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WELCOME TO THE TWITTER SMEAR-A-THON: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, Business, Entertainment, History, Politics, Social commentary on November 1, 2022 at 12:13 am

From June 15, 2015, when he launched his Presidential campaign, until October 24, 2016, Donald Trump fired nearly 4,000 angry, insulting tweets at 281 people and institutions. The New York Times needed two full pages of its print edition to showcase them.

Among these targets were:

  • His Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton
  • His fellow Republican Presidential candidates
  • Actress Meryl Streep
  • News organizations
  • President Barack Obama
  • Comedian John Oliver
  • Obamacare
  • Singer Neil Young
  • The state of New Jersey
  • Actor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Donald Trump

During his first two weeks as President, Trump attacked 22 people, places and institutions on his @realDonaldTrump account.

Then, on March 4, 2017, Trump falsely accused former President Barack Obama of tapping his Trump Tower phones prior to the election:

“How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!”

Thus, without offering a shred of evidence to back it up, Trump accused his predecessor—on Twitter—of committing an impeachable offense.

President Barack Obama

On May 9, 2017, Trump abruptly fired FBI Director James Comey—for pursuing an investigation into Russian subversion of the 2016 election.

Just 72 hours after firing Comey, Trump threatened him via Twitter: “James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!”

Trump had no such tapes.

And Twitter’s reaction to such a blatant threat?  Silence.

James Comey official portrait.jpg

James B. Comey

On February 17, 2017, Trump used Twitter to attack the Constitutionally-protected free press:

“The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @NBCNews, @ABC, @CBS, @CNNis not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!”

“Enemy of the people” was a popular charge during the 30-year reign of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.

On July 2, 2017, Trump tweeted a video showing him punching a man with the CNN logo superimposed on his head during a WWE wrestling match.

Yet Twitter’s Terms of Service stated:

Hateful imagery and display names: You may not use hateful images or symbols in your profile image or profile header. You also may not use your username, display name, or profile bio to engage in abusive behavior, such as targeted harassment or expressing hate towards a person, group, or protected category. We will begin enforcing this rule on December 18, 2017. [Italics added.]

Even foreign leaders were unnerved by Trump’s obsession with Twitter. As CNN Political Analyst Julian Zelizer outlined in a July 3, 2017 article:

“To have one of the most powerful people in the room being someone who is willing to send out explosive and controversial statements through social media, including nasty personal attacks or an edited video of him physically assaulting the media, does not make others….feel very confident about how he will handle deliberations with them.”

On September 25, 2017, Twitter’s top executives justified allowing these repeated violations of “Twitter Rules,” tweeting:

“We hold all accounts to the same Rules, and consider a number of factors when assessing whether Tweets violate our Rules.

“Among the considerations is ‘newsworthiness’ and whether a Tweet is of public interest. This has long been internal policy and we’ll soon update our public-facing rules to reflect it. We need to do better on this, and will.”

Only after Trump incited a mob of his Right-wing followers to attack the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, did Twitter ban him from its website. 

But Twitter has never acknowledged publicly that Trump violated any of its guidelines. It rarely even acknowledged Trump’s tweets.

Trump’s apologists fiercely defended his tweetstorms, claiming they allowed him to bypass the media and “communicate directly with the American people.”

One of those apologists was former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey: “I believe it’s really important to have these conversations out in the open, rather than have them behind closed doors.”

Image result for Images of Jack Dorsey

Jack Dorsey

In April, 2017, Twitter announced that it had added 9,000,000 new users, its largest quarter-over-quarter jump in two years.

“We believe Twitter is the best at showing you what’s happening in the world and what’s being talked about,” said Anthony Noto, Twitter’s chief financial officer.

“Having political leaders of the world as well as news agencies participating and driving that is an important element to reinforcing what we’re the best at.”

In short: Trump is good at attracting more Twitter users. and if the company needs to overlook his blatant and repeated violations of its “Twitter Rules,” so be it.

Twitter has been so plagued by trolling that potential investors like the Walt Disney Company have refused to taint their own reputations by partnering with it.

Cyber-bullying, racist comments, violent threats and reputation-smashing phony celebrity accounts have repeatedly brought Twitter harsh criticism. 

And now its new owner, Tessla CEO Elon Musk, clearly intends to restore Donald Trump’s Twitter account.

Not content with that, Musk has engaged in a Twitter-smear of his own.

On October 28, David DePape, a Right-wing QAnon fanatic, assaulted Paul Pelosi, husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in his San Francisco house.

Hours later, Musk tweeted a Right-wing slander: That DePape is a male sex worker who was hired by Paul Pelosi. 

Musk later deleted the tweet. 

Anyone who wanted to know what the “new” Twitter will be like just found out. 

WELCOME TO THE TWITTER SMEAR-A-THON: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, Business, Entertainment, History, Politics, Social commentary on October 31, 2022 at 12:22 am

Behind the racism
And the tweet
Behind the venom
And the act
Lies the Hatred.

In less than 12 hours, Roseanne Barr demolished her hit show, Roseanne, and threw the lives of dozens of men and women into unemployed chaos.

A short timeline is instructive:

May 28, 2018  – 1:45 a.m.

Roseanne Barr takes to Twitter and tweets: “muslim brotherhood and planet of the apes had a baby = vj”

[“vj” stands for “Valerie Jarrett,” a former senior adviser and assistant for public engagement and intergovernmental affairs for then-President Barack Obama. The reference to “planet of the apes” is Barr’s way of comparing Jarrett—who is black—to an ape.]

PHOTO: Roseanne Barr posted a tweet on May 29, 2018 that read, muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby=vj.

May 29 – 6:29 a.m.

“It’s a joke.”

[Apparently, Barr has suddenly realized that posting such a racist, poisonous tweet just might not be a good career move. So she’s trying to defuse the bomb before it can explode on her.]

May 29 – 9:28 a.m.

“I apologize. I am now leaving Twitter.”

[Obviously, she’s really worried now.]

May 29 – 7:33 a.m.

