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R.I.P GEORGE H.W. BUSH

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President George Herbert Walker Bush died in his home on November 30th following a long battle with Vascular Parkinson’s disease. Below is a brief overview of his life:

  • Born June 12th, 1924 to Prescott Sheldon Bush (1895 – 1972) and Dorothy Bush (1901 – 1992).
  • Attended Greenwich Country Day School
  • Attended Phillips Academy in Andover Massachusetts from 1938
  • Held numerous leadership positions including President of the senior class, secretary of the student council, president of the community fund-raising group, member of the editorial board of the school newspaper, and captain of the varsity baseball and soccer teams
  • Served in the US Navy as a naval aviator from 1942 until 1945
  • Attained the rank of junior-grade Lieutenant
  • Earnt the Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal, and President Unit Citation
  • Married Barbara Bush (1925 – 2018) in January 1945
  • Fathered six children: President George W. Bush (1946 – ), Robin Bush (1949 – 1953), Jeb Bush (1953 – ), Neil Bush (1955 – ), Marvin Bush (1956 – ), and Doro Bush (1959 – ).
  • Enrolled at Yale University where he earnt an undergraduate degree in economics on an accelerated program which allowed him to complete his studies in two years.
  • Elected President of the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity
  • Captain of the Yale Baseball Team with whom he played two college world series as a left-handed batsman
  • Became a member of the secret Skull and Bones Society
  • Elected Phi Beta Kappa, America’s oldest academic honour society, upon graduating Yale in 1948.
  • Worked as an oil field equipment salesman for Dressler Industries
  • Established Bush-Overby Oil Development Company in 1951
  • Co-founded Zapata Petroleum Corporation, which drilled in Texas’ Permian Basin, in 1953
  • Became President of Zapata Offshore Company
  • After Zapata Offshore Company became independent in 1959, Bush served as its President until 1964 and then Chairman until 1966
  • Elected Chairman of the Harris County, Texas Republican Party
  • Ran against Democrat incumbent Ralph W. Yarborough for the US Senate in 1964, but lost
  • Elected to the House of Representatives in 1966
  • Appointed to the Ways and Means Committee
  • Ran against Democrat Lloyd Bentsen for a seat in the Senate in 1970, but lost
  • Served as the US Ambassador the United Nations from 1971 to 1973.
  • Served as Chairman of the Republican Nation Committee from 1973 to 1974.
  • Appointed Chief of the US Liason Office in the People’s Republic of China from 1974 to 1975.
  • Director of the Central Intelligence Agency from 1976 to 1977.
  • Chairman of the Executive Committee of the First International Bank in 1977
  • Part-time Professor of Administrative Science at Rice University’s Jones School of Businesses in 1978
  • Director of the Council On Foreign Relations between 1977 and 1979.
  • Sought the Republican nomination for President in 1980 but lost to Ronald Reagan.
  • Served as Vice President from 1981 to 1989.
  • Elected President of the United States in 1988.
  • President of the United States from 1989 to 1993.
  • Defeated by Bill Clinton in the 1992 Presidential election
  • Awarded an honourary knighthood by Queen Elizabeth II.
  • Chairman of the board of trustee for Eisenhower Fellowships from 1993 to 1999
  • Chairman of the National Constitution Centre from 2007 to 2009.
  • Became a widower after seventy-three-years of marriage.
  • Died November 30th, 2018 at the age of 94.

 

THE INVASION OF EUROPE

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In January of 2017, Emillem Khodagholli, a refugee on probation for a raft of offences that included death threats and assault, Maisam Afshar, another refugee well-known to Swedish authorities, and a third unidentified man made their way to Upsala where they broke into a young woman’s apartment. Streaming their despicable crime on Facebook, the three men tore off the young woman’s clothing and raped her for three hours at gunpoint. Afterwards, Khodagholli taunted his barely conscious victim as she tried to call for help. “You got raped”, he gloated. “There, we have the answers. You’ve been raped.”

Modern Europe’s migration crisis represents the most significant existential problem the continent has ever faced. The migration of millions of non-Europeans represents the largest mass movement of people into Europe since the Second World War. According to the International Organization for Migration, around a million migrants migrated to Europe in 2015. These migrants primarily came from Syria (268,795), Afghanistan (127,830), Iraq (97,125), Eritrea (19,100), Pakistan (15,525), and Nigeria (12,910).

