Anita Hill: Speaking Truth to Power

Image result for creepy man in the workplace

Anita Hill: Speaking Truth to Power

**

 

I loathe Political Correctness.

I admire people who speak their mind with eloquence, intelligence, and offensiveness. If I don’t offend at least one person with this article, I have become too boring and cowardly to deserve a column.

The PC police should get the heck out of our schools and college campuses. But they are welcome to stay in my place of employment.

In my office, we are not supposed to talk about politics, religion, race, sex, gender, and sexuality. There is no touching apart from fist bumps and any manager caught having a relationship with an underling is immediately fired.

I think all these rules are great. Instead of Mad Men-esque mad houses, 21st Century offices are comfortable and inclusive places to work.

“Boo hoo,” some people say. “Men are too afraid to even hug or flirt in the office now.” To me, that’s a very small price to pay for women to be able to have a career without being forced to negotiate a minefield of objectification and Sexual Harassment.

 

Back in 1991, I didn’t even know what Sexual Harassment is. I’ll bet I wasn’t alone. And that was a problem.

The problem of mass ignorance was solved in a big way when President Bush nominated Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court.

University of Oklahoma Law Professor Anita Hill was expecting a call from the FBI and she was ready to tell the truth when it came. Hill reported that Judge Thomas had made her work life uncomfortable when he was her boss at the EEOC in 1981.

Anita Hill was called to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“I didn’t anticipate any partisanship,” Hill recalls. “I was expecting that the Senators were going to ask me questions to help learn whether Clarence Thomas was qualified.” Come on..really, Professor Hill? I’m sorry: either she is lying or she was shamefully ignorant about the basic realities of politics in America. Especially for a law professor who worked for the government in DC for years.

Apart from that embarrassing quote, Anita Hill comes off as brave, poised, and downright heroic.

The first half of “Speaking Power to Truth” is terrific. Documentarian Freida Lee Mock shines a spotlight on the awful senators who cross-examined Anita Hill like she was a hostile witness. We cringe as the senators cruelly make her repeat the same humiliating details over and over again.

Ms. Hill never wavered as she exposed fundamental truths about men in power.

The second half of the documentary is useless. Frieda Lee Mock just follows present day (2014) Anita Hill around on as she earns a living as a public speaker. If you watch this movie, I urge you to turn it off after 45 minutes.

#MeToo is a great. Anita Hill is great. I agree with almost everything Frieda Lee Mock has to say. I have a fundamental disagreement, however, with her assertion that we can uncover the truth about past harassment incidents.

It’s one thing to believe a victim’s story, it’s another thing to believe you are capable of knowing the truth about an incident from ten years ago. Zero people know the absolute truth, not even the people who were involved.

Victims of Sexual Harassment have their memory tarnished by trauma and time. And perpetrators of Sexual Harassment will honestly remember themselves as acting less creepily than they actually did.

Sleezy men don’t think they are bad people or want to be bad people. For the most part, they are acting out creepy behavior that they learned from men growing up or foolishly mistaking the friendliness of their female co-worker as possible romantic interest.

That’s why I am passionately in favor of strict PC rules in the workplace. They don’t just make office life better for women, they clearly help men. They teach creepy men the rules of gentlemanly behavior that their fathers should have taught them.

More gentleman and fewer creeps makes my office – and America – a better place. Thank you, PC Police! (Get the heck out of the classroom, though. Seriously).

Advertisements

Fahrenheit 11/9

Image result for nafta betrayal

Fahrenheit 11/9

**1/2

 

When 22nd Century historians teach a lesson about the 2016 election, they’ll only need one primary source document. In the autumn leading up to the vote, Michael Moore wrote an essay entitled “5 Reasons Trump Will Win.”

Moore recognized that Donald Trump was the “Roger & Me” of presidential candidates. His message was music to the ears of forgotten Rust Belt workers who were fed up with globalization and the New World Order.

Trump criticized arrogant coastal elites for passing NAFTA, leading to the deindustrialization of the once vibrant American Midwest. He offered classical Progressive solutions: more worker-friendly trade deals and protectionist tariffs.

Michael Moore labeled the Trump revolution American Brexit. And he cited the four Obama states – Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Moore’s own Michigan – that the candidate was going to win on his way to earning the Presidency. The article is pure genius. You should read it.