“I apologize to Valerie Jarrett and to all Americans.  I am truly sorry for making a bad joke about her politics and her looks. I should have known better.  Forgive me–my joke was in bad taste.”

[This looks like standard boiletplate, perhaps crafted by someone familiar with corporate-speak. It’s clear that Barr or someone close to her not only recognizes the public relations dangers of her tweet but made an “I was only joking” effort to deflect those dangers. Barr’s idol, President Donald Trump, has often hurled despicable insults at people—and then claimed: “I was only joking.”  Perhaps Barr believes—or at least hopes—the same tactic will work for her.]

Related image

Roseanne Barr (Pinterest)

May 29 – 9:15 a.m.

Channing Dungey, entertainment president of the American Broadcasting Company (ABC), issues the following announcement: “Roseanne’s Twitter statement is abhorrent, repugnant and inconsistent with our values, and we have decided to cancel her show.”

Robert Iger, CEO of Disney (which owns ABC) tweets:  “There was only one thing to do here, and that was the right thing.”

This was, of course, not the first time that Roseanne Barr had starred in her own series.  From 1988 to 1997, she had portrayed Roseanne Conner, wife and mother of an Illinois working-class American family.  John Goodman had played her husband.

Their three children (Becky, Darlene, and DJ) were played by, respectively, Lecy Goranson (and, later, Sarah Chalke); Sarah Gilbert; and Michael Fishman.

The series reached No. 1 in the Nielsen ratings, and became the most-watched television show in the United States from 1989 to 1990.

The show remained in the top four for six of its nine seasons, and in the top 20 for eight seasons.  In 2002, Roseanne was ranked No. 35 on TV Guide’s 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time

So when Roseanne pitched an updated version of her show to ABC in 2017, the network was naturally excited.

On May 16, 2017, ABC announced that it would revive Roseanne as a mid-season replacement in 2018, with the original cast returning. Eight episodes were ordered. In November, ABC ordered a ninth episode.

The rebooted version premiered on March 27, 2018, to an initial audience of 27.26 million viewers. On March 30, thrilled by the success of its premiere, ABC renewed Roseanne for another 13 episodes.

Thirteen new episodes of Roseanne represented steady work for dozens of men and women:

  • Actors portraying the Conner family.
  • Actors in minor roles.
  • Costume designers.
  • Writers
  • Editors
  • Makeup artists.
  • Caterers.
  • Sound techs.
  • Lighting techs.
  • Production assistants.

Then came Roseanne Barr’s tweet.

And, suddenly, all of these people found themselves unemployed—and uncertain about their futures in the fickle and often unforgiving entertainment industry.

Of course, the person most immediately—and rightly—blamed was Roseanne Barr herself. But she was by no means the only one worthy of condemnation.

A major portion of blame is owed the men who run Twitter.

According to “The Twitter Rules,” posted on the Twitter website:

We believe in freedom of expression and open dialogue, but that means little as an underlying philosophy if voices are silenced because people are afraid to speak up.

In order to ensure that people feel safe expressing diverse opinions and beliefs, we prohibit behavior that crosses the line into abuse, including behavior that harasses, intimidates, or uses fear to silence another user’s voice.

Context matters when evaluating for abusive behavior and determining appropriate enforcement actions. Factors we may take into consideration include, but are not limited to whether:

  • the behavior is targeted at an individual or group of people;
  • the report has been filed by the target of the abuse or a bystander;
  • the behavior is newsworthy and in the legitimate public interest.

Abuse: You may not engage in the targeted harassment of someone, or incite other people to do so. We consider abusive behavior an attempt to harass, intimidate, or silence someone else’s voice….

Hateful conduct: You may not promote violence against, threaten, or harass other people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or serious disease. Read more about our hateful conduct policy.

All of which leads to the question: Why didn’t Twitter police—and purge—the single greatest abuser of its “Twitter Rules”: Donald Trump?

FROM “BIG STICK” TO “BIG MOUTH”

In Entertainment, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on September 9, 2022 at 12:39 am

There is a poignant scene in the middle of John Milius’ classic 1975 adventure film, The Wind and the Lion, that Americans would do well to remember.

The movie is set in 1904 America and Morocco. An American woman, Eden Pedicaris (Candice Bergen) and her two children have been kidnapped while vacationing in Tangier.

The kidnapper is a Berber brigand named Mulai Ahmed el Raisuli (Sean Connery—then successfully trying to shed his recent James Bond image).

To Raisuli, the Sultan and his uncle, the Pasha of Tangier, are corrupt and beholden to the European powers struggling to control Morocco.

Raisuli issues an outrageous ransom demand to provoke an international incident, embarrass the Sultan and start a civil war.

In the United States, President Theodore Roosevelt (Brian Keith) is running for re-election. He sees the crisis as a way to win votes and demonstrate America’s military strength as a new power.

So he issues a demand of his own: “Pedicarus alive—or Raisuli dead!”

While events rapidly spiral out of control in the Middle East, Roosevelt decides to vacation in Yellowstone National Park.

One night, a grizzly bear attacks the camp and is shot by Roosevelt and several other campers.  The next morning, Roosevelt holds an imprumptu press conference for the reporters who have accompanied him.

Brian Keith (left) as Theodore Roosevelt

REPORTER:  Did you take part in killing the grizzly, Mr. President?

ROOSEVELT:  Yes, unfortunately.

REPORTER:  Why do you say, ‘unfortunately,’ Mr. President?

ROOSEVELT:  The American grizzly is a symbol of the American character: strength, intelligence, ferocity. Maybe a little blind and reckless at times, but courageous beyond all doubt. And one other trait that goes with all previous.

REPORTER:  And that, Mr. President?

ROOSEVELT:  Loneliness. The American grizzly lives out his life alone. Indomitable, unconquered—but always alone. He has no real allies, only enemies, but none of them as great as he.

REPORTER:  And you feel this might be an American trait?

ROOSEVELT:  Certainly. The world will never love us. They respect us—they might even grow to fear us. But they will never love us, for we have too much audacity! And, we’re a bit blind and reckless at times, too.