For the most part, journalists, politicians, advocacy groups, and private organisations have attempted to paint Europe’s migration crises as a human right’s problem mired in social justice and global inequality. They would have Europeans believe that the people migrating into their countries are doctors, engineers, and other learned professionals fleeing from persecution.

In reality, these migrants come from a host of Sub-Saharan African countries and are travelling to Europe for a myriad of different reasons, of which fleeing persecuting is only one. As the Netherland’s European Union commissioner, Frans Timmermans (1961 – ) pointed out: over half (sixty percent) of the people moving into Europe are not refugees, but economic migrants.

While the European Union remains committed to a pro-migration and open-borders policy, there remains the odd voice of dissent among their ranks. The President of Latvia, Valdis Zatlers (1955 – ) commented that while Europe was powerless (in his opinion) to stop migration, they could hope to manage the flow of people into their continent:

“We can’t stop this process, but we have not learnt how to manage it, and Europe was about ten years’ late to make decisions on illegal immigration and to help the countries where the migrants come from. In each country and in Europe as a whole, we have to think about how to manage the process and how to really decrease the expectations of people.”

Similarly, the Slovakian Prime Minister, Robert Fico (1962 – ) implored the European Union to put an end to the inflow of migrants. Fico described the Union’s distribution policy as an utter “fiasco” and warned they were committing ‘ritual suicide’ through their immigration policy.

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The most notorious effect of ethnic crime in Europe has been the increase in sex crimes committed since millions of North African and Middle Eastern migrants poured into Europe. This begins with the sexual slavery of their own women. According to the PBS, as of September 2016 around eighty-percent of Nigerian women who made it to Italy have been forced into prostitution.

On January 9th, 2016, a forty-eight-year-old woman was raped by three Muslim men. On January 10th, 2016, a twenty-one-year-old West African man was arrested for raping a fifteen-year-old girl at a train station in Wuppertal. On January 15th, 2016, a public swimming pool in Borheim was forced to ban all male migrants following reports that they had been sexually assaulting the female patrons. On January 25th, 2016, a thirty-year-old Afghan man exposed himself to a nineteen-year-old woman on a public bus.

In Kiel, Germany, in 2016, three teenage girls, aged fifteen, sixteen, and seventeen, were stalked by two Afghani asylum seekers, aged nineteen and twenty-six, who filmed them on their mobile phones. A restaurant owner at the mall commented: “The moment they [male migrants] see a young woman wearing a skirt or any type of loose clothing, they believe they have a free pass.”

During New Year’s 2015/2016, thousands of women in Stuttgart, Cologne, and Hamburg were sexually assaulted. Remarkably, these crimes were ignored by the German authorities until eyewitness reports surfacing on social media forced them to take the problem seriously.

In Vienna, an Iraqi refugee who raped a ten-year-old boy at a public swimming pool had his conviction overturned by Austria’s Supreme Court despite watershed evidence proving his guilt. The court deemed that the refugee, who had excused his despicable crime by claiming it was a “sexual emergency”, could not have known that the act was non-consensual. Thankfully, the refugee was sentenced to seven years imprisonment at his retrial.

In England, the Pakistani comprised Rotherham child sex ring abducted, tortured, raped, and forced into prostitution at least fourteen-hundred young girls over a period of sixteen years. According to Jihad Watch, those posed to do something about the ring expressed “nervousness about identifying the ethnic origin of perpetrators for fearing of being thought of as racism.” Others were instructed by their managers not to disclose the ethnic origin of the perpetrators.

The Swedes boast one of the largest incidences of rape in the world. According to a 2015 article published by the Gatestone Institute, in the forty years since Sweden decided to become a multi-cultural society violent crime has increased by three-hundred percent and rape has increased by fourteen-hundred-and-seventy-two percent. In 1975, only four-hundred-and-twenty-one rapes were reported to Swedish police. In 2014, it was six-thousand-six-hundred-and-twenty. This increase in the number of reported rapes can partially be explained by the increase in the number of sexual activities that can be classified as rape, and partially by an increase in the number of women who may otherwise have been uncomfortable in reporting their rapes.

According to the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention, twenty-thousand-three-hundred sexual assaults were reported. This included six-thousand-seven-hundred-and-twenty rapes. Statistics provided by the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention reveals that rape victims are most likely to be young women aged between sixteen and twenty-four. In fifty-percent of cases, rape is likely to occur in a public place, as opposed to a residence (19%), the workplace or school (18%), or elsewhere (12%).

