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The Biden Factor Part 2, The Soul of America

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Who are we kidding?  We all know the very real problems we live with.  Everyday Americans have been suffering for years and continue to do so.  In search of a real change, they elected Trump and things only got worse for them. The issues of our times are clear and evident.  Many Americans continue jobless as others live with stagnant wages. Buying power decreases each year with the rising cost of living. Veterans are suffering on many fronts. Our privatized jails are maxed to capacity with low level offenders while police violence goes unchecked at every turn.  Anyone can buy a gun and use it for any purpose, consequently we live in fear. Our schools are no longer safe havens for our children, nor are movie theaters, nightclubs, live concerts or religious services.  The high school education we were all guaranteed by right is no longer sufficient to provide a reasonable base income or employment opportunities that support planning a future, starting a family, buying a home or saving for retirement.  Overdose drug deaths, primarily heroin laced with fentanyl, kills more than 70,000 Americans each year.  Most of our food supply is unhealthy in one way or another, packed with fats and sugars, preservatives, pesticides, GMOs and fillers. Our groundwater is contaminated with chemical runoff.  Our infrastructure is crumbling.  Our electric grid is vulnerable to a hacked attack by foreign actors. Our dependence on a fossil fuel energy supply, coal, oil and natural gas is not limitless and therefore, while being not only wholly unsustainable, it continues as the primary danger to the planet, nevertheless a priority for gutting environmental programs and stimulate the demise of climate worldwide, enriching the few so invested in stripping the earth of its resources.   Is this a life of liberty and happiness? 

 

Our nation is losing its leadership position in the world with our current administration’s threats to NATO and international trade and our “look the other way” policies regarding Saudi Arabia and human rights violations around the world.  Trump’s relationship and agreements with Putin and Russia remain a secret, while his naive attempts at diplomacy have moved Kim Jung Un to form alliances with both Russia and China that circumvent American interests and threaten our safety in an ever-increasing nuclear environment.  The “great negotiator’s” moves are a false promotional front, like a movie set, a veneer with nothing behind it.  By the time the problem is addressed by someone competent it may be too little, too late.

 

Natural disasters continue to destroy homes and livelihoods in every region of the country with floods, forest fires, tornadoes, hurricanes and drought, the rising oceans and the destruction caused by pollution to marine life and the very air we breathe, all fueled by man-made priorities putting profit above health and well-being.  Paying for a college education leaves our youth financially encumbered, facing lifelong choices that preclude starting a family or initiating major purchases while living with protracted years of family assistance spreading their burden over an even broader base, multiplying the struggle.  Yes, the economy is booming.  Gutting social and environmental programs, suppressing educational and health benefits, cutting taxes for the very rich, rolling back consumer protections and furthering social injustice make for a more favorable climate for capitalist profit, but who are these capitalists that see the benefits of investment? Most Americans cannot free capital from their meager incomes to rise above everyday realities to participate in this temporary boom.  Is the stock market the measure of our democracy or might it be our social programs and institutions designed to foster equality by helping the less fortunate while protecting our accomplishments? According to the Fed one-third of families in the bottom 50% of earners own stocks. On the other hand, according to Gallup nearly 94% of the top income group owned stocks in 2016 while only a total of 54% of all Americans invested in stocks, mutual funds, pensions or retirement plans.Record Dow highs don’t mean much to about half of all Americans becausethe top 1% controls 39% of the country’s wealth.  So, God bless the credit card companies, international banks and Wall street power brokers that they are witnessing a temporary “economic boom.” 

 

It’s time we realized that democracy is not an economic system.  Capitalism is not synonymous with democracy.  Democracy is a system designed to further equality through social justice and respect for human rights, by securing meaningful participation in the system for everyone.  It does not exist as an engine for capitalism.  Rather capitalism exists to further democracy.

 

All twenty Democratic primary candidates are unified in agreement on the various problems we suffer under and differ only slightly on the policy remedy required but nineteen are reluctant to take the battle directly to the source. But there is one exception, that last one to enter the fray, the 2oth candidate, Joe Biden, who acknowledges that Trump must be confronted head-on.

