Showing posts with label Politics. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Politics. Show all posts

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Hollywood’s Glass House


(Image: g4sfacts.org)

“Sincerity — if you can fake that, you’ve got it made!"
Groucho Marx

I am no fan of President Trump but I am a movie fanatic. I can quote lines, recite entire dialogues and even rattle off names of obscure directors and screenwriters. Ever since I was a child I have been enamored of movies and their power to connect people, build empathy, change attitudes and be a force for good - a force that can change the world in positive ways.

I also used to enjoy watching the Oscars back when it was still a celebration of the art and its greatest auteurs. It is true that Hollywood has always been a liberal bastion that championed a variety of issues, from famine and genocide to civil war, but for the most part their causes pertained to humanity and were not blatantly partisan; after the last election the mask came off and every awards ceremony has been hijacked by tone-deaf, selective lecturing and hypocritical finger pointing.

It is one thing to use your art as a valid and powerful way to protest something. I am all for making movies and documentaries that champion causes and wade headfirst into divisive political issues; however, it is entirely another thing to abuse the microphone at a non-political event meant to celebrate this art. Putting aside the fact that awards shows are not the right venue to bring up politics, the reality is that Hollywood is also the last group of people in the world who should be preaching morality, diversity and equality based on the facts within their own industry.

A study of 900 popular Hollywood films over the last decade by USC Annenberg School forCommunication and Journalism found that despite the industry's preaching diversity to the rest of us, “there has been little year-on-year rise in inclusion in films released in 2016”. Across the board the industry fails on inclusivity when it came to minorities, LGBTQ and disabled people. As recently as 2016, the same study found that 70.8% of speaking roles in top 100 films were still being awarded to white actors. Even behind the scenes their record remained appalling with women making up a measly 4.2% of directors, 13.2% of writers, 20.7% of producers and just 1.7% of composers.

Further, another 2016 UCLA study found that film studio heads are 94 percent white and 100 percent male. Management is 92 percent white and 83 percent male. Film studio unit heads are 96 percent white and 61 percent male. TV network and studio heads are 96 percent white and 71 percent male. TV senior management is 93 percent white and 73 percent male. TV unit heads are 86 percent white and 55 percent male.

As a result, the recent award show protesting and preaching comes across as a disingenuous PR stunt designed to distract us and prevent shining a light on their own industry. Even after the shocking revelations about Harvey Weinstein, as the New Yorker put it, “A few of the mighty have fallen,a few of the less mighty have been embarrassed, but the institutions that protected them remain unshaken, their potentates still in power.”

Oprah spoke eloquently and passionately about “speaking your truth” at the last Golden Globes, and while Hollywood seems willing to point fingers, it is entirely unwilling to introspect or make meaningful changes to the predatory atmosphere it has nurtured within its ranks. Hollywood seems to have forgotten the wisdom about glass houses or perhaps they assumed we would not hold them to the same standards they rightly want to hold the President and his administration to, when it comes to women, minorities and the disabled.

I laud the release of 'Black Panther' but we cannot ignore the fact that it has taken one hundred and eight years, ninety Academy Awards and the election of Donald Trump to create the first black super hero movie. This year, Jordan Peele became only the fifth black man to be recognized in the Best Director category, and the first to win for Best Screenplay. Greta Gerwig was only the fifth woman to ever be nominated for Best Director. Only one woman has won this category in the Oscars 90-year history. I hope we won’t have to wait another hundred years for black, female and minority studio heads.

Interestingly, I am not the only person feeling this way about Hollywood’s now shallow and incessant preaching at award shows since the last election. The 2018 Oscars were the least-watched in history, scoring a 19% drop from 2017. To give you an idea of the magnitude - the Oscars have never fallen below 32 million viewers and 21 metered markets household rating before, making this year’s ratings the lowest since they started keeping records. Even among the coveted youth audience, social media mentions were down a whopping 28% from last year. The Golden Globes witnessed their lowest TV ratings in six years. Even the Grammys, where Hillary Clinton showed up, suffered a precipitous decline to amass its lowest tally since 2008, a 24% drop from the previous year.

If we want to hear political speeches, we will attend a political rally. 
If we want a lecture, we will find a college professor.
If we want to a sermon, we will go to church.
If we want to be chastised about our lack of morals, we will visit our parents.
We come to Hollywood to be entertained and the industry seems to have forgotten its place in society.