The migrant sex crime is essentially caused by three problems. First, cultural differences in attitudes towards women between migrants and native Europeans, the educational and economic gap experienced by migrants, and a refusal to acknowledge the root causes of the problem.

The majority of migrants pouring into Europe come from a culture and civilisation that treat women as second-class citizens. There appears to be a belief among young Muslim men that an uncovered woman is an adulterer or a prostitute, and that she is, therefore, ‘fair game.’ It is an attitude that professes that all uncovered and non-Muslim women can be used for a Muslim man’s sexual gratification. Doctor Abd Al-Aziz Fawzan, a teacher of Islamic law in Saudi Arabia, opined: “if a woman gets raped walking in public alone, then she, herself, is at fault. She is only seducing men by her presence. She should have stayed home like a Muslim woman.”

The problem is further exacerbated by the educational and economic gap experienced by migrants. As a result of their low skills and education, coupled with their inability to speak to speak the local language, many migrants are rendered virtually unemployable. Many of the migrants arriving in Europe will move further northward and find employment within illegal gangs that are often comprised of members of their own ethnic group.

Finally, the migrant sex crime is also borne out of an insipid refusal to acknowledge the root cause of the problem. “Every police officer knows he has to meet a particular political standard”, Rainer Wendt (1956 – ), the head of the German Police Union, stated. “It is better to keep quiet [about migrant crime] because you cannot go wrong.”

Europe is acting as the metaphorical canary in the coal mine. Europe’s decision to pursue relaxed immigration laws and open border policies has led to the mass influx of non-European migrants into their country. An unfortunate by-product of these decisions has been an increase in the number of sex crimes committed by migrants against native Europeans and a total refusal from the authorities to acknowledge the root cause of the problem. Europe acts as a stark reminder of what happens to a continent and country that refuses to police its borders correctly.

The Noble Savage Myth

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The term “noble savage”, referring to the so-called “natural man” who has not been corrupted by civilization, first appeared in The Conquest of Granada by the English playwright, John Dryden (1631 – 1700). Since then it has been a popular theme in books, television, and movies with stories like Dances with Wolves, Pocahontas, and Avatar espousing noble-savage philosophies.

The Genevan philosopher, Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712 – 1778) believed there to be a distinction between human nature and society. Taking his inspiration from John Locke’s (1632 – 1704) philosophy of innate goodness, Rousseau believed human beings were inherently peaceful and that concepts like sin and wickedness and bore no consequence to the natural man. Rather it was society that had perverted mankind’s natural sense of ‘amour de soi’ (a form of positive self-love which Rousseau saw as a combination of reason and the natural instinct for self-preservation) had been corrupted by societal forces. Rosseau wrote in the 18th century:

“Nothing can be more gentle than he in his primitive state, when placed by nature at an equal distance from the stupidity of brutes and the pernicious good sense of civilized man.”

While Rousseau was not the first philosopher to posit that society may have a corrupting influence (the French philosopher, Montaigne (1533 – 1592) described the lives of Native Americans as being so idyllic that he claimed they did not have words for lying, cheating, avarice, or envy, and that they did not need to work), it has been his influence that has been the most damaging. The first attempt to politicise Rousseauan philosophy, the French Revolution, ended not with paradise on earth, but with the mass executions that characterised the reign of terror.  The social movements that have followed Rousseauan ideals have worked on the notion that it is society, not the individual, that is to blame for social problems. No aspect of human nature is responsible for evil, that is the result of a bad home, a bad neighbourhood, prejudice, poverty, and so forth. Human emotions are ultimately benevolent; evil and brutality are the results of social stressors on the individual. It is this philosophy that has been the driving force behind virtually all social programs.

The English philosopher, Thomas Hobbes (1588 – 1679), saw life in a state of nature as one of perpetual civil war. According to Hobbes, life in a state of nature was “nasty, brutish, and short” (this, rather amusingly, has been used to describe the careers of some football managers). Since concepts like morality and justice have no place in a state of nature, the natural man has no concept of them. In Leviathan, written in 1651, Hobbes asked the reader to imagine what their lives would be like if they lived outside the protection of the state. Without law and order there are no checks and balances on an individual’s behaviour. Human beings, therefore, must be kept in check by an authority that has the ability to punish wickedness. Kings and governments have a responsibility to teach their citizens to be just, to not deprive others of their property, including their lives, through theft, fraud, murder, rape, and so forth. Hobbes believed the only way people could protect themselves from the trials and tribulations of life would be to transfer authority to a Government and a King.