REPORTER:  Are you perhaps referring to the situation in Morocco and the Panama Canal.

ROOSEVELT:  If you say so. The American grizzly embodies the spirit of America. He should be our symbol! Not that ridiculous eagle—he’s nothing more than a dandified vulture.

When the Pasha of Tangier refuses to negotiate with Raisuli to secure the return of Pedecaris, the American Consul to Tangier, Samuel Gummere, decides on action. He confers with Admiral Chadwick, commanding the South Atlantic Squadron, and a Marine captain named Jerome.

Gummere then orders a company of Marines, supported by a small detachment of sailors, to seize the Pasha. But then he admits to the riskiness of the decision:

GUMMERE:  You realize, of course, that if we fail in even the slightest way, we’ll all be killed.

CHADWICK:  Yes, and the whole world will probably go to war.

JEROME: Gentlemen, if we fail and are killed, I certainly hope the world does go to war. 

CHADWICK:  A world ar war!

GUMMERE:  A world war. Now that would be something to go out on.

In just ten years, they will get their hearts’ desire when World War 1 erupts.

The Marines quickly overwhelm the Pasha’s palace guard, take the Pasha hostage and force him to negotiate.

During the hostage exchange, Raisuli is betrayed and captured by German and Moroccan troops.   His friend, the Sherif of Wazan, organizes the Berber tribe for an attack on the Europeans and their Moroccan lackeys.

Eden Pedecaris, who has grown to admire Raisuli, convinces a Marine captain and his men to rescue the Berber chieftain. She argues that President Roosevelt had promised that Raisuli would be unharmed if the Pedecarises were returned safely.

The Berbers and Marines team up to defeat the Germans and their Moroccan allies, rescuing Raisuli in the process.

Image result for iMAGES OF The Wind and the Lion

Thirteen years later—in 1917—the United States will officially take on the Germans in World War 1.  And in another 37 years—in 1941—America will again declare war on Germany.

The film ends with a confident Theodore Roosevelt expecting (accurately) to be re-elected—and telling reporters  that “the fate of Morocco will be decided tomorrow by me.”

The Wind and the Lion is set in an era when

  • Nuclear weapons did not exist;
  • Russia and China were militarily insignificant nations;
  • England was the world’s superpower;
  • America, Germany and Japan were on the rise;
  • Israel was still a distant dream in the eyes of European Jews;
  • The “Great Powers”—Germany, France and Great Britain—were struggling to carve up the Middle East to exploit its massive oil reserves; and
  • Americans did not feel threatened by Islamic radicals.

As complex and dangerous as that era often seemed to those living more than 100 years ago, it has been succeeded by one even more complex and dangerous.

In this new and even more lethal era, it is well to remember Theodore Roosevelt’s warning that “we’re a bit blind and reckless at times, too.”

FACEBOOK VS. THE FIRST AMENDMENT, PRIVACY AND FREE ELECTIONS: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, Business, Entertainment, History, Politics, Social commentary on August 17, 2022 at 12:10 am

As it now operates, Facebook poses a direct threat to the First Amendment, the privacy of its users and democratic elections.

Facebook is the world’s largest social media company, with 2.936 billion users by April, 2022. Its social and political influence on the United States is enormous. According to its profile on Wikipedia:

“The subject of numerous controversies, Facebook has often been criticized over issues such as user privacy (as with the Cambridge Analytica data scandal), political manipulation (as with the 2016 U.S. elections) and mass surveillance.

“Posts originating from the Facebook page of Breitbart News, a media organization previously affiliated with Cambridge Analytica, are currently among the most widely shared political content on Facebook.

“Facebook has also been subject to criticism over psychological effects such as addiction and low self-esteem, and various controversies over content such as fake news, conspiracy theories, copyright infringement, and hate speech. Commentators have accused Facebook of willingly facilitating the spread of such content as well as exaggerating its number of users to appeal to advertisers.” 

To which can be added the following:

  • I was sentenced to “Facebook Jail” for two posts. The first of these stated: “Americans are historical illiterates.” This was labeled “hate speech and inferiority.” The fact that the distinguished historian David McCullough had said exactly the same meant nothing to Facebook.
  • Comedians have long gained laughs at Americans’ historical illiteracy: When Jay Leno hosted The Tonight Show, he often did “Jaywalking Tours” where he asked people about seemingly well-known historical events. It was common to see people say the Civil War happened in the 1940s (instead of 1861-1865) or to believe that the Texans won at the battle of the Alamo.
  • A second post deleted showed a group of heavily-armed Proud Boys standing around a cross.  Above this I had posted the caption: “Proud Boys posing with their latest victim.” This was labeled as “hate speech.” 
  • Since this post was bluntly critical of the Proud Boys, the question emerges: Does criticizing the Proud Boys—Fascists who played a major role during the January 6 attempted coup against the Capitol Building—constitute “hate speech”?   

Proud Boys 

Anthony Crider, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons

  • I am currently banned from Facebook for posting the following: A Facebook member had posted this solution for achieving universal peace: All enlisted members of all the world’s militaries should refuse to serve. In 2002-3, I had watched President George W. Bush lie the country into a needless, bloody, budget-busting war in Iraq. Thus, I felt the poster’s “solution” required a serious dose of realism. 
  • So I posted a meme below it that contained an image of Herman Goring—chief of the German Luftwaffe (air force) during World War II. As a convicted war criminal, he should, I felt, have insight into how easy it is to lead a nation into war. And he did: “Naturally, the common people don’t want war, neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in every country.”
  • No sooner had I posted this than I found myself once again accused of violating Facebook’s “Community Standards.” As in past cases, Facebook did not deign to state, specifically, what standards I had violated, or how the post endangered other Facebook members. I simply found myself blocked from Facebook.