“Fahrenheit 11/9” feels like the work of a different artist. The film is surprisingly overlong and unfocused.

Anti-Trump viewers will probably be disappointed. Yes, Moore accuses the President of simultaneously leading our country toward Nazism and nuclear war, but Trump is onscreen less than one quarter of the movie.

As much as anything, “Fahrenheit 11/9” is an angry takedown of the politicians who created and abetted the Flint, Michigan water crisis.

Moore accuses Michigan governor Rick Snyder of building an unnecessary new pipeline out of pure greed and leaving the impoverished citizens of Flint to drink poisonous, lead-filled muck.

And when he discovered that the dirty water was corroding parts at the GM plant, Gov. Snyder took immediate action and gave the company back its clean water. The people continued to drink swill.

Viewers will be surprised to learn that the ultimate villains of “Fahrenheit 11/9” aren’t the Trumpists; they are the leaders of the Democratic Party.

Moore condemns the DNC for stealing the 2016 nomination away from Bernie Sanders.

Moore eviscerates Bill Clinton, accusing the former President of selling out black citizens, blue collar workers, and private sector Unions. Moore concludes that after Clinton, the Democratic Party was just as corporatist and globalist as the Republicans.

Thank goodness for Obama, right? In the film’s only great scene, President Obama swoops into Flint on Air Force One. The teeming crowds cheer their beloved leader as he rushes through the town via limo to save them.

Barak Obama takes the podium. The crowd cheers and hoots. But the President has a cough…He asks for a glass of water to soothe his throat. Then he takes a sip – a tiny, tiny little sip – of tap water and declares that Flint water is safe.

The Flint audience gasps and so do we. This is easily the finest moment of this otherwise forgettable film.

 

Viewers are going to be disappointed that Moore doesn’t attack Trump with the same intellectual passion as Clinton and Obama.

“How the **** did this happen?” Moore asks us with a straight face. The problem is, he already answered this question – splendidly – two years ago.

“Fahrenheit 11/9” isn’t just unfocused, it is insulting to the viewer. It feels like Moore is saying that it’s okay for his functionally literate fans to know to the even-handed truth about the 2016 election. However, the movie-viewing masses can only handle information in dumbed-down, easy to swallow accusations, conspiracy theories, and comedy skits.

“Fahrenheit 11/9” made me laugh a lot. But Michael Moore can do better than this. Skip the movie and read “5 Reasons Trump Will Win” instead.

Hearts Beat Loud

Image result for ted danson hearts beat loud gif

Hearts Beat Loud

***1/2

 

It is not easy to maintain a relationship with your adult relatives.

First off, there are money issues.

If you lent your relative money and now you don’t like him so much and he is ducking you, that’s a bummer and things may never get better.

Second, you can easily grow apart.

If you don’t actively find interests and activities to share with your parents and children, your relationship can slowly disintegrate.

I have a better relationship with my father than my sister does. Is it because we love each other more? I don’t know. What I do know is that we talk about CBS’s Survivor, the stock market, or baseball together every day on the phone. And my sister doesn’t have anything to talk about or watch with him.

 

Frank (Nick Offerman) and Sam (Kiersey Clemons) are another father and daughter who have almost nothing in common.

Frank is an irresponsible, unambitious aging hipster. He runs a failing Brooklyn indie record store. (For my younger readers: a record is twelve iTunes downloads that have been imprinted onto a large, flat plastic disc that can easily be scratched and ruined).

Sam is 18 going on 30. It is the summer before college and she has no interest in going out or having fun with friends. She is studying hard so she can have an advantage over her classmates when she begins pre-med classes at UCLA in the fall.

Frank and Sam’s conversations are completely relatable and familiar. Frank buys Sam a gift and she chides him for spending money they don’t have. Sam already feels comfortable correcting her father’s grammar but she doesn’t want to tell him a thing about her love life.

Thank goodness they share one thing: music.

One evening, Frank forces Sam to put her books down and have a jam session with him. Despite herself, Sam gets into it and the father/daughter team produce an awesomely catchy pop-song entitled Hearts Beat Loud.