The “noble savage” idea is a myth, pure and simple. It is merely a means for shifting responsibility away from the individual towards society. It is time for people to put this ridiculous belief in the one place it belongs: the waste-paper bin.

A CRITIQUE OF GLOBALISM

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Kofi Annan, the former Secretary-General of the United Nations, has stated that disagreeing with globalism is like disagreeing with “the laws of gravity.” Similarly, new French President, Emmanuel Macron, another supporter of globalism, wishes to deregulate France’s ailing industry and boost freedom of movement and trade. Donald Trump’s election to the US Presidency, and the UK’s decision to leave the European Union, however, have challenged the presumed supremacy of globalism as a political force.

The roots of globalism can be traced back to the 2nd Century BC when the formation of the Silk Road facilitated the trade of silk, wool, silver, and gold between Europe and China. It wasn’t until the 20th century, however, that the idea gathered momentum. Following the Second World War, world power was to be split between America, representing the capitalist west, and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, representing the communist east. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, America took it upon herself to create an undivided, democratic, and peaceful Europe.

Of course, the aim for an undivided Europe, indeed an undivided world, existed long before the collapse of the Soviet Union. In 1944. Allied delegates, met at Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, to establish an economic system based on open markets and free trade. Their idea gathered momentum. Today, the Monetary Fund, World Bank, and, the World Trade Centre all exist to unite the various national economies of the world into a single, global economy.

In 1950, the French foreign minister, Robert Schuman, proposed pooling Western Europe’s coal and steel producing countries together. Originally, Schuman’s objective had been to unite France with the Federal Republic of Germany. In the end, however, the Treaty of Paris would unite Belgium, France, West Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands in the European Coal and Steel Community. By 1957, the Treaty of Rome had been used to create the European Economic Community.

Globalism is an ideology which seeks to form a world where nations base their economic and foreign policies on global, rather than national, interests. It can be viewed as a blanket term for various phenomena: the pursuit of classical liberal and free market policies on the world stage, Western dominance over the political, cultural, and economic spheres, the proliferation of new technologies, and global integration.

John Lennon’s Imagine, speaking of ‘no countries’, ‘no religion’, and a ‘brotherhood of man’, acts as an almost perfect anthem for globalism. Your individual views on globalism, however, will depend largely on your personal definition of a nation. If you support globalism it is likely you believe a nation to be little more than a geographical location. If you are a nationalist, however, it is likely you believe a nation to be the accumulation of its history, culture, and traditions.

Supporters of John Lennon’s political ideology seem to suffer from a form of self-loathing. European heritage and culture are not seen as something worth celebrating, but as something to be dismissed. And it appears to be working: decades of anti-nationalist, anti-Western policies have stripped many European nations of their historical and cultural identities. In the UK, there have been calls to remove the statue of Cecil Rhodes – an important, yet controversial figure. In other countries, certain areas are have become so rife with ethnic violence they are considered ‘no-go’ zones.

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Perhaps, it is the result of “white man’s burden”, Rudyard Kipling’s prophetic 1899 poem about the West’s perceived obligation to improve the lot of non-westerners. Today, many white, middle-class elites echo Kipling’s sentiments by believing that it to be their duty to save the world. These people are told at charity events, at protests, at their universities, and by their media of their obligation to their ‘fellow man.’ When it comes to immigration, they believe it to be their responsibility to save the wretched peoples of the world by importing them, and their problems, to the West.

By contrast, nationalism champions the idea that nations, as defined by a common language, ethnicity, or culture, have the right to form communities based on a shared history and/or a common destiny. The phenomenon can be described as consisting of patriotic feelings, principles, or efforts, an extreme form or patriotism characterised by feelings of national superiority, or as the advocacy of political independence. It is primarily driven by two factors. First, feelings of nationhood among members of a nation-state, and, two, the actions of a state in trying to achieve or sustain self-determination. In simplest terms, nationalism constitutes a form of human identity.