25+ Best Hermann Goering Memes | Goering Memes, His Memes, Are Memes

  • Frances Haugen, a former Facebook employee, disclosed tens of thousands of Facebook’s internal documents to the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Wall Street Journal in 2021. She testified before Congress that Facebook promotes conflict to increase its readership and keep them reading—and buying. So the comment I made fell exactly into that category of exciting controversy. 

People who libel and/or harass others should be banned from social media. It’s precisely because Twitter refuses to do so that its reputation is fatally tainted.

But posting a comment that is based on accurate history should not qualify as hate speech. And none of the examples I have cited fit that definition.

Through its worldwide membership, Facebook exerts an influence that rivals—if not exceeds—that of most government institutions. Its greatest infamy: Allowing Russian trolls to play a lethal role in electing Donald Trump President in 2016. And no doubt they are preparing to do so again in 2024. 

In a highly polarized political environment, Mark Zuckerberg holds the unique distinction of having infuriated both Democrats and Republicans during his appearances before Congress. His secret: The overweening arrogance he routinely displays to those he considers lesser mortals. His motto is: ““Move fast and break things. Unless you are breaking stuff, you are not moving fast enough.”

It’s long past time for those at the legislative level to show him that some things—such as the First Amendment, the right to privacy and elections free of foreign influence—should not be broken.  And that there is a high price to pay for those who do.

DIFFERENT LIVES–AND DIFFERENT LEGACIES

In Entertainment, History, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on August 15, 2022 at 12:12 am

Two deaths. Two entirely different legacies.

The first—of Rush Limbaugh—came on February 17, 2021.  

The second—of Olivia Newton-John—came on August 10, 2022.

Limbaugh hosted The Rush Limbaugh Show, which was nationally syndicated on AM and FM radio stations from 1988 until his death in 2021.

Rush Limbaugh

With 15.5 million listeners, Limbaugh’s radio show was the most popular one in the United States. He became one of the most prominent Right wing voices in the country during the 1990s. 

Among his targets: Blacks; liberals; Democrats; gays; lesbians; feminists (whom he called “feminazis”); consent in sexual relations; environmentalism; climate change; abortion rights; Barack Obama; the need for masking and vaccinations against COVID-19.

Among the personalities and causes he championed: The 2003 Iraq war; torture at the infamous Abu Ghraib prison; eliminating taxes on the wealthy; smoking; Donald Trump; 

His attack on Sandra Fluke, a third-year Georgetown University law student who testified before Congress on February 23, 2012, was typical Limbaugh. 

Fluke said that insurance companies should cover the costs of birth control. As a student at a Jesuit campus that refuses to provide insurance coverage for contraception, birth control costs can be as high as $3,000 during the three years a woman attends law school.

Limbaugh’s response: “So Ms. Fluke and the rest of you Feminazis, here’s the deal: If we are going to pay for your contraceptives and thus pay for you to have sex, we want something for it.  And I’ll tell you what it is.  We want you to post the videos online so we can all watch.”

Sandra Fluke was among the millions who didn’t mourn when Limbaugh died at 70 on February 17, 2021, of lung cancer caused by a lifetime of cigar smoking.

If the legacy of Rush Limbaugh was darkness personified, the legacy of Olivia Newton-John was one of sunshine and joy. 

Olivia Newton-John

Larry D. Moore, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons

She dominated the pop charts of the 1970s and ’80s with mega hits “Hopelessly Devoted to You,” “I Honestly Love You,” “Have You Never Been Mellow?” “Magic,” and “Physical.” 

Vanity Fair described her thus:  “Her angelic beam matched with a clear, sweet-yet-supple soprano was vocal satin, giving her a versatile edge in singing feel-good numbers across genres and styles.” 

But her biggest splash came in “Grease,” the top-grossing movie for 1978, where she co-starred with John Travolta. Her role as Sandy, an Australian exchange student, brought her international acclaim and further propelled her musical career. The movie’s soundtrack remains one of the world’s best-selling albums.   

“I don’t think anyone could have imagined a movie would go on almost 40 years and would still be popular and people would still be talking to me about it all the time and loving it,” Newton-John said in 2017.

She won four Grammy awards and racked up five number-one hits and another 10 top-10 hits on the Billboard Hot 100 and two number-one albums on the Billboard 200. Eleven of her singles and 14 of her albums have been certified Gold by the Recording Industry Association of America.

Having sold more than 100 million records, Newton-John is one of the most popular singers of the 20th and 21st centuries.

“I love to sing, it’s all I know how to do,” she told CNN in 2017. “That’s all I’ve ever done since I was 15, so it’s my life. I feel very grateful that I can still do it and people still come to see me.”

An animal-rights advocate, she cancelled a 1978 concert tour of Japan to protest the slaughter of dolphins caught in tuna fishing nets.

Among the charities and foundations she supported: Cure Breast Cancer, Red Cross, Healthy Child Healthy World, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. She was a performer on the 1979 Music for UNICEF Concert for the UN’s International Year of the Child, televised worldwide.

Behind her bright smile and sunny disposition lay the shadow of tragedy. In 2005 Newton-John’s then-boyfriend, Patrick McDermott, disappeared at sea while on a fishing trip off the coast of California.

“It’s very hard to live with that,” she told CNN’s Larry King in 2006. “It’s probably the hardest thing I’ve ever experienced, and I’ve been through a lot of things.”

In 1992, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She recovered, but for more than 40 years she lived with the constant threat of its return.

“I draw strength from the millions of women who have faced this challenge successfully,” she said in a statement. “This has been detected early because I’ve had regular examinations, so I encourage other women to do the same.”

Then, in May 2017, she announced that the cancer had returned and metastasized to her lower back. 

Asked during a February 2021 interview if she had contemplated her own death, she replied, “I have quite a few times,” adding it was “sooner than I would have wanted. I mean—we all know we are going to die. I think we spend our lives probably much in denial of it.”

The title of her 2019 autobiography, Don’t Stop Believin’, summed up her attitude toward life.

On August 8, 2022, Olivia Newton-John died from cancer at her home in the Santa Ynez Valley of California. She was 73. 