Are they are going to be a band? Frank says yes, Sam says no. At least the music is giving them something to do as father and daughter during their last few weeks together.

“Hearts Beat Loud” is never surprising and never brilliant. It gets by on charm and music.

The cast is delightful, especially Ted Danson as Frank’s eccentric stoner buddy.

The music is the real star. Hearts Beat Loud is a first-rate song. It plays several times throughout the movie. And like a good pop song, it gets more enjoyable each time.

Frank is into indie rock, naturally. And director Brett Haley tosses in hip but organic conversations about Mitski and Animal Collective songs that alt-rock fans know and love.

 

In the end, the film works because we are rooting for Frank and Sam to find common ground together. Because we have all been there.

Maintaining a relationship with even your closest family members isn’t easy. If you are estranged from your relative because of money, there is no cure. Money is a drug that has been poisoning relationships since the beginning of civilization.

If you are a stranger to your parent or child due to a lack of things in common, that’s on you. I’ll bet you can find something. Why don’t you watch a Red Sox playoff game together this weekend?

   Oliver Stone’s Untold History of The United States         Episode V: The 50s – Eisenhower, the Bomb, and the Third World

Image result for nato encirclement of russia

Oliver Stone’s Untold History of The United States

Episode V: The 50s – Eisenhower, the Bomb, and the Third World

***1/2

 

The history books have been kind to Dwight Eisenhower. Ike is the least polarizing and least hated President of the Post-War Era. He is remembered as America’s benign grandfather figure during a time of relative peace and prosperity.

Oliver Stone has an explosive new take on President Eisenhower. Stone’s Eisenhower wasn’t responsible or level-headed – he was a globalist general leading our country into a buzzsaw of perpetual hostility.

Ike drove up to a huge fork in the road in his first year in office; and he took the wrong turn. Stalin had just died and the new Soviet leader sent a letter to Eisenhower. Khrushchev invited the President to end the Cold War and move on to a new era of friendly competition.

Eisenhower didn’t even respond to the letter personally. Secretary of state John Foster Dulles rebuked the offer, accusing the Politburo of planning communist world domination. Instead of peace, we got 65 years of mutual suspicion and nuclear brinksmanship with Russia (and counting).

While Sec. Dulles was poisoning our relationship with the Soviets via traditional diplomacy, CIA director Allen Dulles was poisoning it in sinister new ways. Boo, Dulles brothers.

In one of our government’s all time most self-defeating blunders, the CIA overthrew the democratically elected president of Iran and replaced him with a sellout Persian puppet. This got us easy oil for 25 years and an Islamist enemy for 40. And it ticked off the Soviets even further since we installed an America-alligned kingdom right on their southern border.

Oliver Stone says that Eisenhower was an old-fashioned Republican deficit hawk. He was troubled by the fact that America’s peacetime military was gobbling up half of the federal budget (vs 15% today).

Ike’s plan was to trim conventional forces and bulk up our nuclear forces dramatically. He embraced the notion that there was a dangerous Missile Gap even though he knew that we were far outpacing the Soviets.

As is always the case in Washington, expanding government is easy and cutting spending is impossible. By 1960, our conscription military was as bloated as ever, only now it included 1000s of nukes that could be delivered by missile, bomber, or submarine.

This would have been an irresponsible foreign policy if there were thousands of Atomic bombs. But these were Hydrogen bombs – hundreds of times more powerful than the ones we dropped on Japan.

Oliver Stone paints President Eisenhower as brazenly indifferent to the unfathomable devastation that a nuclear war would unleash. He just thought of nukes as another tool in our military arsenal, as opposed to the potential end of all mammalian life on earth forever.

 

As always, Oliver Stone paints a complex and compelling picture of history. And I agree with him most of the time. However, it is worth mentioning that Eisenhower did not, in fact, blow up planet earth. That’s a pretty important side note.

And no one wants peace with Russia more than me. I don’t go as far as Stone, though, in absolving the USSR of its imperialist crimes. Stone glosses over the Soviet crackdown on Hungarian protesters in 1956. To me, it was pure brutal colonialism; Budapest is a solid 1000 miles away from Moscow.

 

In the end, though, Oliver Stone’s conclusion is elegant and inescapably true: President Eisenhower was a failure by his own standards. The man most famous for warning America about the dangerous influence of the Military Industrial Complex was the one most responsible for solidifying its power.