One cannot become a citizen of a nation merely by living there. Citizenship arises from the sharing of a common culture, tradition, and history. As American writer Alan Wolfe observed: “behind every citizen lies a graveyard.” The sociologist Emile Durkheim believed people to be united by their families, their religion, and their culture. In Suicide: a Study in Sociology, Durkheim surmises:

“It is not true, then, that human activity can be released from all restraint. Nothing in the world can enjoy such a privilege. All existence being a part of the universe is relative to the remainder; its nature and method of manifestation accordingly depend not only on itself but on other beings, who consequently restrain and regulate it. Here there are only differences of degree and form between the mineral realm and the thinking person.’ Man’s characteristic privilege is that the bond he accepts is not physical but moral; that is, social. He is governed not by a material environment brutally imposed on him, but by a conscience superior to his own, the superiority of which he feels.” – Suicide: a Study in Sociology (pg. 277)

Globalism has primarily manifested itself through economic means. In the economic sense, globalism began in the late 19th, early 20th centuries with the invention of the locomotive, the motor-car, the steamship, and the telegraph. Prior to the industrial revolution, a great deal of economic output was restricted to certain countries. China and India combined produced an economic output of fifty-percent, whilst Western Europe produced an economic output of eighteen percent. It was the industrial revolution of the 19th century, and the dramatic growth of industrial productivity, which caused Western Europe’s economic output to double. Today, we experience the consequences of globalism every time we enter a McDonalds Restaurant, call someone on our mobile phones, or use the internet.

Philip Lower, the Governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia, told a group of businessmen and women at the Sydney Opera House that Australia was “committed to an open international order.” Similarly, the Nobel Prize-winning economist, Amartya Sen, argued that globalisation had “enriched the world scientifically and culturally, and benefited many people economically as well.” It is certainly true that globalisation has facilitated the sharing of technological, cultural, and scientific advances between nations. However, as some economists, like Joseph Stiglitz and Ha-Joon Chang, have pointed out: globalisation can also have the effect of increasing rather than reducing inequality. In 2007, the International Monetary Fund admitted that investment in the foreign capital of developing countries and the introduction of new technologies has had the effect of increasing levels of inequality.  Countries with larger populations, lower working and living standards, more advanced technology, or a combination of all three, are in a better position to compete than countries that lack these factors.

The underlying fact is that globalism has economic consequences. Under globalisation, there is little to no restrictions on the movement of goods, capital, services, people, technology, and information. Among the things championed by economic globalisation is the cross-border division of labour. Different countries become responsible different forms of labour.

The United Nations has unrealistically asserted globalism to be the key to ending poverty in the 21st Century. The Global Policy Forum, an organisation which acts as an independent policy watchdog of the United Nations, has suggested that imposition of global taxes as a means of achieving this reality. These include taxes on carbon emissions to slow climate change, taxes on currency trading to ‘dampen instability in the foreign exchange markets’, and taxes to support major initiatives like reducing poverty and hunger, increasing access to education, and fighting preventable diseases.

In one sense, the battle between globalism and nationalism can be seen as a battle between ideology and realism. Globalism appears committed to creating a ‘brotherhood of man.’ Nationalism, on the other hand, reminds us that culture and nationality form an integral part of human identity, and informs us they are sentiments worth protecting. The true value of globalism and nationalism come not from their opposition, but from how they can be made to work together. Globalism has the economic benefit of allowing countries to develop their economies through global trade. It is not beneficial, however, when it devolves into open-border policies, global taxes, or attacks on a nation’s culture or sovereignty. Nationalism, by the same token, has the benefit of providing people with a national and cultural identity, as well as the benefits and protections of citizenship. Nationalism fails when it becomes so fanatical it leads to xenophobia or war. The answer, therefore, is not to forsake one for the other, but to reconcile the two.

THE LADY VANISHES

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This week for our cultural article, we will be examining Alfred Hitchcock’s (1899 – 1980) 1938 film, The Lady Vanishes.  Set primarily on a train bound for England from Central Europe, Hitchcock’s film weaves an intriguing and intense narrative around characters united and divided by their snobbery, self-centredness, complacency, and nationalism.

The Lady Vanishes is one-part comedy, one-part murder mystery, and one-part thriller. The film’s first act is rather comedic in nature. A recent avalanche has blocked the train lines, forcing most of the residents to remain at the hotel overnight. The hotel in question becomes so overbooked and so strained in its resources, that two of its guests are forced to sleep in the maid’s quarters. This first act draws the audience in with its lighthearted attitude and its mixture of verbal and physical humour. Not even the murder of a folk singer outside the hotel is enough to distract us from the revelry.

The first act ends with the disappearance of the film’s titular character, Miss Froy (May Whitty, 1865 – 1948). From this point, the film becomes a murder mystery with Iris Henderson (Margaret Lockwood, 1916 – 1990), a wealthy socialite, and her helper, the musicologist Gilbert Redman (Michael Redgrave, 1908 – 1985), searching for her. Here Hitcock begins to play subtle tricks on our minds. We, like Iris Henderson, know Miss Froy exists, but the other characters deny ever having seen her. Simultaneously, Hitchcock plays with our curiosity and our frustration. Eventually, Miss Froy is found and the film then climaxes with a thrilling and action-packed third-act.