As long as Hollywood uses their art to make us laugh, cry, inform, broaden and challenge our thinking, we too are willing to overlook the fact that they are mostly well-meaning but grossly overpaid and completely out of touch elites. The air around them is so rarefied that Jennifer Lawrence is lauded for picking up her dog’s poop, and Gwyneth Paltrow argues that moms who have office jobs have an easier life than an actress making $9 million a movie.
 
Movies have the power to connect people, build empathy, change attitudes and become a force for good - a force that can change the world in positive ways. I hope Hollywood remembers to wield this great power by letting their art speak for them.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

I have never been more optimistic about the future of the world than I am today.




I understand that it is hard to fathom or comprehend my optimism based on what you see and hear in the news and on every TV channel in America and globally. Let me explain.

I do not see the world through rose-tinted glasses or suggest that things are hunky-dory. I see the same turmoil: civil wars, terrorist attacks and the potential descent of stable democracies into chaotic anarchy.

In fact, I see chaos growing and I also have absolutely no doubt that things are going to get much uglier, globally and here in America, in the short-term. I see all the same things you do but I also see something you may not - yet.

I have spent the last couple of years getting actively involved in a number of social issues in India, and as part of an organisation in America that brings together accomplished people from many fields, from journalism and marketing to banking and politics. Through this organisation and my personal efforts I have had the opportunity to listen to and engage with a broad spectrum of corporate, social and political leaders, behind closed doors. I have also spent time engaging with extreme right and left wing voices, on Twitter, both in India and America.

In these interactions and in-depth conversations, I have listened closely and learned much more than I could ever learn from watching the news or reading articles that increasingly tilt left or right, but are always filled with one-sided opinions.

Here is the reason for my optimism. I have been heartened to see that many of the people I have met and worked with no longer see the world through a markedly liberal or conservative lens. Like me, they see a world filled with serious and pressing problems that no politician is willing to take on or solve in a manner that goes against their party base or donor interests.

Time and again we have found that it is politicians who have been the fundamental roadblock to solving issues because they invariably put pseudo-ideological and big money interests ahead of meaningful solutions. From the refugee crisis, to understanding the motivations of jihadists, to helping get young girls out of the sex trade - there are many brilliant solutions available that simply cannot be affected because our leaders lack the political will and integrity (and fear losing their popularity) to fight for them.

The people I have worked and engaged with are Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Independent and come from virtually every political stripe, but not one of them is slave to party affiliation or ideology. They are slaves only to solutions that work, and they refuse to accept less effective solutions merely to placate some personal ideology or partisan bias.

I call us the post-partisans.

We often vehemently disagree with each other but always do so civilly and respectfully.

We have found that heated debate, one that features a multitude of diverse viewpoints, leads to the most innovative and breakthrough solutions. But we never take any of what is discussed to heart or personally.

We also choose never to take offense, even if sometimes in the heat of debate, it is intended. Not because we are without feelings, but because we remind ourselves that the problems we face are bigger and far more pressing than ego or hurt feelings.

We always come with an open mind. Our goal is also never to try and get others to see the world the way we do, but to find the brightest, most cost-efficient and lasting solutions to the problems that affect us all, irrespective of our politics.

Through our dealings, conversations and our work we have realised that political parties can no longer be relied on to lead us forward or solve the problems we face.

Over the last three decades political parties, left and right have deteriorated further into an ideological abyss. They have allowed the most hardened and extremist voices within their ranks to take the reins, and are no longer able to offer thoughtful or pragmatic solutions. Instead, their solutions are built for populist rabble rousing or designed to pander to some narrow interest group.

The post-partisan mentality is a growing movement across the world. It consists not of people who identify as liberal or conservative, but of a coalition of the willing (not like those who invaded Iraq in 2003!), who are passionate about a cause. They consist of people from vastly different backgrounds, upbringing, skill sets and political views who find each other because we are looking for apolitical and uncompromised solutions. Many of us will never become friends, but we will often find ourselves on the same side of a problem and remain together until we find and implement a robust solution.

I am not suggesting that all this will happen overnight or magically mitigate the pain and suffering in the world. I have realised that pain and suffering are part of the human condition, and while we must always strive to lessen each other’s, we also cannot function without them. Remember that there could be no courage if there is no adversity, and good cannot triumph without evil. Real societal change, that requires changing attitudes and mindsets, always takes a generation or more to affect and there is no way around that.