Borg vs. McEnroe

Image result for bjorn borg with girls

Borg vs. McEnroe


 
    In 1980, the sport of tennis was dominated by a mad man. He had behavior problems and anger issues; he made life miserable for everyone around him. His name was Björn Borg.
 
    “Borg vs. McEnroe” is a college course in psychology and sociology masquerading as a sports movie. It explores the troubled psyche of champions. And it exposes the ugly but predictable ways that the sports media twists their already fragile minds.
     John McEnroe is the bigger star now, but at the time Björn Borg (Sverrir Gudnason) was the undisputed king of tennis. When we meet him, Borg is 24 and he has already won Wimbledon four times. He is easily the most accomplished Swedish athlete of all time. And he is acclaimed all over Europe for his unprecedented success, his Nordic good looks, and his gentlemanly behavior. “How will it feel to win a record 5th straight Wimbledon title?” a reporter asks. “No special feelings,” Borg respectfully answers. 
    But that Björn Borg – the heroic heartthrob with ice in his veins – was just a media creation. Fake News, ESPN style. Danish director Janus Metz takes us back to Borg’s childhood, where the young Swede was shunned and shamed for his bad behavior and his rage issues. We see him kicked out of tennis school for being a low class ruffian.
    Only one man – former tennis pro Lennart Bergalin – is willing to take a chance and train the fiery Borg. Bergalin orders the angry child to hide his true self in public and channel all his rage into his tennis game. It works like a charm on the court and on his public reputation, but it has ugly consequences for his personal life.  
     Adult Borg is an insufferable control freak, completely addicted to his many OCD routines. The pressure of having an entire continent counting on him has made winning a joyless responsibility. Borg lashes out at Bergalin and his patient fiancé because he can only express emotions behind closed doors. 
     Gudnason does an amazing job of showing us how close Borg is to losing it. In the film’s most poignant scene, Borg bravely smiles at his nemesis John McEnroe. McEnroe gives Borg a cold stare in return. In that moment, we see that McEnroe is laser focused on becoming the champion. And Borg is a lonely, isolated young man who is desperate for a friend. 
     And Borg is right; why shouldn’t they be friends? Director Janus Metz argues that Borg and McEnroe are the same man from two different angles. The only difference is that John McEnroe (Shia LaBeouf) was from Queens, and no one ever told him that he had to hide his anger from the world. 
     Yet, these two very similar guys were treated completely differently by the vampiric Sports Media. McEnroe was painted as the classless clown who was threatening to diminish the entire sport with his crass childishness. 
     Metz explores how the Media creates a false narrative and then twists reality to find evidence to support it. We see a press conference where McEnroe pleads with the Media vultures to ask him substantive questions about tennis. The reporters totally ignore his plea and continue bombarding him with gotcha questions about his behavior. This, in turn, has the intended effect of making McEnroe act like the petulant jerk they painted him as.  
      This is not a must-see. It’s actually not even the best film made about the 1980 Wimbledon Finals. The HBO comedy “7 Days in Hell” is a more sublime take on the same subject. But “Borg vs. McEnroe” makes an effective statement about the pain and isolation of stardom. 
 
      Next time you think you know a celebrity because you’ve read about him in the Tabloids, think about Björn Borg. You probably know absolutely nothing. 

Howard Zinn: A People’s History of the United States           Part I (1900-1920): Bread and Roses

         Image result for wars are for profit

Howard Zinn:

A People’s History of the United States

          Part I (1900-1920): Bread and Roses

                             ****

          History books tell the Great Man version of history.

American history starts with great man Cristopher Columbus, continues with great men George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, and moves forward quickly to great man Abraham Lincoln.

When the history of our time is written, future generations will read about Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos.

“But what about us?” you may ask. “Aren’t we as important as the great men of our time?” No, we are not. The best we can hope for is that one historian will buck the trend and tells our side of the story.

          Howard Zinn (1920 – 2010) is one of the most well-known and respected 20th Century historians. He was able to toss the Great Man blueprint in the trash and create a completely new narrative.

          In Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States,” the story of America is a perpetual battle between we the workers vs. the powerful people who exploit us.

