entertainment, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on June 8, 2018 at 12:10 am

And, on Facebook, the complaints just keep coming. [NOTE: The spellings are those of the complainants.]

  • FACEBOOK BETRAYED EVERY SINGLE ONE OF US ON HERE. SO MUCH SO THAT NOW WE HAVE AN IDIOT IN THE WHITE HOUSE AND IT’S YOUR FAULT YOU PUT HIM THERE. HOW DARE YOU TAKE 87 MILLION PEOPLE’S DATA, GIVE IT TO CAMBRIDGE ANALYTICS, WHO GAVE IT TO RUSSIA, WHO GAVE IT TO MANAFORT, WHICH MADE HILLARY LOSE AND TRUMP WIN. I HOPE THEY KICK YOUR ASS IN CONGRESS.
  • FACEBOOK STINKS. Despite being repeatedly told that your website is hacked all the time, you do nothing. Today, my girlfriend received a completely naked photo from a stranger, reported it, and you deemed it fine. This is not fine. It’s disgusting. You are a lousy, immoral company with no security or protection for your users. You STINK!You should have a minus ten, not one star.
  • total waste of time. I hate the way no can help you get access to your account but they will block the old account without contacting you.
  • FB News Feed now shows only posts from the same few people, about 25, and repeat the same, because Facebook has a new algorithm. Their system chooses the people to read one’s posts. However, I would like to choose for myself.
  • My husband’s account was hackef and he’s tried everything to get back into it and Absolutely NO HELP from Facebook to resolve this!! It has ALL of his family and friends blocked from his page including me!!

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  • FB Gestapo must be pushing fake news and stories.Every time I drop a link showing the claims are fake as a TV Preacher,FB notifies me my post has been marked as spam and they remove it.
  • I have tried to contact FB about missing fundraiser donations and cannot get a reply.
  • Tried to contact Facebook about something on one of the group sites and they never answered my complaint, now they have blocked the like button because I have pushed it too many times and now have put one of my comments to the spam. If they do not respond to my 2nd complaint, I will Be closing my Facebook account.
  • SICK OF ADVERTISMENTS FROM FACEBOOK IN MY NEWS FEED IM NOT FUKIN INTERESTED
  • I got blocked from posting videos and facebook live because I posted a video of me singing with the music video plating in the background… I would like to know why this happened…
  • TAKE ME OFF THE BEING BANNED LIST OF POSTING I AM NOT A FREAKING TERROIST
  • Reported a dozen times, and left phone msgs regarding a convicted Pedophile, child molester, registered on Megan’s Law website. Facebook will not do anything about it
  • YOU CANT GET ANYONE TO ANSWER I AM SO FRUSTRATED I GIVE UP ITS TERRIBLE

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  • Brian Haner has been reported for being offensive. He was informed this is his second strike. He has 70000 followers and people have the right to UNLIKE if they are offended. No one has the right to get someone BANNED for expressing an “offensive” opinion. If Brian is banned because some uppity person can conplain and have their ONE opinion outweight the other 69999 opinions then I for one will leave to google+ and I will take as many people as I can with me.
  • Complained about the marketing for Kary Oberbrummer self publishing book scheme that refuses to give you the costs up front. Facebook deleted all my comments and refuses to let me make anymore comments on the post. Just trying to warn people about the downside risk. Facebook censorship ! UNBELIEVABLE !
  • My Facebook page or rather account got all screwed up. It started logging me in on my original very first Facebook account, how in the world do I delete it? I have pushed deactivate until my face is blood red and I am extremely sick because after I push deactivate then it says your session with Facebook has ran out please login again and then of course it logs me back into the old account! I would appreciate it so very much if someone would please give me an answer that works.
  • They will not answer as to why I can not post anything for sale
  • Can’t seem to find a way to contact Facebook. Probably the way they want it. I’m getting very obnoxious friends requests that I would like to stop but don;t see a way to do it. Not likely to hang around much longer but then I don’t think they care.

The 1970 epic, “Patton,” closed with the words: “All glory is fleeting.” Mark Zuckerberg and his self-satisfied honchos at Facebook should realize that social networking websites can also be fleeting.

Anyone who doubts this need only sum up a few once well-known names:

  • Myspace
  • Google+
  • Friendster
  • Posterous
  • Yahoo Meme
  • SixDegrees
  • Classmates
  • Yahoo Buzz
  • Eons
  • iTunes Ping

Mark Zuckerberg needs to quickly install some serious reforms in Facebook. Otherwise, in time, his name will be added to those CEOs of other failed social networking sites.