So the rise of populists, nationalist and narcissists do not scare us, but has been a great motivating factor for all post-partisans; we gladly accept the challenge. Their effect has been to end our complacency and serve as a necessary wake up call, one that reminded us that it is naïve to expect democracy to be safeguarded by coming out to vote once every few years or by entrusting it to a corrupt and ideologically bent political class intent on defending their power, at all costs.

It will not be easy but nothing worth doing ever is. The road ahead is arduous and the journey painful (and sometimes bloody) but one thing I know for sure is that we will overcome and our democracies will become stronger for it. The future is very bright and the number of post-partisans will only continue to grow.

My mother once told me something that I never fully appreciated or understood until now – she said, “the job of a parent is not to protect their child from the world but to prepare them for it.”

I am ready
 

Thursday, January 12, 2012

U.S. Political Wall of Shame: 2000 to 2011


"I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky."
President Bill Clinton



Rep. ANTHONY WEINER (D-NY) 
In 2011, the newly married Congressman admitted to sending sexually suggestive photos of himself to several women through his Twitter account. He finally admitted that he had engaged in "several inappropriate" electronic relationships with six women over three years, and that he publicly lied about a photo of himself sent over Twitter to a college student in Seattle over a week ago. (source: ABC News)

Rep. CHRIS LEE (R-NY) 
A "family values" Republican, Lee even talked about passing legislation to educate children on internet safety. In 2011, he resigned hours after a news report that the married Congressman had sent a shirtless picture of himself flexing his muscles to a woman via Craigslist, along with flirtatious emails. He did not use a pseudonym or a false email address, but relied on his congressional email for all communication. (source: CBS News)

Rep. MARK SOUDER (R-IN) 
A staunch advocate of abstinence and family values who got high marks in his district for his evangelical beliefs. He received an A-plus rating from the National Rifle Association and a 100 percent rating from the National Right to Life Committee. In 2010, he resigned to avoid an ethics investigation into his admitted extramarital affair with a female staffer. Famously, he and she had made a public video in which they both extolled the virtues of sexual abstinence.  (source: Washington Post)

Sen. LARRY CRAIG (R-ID) 
In 2007 Craig was arrested for "lewd conduct" in a Minneapolis airport bathroom. He sent an undercover cop a coded message with some flirtatious foot tapping in a public restroom known for male-on-male romps. Craig, as always, denied any wrongdoing, because as you know, bathroom play doesn't make a gay. (source: Time)

Rep. MARK FOLEY (R-Fla) 
He introduced several pieces of legislation intended to protect minors from sexual predators. In 2006, someone leaked a series of sexually explicit instant messages between Foley and teenage boys--namely those who formally served as congressional pages. Oh, the irony. (source: Washington Post)

Gov. ELIOT SPITZER (D-NY) 
After some sketchy transactions in early 2008, the IRS feared that Democratic New York Gov. Spitzer might have been the victim of extortion or identity theft. Actually, he was a paying customer of a big-time prostitution service. Long story short: He lost his job; his wife was publicly humiliated. Ashley Dupre, the call girl he made famous, now writes a sex column for the New York Post. (source: Time)

Sen. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC) 
At the start of the decade, many hailed Edwards as this decade's answer to Bill Clinton. He was a handsome, charming, Southern good ol' boy who fought for the little guy and stuck with his cancer-stricken wife when she got sick. But he turned out to be a not-so-great husband. Edwards had an affair with a woman who worked on his campaign, and maybe fathered her child. (source: Time)

TED HAGGARD (PRESIDENT, National Assoc. of Evangelicals) 
He was pastor of one of the largest churches in the country. He spoke with former President George W. Bush weekly. He was famous for his anti-gay rhetoric, so many took joy in 2006 when they learned that he was getting both his salad tossed and his brain cells fried by a male prostitute. What's worse than a homophobic homosexual with a meth addiction? (source: NBC News)

Gov. JIM McGREEVY (D-NJ) 
He quit politics in 2004 after announcing that he was a "gay American.' McGreevey had come under considerable scrutiny for appointing Golan Cipel, an Israeli national, as his top security adviser.  Turns out that Cipel was his “himstress.” After Cipel threatened to file a sexual harassment suit against the governor, McGreevey resigned, came out of the closet, got a divorce and a new boyfriend. All's well that ends well? (source: CNN)