          According to Zinn, the battle began at the very founding of our nation. He argues that the Revolutionary War was not a popular conflict. He points out that men had to be drafted to fight and that they were promised free land in exchange for their blood. But after the war, many of those men were evicted from their homes because they couldn’t afford the taxes that their new State governments were levying.

          Fast forward a century to the Chicago Haymarket Riot of 1886. Organized labor demanded an 8-hour work week and the demonstration turned violent. The business leaders and authorities got together and arrested the Union bosses on bogus charges. The Union leaders were hanged. Management won this round, but the fight definitely wasn’t over.

          Workers were better prepared during the 1912 Textile Strike in Lawrence, Mass. With organizational and monetary help from the IWW (International Workers of the World), the workers outlasted management. After grinding the cotton industry to a halt for more than two months, the workers earned a 20% raise.

According to Howard Zinn, the US Establishment learned a valuable lesson from Lawrence: never give an inch to organized labor.

When the silver miners in Ludlow, Colorado went on strike in 1914, negotiation was not an option. When the National Guard couldn’t crush the miners, President Wilson sent in the army. Hundreds of strikers were wounded and 75 were killed in The Ludlow Massacre.

Faced with the imminent threat of reduced power and profit, the titans of industry colluded with Washington to crush Organized Labor.

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses…” No, Zinn says; that’s a lie. The reason the Establishment opened our borders was to import a fresh supply of cheap labor and to weaken the bargaining power of American Unions.

 “The world must be made safe for democracy…” No, Zinn says; that’s a lie. The reason that the Establishment chose to join World War I was because Britain and France owed billions of dollars to American businesses and an allied victory was the only way they’d get paid back. And under the cover of war, the government was able to pass the Sedition and Espionage Act, which had the intended effect of silencing, imprisoning, or deporting Labor agitators.

“A People’s History of the United States Part 1” is a first-rate documentary for history lovers. It entertained me the whole time and I learned a lot.

 I don’t agree with everything that Howard Zinn had to say. I love the non-Partisanship and the pacifism, but not so much the obsession with Marxist theory. By ambitiously tossing aside the Great Man version of history, though, Zinn was – in the end – a great man.

Vikings

Image result for king ecbert kissing lagertha gif

Vikings

 

When I was a teenager, I took a bus to New York City by myself. My most vivid memory was being confronted by a mentally ill homeless person. He stated passionately that the government is out to get him and that the President is destroying the country and is personally responsible for his homeless predicament.

Everybody talks about the leaders of our country. But nobody seems to consider their perspective with empathy. Leaders are human beings like us, with jobs much harder than ours.

 

The breakout international hit drama “Vikings” presents the human side of leadership in an entertaining and intellectually stimulating way.

The main character is Ragnar Lothbrok. Ragnar has an aptitude and a passion for raiding. His innovative attacks on Wessex and Frankia earn him fame and plunder. And, tragically, an unwanted crown.

Ragnar’s arc goes from fun to fascinating when he accidentally becomes king of the Northmen. Ragnar tries earnestly to be a good peace-time ruler, but he isn’t great at it and he hates doing it. At raging drunken Viking festivals, we see the hesitant monarch hanging back, watching and waiting for the next betrayal.

The stress of joyless leadership robs Ragnar Lothbrok of his family, his friends, and his noble nature. When we meet him, Ragnar is a lovable father and husband. By the midway point of Season 4, he is an angry, lonely, drug-addled monster.

 

When the dreaded Northmen landed on the shores of southern England, what was King Eckbert of Wessex to do? The logical move was to curse the pagan barbarians and assemble an army of holy warriors to repel them.

King Eckbert did nothing of the sort. Instead, the ruler invited Ragnar into his palace, befriended him, and learned what he wanted. Then Eckbert hatched a far-sighted plan to use the Viking army to fight his battles and solidify his own authority. Oh, and he found time to sleep with the sexiest Viking woman to boot.

King Eckbert is sophisticated and pragmatic. He is smart enough to devise his own political schemes, and wise enough not to share them with anyone. He uses everyone around him as pawns in a chess game. And he knows that no one on earth is as good at chess as he is.