Euripides, the Greek  tragedian, was right: When good men dietheir goodness does not perish, but lives though they are gone. As for the bad, all that was theirs dies and is buried with them.”

“LINCOLN”: A MESSAGE FOR TODAY

In Bureaucracy, Entertainment, History, Law, Military, Politics, Social commentary on July 22, 2022 at 12:18 am

Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln is more than a mesmerizing history lesson. 

It’s a timely reminder that racism and repression are not confined to any one period or political party.

At the heart of the film: Abraham Lincoln (Daniel Day-Lewis) wants to win ratification of what will be the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. An amendment that will forever ban slavery.  

True, Lincoln, in 1862, had issued the Emancipation Proclamation. This–in theory–freed slaves held in the Confederate states that had seceded from the Union in 1861.  

But Lincoln regards this as a temporary wartime measure.  he fears that once the war is over, the Supreme Court may rule the Proclamation unconstitutional. This might allow Southerners to continue practicing slavery, even after losing the war.

To prevent this, Congress must pass an anti-slavery amendment.

But winning Congressional passage of such an amendment won’t be easy.

The Senate had ratified its passage in 1864.  But the amendment must secure approval from the House of Representatives to become law.

And the House is filled with men–there are no women menmbers during the 19th century–who seethe with hostility.

Some are hostile to Lincoln personally. One of them dubs him a dictator–Abraham Africanus.” Another accuses him of shifting his positions for the sake of expediency.

Other members–white men all–are hostile to the idea of “equality between the races.” To them, ending slavery means opening the door to interracial marriage–especially marriage between black men and white women. 

Perhaps even worse, it means possibly giving blacks–or women–the the right to vote.

In fact, the possibility that blacks might win voting rights arises early in the movie.  Lincoln is speaking to a couple of black Union soldiers, and one of them is unafraid to voice his discontent. He’s upset that black soldiers are paid less than white ones–and that they’re led only by white officers.

He says that, in time, maybe this will change.  Maybe, in 100 years, he guesses, blacks will get the right to vote.

(To the shame of all Americans, that’s how long it will eventually take.  Not until the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 will blacks be guaranteed legal protection against discriminatory voting practices.)

To understand the Congressional debate over the Thirteenth Amendment, it’s necessary to remember this: In Lincoln’s time, the Republicans were the party of progressives

The party was founded on an anti-slavery platform.  Its members were thus reviled as “Black Republicans.” And until the 1960s, the South was solidly Democratic.

Democrats were the ones defending the status quo–slavery–and opposing freed blacks in the South of Reconstruction and long afterward.  

In short, in the 18th century, Democrats in the South acted as Republicans do now. The South went Republican only after a Democratic President–Lyndon B. Johnson–rammed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 through Congress.

Watching this re-enactment of the 1865 debate in Lincoln is like watching the current Presidential campaign.  The same mentalities are at work:

  • Those (in this case, slave-owners) who already have a great deal want to gain even more at the expense of others. 
  • Those (slaves and freed blacks) who have little strive to gain more or at least hang onto what they have. 
  • Those who defend the privileged wealthy refuse to allow their “social inferiors” to enjoy similar privileges (such as the right to vote). 

During the 2012 Presidential race, Republicans tried to bar those likely to vote for President Barack Obama from getting into the voting booth.  But their bogus “voter ID” restrictions were struck down in courts across the nation. 

Listening to those opposing the amendment, one is reminded of Mitt Romney’s infamous comments about the “47%”:

“Well, there are 47% of the people who will vote for the president no matter what….

“Who are dependent upon government, who believe that–that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they’re entitled to healthcare, to food, to housing, to you name it.  But that’s–it’s an entitlement.  And the government should give it to them.” 

Put another way: “Who says people have a right to obtain medical care, food and housing?  If they can’t inherit unearned wealth the way I did, screw them.” 

In the end, it’s Abraham Lincoln who has the final word–and leaves his nation the better for it.  Through diplomacy and backroom dealings (trading political offices for votes) he wins passage of the anti-slavery amendment. 

The ownership of human chattel is finally an ugly memory of the American past. 

The movie closes with a historically-correct tribute to Lincoln’s generosity toward those who opposed him–in Congress and on the battlefield.  It occurs during Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address:

“With malice toward none, with charity for all….To bind up the nation’s wounds.  To care for him who shall  have bourne the battle, and for his widow and his orphan….”  

This ending presents a vivid philosophical contrast with the increasingly mean-spirited rhetoric and policies of 2016’s Republican candidates for President–especially those of Donald Trump.  

Watching Lincoln, you realize how incredibly lucky America was as a nation to have had such leadership when it was most urgently needed.

SURVIVING “FACEBOOK JAIL”: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, Business, Entertainment, History, Politics, Social commentary on June 16, 2022 at 12:10 am

Facebook likes to promote itself as a place for “more than three billion people around the world to share ideas, offer support and make a difference.”

But there are limits to the ideas that can be shared on Facebook. And while Facebook likes to boast about its “Community Standards,” these are enforced in a totally arbitrary way.

There is simply no predicting what will trigger Facebook’s ire and land a post—and its poster—in “Facebook Jail.” 

Facebook doesn’t restrict itself to banning posts that are libelous and/or harassing. Its definition of “Hate speech” is so all-encompassing it can be stretched to cover anything—including historically valid statements. 

Our Favourite Banned Facebook Memes - The Inappropriate Gift Co

In Part One I laid out the reason for my sending a letter of protest to Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s longtime Chief Operating Officer.

In this part, I will offer specific steps Facebook can take to keep faith with its stated mission to be a place where people can “share ideas.” 

Noting that I had been banned from Facebook for seven days for posting “Americans are historical illiterates,” I cited the noted historian, David McCullough, and an article from the Smithsonian Institute to support my statement. 

At the 2015 National Book Festival

David McCullough 

fourandsixty, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons

I then quoted my offending paragraph in full:

“Tyrants cannot be appeased by giving into their demands–it just convinces them that they can demand even more from their victims. British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain tried that approach at Munich in September, 1938, giving Adolf Hitler a big chunk of Czechoslovakia. The reason: To prevent a war with Nazi Germany. Less than a year later, war broke out anyway.” 

