HOLLYWOOD SEXUAL PREDATORS

Harvey Weinstein was not the first, nor will he be the last.  As heinous, horrific and unconscionable as Weinstein’s behavior was, sad to say, it was not an isolated case in Hollywood.  Rape, sexual harassment, and the demeaning of women has been and still is an integral part of Hollywood’s culture.  It permeates the industry like a disgusting virus.

Already, there has been a steady stream of accusations.  For example, actress Carrie Stevens has alleged that producer and director Oliver Stone “groped” her at a party in the 1990s.  Even worse, actress, singer and director Rose McGowan stated she told Amazon Studios chief Roy Price that Weinstein had raped her.  According to McGowan Price “pooh poohed” it on the basis of lack of proof.  She replied, “I am the proof,” but, still, nothing was done.

If anything, the entertainment industry is a perfect storm for sexual abuse.  First of all, it glamorizes money, power and fame.  Secondly, it attracts Type A male personalities who believe that their power, fame, wealth and influence enable them to get away with anything.  Thirdly, it also attracts young, beautiful women desperately eager to achieve fame and fortune.  With the presence of these three elements why are we not surprised that sexual abuse is rampant?

Down through the years, there have been many cases of such activity.   In my opinion, for every case of which we are aware there are dozens, or perhaps hundreds, which have been ignored in the guise of “well, that the way it is in Hollywood,” or “that’s the price you pay to get ahead.”  It would take a full-length book to discuss just the major ones.  I don’t have the inclination or the “stomach” to do so.  Instead, I have selected two to illustrate my point:

  1. Roman Polanski –  Some of you younger readers may not be cognizant of him.  He has been called the “poster child” of celebrity sexual abusers.  He was a renowned movie director who had won two Oscars (for Rosemary’s Baby and The Pianist).  In 1977 he was arrested and charged with multiple counts of rape, sodomy, perversion and lewd and lascivious acts against a 13 year-old girl.   He and his lawyers managed to plea bargain down the charges to a much lesser charge of “engaging in unlawful sexual intercourse.”  Then, in 1978 Polanski fled to France in order to avoid prosecution.  France, which, evidently, had and still has, a more lenient view of these types of crimes, has refused to extradite Polanski. He has not set foot back in the US for 30 years, and, likely never will.
  2. Bill Cosby –  This situation parallels that of Weinstein’s in some ways.  For many years Mr. Cosby was viewed as an iconic entertainer in the movies, on tv and as a stand-up comedian.  Then, some 60 women accused him of various sexual misconduct crimes, including rape, sexual assault and sexual battery.   Some of these accusations dated back to the 1960s.  His downfall was swift and sure.

Like I said, one could write a book about these types of abuses and barely scratch the surface.

CONCLUSION

Perhaps, the most ironic aspect of the Weinstein case is how his behavior was an “open secret” among entertainers and Democratic insiders (There’s an oxymoron, if there ever was one!), and no one spoke out.  Even famous, powerful, influential female entertainment personalities, such as Oprah Winfrey and Jane Fonda, and politicians, such as Hillary Clinton and Michele Obama, each of whom hold themselves out as strong advocates of women’s rights, turned a “blind eye.”  Recently, actress Jane Fonda, a long-time advocate for women’s rights and other activist causes, admitted in an interview that she has long been aware of the “male entitlement” culture of Hollywood, and she was “ashamed” by her silence. In addition, she admitted that a female actress friend of hers had confessed to her that she had been raped by Weinstein, but regretfully, she (Fonda)did not come forward.

Now that the proverbial “cat” is “out of the bag,” this case will likely continue to mushroom.  Don’t be surprised to see class action lawsuits against individuals and companies, such as the movie studios and even NBC.  The news network’s chief, Noah Oppenheim, allegedly “killed” the story about Weinstein that had been brought to him by NBC reporter Ronan Farrow (subsequently published by The New Yorker).   It turns out that Oppenheim had a major conflict of interest.  He is also a Hollywood screenwriter.  Plaintiffs’ attorneys like to go where the money is and in Hollywood there is plenty to go around.

In the meantime, I have a word of advice for the entertainment industry.  Quit trying to give the rest of us advice on how to live our lives.  You’re good at your “day job,” but when it comes to imparting wisdom in other areas, not so much.  Clean up your own house first.