 

But it would be a mistake to think that he alone sees this as the foremost problem.  Democrats are divided yes, not on the issues themselves but on the approach to the solutions, basically along idealistic versus pragmatic lines. Progressives are mostly idealistic to a greater or lesser degree.  Klobuchar and Kamala straddle the idealist/pragmatist fence wanting to achieve their ideals in a pragmatic, a more practical conventional middle of the road way with, as they see it, less risk, while Bernie and Elizabeth Warren go all out on idealism.  But none of “The Nineteen” travel the so-called middle lane.  That is where Biden saw his opportunity, abandoned policy arguments and went all-out on a frontal attack, recognizing the obstacle to healing the country was sourcing the problem to Donald Trump. While “The Nineteen” tippy-toe around what we all know and agree on, that Trump must go, parsing policy hairs and fresh ideas, Biden brings that old school mentality for a conventional campaign and a knock-down political struggle funded by the same corporate entities that care less about who wins and more about securing a place in the mud at the feeding trough when it’s all over.  Biden’s value is that he will be the active barometer of the Trump-attack strategy and while he could influence the others to join in and pile on, I doubt it. He will be the main target of Trump’s vitriolic Twitters and the poison spewed by his surrogates, deflecting much harm from the progressives who will continue with a strategy of policy ideals, fertile ground were Trump is at a disadvantage.  Trump’s argument with them is limited to one word… “Socialism.”

 

It’s easier for his base to unite in fear around that one word than to actually consider the issues.  It’s an appeal to pure emotion and nothing less.  Do they not realize that Socialism is aligned with the Christian concept of taking care of one’s neighbor?  This is the case Biden is making without appearing to be a socialist.  He is making his entrance based on moral and ethical issues, neither political nor policy based, but fitness for office. This is what all Democrats believe and frankly so do most Republicans in private, that Trump is unfit. He is a plague that they allowed upon themselves and they can’t exterminate it without losing a few limbs. These church-mice will not speak up for fear of being primary-ed by a Trumpian candidate. And so we look for the Savior beyond them.  Is it Joe? Or will Joe be the spoiler that disheartens progressive momentum and creates a cynicism that keeps their numbers from the polls. Can Joe ride the Blue wave?

 

Meanwhile, the House is mired in a difficult decision… impeach or don’t impeach.  Doing the right thing is not a political decision but a moral and ethical choice. The political consideration is to not impeach for fear of damage in the 2020 election, while the moral choice, the courageous choice, is to do the right thing and hold Trump accountable for his actions, regardless of the political consequences that may or may not be incurred.  Impeachment must be considered for the values it upholds not the potential downside it may impose.

 

Trump has built his storm over the warm waters of the haters in his base who see themselves as the “very fine people” he describes and their collective hatred is carried inland on the Jetstream of the internet and media coverage to wreak havoc on a trusting nation.  A turbulent effect builds in a chaotic fashion, Trump feeding the storm and the rising storm feeding Trump until untethered and lacking any form of compassion, each feels licensed to commit heinous acts such as murdering Jews on the one hand or ripping asylum-seeking families apart on the other, taking children from their mothers and caging them like stray dogs in a pound.  This sort of open, unrepentant behavior has not been seen in a very long time.  It’s rather like the measles, thought to be wiped out, but now rearing its ugly head.

 

And so Biden enters the race as a fight for the soul of America.

 

 

 

 

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As the Golden Globes lose their luster, can we create a better version of Hollywood?

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Something interesting is happening in Hollywood. People are walking away from the Golden Globe Awards.

And for good reason.

Anyone who has ever worked in the filthy abyss of Hollywood, New York, or any major entertainment city will know first hand how these systems work. Sycophants, parasites and moguls and talent agents willing to step all over each other just for the sake of another prize. Some will even kill for a shot at the brass ring.  And industry divided cannot succeed.

The only good thing I found in the Golden Globes was watching Ricky Gervais lampoon the stars and their handlers from the stage. Bravo to Gervais, it doesn’t make a difference what you think of him, afterall, he had something that most of Hollywood doesn’t have. Balls. Guts. And a way of delivering amusing reality dosed insults to their face only to find he’s been re-instated as the show host for the next years showing.

 

The annual Golden Globes ceremony has been unable to find a broadcasting partner or any celebrities willing to present or collect its awards after a Hollywood boycott over its diversity and ethics scandal, resulting in a pared-down event with the emphasis on philanthropy.

According to Variety, the Globes’ talent bookers have failed to persuade any big Hollywood figures to attend the 2022 edition of the awards ceremony, a hitherto glittering annual event that traditionally kicked off the lucrative awards season. In March 2021 more than 100 public relations firms announced they would withdraw cooperation with the Globes, a series of high-profile Hollywood figures, including Tom Cruise and Scarlett Johansson, made stinging public criticisms, and TV network NBC cancelled its broadcast of the 2022 edition. (-The Guardian)

 
eguardian.com/film/2022/jan/09/golden-globes-lose-their-shine-as-a-listers-shun-unethical-ceremony

But this years showing not only lacked the luster of Hollywood today, but doesn’t even have a Network or Livestream to cover it.  I guess we’ll have to rely on celeb Twitter Feeds.

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How The Pentagon and CIA Have Shaped Thousands of Hollywood Movies into Super Effective Propaganda

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By David Swanson, World BEYOND War, January 5, 2022

Propaganda is most impactful when people don’t think it’s propaganda, and most decisive when it’s censorship you never knew happened.