Mayor KWAME KILPATRICK (D-MI) 
We had high hopes for this young, bright politician who dubbed himself the "hip-hop mayor" and promised to steer Detroit in a new direction, but that narrative shifted to a tawdry tale of a sexting politico consumed with sex and lies. In Jan 2008, the Detroit Free Press published text messages between the married Kilpatrick and his chief of staff. Both lied under oath about their affair and both ended up in jail. (source: Time)

Gov. MARK SANFORD (R-SC) 
This Republican South Carolina governor takes the "And I Am Telling You" approach to political scandal: If you want him out, you better throw him out because he's not leaving on his own accord. What's his crime? He told his staff last summer that he was "hiking the Appalachian Trail." What was he really doing? The married father of three was hiking through the streets of Buenos Aires with his Argentine mistress. As a result, he faces 37 ethics charges. Good luck with that, Mark. (source: Time)

Rep. GARY CONDIT (D-CA) 
Former Congressman known for his "pro-family politics" became a household name in 2001 after a young woman he'd been having an affair with, Chandra Levy, went missing. After 67 days, Condit acknowledged the affair but denied any involvement in her disappearance. Levy's remain were found more than a year later in a park in Washington, D.C. (source: BBC)

Rep. VITO FOSSELLA (R-NY) 
Got busted for having an affair back in 2008 after being stopped for a DUI just three blocks from the home of Laura Fay, the other woman.  Fay was an Air Force intelligence officer working for the pentagon when they first hooked up. The affair got pretty hot and steamy, and even went international when the two carried it over to the UK in 2003. It got so serious, and they had a kid together, but no marriage. She bailed him out of jail. (source: NY Times)

Gov. BOB WISE (D-WV) 
Wise made the mistake of hooking up with Angela Mascia-Frye, who has since dropped the -Frye because her husband divorced her. Phil Frye, the pissed-off husband, not only called the two of them out on their shenanigans, but also up and ran for governor in a bid not for the seat (because he had no chance of winning), but simply to annoy Bob Wise and call more attention to his hot little secret. They do drama differently in Appalachia. (source: Manolith)


Sen. JOHN ENSIGN (R-NV) 
This guy was a real piece of work, but not nearly as bad as his buddy’s wife, with whom he had an affair for quite some time before she finally turned on him — for cash. Ensign is a Senator from Nevada, and still is, but this one hurt. (source: Time)

Assemblyman MIKE DUVALL (R-Yorba Linda) 
His story is hilariously entertaining. The guy was in the middle of a committee appropriations meeting, during a break, and didn’t realize that his mic was still live as he talked about his affair and all sorts of naughty things to his chuckling buddy. The whole conversation was recorded, and aired for the world to hear, and it’s worth a listen. At least the guy had fun, right? (source: LA Times)

Rep. TIM MAHONEY (D-Fla) 
He took his post as a replacement for a guy who was run out of office after getting caught sending dirty IMs to young male intern. By comparison, Mahoney wasn’t bad, but his constituents still weren’t happy about his affair with Patricia Allen, a staffer of his. She found out he had other girls and wanted either more, or nothing, so he fired her. That didn’t work out too well. He ended up paying her $121,000 to keep quiet, only it was too late. (source: Politico)

Rep. DON SHERWOOD (R-PA) 
In 2004 he had an incident. Apparently he and a woman named Cynthia Ore, who was not his wife, liked to get a little rough. Sometimes they got too rough, and Ore called the cops from the bathroom of Sherwood’s DC apartment one weird night that Sherwood would sorely regret. Not only did his opponent bring the whole thing to light during re-election campaigning, but Ore sued him, claiming multiple assaults throughout their relationship. (source: Outside the Beltway)

Sunday, January 31, 2010

When I grow up I want to be politician


"Crime does not pay…as well as politics.”
Alfred E. Newman

I want to do this because it seems to be the coolest job in the world. You get to travel, see the world, get your personal needs taken care of and have a group of “hangers on” doing your every bidding. You also have corporations and businesses courting you and paying for your family vacations and in many instances also paying to re-do or repair you home. I don’t think any other job in the world can compare. You also get a gold plated healthcare plan, which you can keep for life after working for a mere four years; you will not find this perk within any other corporation or company in the world. As if all this is not enough, it is also the only job in the world that has no retirement age…most often the older you are the better chance you have of getting the job in the first place. In fact, one could even create a persuasive argument to support the fact that this is the quite possibly the only job where senility can be a huge asset. Especially when it comes time to be questioned by your voters about how well you dispensed your job duties, and why you made some of the decisions you did. So why would I ever want to do anything else?