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HARVEY WEINSTEIN

Finally, an issue on which we can all agree – Republicans, Democrats, young, old, black, white, Hispanic, men and women.  We are all appalled, shocked, dismayed and scandalized (pick one) at the disgusting behavior of Harvey Weinstein towards women.  Yes, we are all those things, but are we surprised?  Really?  Rich, powerful, influential, forceful Hollywood producer versus young, vulnerable, beautiful aspiring actresses desperate to “make it.” What can possibly go wrong?

We don’t agree on much in this country.  On any given issue, one can always hear multiple opinions.  That’s the beauty of a free and open society.  In this case, however, I have not heard anyone defending Weinstein’s actions, nor do I expect I will.  That said, I think there is a broader issue, one that has largely been ignored and needs to be discussed.

Based on some of the reportage I have seen in the last few days, Weinstein’s proclivities were not exactly a secret within the industry and among those who knew him.  Apparently, he had a reputation.  The various expressions of shock by entertainers, such as George Clooney and Ben Affleck and politicians, such as Hillary Clinton and the Obamas strike me as disingenuous, to say the least.  Clooney admitted he was cognizant that Weinstein “had a tendency to ‘hit on’ young, beautiful women.”  But, he added that he “had no idea that it had gone to the level of having to pay off eight women for their silence, and that these women were threatened and victimized.”  Affleck acknowledged “we need to do better at protecting our sisters, friends, co-workers and daughters.  We must support those who come forward [and] condemn this type of behavior when we see it.”  Hillary Clinton said she was “shocked” and “appalled.”  Barack Obama said he and Michelle were “disgusted.”

Fine, as far as it goes, but, to me, comments like that ring hollow.  The entertainment business has long had a reputation as a culture that fostered and tolerated misogynistic behavior toward women, including, but not limited to, sexual abuse.  It has been the industry’s dark, dirty secret.  For example, we have all heard stories about the so-called “casting couch.”  Have you listened to the lyrics in some of these “rap” songs?  Only now, are people speaking up.

Furthermore, Weinstein was a strong supporter of the Democratic Party, and many Democratic politicians have benefitted from his largesse.  They willingly accepted his money and enjoyed his influence.  Now that he has been exposed they express shock and outrage.  To me, it is reminiscent of the scene in Casablanca when the French colonel is “shocked” to learn that there is gambling going on in Rick’s Café, whereupon he is handed his winnings for the day.

Purportedly, some politicians have sought to make amends by donating contributions they received from Weinstein to charity.  Nice stunt, but to me their only motivation is that their connection to Weinstein was disclosed, and they want to mollify their constituents, save their careers.  It is not unlike a thief who, having been caught and facing prison, offers to donate his loot to charities.

CONCLUSION

The hypocrisy of Hollywood and politicians never ceases to amaze me.  They think they are a special class of people.  They think they are better than us and know what is good for us better than we do.  For example, they lecture us on reducing carbon emissions and travel on private jets;  they lecture us on inclusivity regarding immigration yet live in gated communities with 24X7 security; and, now, they lecture us on women’s rights yet overlook the culture of misogyny in their own industry.  They continually befriend and enable Weinstein and others like him.

I repeat what I have said before.  Just because a person has a special talent in acting, singing, music or sports, it does not mean they are any smarter or better equipped to give political advice.  In fact, in my experience, it is more often the opposite case.

STOLEN CHILDREN

Recently, I came across a most disturbing story about the nefarious activities of an organization called the Tennessee Children’s Home Society and the proprietor of its Memphis branch, Georgia Tann.  This story may turn your stomach, and parts of it are too incredulous to believe, but based on my research I am convinced of its veracity.

Beulah George Tann was born on July 18, 1891 in Hickory, MS into a wealthy family.  Her father was a local judge.  Ironically, one of his responsibilities was to resolve issues relating to homeless children, who were wards of the state.  Tann wanted to be a lawyer, but her father vetoed that career as being “too  masculine” for a “respectable” woman.  As a result Tann went into social work.  Eventually, she found her way to the TCHS in Memphis where she hatched her scheme.