 

When we imagine that the U.S. military only occasionally and slightly influences U.S. movies, we are extremely badly deceived. The actual impact is on thousands of movies made, and thousands of others never made. And television shows of every variety.

The military guests and celebrations of the U.S. military on game shows and cooking shows are no more spontaneous or civilian in origin than the ceremonies glorifying members of the U.S. military at professional sports games — ceremonies that have been paid for and choreographed by U.S. tax dollars and the U.S. military. The “entertainment” content carefully shaped by the “entertainment” offices of the Pentagon and the CIA doesn’t just insidiously prepare people to react differently to news about war and peace in the world. To a huge extent it substitutes a different reality for people who learn very little actual news about the world at all.

The U.S. military knows that few people watch boring and non-credible news programs, much less read boring and non-credible newspapers, but that great masses will eagerly watch long movies and TV shows without too much worrying about whether anything makes sense. We know that the Pentagon knows this, and what military officials scheme and plot as a result of knowing this, because of the work of relentless researchers making use of the Freedom of Information Act. These researchers have obtained many thousands of pages of memos, notes, and script re-writes. I don’t know whether they’ve put all of these documents online — I certainly hope they do and that they make the link widely available. I wish such a link were in giant font at the end of a fantastic new film. The film is called Theaters of War: How the Pentagon and CIA Took Hollywood. The Director, Editor, and Narrator is Roger Stahl. The Co-Producers are Matthew Alford, Tom Secker, Sebastian Kaempf. They’ve provided an important public service.

In the film we see copies of and hear quotations from and analysis of much of what has been uncovered, and learn that thousands of pages exist that nobody has yet seen because the military has refused to produce them. Film producers sign contracts with the U.S. military or CIA. They agree to “weave in key talking points.” While unknown quantities of this sort of thing remain unknown, we do know that nearly 3,000 films and many thousands of TV episodes have been given the Pentagon treatment, and many others have been handled by the CIA. In many film productions, the military effectively becomes a co-producer with veto power, in exchange for allowing the use of military bases, weapons, experts, and troops. The alternative is the denial of those things.

But the military is not as passive as this might suggest. It actively pitches new story ideas to movie and TV producers. It seeks out new ideas and new collaborators who might bring them to a theater or laptop near you. Act of Valor actually began life as a recruitment advertisement.

Of course, many movies are made without military assistance. Many of the best never wanted it. Many that wanted it and were denied, managed to get made anyway, sometimes at much greater expense without the U.S. tax dollars paying for the props. But a huge number of movies are made with the military. Sometimes the initial movie in a series is made with the military, and the remaining episodes voluntarily follow the military’s line. Practices are normalized. The military sees huge value in this work, including for recruitment purposes.

The alliance between the military and Hollywood is the main reason that we have lots of big blockbuster movies on certain topics and few if any on others. Studios have written scripts and hired top actors for movies on things like Iran-Contra that have never seen the light of day because of a Pentagon rejection. So, nobody watches Iran-Contra movies for fun the way they might watch a Watergate movie for fun. So, very few people have any notions about Iran-Contra.

But with the reality of what the U.S. military does being so awful, what, you might wonder, are the good topics that do get lots of movies made about them? A lot are fantasy or distortion. Black Hawk Down turned reality (and a book it was “based on”) on its head, as did Clear and Present Danger. Some, like Argo, hunt for small stories within large ones. Scripts explicitly tell audiences that it doesn’t matter who started a war for what, that the only thing that matters is the heroism of troops trying to survive or to rescue a soldier.

Yet, actual U.S. military veterans are often shut out and not consulted They often find movies rejected by the Pentagon as “unrealistic” to be very realistic, and those created with Pentagon collaboration to be highly unrealistic. Of course, a huge number of military-influenced films are made about the U.S. military fighting space aliens and magical creatures — not, clearly, because it’s believable but because it avoids reality. On the other hand, other military-influenced films shape people’s views of targeted nations and dehumanize the humans living in certain places.

Don’t Look Up is not mentioned in Theaters of War, and presumably had no military involvement (who knows?, certainly not the movie-watching public), yet it uses a standard military-culture idea (the need to blow up something coming from outerspace, which in reality the U.S. government would simply love to do and you could hardly stop them) as an analogy for the need to stop destroying the planet’s climate (which you cannot easily get the U.S. government to remotely consider) and not one reviewer notices that the film is an equally good or bad analogy for the need to stop building nuclear weapons — because U.S. culture has had that need effectively excised.

The military has written policies on what it approves and disapproves. It disapproves depictions of failures and crimes, which eliminates much of reality. It rejects films about veteran suicide, racism in the military, sexual harassment and assault in the military. But it pretends to refuse to collaborate on films because they’re not “realistic.”