Eventually, Miss Froy is found and the film then climaxes with a thrilling and action-packed third-act. This act becomes a fight for survival as the film’s British characters are forced to fight against unnamed foreign forced outside.

Throughout the Lady Vanishes, themes of nationalism and class-snobbery pop-up.  The film’s British characters and arrogant and insular in their attitudes. When it appears that they are about to be killed by foreign police officers, one Brit rather proudly exclaims: “They can’t do anything to us. We’re British subjects.” This is juxtaposed by the subtle undercurrent of politics, exemplified by the film’s antagonists, who may or may not be in league with Fascist Italy.

Then there’s the notion of social class and the snobbery and divisiveness that goes with it. (A reality Hitchcock, as the son of a trader, was quite familiar with). Hitchcock cynically links money and title together by having Iris return to England to marry Lord Charles Forthingale for no other reason than to appease her father, who is reportedly “aching to have a coat of arms on the jam label.” Then there’s the cricket-obsessed Charters (Naunton Wayne, 1901 – 1970) and Caldicott (Basil Radford, 1897 – 1952) representing the idle upper-class. (These two would become popular stock characters in numerous films, radio plays, and television shows).  And then there’s the travelling lawyer (Cecil Parker, 1897 – 1971) and his mistress (Linden Travers, 1913 – 2001) who avoid contact with those they deem beneath them, and who are perfectly prepared to lie to protect their precious social status.

The Lady Vanishes has frequently been credited as Hitchcock’s last great British film.  Hitchcock masterfully weaves elements of mystery, suspense, humour, international politics, class-snobbery, and nationalism together to form an intriguing story. The Lady Vanishes is still as intriguing today as it was nearly eighty years ago.

PRESIDENT TRUMP’S UNITED NATIONS SPEECH

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President Donald Trump delivered his first address to the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday.

President Trump reminded the UN that their purpose was not that of a bureaucratic-style world government, but an amalgamation of sovereign states whose power was based on the “individual strength of its members.”  “The whole world is safer when nations are strong, independent, and free”, the President told them.

“The whole world is safer when nations are strong, independent, and free”, the President told them. He then went on to ask those present if they were patriots prepared to work for a “future of dignity and peace for the people of this wonderful earth.”

Speaking at the opening luncheon, President Trump praised the UN’s ability to maintain peace in the world:

“There is no better forum, there can be no better forum and certainly, there can be no better location where everybody comes together.”

The President continued:

“The potential of the United Nations is unlimited. You are going to do things that will epic, and I certainly hope you will, but I feel very, very confident.”

However, the President also criticised the UN for its record of allowing countries with atrocious human rights records on their human rights council:

“It is a massive embarrassment for the United Nations that some governments with egregious  human rights records sit on the UN Human Rights Council.”

The President also turned his ire towards Venezuela, the Middle East, and North Korea.

Commenting on the situation in Venezuela he said, “the problem in Venezuela is not that socialism has been poorly implemented, but that socialism has been faithfully implemented.”

Speaking on Afghanistan, President Trump stated the US’ policy would be dictated by circumstances, not arbitrary deadlines:

“From now on, our security interests will dictate the length and scope of military operations, not arbitrary benchmarks and timetables set up by politicians. I have also totally changed the rules  of engagement in our fight against the Taliban and other terrorist groups.”

He also indicated that the US may be backing out of the Iran nuclear deal, which he referred to as a national embarrassment:

“The Iran deal was one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into. Frankly, that deal is an embarrassment to the United States, and I don’t think you’ve  heard the last of it, believe me.”

Finally, President Trump condemned North Korea’s record on human rights and nuclear weapons. He warned that their “reckless” pursuit of nuclear weapons threatened “the entire world with unthinkable loss of life.”

Echoing Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, President Trump went on to warn “rocket man” (the President’s nickname for Jim Jong Un) that the US would wipe the rogue communist state off the face of the earth if it attacked the US or one of her allies:

“The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea. Rocket Man is on a suicide  mission for himself and for his regime.”

Senator minority leader, the Democratic Senator from New York, Chuck Schumer, commented that it was dangerous for President Trump to refer to Kim Jong Un as “rocket man”:

“If I were giving the President advice, I would have said, avoid using ‘rocket man’. “If I were giving the President advice, I would have said, avoid using ‘rocket man’.  We know the leader of North Korea is erratic to put it kindly. That kind of language is risky.”