During a roughly 25 year period from the late 1920s – 1950 the TCHS was engaged in the wholesale kidnapping of children of indigent parents and their subsequent placement for adoption with wealthy and/or influential couples who wanted a child and could afford to pay their exorbitant fees.  It is likely that, for the most part, these adoptive couples were not cognizant that the children had been kidnapped, but, on the other hand, it is possible that some of them knew or suspected but turned a “blind eye.”  Ms. Tann was aided and abetted in her elaborate scheme by a cadre of wealthy and well-connected supporters, including state legislators and Shelby County Juvenile Court Judge Camille Kelley.  Kelley was found to have “railroaded through” hundreds of adoptions without regard to state laws.  Moreover, administrative oversight by local and state authorities was haphazard, at best.

To be sure, it is a bizarre and unbelievable tale straight out of a Charles Dickens novel that seems inconceivable in this day and age, but apparently during the above-referenced time period the laws, customs and mores with respect to adoptions were very different than they are today.  Paradoxically, the TCHS did manage to rescue many children from deplorable conditions legally and place them with loving adoptive parents.  Unfortunately, that was not always the case.

Essentially, the scheme worked as follows:

  1. The TCHS was continually on the lookout for vulnerable babies or young children, such as children of indigent or poor parents, or single mothers that were either in mental wards or prison.  Blonde, blue-eyed children were preferred.
  2. It employed a network of spotters who, for example, worked in hospitals or public aid clinics where those poor and desperate women were likely to give birth.
  3. It employed workers who due to their own desperate economic circumstances or questionable ethics were willing to go along and keep quiet about the scheme.
  4. In some cases, the women were tricked into signing over custody of their newborns.  Sometimes, the complicit doctor or nurse would tell the mother that the baby had died during childbirth.  Another version of the scheme would be to convince the mother to surrender custody “temporarily” so that the baby could receive “emergency” medical treatment.  This deception would be perpetrated soon after delivery when the mother would be most vulnerable.
  5. Other children were simply kidnapped on their way to school, or from their porches or yards by TCHS agents.
  6. The fate of thousands of these children is unknown.  Many of them simply vanished.  It is not known what happened to them definitively.  In some cases they were placed for adoption, but the placement could not be traced because the child’s name, birthdate and/or date of adoption were falsified in order to preclude their biological parents from locating them prospectively.  If the biological parents were to show up at the TCHS looking for their child they would be told the child had died in childbirth or already placed for a sealed adoption.  In other cases, the child may have died due to illness or neglect, in which case it would have been buried in an unmarked grave.  One such mass grave, containing 19 children’s remains was discovered in Elmwood Cemetery in Memphis.
  7. Basically, any child of poor or transient parents was fair game.  Thousands of children were stolen in this manner and due process, as we know it, did not exist.
  8. TCHS blatantly advertised the availability of these children.  For example, newspaper ads of the day showed actual photos of the stolen children underscored with enticing captions, such as “Yours for the Asking” or “Want a Real, Live Christmas Present?”
  9. Tann managed to present a respectable, or even charitable, public image.  She was perceived as a hero who rescued children from desperate circumstances and placed them with loving parents of a “high type.”  At the time, the prevailing public opinion was that indigents should not have an “excessive” number of babies that they would be unable to care for.  Therefore, the ethical and moral detriments of taking them away from their biological parents were overridden by the perceived benefits of placing them with more “suitable” adoptive parents.
  10. Many of these children were placed with wealthy, loving parents who provided them with a better life (not that that made it acceptable).   Unfortunately, many others were placed in households where they were overworked, treated like servants, or even abused physically and/or sexually.
  11. Tann had influential connections.  Her scheme could not sustain itself without the support of Judge Kelley and other supporters.  Her clients included movie stars, such as Joan Crawford, June Allyson and Dick Powell and politicians such as NY Governor Herbert Lehman.  In addition, she was also a friend of Eleanor Roosevelt’s, who regarded her as a pioneer of and an authority on child adoptions.

CONCLUSION

Tann’s scheme finally unraveled in 1950, and the TCHS was closed.  But, it was not due to public outrage.  There was no firestorm of police inquiries, no muckraking reportage, no flurry of legal action.  There were too many powerful and influential people who had a stake in keeping a lid on the entire matter.  Instead, the Governor of Tennessee, Gordon Browning, disclosed the scheme in a press conference that focused on Tann’s profiting illegally from various adoptions she handled.  It is estimated she profited to the tune of $1 million, which is roughly equivalent to $10 million in today’s dollars. The other aspects of the matter were basically swept under the rug.