Yet, if you watch enough of what is produced with military involvement you’ll imagine that using and surviving nuclear war is perfectly plausible. This goes back to the original Pentagon-Hollywood invention of myths about Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and runs right up through military influence on The Day After, not to mention the transformation — paid for by people who throw a fit if their tax dollars help prevent someone freezing on the street — of Godzilla from a nuclear warning to the reverse. In the original script for the first Iron Man movie, the hero went up against the evil weapons dealers. The U.S. military rewrote it so that he was a heroic weapons dealer who explicitly argued for more military funding. Sequels stuck with that theme. The U.S. military advertised its weapons of choice in Hulk, Superman, Fast and Furious, and Transformers, the U.S. public effectively paying to push itself to support paying thousands of times more — for weapons it would otherwise have no interest in.

“Documentaries” on the Discovery, History, and National Geographic channels are military-made commercials for weapons. “Inside Combat Rescue” on National Geographic is recruitment propaganda. Captain Marvel exists to sell the Air Force to women. Actress Jennifer Garner has made recruitment ads to accompany movies she’s made that are themselves more effective recruitment ads. A movie called The Recruit was largely written by the head of the CIA’s entertainment office. Shows like NCIS push out the military’s line. But so do shows you wouldn’t expect: “reality” TV shows, game shows, talk shows (with endless reunifications of family members), cooking shows, competition shows, etc.

I’ve written before about how Eye in the Sky was openly and proudly both completely unrealistic nonsense and influenced by the U.S. military to shape people’s ideas about drone murders. A lot of people have some small idea of what goes on. But Theaters of War: How the Pentagon and CIA Took Hollywood helps us to grasp the scale of it. And once we’ve done that, we may gain some possible insights into why polling finds much of the world fearing the U.S. military as a threat to peace, but much of the U.S. public believing that U.S. wars benefit people who are grateful for them. We may begin to form some guesses as to how it is that people in the United States tolerate and even glorify endless mass-killing and destruction, support threatening to use or even using nuclear weapons, and suppose the U.S. to have major enemies out there threatening its “freedoms.” Viewers of Theaters of War may not all immediately react with “Holy shit! The world must think we’re lunatics!” But a few may ask themselves whether it’s possible that wars don’t look like they do in movies — and that would be a great start.

Theaters of War ends with a recommendation, that movies be required to disclose at the start any military or CIA collaboration. The film also notes that the United States has laws against propagandizing the U.S. public, which might make such a disclosure a confession of a crime. I would add that since 1976, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights has required that “Any propaganda for war shall be prohibited by law.”

To learn more about this film, view it, or host a screening of it, go here.

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Editorials

The Grinch That Stole Christmas

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Back in the mid 70’s as my wife and I were starting our photography business Wally Miller, a successful local businessman, invited us to his office to offer help in the form of business advice. He asked only that we bring a financial statement and of course we complied.  The business startup process was new to us and after two years we were still losing money, and there it was in plain sight on the financial statement.  Wally welcomed us warmly and after a few minutes of careful study of our financials offered this observation, “You have no bad debts.”

Naturally I took this as a compliment.  I was proud that we had no bad debts, but that is not what Wally meant.  He elaborated, “If you have no bad debts that means that your credit is too tight and that translates into lost business.” His meaning was clear.  To be successful, really successful, you have to accept reasonable losses.  It’s the very nature of business.  If you want 100% certainty there can be no risk and without risk there can be no profits.

There’s a lesson in this thinking for Joe “McFuqwad” Manchin, the tight-ass, penny-pinching Grinch ruining Christmas for every American under the cover of “fiscal responsibility.”  His staffers gave us a look into his rationale, revealing two of the real reasons behind Joe’s decision to be the big NO.

Apparently Manchin believes that giving money to the poor in the form of a child tax credit is unwise because in his view, many will spend the extra dollars on drugs.  Likewise he is opposed to paid leave, stating that people will just call in sick and then go off deer hunting.

Now let’s all agree that in a free society, there are good and bad actors.  No law can legislate what is in the hearts of men.  No law can dictate integrity or honor.  If that were the case, there would be no GOP, no Jim Jordan, no Ted Cruz, no Matt Gaetz, No Marjorie Taylor Green, no Lauren Boebert. You get my drift, but I digress.

Once you agree to recognize that the actions of individuals are beyond your control, you must the adjust your decisions and subsequent actions to affect the greatest good for the majority.  Charity benefits the worthy and unworthy alike, without discrimination.  To withhold benefits from the worthy because there will always be unworthy recipients is to succumb to the devil’s play, a game of reduction that punishes all for the few.

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