On a more positive note, many are praising the President for his no-nonsense speech. The Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, tweeted:

“In over 30 years in my experience with the UN, I never heard a bolder or more courageous speech.”

CASABLANCA

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For our weekly cultural article, we will be looking at the film Casablanca. Released in 1942, Casablanca delves deeply into themes of morality and human sacrifice, tentatively exploring both the good and bad aspects of humanity.

BACKGROUND

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The American Film Institute ranks Casablanca as the second greatest film of all time (ranked behind Citizen Kane).

The fact that Casablanca is still so revered, even after seventy-five years,  is nothing short of a miracle. The film was made on a tight budget in the style common to the studio system of the time, having been made on set with a studio director, studio writers, and studio actors.

Its script has been voted by the Writers Guild of America as the greatest ever written. That, too, is a miracle. The script was based on a play that was never performed: “Everybody Comes to Rick’s”, by Murray Burnett (1910 – 1997) and Joan Alison (1901 – 1992).  The task of adapting the play to film was given to three separate screenwriters, who completed their task in three different locations.  Julius G. and Philip G. Epstein (1909 – 2000; 1909 – 1952) would finish theirs just a few days before filming began. Howard Koch (1901 – 1995), on the other hand, wouldn’t hand his in until filming was well underway.

And even then, scraps of dialogue and scene rewrites were being rushed to the set, the ink still wet on the page.

THE FILM

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Perhaps one reason for its long lasting success is its refusal to be categorisedCasablanca is one part war film – being presented against the backdrop of the Second World War, one part love story – Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart), Ilsa Lund (Ingrid Bergman), and Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid) are embroiled in a bitter love triangle, one part political thriller, and one part allegory – presenting both the best and worst aspects of human nature.

Another reason is the stellar cast it boasts: Humphrey Bogart (1899 – 1957) – considered the greatest film star of all time by the American Film Institute, Ingrid Bergman (1915 – 1982) – one of film’s most naturally beautiful women,  Claude Rains (1889 – 1967), Sydney Greenstreet (1879 – 1954), Paul Henreid (1908 – 1992), and Peter Lorre (1904  – 1964).

SUMMARY

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Naturally, no one thought Casablanca would be a hit, people weren’t even sure if the allies would win World War Two.  However,  as Alrean Harmetz wrote in Round Up the Usual Suspects: the Making of CasablancaCasablanca seemed almost destined to be a film classic:

“There are better movies than Casablanca, but no other movie better demonstrates America’s mythological vision of itself – tough on the outside and moral within, capable of sacrifice and romance without sacrificing the individualism that conquered a continent, sticking its neck out for everybody when circumstances demand heroism. No other movie has so reflected both the moment when it was made – the early  days of World War II – and the psychological needs of audiences decades later.”

I believe Casablanca‘s long lasting success boils down to its depiction of the goodness of human beings in the wake of great evil. Early in World War Two, Casablanca was Vichy France, and therefore Nazi German, territory. In the film, Casablanca is depicted as a world of corruption, a crossroads where Nazis, members of various resistance forces, criminals, spies, and traitors come together. It is a fascist society where the oppressors imprison millions, where human life is a commodity to be traded for benefits. No one cares about anyone, save for themselves.

The imprisoned respond to their imprisonment in different ways: some fight against it, others try to escape it, and others try to profit from it. In one scene, a man is shot dead trying to escape. He falls under a poster of Marshall Philippe Petain (1856 – 1951), the Chief of Vichy France. We learn he was clutching a Free France handbill.

Desperate attempts to escape to freedom are understandable. But the film also presents us with an array of lowlifes and criminals, and, remarkably, even asks us to express pity for them. Signor Ferrari (Sydney Greenstreet) is a shrewd and callous gangster who, it is suggested, profits from the sale of human beings.

The total disregard for human life is depicted in a scene where Ferrari offers to buy Rick’s friend and piano player, Sam, portrayed by Dooley Wilson (1886 – 1953). Rick refuses, saying “I don’t buy or sell human beings.” “Too bad”, Ferrari replies, “that’s Casablanca’s leading commodity.”

Then there’s Signore Ugarte (Peter Lorre), the North African black market dealer who represents disorganised criminal who profits from the misery of others. Rick ignores his pleas for help as he is arrested for murdering two German couriers in order to steal non-rescindable, French General Marshal Weygand signed, letters of transit.