FACEBOOK, WE’RE GLAD TO LEAVE YE: PART THREE (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, Business, Entertainment, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary, Uncategorized on June 7, 2018 at 12:18 am

Facebook is still the most-used social media platform in the world—with more than 2 billion users and a net worth of $500 billion.

But all is not well in Mark Zuckerberg’s Internet kingdom. And while he has chosen to ignore those evils plaguing Facebook, many of its users are infuriated by them.

So infuriated that many of them are threatening to move to other social media sites—such as Snapchat and Instagram.

Here is a sampling of complaints made directly to Facebook by its thoroughly enraged users. [NOTE: The spellings are those of the complainants.]

  • Stop soliciting me for boosts and adds. It is annoying spam, the kind you encourage people to block. But, of course, we can’t block it since it’s you. Trust me, if I was ever inclined in the least to give you additiobnal money for anything, you effectively killed that urge thousands of unwelcome posts and reminders ago. You make Instagram look better every day.
  • Same exact thing I went threw. 25 times they pulled my ad and 25 times I appealed it, not one time did I get a response. My ad was for dog training they said it didn’t meet Facebook policy because of animal sales, but in all 25 appeals, I explained, I’m not selling animals I’m selling a service. And I was even paying my own money to run the same ad on boost promo. They approved my ad for that and took my money, but can’t get my ad to run on a free market place.
  • I keep getting my post that I am selling fabric rejected and it won’t let me appeal it because there are no posts listed.. Says I violated a commerce policy. What does fabric violate? I got a message from FB today and all it shows it was closed. NO EXPLANATION
  • Hello, How do i reply to a message from you I have just had about a picture that I originally got off Facebook that is apparently now not allowed. I can’t delete it and if I try to answer it just buffers and is never sent.
  • I voiced my opinion on gaffneynites and just because the republicans can say what they want I was taken off that group, they said nothing to the people who were harassing me, and they could say what they wanted, I don’t think facebook is fair when it lets one side say whatever they want to and you can’t, this is discrimination in my opinion, I thought this was suppose to be America free speech

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  • Facebook must get their act together, People do have an opinion, and if you get in so called “facebook jail” for having that opinion, what is the point of having a social media site???? Come on Facebook, get with the 21st century..
  • I’m just trying to ask a question to a human and actually get a response. Not a list of 6 possible answers and asking if any of them were close enough to shut you up.
  • No way to contact Facebook – times outs, no connection, all sort of excuses when you are posting a claim, or a request for contact!!Facebook is charging me for something I didn’t authorized to run, an add. Many months ago I stopped running all adds I had posted – mainly because of the difficulty (impossibility?) of reaching you managers, or whomever is responsible for billings!!! YOU JUST HIDE YOUR SELVES, AND AFTER STARTING AN ADD, one has no way of stopping it, changing it, no feed back at all!! I will never post a add on Facebook again!!
  • Tried to contact fb to try and stop all these “friends requests” from all foreign people. Could not do, after all this bad publicity you would think they would be very wary.
  • I just tried to contact Facebook concerning my account with a number provided on the Website. The service representative was very helpful until I turned down the $49.00 fee to fix my problem. When I said that was not acceptable, he hung up on me ….

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  • Contacting them is impossible. They want you gone, and you are gone. No explanation, and I have never giving them these five stars;; they made that up.
  • it is very hard to find this contact method. it is totally impersonal. it allows for no dialogue. it seems to confirm that FB is too big for its own britches.
  • is there a way to contact facebook as getting a little peeved with the service and will not pay for any more ads while i am unable to contact them.
  • Never have a direct Help Desk to call…it appears as if You all are invisible.
  • you cannot contact facebook to report a fault! what good is that?
  • I CALLED 2 TIMES AND THEY WANT $100 SAY IT IS MY COMPUTER AND IT ISNT……..I Cant share and in jail almost 24/7. i was to be out at 12;20 yesterday…last time they did this and they restriction is over but still 3 more days!!!! idiots work here!!!!! never reply back either.
  • this is terrible, i have to use someone else account to even contact support.

FACEBOOK, WE’RE GLAD TO LEAVE YE: PART TWO (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, Business, Entertainment, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on June 6, 2018 at 12:29 am

Facebook is in big trouble. And much of it stems from its own greed and arrogance toward its customers.