As a ruler, Eckbert has no weakness. But, as “Vikings” demonstrates, power is its own punishment. At the end of the day, Eckbert believes sincerely that he will pay the price of eternal damnation for his earthly achievements.

 

Have you ever wondered why most countries throughout history were ruled by hereditary monarchs? It’s because that system works most of the time.

Case in point is the character of Emperor Charles II of Frankia. Charles doesn’t have any of the remarkable attributes of Ragnar or Eckbert. Charles isn’t manly or brave or inspiring, and he isn’t particularly smart.

What the Emperor does have is the blissful belief that he alone should be ruling. He is the grandson of Charlemagne. No American leader can ever feel the total confidence of a man who was born and raised to be emperor and knows nothing else.

While the restless ambitions of Ragnar and Eckbert end up needlessly costing the lives of hundreds of their countrymen, Emperor Charles only wants to sit on his throne and make wise, sober decisions. And he usually succeeds.

Emperor Charles is nobody’s favorite character. But he’s a darn fine ruler.

 

In the 20th Century, blaming national leaders for everything was the act of a mentally ill person. Now, that mental illness has spread across the land.

I don’t think it is wise to love our rulers or even trust them. However, it important to remember that they are just people like us doing their best in a tough situation. And they obviously aren’t destroying the country.

BlacKkKlansman

Image result for spike lee i give interracial couples a look daggers

BlacKkKlansman

**

 

Once upon a time, Capital One pitchman and big time Knicks fan Spike Lee was a serious filmmaker. At the height of artistic prowess (1992), Lee released an important cinematic classic: “Malcolm X.”

Spike Lee presents Malcolm X as an articulate, visionary, hateful philosopher.

In X’s version of history, the black race was the first and intrinsically the best. The white race isn’t just inferior, it is made up of devils. Consequently, as history has proven, assimilation and peaceful cooperation with white society is foolish and self-destructive. In his more charitable hours, Malcolm X called for a total separation of the races. He predicted, however, that the violent annihilation of the white race was inevitable.

After “Malcolm X,” Spike Lee kept making movies. But nobody watched and nobody cared. Sorry, but that’s the truth. I’ll bet you can’t name more than two of Lee’s last five films. Don’t worry, I can’t either. And I’m a film critic.

“BlacKkKlansman” is Spike Lee’s most popular movie in ages. But it is not a great film. It is a sad demonstration that the young genius who made “Do the Right Thing” and “Malcolm X” has become a childish, angry, and artistically vacant old man.

It is the early 1970s. John David Washington stars as Ron Stallworth: the first black cop in Colorado Springs. He is ambitious and fearless. Stallworth decides to infiltrate the Ku Klux Klan by calling Klansmen, feigning a white voice, and using lots of racial slurs.

It works perfectly and soon Ron Stallworth is a member in good standing of the Klan. When Stallworth has to meet his fellow Klansmen face to face, another cop – Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver) – stands in for him.

It’s a cool story of some truly audacious undercover cops. But in Spike Lee’s incapable hands, the drama and the intellectual stimulation never heats up.

The film’s best scene is early on when Det. Stallworth attends a rally featuring civil rights legend Stokely Carmichael. Carmichael’s Black Power sermon is amazing. But the words are Carmichael’s, not Spike Lee’s. Merely quoting a great man doesn’t make for great cinema.

The relationship between Stallworth and a pig-hating student activist doesn’t make a lot of sense. The subplot about the nastiest Klansman suspecting that Flip Zimmerman is Jewish goes nowhere and fizzles out. For a film about uncover cops risking their lives, “BlacKkKlansman” is surprisingly low on dramatic tension.

The ending of the film is really embarrassing. I’m surprised no one at the studio had the guts to dare Mr. Lee to do better. The scripted portion of the movie ends with a silly prank call to David Duke. Har har.

And then – suddenly – we are taken to Charlottesville, VA and shown graphic, upsetting footage of the violence last summer. It is jarring, tear-jerking, and artlessly provocative.

After all these years, it feels like Spike Lee is still itching for a Malcolm X-inspired race war. Fortunately, he will die disappointed.

In the end, sadly, Spike Lee is just like his beloved New York Knicks. They were a powerful force in the 20th Century. Since then, they’re kind of a pathetic joke.