Tann did not stand trial for her crimes.  She was dying of cancer and would succumb mere days after the governor’s press conference.  Kelley was also not prosecuted for her role  in the scandal.  She died in 1955.  The authorities mounted an investigation, but it was thwarted at every turn and was eventually abandoned.  With the passage of time it became largely moot as most of the biological parents died off and the adopted children had become ensconced in their own lives.

Tann’s records, such as they remained, were finally opened to the public in 1995.  By then, it was way too late to do much good.

This tragic undertaking has been reported in various newspaper articles, as well as television exposes on both 60 Minutes (1991) and Unsolved Mysteries.  Additionally, it has been the subject of two tv movies and a best-selling novel, Before We Were Yours, by Lisa Wingate.  I have read this book, and although, technically, it is a work of fiction it describes the scheme in heart-rending detail.

The UM piece helped one mother find her daughter.  Alma Sipple was watching the show when she recognized Tann as the woman who 44 years previously had convinced Sipple to let her take her infant daughter to a hospital for a checkup.  That had been the last Sipple had seen of Tann or her daughter.  “I let out a scream,” she said.   “That’s the woman that took Irma! My husband said I turned white.  I felt like going through the television.”   Seven months later, with the assistance of an investigator, Sipple found her long-lost daughter.  This was but one isolated happy ending out of thousands of heartbreaking stories.

HILLARY POST-ELECTION

Full disclosure.  I intensely dislike Hillary Clinton, not just politically, but also personally.  Correction, I detest her, literally, meaning I have a “deep contempt or repugnance” for her.  So, if you are a Kool-Aid-drinking Hillary fan, and I know there are many of you out there, you might not exactly enjoy this blog.  But, in my view, Hillary’s post-election behavior has been over-the-top inappropriate, divisive, and extremely harmful to this country, and I can no longer stand by idly without commenting.

To be sure, prior to the 2016 election I was not a Hillary fan.  I disagreed with her, politically.  I thought she was a below average Secretary of State and had been a pedestrian NY Senator.  In particular, I was appalled by her handling of the Benghazi fiasco.  I suppose, one could argue whether and to what degree she was responsible for the inadequate security and lack of preparedness, but her failure to accept even a modicum of responsibility, her blaming a video, and her callous lack of empathy for the victims and their families was astonishing.  (Remember the inane comment “what difference, at this point, does it matter?”)

Moreover, I  cannot think of even one country or entity with which we had a better relationship after her tenure than before.  If you can, please tell me.  But, offhand, I can think of several that were worse, such as North Korea, Iran, Russia and ISIS.  But, although I disagreed with her, politically, I did not detest her, personally.  Her earlier “misadventures” and “irregularities,” such as Whitewater and questionable commodities trading, had faded from memory.

However, her post-election actions have been extremely odd and inappropriate, if not downright unconscionable.  It appears, she cannot and will not accept the fact that she lost, fair and square.  She has outspokenly been blaming everyone else but herself – former FBI Director Comey, GOP dirty tricks, the Russians, her campaign advisors, the Electoral College, negative press, a misogynistic electorate.  She refuses to take responsibility for running a poor campaign.  (By the way, there are sound reasons why the “Founding Fathers” established the EC, and sound reasons why it is still advisable today, but that is the subject for another blog)

It was she who chose not to campaign in Wisconsin; it was she who made derogatory comments with respect to the coal industry and coal miners; it was she who made the ill-advised “basket of deplorables” comment, which offended fully one-half of the electorate; it was she who set up a private server on which she maintained classified documents in contravention of US laws and common sense and which triggered the FBI investigation; it was she who was caught utilizing a foundation for questionable, if not illegal, activities; it was she who gave the impression that the laws, rules and standards of behavior that apply to the rest of us do not apply to her; it was she who misread the mood of half of the electorate; and it was she who was simply a personally unpopular candidate.