This referred to yet another act of cowardice by Democrats in refusing to stand up to the aggression of the Republican Right.

There are serious historical parallels between the closing days of the German Weimar Republic and the rise of Adolf Hitler—and what is happening today in the United States.

Example: In the Weimar Republic, all that stood between Hitler and total power was a frail old man—President Paul von Hindenburg. In the United States, all that stands between Donald Trump and absolute power is a frail old man: President Joe Biden.

Revelan elogios de expresidente Donald Trump a Hitler | Cuba Si

Adolf Hitler and Donald Trump

Too many Americans remain ignorant of their own history—not to mention that of other countries.

That was the point of my post. But on Facebook, it’s “Hate speech” to point out the ignorance of criminally ignorant people.

Then came my third and last point.

Third: Facebook claimed: “You can disagree with the decision if you think we got it wrong.” That implied that I would be given the opportunity to state why I believed the decision was wrong and have that objection carefully reviewed. 

But, immediately afterward, Facebook stated: “We usually offer the chance to request a review and follow up if we got decisions wrong.

“We have fewer reviewers available right now because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. We’re trying hard to prioritize reviewing content with the most potential for harm. This means we may not be able to follow up with you, though your feedback helps us do better in the future.” 

Using COVID as an excuse to avoid responsible behavior is despicable. If Facebook is  going to ban people for supposedly violating its “Community Standards,” it has a moral obligation—if not a legal one—-to give them a chance to share their side of the story.

That is how a court in a democracy behaves. Making a decision based on whim and secrecy, with no appeal possible, is the behavior of a star chamber.

Facebook jail Memes

I then noted two ways by which Facebook could avoid such disgraceful episodes in the future:

  1. Providing its users with an 800 number whereby they can interact directly with the Censorship Committee and share their reasons for posting the comment(s) they did;
  2. Providing its users with at least an Instant Messaging capability, so they can do so.

My letter to Sheryl Sandberg closed as follows: 

Im aware that Facebook is a private company and thus can do whatever it likes. But it is also—supposedly—a market for the airing of competing ideas. And to behave in the despicable manner I have described is as much a disservice to the reputation Facebook wishes to have as to those who are negatively affected by its censorship decisions. 

Frankly, I don’t expect to get an answer from Sandberg, any more than I expected one from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. 

Still, there is this:

On August 23, 1968, Russian poet Yevgeney Yevtushenko sent a telegram to Communist Party Boss Leonid Brezhnev and Premier Aleksei Kosygin, protesting their invasion of Czechoslovakia. 

No doubt, Yevtushenko didn’t expect his protest to change Soviet policy—just as I don’t expect any major changes—for the good—from Facebook.

These will come about only if:

  1. Enough Facebook users get so fed up with arbitrary bullying that they seek another social media format to speak their minds; and/or
  2. Enough members of Congress demand major changes in the way Facebook regularly makes a mockery of the First Amendment. 

Neither of these is likely to happen anytime soon.

SURVIVING “FACEBOOK JAIL”: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, Business, Entertainment, History, Politics, Social commentary on June 15, 2022 at 12:10 am

Facebook likes to promote itself as a place for “more than three billion people around the world to share ideas, offer support and make a difference.”

But there are limits to the ideas that can be shared on Facebook. And while Facebook likes to boast about its “Community Standards,” these are enforced in a totally arbitrary way.

There is simply no predicting what will trigger Facebook’s ire and land a post—and its poster—in “Facebook Jail.” 

50+ Funny Facebook Jail Memes to Avoid Being Blocked / Get Out of It

It’s true that standards against libel and harassment are absolutely essential.

Twitter has earned an unsavory reputation for refusing to take action against those guilty of one or both. As a result, the Disney company has refused to partner with this company.

But Facebook doesn’t restrict itself to banning posts that are libelous and/or harassing. Its definition of “Hate speech” is so all-encompassing it can be stretched to cover anything. 

For example: On June 3, I received the following message from Facebook: “You can’t post or comment for 7 days. This is because you previously posted something that didn’t follow our Community Standards.

“This comment goes against our standards on hate speech and inferiority, so only you and the admins of Private Liberal Group can see it.

“If your content goes against our Community Standards again, your account may be restricted or disabled.” 

Meta Platforms Headquarters Menlo Park California.jpg

Facebook / Meta headquarters in Menlo Park, California 

LPS.1, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

And just what was my comment that qualified as “hate speech”?

Facebook refused to publish the comment or news story to which I responded. So I can only assume that I was referring to yet another act of cowardice by Democrats in standing up to the Fascistic Right:

“Americans are historical illiterates, and this is just another example proving it. Tyrants cannot be appeased by giving into their demands–it just convinces them that they can demand even more from their victims. British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain tried that approach at Munich in September, 1938, giving Adolf Hitler a big chunk of Czechoslovakia. The reason: To prevent a war with Nazi Germany. Less than a year later, war broke out anyway.”

Apparently, for Facebook, “Americans are historical illiterates” qualifies as “hate speech.”  

When Donald Trump boasted, during his 2016 campaign for President, “I love the poorly educated!” he was not alone. The leadership of Facebook apparently feels the same way. 

Making a decision based on whim and secrecy, with no appeal possible—as Facebook routinely does—is the behavior of a star chamber.

In the past, I had sent letters to Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO, protesting Facebook’s star chamber approach to justice. Zuckerberg’s life features two accomplishments that dwarf all others:

  1. He’s worth $71.5 billion, courtesy of Facebook’s revenues; and
  2. In multiple appearances before Congress, he’s managed to unite Right-wing Republicans and Liberal Democrats—in their rage at his perceived arrogance and stonewalling.

I didn’t expect Zuckerberg to show the courtesy of a fair-minded CEO by replying to my letters—and I wasn’t disappointed.