An email recently sent to Winnie Liu, director of Facebook & Instagram Research, offers several telling truths.

The recipient—a friend of mine named Dan—had just been put in “Facebook Jail” for somehow offending its “Community Standards” (i.e., censorship) department.

The actual offense, of course, was not outlined.  It never is.

When he tried to post something on Facebook, Dan got an automatic message: “You may have used Facebook in a way that our systems consider unusual, even if you didn’t mean to. You can post again in 24 hours.”

Notice the phrase: “You may have used Facebook in a way that our systems consider unusual.”

Well, did he or didn’t he commit an offense?  If he didn’t, he shouldn’t have been banned from posting on Facebook. If he did, then he should have the right to know, specifically, what it was he posted that “may have” been considered “unusual”.

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And what it is that “our systems consider unusual”? Did he defame someone? Post an obscene photo? Tell a joke that someone found offensive?

America’s criminal and civil justice systems are founded on specificity. If the police accuse you of robbing a bank, they need to have specific proof that you robbed it. Their merely saying “I think he’s a bank robber” isn’t evidence—and shouldn’t be counted as such.

Finally, if he “didn’t mean to” post something that Facebook’s “systems consider unusual,” then that should be a mitigating factor in itself.

Even in criminal law, room is made to distinguish intentional acts from unintentional ones, even when harm is caused.

So when Dan got an email from Facebook, inviting him to take part in an upcoming research survey, he decided to share his disgust with its blatant disregard for fairness:

  • “Although Facebook users like me have made its founder, Mark Zuckerberg, worth $52 billion, he’s unwilling to make it possible for those users to directly contact Facebook’s censorship department when they find themselves booted off Facebook. Or when they can’t log onto it. Or when they’re being billed for ads they never posted.
  • “Ideally, this should be done by phone. Certainly, with all the billions of advertising dollars Facebook rakes in, a comparatively small portion could be set aside to hire banks of phone operators to deal with situations like this.

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By aflcio2008 (NM: Jewell Hall, AFT and Martin Heinrich) [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

  • “But if you’re not willing to do that, you could at least make it possible for frustrated users to contact Facebook via Instant Messaging.
  • “As it is, Facebook’s censorship department operates as prosecutor, jury and judge. Its decisions come out of the blue, and whoever is accused of violating your ‘Community Standards’ is automatically found guilty, with no right to appeal or even explain the situation as s/he saw it.
  • “These are the methods of a Star Chamber in a dictatorship. They are reprehensible to citizens of any free society. And Facebook should consider them equally reprehensible as affronts to free speech.
  • “There have been numerous reports that Facebook’s censorship department has been manipulated by Right-wing Trump supporters to remove posts they don’t like, even of those posts don’t actually violate Facebook’s “community standards.” I feel reasonably certain this is what happened in my case.
  • “Since Zuckerberg recently spent two days in Washington testifying before outraged Democrats, it isn’t in his—or Facebook’s—best interest that he be forced to account for such disgraceful manipulation.
  • “I have seen numerous complaints by Facebook members about being put in ‘Facebook Jail’ for even the most trivial ‘offenses.’ One of these is ‘liking’ too many posts.
  • “Others like myself have simply re-posted images or stories already posted on Facebook—and found themselves kicked off as a result.

“Last December I wrote Mark Zuckerman about these problems—and the dangers they represent for Facebook. Naturally, I didn’t receive even the courtesy of a reply. And it’s clear to me that he has no intention of making such reforms.

“So there’s really no point in your offering test respondents $75 apiece in Amazon gift cards. Since Facebook clearly refuses to address the issue that’s most outraging so many of its users—at least the ones I know—it can expect to see its audience continue to shrink.

“When I first got a computer in 1999, AOL was the ‘big dog on the block.’ No more. When a comedian now references AOL, it’s as a joke, to mock its now antiquated status.

“It’s unfortunate that some people—like those in charge of Facebook—stubbornly refuse to learn from history.”

Dan’s experience, however, is by no means rare. Nor is his high level of disgust with Facebook.

For some unknown reason, Facebook has chosen to publish many of its users’ opinions on their “Facebook experience.”

All that’s needed to access these opinions—which are almost entirely complaints—is to type “Contact Facebook” in the white subject bar in the upper left-hand corner of the page.

Parts Three and Four of this series will focus on those expressed views—and outrage.

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