Granted, there is a small amount of work I would need to do, but that mainly entails traveling around the country, talking to people and pressing palms while allowing them to believe I am listening to their worries and concerns, but mostly just enjoying the sound of my own voice. The other aspect involves arguing with my colleagues about absolutely every topic, and then publicly disagreeing with anything the opposing party says. All the while deftly ensuring that the voting public is aware that I am always on their side, on every issue under the sun. I would also not be expected at the office while I am on the road. Be it to far-flung exotic destinations on critically important “research trips” that will help me make the lives of my constituents better. I might need to travel to the Polynesian Islands to witness first-hand the impact of local drug trafficking on the economy and how it might undermine the fundamentals of democracy. Or I might embark, at great inconvenience to myself, using a combination of military and commercial jets, to Copenhagen to protest the high levels of CO2 that are emitted into the atmosphere through our over reliance on jets. Of course, it would only be fair to take my family and friends along with me since my job demands being on the road so much that I rarely get to see them. And just because I care so much about the future generations, I might even bring along a group of young and impressionable school children to learn this valuable lesson on climate change, and perhaps awaken the same instinct within them to selflessly serve their country. To think that taxpayers grumble about these sacrifices and investments in future generations our politicians make. After having had a more sufficient view into and understanding of the personal sacrifices and grueling schedules these public servants keep, I am sure you are all empathetic enough to see why they deserve 16 weeks of vacation in a normal year. In 2008, one of the toughest years economically in the world, and since the Great Depression in America, they only worked a combined total of 103 days. I am sure they must have also quietly taken pay cuts along with their reduced workdays and workload for the year. To think that they did not even make a fuss or let us know about it…does this selflessness have no end I ask? So why would I want to grow up to be anything else?

I hear that the levels of stress can be very high in political life. The pressure of constantly being in the public eye and needing to have an understanding and expertise in a wide range of topics, from military defense systems to wild Iguana lizard co-habitation patterns, must take its toll on the poor little human brain. So, it’s not surprising that these noble people need to take a break sometimes, to get away from under our microscopes and maybe take a secret hike along the Appalachian Trail. Is that so wrong?

This pressure can also manifest itself in other ways from what I have seen. I, for one, cannot imagine being away from my wife and family for prolonged periods of time. We all say that long distance relationships are doomed to fail, so how do we expect these poor men and women to make them succeed? And this with the added pressure of having to juggle and solve not just multiple problems, but find solutions that will keep their corporate donors, special interest groups, lobbyists and, oh yeah, their constituents all happy at the same time. So I do not understand why we refuse to cut them some slack when they end up having sexual relations with staff members. Yes they are not their spouses, but are at close quarters 24x7 with them, helping them solve the biggest problems that face not just our country but also the world today. Especially when they more often than not try to quietly and privately sort out these types of problems, generously I might add, by paying for their lovers’ mortgages or by giving their lover’s parents a gift from their own hard earned money. Frankly, if their spouses don’t mind and will stand behind and beside them after the fact, then who are we to judge them or meddle in their personal affairs?

Politics is also the only profession in the world where candidates do not need any specific qualifications or prior work experience to get the job. Once elected the progression from this state of knowing little to nothing about anything, to becoming an expert on all things, concerning all people, is another fascinating aspect to which I'd like to be privy. My thirst for knowledge is great and I don’t see any other job in the world offering it in such a massive, rapid and wide-ranging way. The other aspect that has always fascinated me is that even if I accomplish nothing more than getting nominated by my party to a position that propels me into the national spotlight, and I never offer a coherent or substantive point of view on anything, or even finish my term of elected office – I can easily quit, write a book about having accomplished nothing and about being a quitter, get paid six figures to do speaking engagements on the subject of failure, and retire in two short years. Now, if that does not sound like an exciting job opportunity then I am not sure what will.

So, I want to be a politician someday because I know I too can make a tremendous contribution to society doing all the many wonderful things I just talked about, making all the mistakes I wanted, never having to apologise or resign. But the number one reason is that I can do all of these things, and you the taxpayers would be paying for it all – every paisa, penny and dime.