Mark Zuckerberg F8 2019 Keynote (32830578717) (cropped).jpg

Mark Zuckerberg

Anthony Quintano from Westminster, United States, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons

So, this time, on June 3, I decided to write someone else: Sheryl Sandberg, longtime Chief Operating Officer for Facebook. (She will be stepping down from that position in the fall of 2022, She will, however, remain a member of Facebook’s board of directors.)

Early on in my letter I quickly laid out my case:  Apparently what aroused the ire of Facebook’s Censorship Committee was my statement that “Americans are historical illiterates,” and this was interpreted as “hate speech and inferiority.” Taken to its logical conclusion, only comments celebrating the ignorance of ignorant people will be considered acceptable on Facebook.

Facebook Jail Memes - Geeks + Gamers

Then I offered three reasons why I strongly objected to the decision to ban my post—and me—from Facebook:

First: What I said about Americans’ historical illiteracy was entirely accurate. No less an authority than the acclaimed historian David McCullough has said: “I think we are raising a generation of young Americans who are, to a very large degree, historically illiterate.” 

Nor is he alone. A May 5, 2015 article by the Smithsonian Institute asks: “How Much U.S. History Do Americans Actually Know?” And it answers the question: “Less Than You Think.”

Comedians have long gained laughs at Americans’ historical illiteracy. When Jay Leno hosted The Tonight Show, he often did “Jaywalking Tours” where he would ask people about seemingly well-known historical events. It was common to see people say the Civil War happened in the 1940s (instead of 1861-1865) or to believe that the Texans won at the battle of the Alamo. 

Second:  I quoted the rest of my paragraph: “Tyrants cannot be appeased by giving into their demands–it just convinces them that they can demand even more from their victims. British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain tried that approach at Munich in September, 1938, giving Adolf Hitler a big chunk of Czechoslovakia. The reason: To prevent a war with Nazi Germany. Less than a year later, war broke out anyway.”

I challenge you—and anyone else who reads this letter—to refute one line of that paragraph.

“THE TWILIGHT ZONE” AS COVID-19 PROPHECY

In Business, Entertainment, History, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on June 3, 2022 at 12:14 am

On November 8, 1963—57 years before COVID-19 invaded the United States—Rod Serling’s “The Twilight Zone” offered a prophecy of future disaster for the country.

“The Old Man in the Cave” is set in a post-apocalyptic rural town in 1974, 10 years after a nuclear war has devastated the United States. 

A nuclear explosion

The townspeople have discovered a supply of canned food. However, they are waiting for Mr. Goldsmith [John Anderson], their leader, to return with a message from the mysterious and unseen “old man in the cave.” Then they will learn whether the food is contaminated with radiation.

When Goldsmith returns, he informs them that the old man has declared the food is contaminated and that it should be destroyed.

Shortly thereafter, three soldiers led by Major French [James Coburn] enter the town and clash with Goldsmith as they try to establish their authority.

French is clearly a precursor of Donald Trump: Demanding instant obedience and threatening death to anyone who disobeys him, he claims he will organize the region to rebuild society..

President Trump tests positive for COVID-19 | KRCR

Donald Trump

However, Goldsmith believes that French and his men simply want to strip the town of its food.

French attacks the townspeople’s belief in the seemingly infallible “old man in the cave.” He tells them they have survived these past 10 years—but they haven’t lived. 

Fifty-seven years later, Donald Trump will furiously attack not COVID-19 but the medical advice of his own Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)—especially that provided by Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top expert on infectious disease.

He will disdain the wearing of masks and social distancing, and attack those Democratic governors who impose stay-at-home orders to contain the virus. He will offer a series of rosy predictions—none of which come true—that the virus will soon end.

His “cures” include ingesting Clorox bleach and/or having UV light shined up one’s anus.

Interferon Plays Pivotal, Inflammatory Role in Severe COVID-19 Cases

COVID-19 virus

And French holds himself out as the man who can deliver them a wonderful new future.

Fifty-seven years later, Donald Trump will similarly declare: “I have joined the political arena so that the powerful can no longer beat up on people that cannot defend themselves. Nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it.”

French tempts the townspeople to eat the food Goldsmith warned was contaminated. There is a wild orgy of gluttony as they greedily consume it. 

Only Goldsmith refuses to partake in the food orgy.

The townspeople turn on Goldsmith and threaten him with death unless he reveals the identity of “the old man in the cave.” Goldsmith finally takes the assembly to the cave to reveal his source: A computer.

French incites the townspeople to stone the computer with rocks and canned goods until it explodes. Then French leads the people into celebrating their new-found freedom from this “tyranny”. 

Fifty-seven years later, Trump will similarly incite his followers to attack the United States Capitol building to halt the legal transfer of Presidential power from himself to Joe Biden. 

But as Goldsmith had insisted, the “old man” was correct: The canned goods were contaminated with radiation. All the townspeople—including French and the soldiers—die, their bodies left lying throughout the streets.

Trump will similarly tempt millions of Americans to ignore the deaths of tens of thousands of their fellow citizens from COVID-19 and the overwhelming of the nation’s hospitals. The result will be a vast increase in deaths.

Many of the businesses Trump hoped to keep open—to ensure his own re-election—will be shuttered.

Only one man survives—Goldsmith, who has refused to eat the forbidden food and somberly walks out of the now-dead town.  

As always in a “Twilight Zone” episode, it is Rod Serling who gets the final word: “Mr. Goldsmith, survivor. An eyewitness to man’s imperfection. An observer of the very human trait of greed. And a chronicler of the last chapter—the one reading ‘suicide’. Not a prediction of what is to be, just a projection of what could be. This has been The Twilight Zone.”

Dark-haired man holding a lit cigarette

Rod Serling

Except that Serling was wrong: “The Old Man in the Cave” has proven an uncanny prediction of what did happen in America.

* * * * *

The chief lesson to be learned from the COVID-19 epidemic is that catastrophe inevitably results when natural disaster collides with an evil and incompetent administration.

And the man who stands most responsible for the deaths of 400,000 Americans in 2020 is Donald Trump, the 45th President of the United States.