Ultimately, Casablanca is a film of redemption and human sacrifice. It asks its audience to not only imagine winning the loves of their lives but asks them to imagine giving them up for the greater good.

Rick starts out as a cynical and resentful anti-hero. “I stick my neck out for no one”, he tells us at one point. By the end of the film, he has been transformed into a selfless hero. “It doesn’t take much to see that the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world”, he tells Ilsa.

In the end, Casablanca shows the power of sacrifice and brotherly love over tyranny and evil. Even when everything is lost, hope can be found among those few human beings who are willing to put their personal needs aside and sacrifice themselves for others.

MARTIN SCORSESE’S THE AVIATOR AND THE INCREDIBLE LIFE OF HOWARD HUGHES

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For our weekly cultural article, we will be examining Martin Scorsese’s 2004 masterpiece, the Aviator: a biopic of the legendary businessman, aviator, filmmaker, and eccentric, Howard Robard Hughes, Jr. (1905 – 1976).

THE FILM

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The Aviator stars Leonardo DiCaprio as Hughes, Cate Blanchett as Katharine Hepburn (1907 – 2003), and Kate Beckinsale as Ava Gardner (1922 – 1990). It focuses on Hughes’ glory years and is set between the late 1920s and the late 1940s.

The film essentially follows two competing storylines.  The first storyline depicts Hughes’ struggle with his mental health, his battle with his worsening OCD and paranoia which, by the end of his life, would culminate in utter madness. In this guise, Hughes is depicted as a man whose intense germophobia renders him unable to touch the doorknob of a public toilet (he has to wait for someone else to open the door so he can leave), who washes his hands so ferociously he actually draws blood, who gets stuck repeating the same phrase over and over again (“the way of the future, the way of the future, the way of the future”), and who locks himself in his projection room for months on end.

The second storyline focuses on Hughes’ life as an entrepreneur: his success as a filmmaker, his successful career as an aviation pioneer, and his fight with the Senate War Investigating Committee. In this guise, Hughes is depicted as a man of unbridled ambition spurned on by his incredible early successes and comforted by legions of romantic conquests (which would include Katharine Hepburn and Ava Gardner, among others). The film opens with Hughes directing the Hell’s Angels (1930). An early theme is quickly established, with Hughes’ peers ridiculing him for his boldness and ambition.  By the end of the film, Hughes defies prediction by successfully test flying the H-4 Hercules.

HOWARD HUGHES: THE MAN

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The Aviator ends after Hughes’ after the successful test flight of the Hercules. In real life, Hughes lived another twenty-nine years and died a lunatic and a recluse. If you happened upon the man during the final years of his life you would describe him as an impoverished and gaudy man of six-foot-four. When he died of kidney failure in 1976, he weighed only 40kg, had grotesquely long fingernails, toenails, hair, and beard, and had hypodermic needles embedded in his arms. So unrecognisable was Hughes that the FBI was forced to rely on his fingerprints to identify him.

Howard Hughes ought to be remembered, and admired, as a brilliant businessman and pioneer. He was an eccentric perfectionist who, between the ages of eighteen and seventy, managed to amass a personal wealth of one-and-a-half billion dollars. He was a man who made remarkable, and often groundbreaking, successes in film, aviation, and real estate. Between 1926 and 1957, Hughes produced twenty-six movies, including Scarface (1932) and the Outlaw (1943), and directed the classic World War One air warfare film Hell’s Angels (1930).

As an aviator, Hughes’ not only helped to revolutionise air travel, he also set many aviation records personally. In 1935, Hughes set the overland flying record by travelling nearly 352mph over Santa Ana, California. In 1937, Hughes set the record for transcontinental flight by flying from Burbank California to Newark, New Jersey in seven hours, twenty-eight minutes, and twenty-five seconds. Then in 1938, Hughes, along with a four man team, circumnavigated the globe in a record three days, nineteen hours, and seventeen minutes.

In a re-release trailer for Hell’s Angels, Howard Hughes is introduced as:

“Howard Hughes: millionaire genius, was a pioneer in aviation and motion pictures. He defied convention,  set new patterns for others to follow, made stars of unknowns, and left the world a legacy of film classics.”

Howard Hughes represents a type of man that doesn’t really exist anymore: the bold, dashing, larger-than-life individual. A man who achieved incredible things against what was often overwhelming odds. It is characters like Hughes that build countries and improve the world we all live in. And it is films like the Aviator which presents their stories to us.