Under his tyrannical rule, the United States suffered not simply from a lethal virus but a combination of denial, lies, Republican subservience, chaos, extortion, propaganda as news, quackery as medicine, premature demands to “re-open the country,” ignoring the danger and—finally—resignation (“Learn to live with the virus”). 

Even now, when three vaccines have been produced, millions of Americans—almost all of them Right-wing Trump supporters—refuse to protect themselves and the families and friends they claim to love. 

Mark Anthony—in William Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar”—had it right: “The evil that men do lives after them.”

WHEN FASCISTS BECOME TARGETS

In Bureaucracy, Entertainment, History, Politics, Social commentary on May 9, 2022 at 12:10 am

In 1942, two British-trained Czech commandos assassinated SS Obergruppenführer (General) Reinhard Heydrich.

A tall, blond-haired former naval officer, he was both a champion fencer and talented violinist. Heydrich joined the Schutzstaffel, or Protective Squads, better known as the SS, in 1931, and quickly became head of its counterintelligence service.

Reinhard Heycrich

In September, 1941, Heydrich was appointed “Reich Protector” of Czechoslovakia, which had fallen prey to Germany in 1938 but whose citizens were growing restless under Nazi rule.

Heydrich immediately ordered a purge, executing 92 people within the first three days of his arrival in Prague. By February, 1942, 4,000-5,000 people had been arrested.

In January, 1942, Heydrich convened a meeting of high-ranking political and military leaders to streamline “the Final Solution to the Jewish Question.”  

At the now-infamous Wannsee conference, Heydrich decreed that, henceforth, all Jews in Reich-occupied territories would be shipped to extermination camps. No exceptions would be made for women, children or the infirm.  

An estimated six million Jews were thus slaughtered.

Returning to Prague, Heydrich continued his policy of carrot-and-stick with the Czechs—improving the social security system and requisitioning luxury hotels for middle-class workers, alternating with arrests and executions.  

The Czech government-in-exile, headquartered in London, feared that Heydrich’s incentives might lead the Czechs to passively accept domination. They decided to assassinate Heydrich.  

Two British-trained Czech commandos—Jan Kubis and Joseph Gabcik—parachuted into Prague. 

Unexpectedly, they got help from Heydrich himself. Supremely arrogant, he traveled the same route every day from home to his downtown office and refused to be escorted by armed guards, claiming no one would dare attack him.

On May 27, 1942, Kubis and Gabcik waited at a hairpin turn in the road always taken by Heydrich. When Heydrich’s Mercedes slowed down, Gabcik raised his machinegun–which jammed.

Rising in his seat, Heydrich aimed his revolver at Gabcik—as Kubis lobbed a hand grenade at the car. The explosion drove steel and leather fragments of the car’s upholstery into Heydrich’s diaphragm, spleen and lung.

Hitler dispatched doctors from Berlin to save the Reich Protector. But infection set in, and on June 4, Heydrich died at age 38. 

The assassination sent shockwaves through the upper echelons of the Third Reich. No one had dared assault—much less assassinate—a high-ranking Nazi official.

Nazis had slaughtered tens of thousands without hesitation—or fear that the same might happen to them. 

Suddenly they realized that the fury they had aroused could be turned against themselves.

Adolf Hitler introducing his new cabinet, 1933

Members of the Nazi government

Which brings us to the leaders of America’s own Right-wing.

The names of infamous Nazis were widely known:

  • Reichsmarshall Hermann Goering;
  • Propaganda Minister Paul Joseph Goebbels;
  • Deputy Fuhrer Rudolf Hess;
  • Propaganda Film Director Leni Riefenstahl;
  • SS-Reichsfuhrer Heinrich Himmler;
  • “Hanging Judge” Roland Freisler;
  • Architect Albert Speer;
  • Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop;
  • SS Obergruoppenfuhrer Reinhard Heydrich; and
  • The most infamous Nazi of all: Adolf Hitler.

And so are the names of the infamous leaders of the American Right: 

  • Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell;
  • Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett;
  • Texas Senator Ted Cruz; 
  • Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas;
  • Commentator Tucker Carlson;
  • Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch;
  • Evangelist Franklin Graham;
  • Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh;
  • Florida Senator Marco Rubio;
  • Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito; 
  • Florida Governor Ron DeSantis; and
  • The most infamous Right-winger of all: Former President Donald Trump.

The difference between these two infamous groups is this:

In Nazi Germany, ordinary Germans could not learn about the personal lives of their dictators—including their home addresses—and to conspire against them.

In the United States, ordinary citizens have an array of means to do this. They can turn to newspapers, TV and magazines. And if that isn’t enough, “people finder” websites, for a modest price, provide addresses and names of relatives of potential targets.

In Nazi Germany, firearms were tightly controlled. In the United States, the Right’s National Rifle Association has successfully lobbied to put lethal firepower into the hands of virtually anyone who wants it.

Which brings us to the firestorm now erupting over the publication of an initial draft majority opinion of the Supreme Court. Backed by the Court’s five Right-wing Justices, it overturns the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion.

The Supreme Court: The Judicial Power of the United States | NEH-Edsitement

The Supreme Court

In one to two months, millions of women will likely become victims of Right-wing anti-abortion fanaticism.

According to the Center for Reproductive Rights, 23 states will institute bans, with trigger laws on the books in 13 of them. These are bans designed to take effect if Roe is overturned.

Republicans boast that they want to “get the government off the backs of the people.” Yet since 1973 they have furiously tried to re-insert it into the vagina of every American woman.

Interfering with the right to obtain medical care—especially when it applies to sexually-involved matters—is an act guaranteed to arouse fury in even the most pacifistic men and women. 

This is especially true when a political party—such as that of the Nazis and Republicans—makes clear its intention to rule by force, rather than by public consent.

Reinhard Heydrich believed himself invulnerable from the hatred of the enemies he had made. That arrogance cost him his life.

The day may soon come when America’s own Right-wingers start learning the same lesson.

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