At the beginning of the campaign her election seemed inevitable.  But, first, she had trouble defeating Bernie Sanders, a heretofore obscure Senator from Vermont, a fringe candidate, and an avowed socialist.  One could argue she only did so because of the Party nomination rules that strongly favor the insiders’ candidate over the will of the primary voters.  Then, somehow, she managed to lose an election to a GOP candidate with no political experience and the highest “negatives” of any candidate ever, that was there for the winning, and that a person like Joe Biden, limited though he may be, would likely have won.  She did it.  She did it all.  She was responsible.  She must take responsibility.  She must “own” it.

CONCLUSION

For me, the “straw that broke the camel’s back” was her tasteless, opportunistic tweet regarding the mass shooting in Las Vegas last Sunday, which I discussed in my last blog.  I believe it was grossly inappropriate and divisive and showed a total lack of empathy for the victims and their loved ones.  Can you imagine her saying words to that effect as President?  Talk about leadership!

The kindest way to put it is that Hillary is a “sore loser.”  On the playground, if you lose, you get off the court and leave it to the winners.  There are no “do-overs.”  Same thing in politics.  We don’t redo elections.  Even the much-detested Richard Nixon declined to take issue with the voting “irregularities” in Chicago and other places in the 1960 Presidential election, which he lost to JFK by a whisker.  He knew the score and respected the outcome for the good of the country.

Hillary could take a lesson from Nixon.  Her refusal to take responsibility and her insistence on blaming external factors, particularly the Russian government, has been very divisive.  Incidentally, remember when Hillary made a big point about foreign heads of state preferring her over Mr. Trump?  Why then would the Russian government, or any government, interfere in his favor over her?

Several months of comprehensive investigation have disclosed only that Russian sources of indeterminate origin managed to hack the DNC server and plant negative emails about Hillary, but so what?  That’s politics, and it happens with respect to most every election.  Not one “smidgen” (Love that word.  Thanks Barack.) of evidence has been uncovered that proves Russia or anyone else tampered with the actual voting process.

Her book and book tour, where she has been reiterating the above excuses ad nauseum, is a further embarrassment.  It is also so sad to see her Kool-Aid-drinking followers lapping up her c**p.  The letter reading on Kimmel the other night was particularly over the top.  The really sad thing is that Hillary still serves as a role model for many women.  They aspire to be like her.  Oh, well.

Hillary is not the future of the Democratic party.  She is the past.  Ditto for Schumer, Pelosi, Warren, Sanders and all the other all-too-familiar faces.  The party needs new leaders or else it will reprise its last defeat.  Maybe, someone will emerge in 2018.  Maybe.

Some day the US will have a female president.  There is no reason why we shouldn’t.  I’m sure there are many qualified females.  Most of us are just not aware of them.  Maybe she is in kindergarten right now, or, perhaps , she hasn’t even been born yet.  If she is worthy on the merits, she will win.

 

 

LAS VEGAS MASS SHOOTING

Sunday night we suffered through the deadliest and most heinous mass shooting in US history.  A lone gunman, Stephen Paddock, 64, ensconced in a two-room suite in the Mandalay Bay Hotel on the “strip” in Las Vegas, shot thousands of rounds into a crowd of some 20,000 people who were attending a Jason Alden concert in the plaza below.  Paddock opened fire at 10:08 pm local time, 1:08 am Monday Eastern time, and discharged thousands of rounds, indiscriminately in about ten minutes.   At the present time, the death toll stands at 59, with some 527 more wounded, some critically.

According to multiple witnesses and tv audio the weapons used were either fully automatics or were semi-automatics that had been modified to fire like automatics.  The firing was so intense that it set off the smoke alarm in the shooter’s hotel suite, which actually enabled the police and SWAT units to locate him quickly.

Reportedly, Paddock had some 23 weapons in his suite, including assault rifles, thousands of rounds of ammunition, scopes and a stand to mount and steady his rifle.  He had a setup akin to a sniper’s nest.

As I write this, the investigation is ongoing, and likely, it will be some time before we have all the answers.  At the moment, there are more questions than answers.  For example:

  1. How was Paddock able to avoid detection by either the hotel staff or security system.  According to the local sheriff, he first entered the hotel on September 28 and in the intervening days prior to the shooting he went in and out of the hotel several times ferrying his equipment.  Also, he had to have made some noise setting up.
  2. Based upon current information, Paddock seems like a very unlikely perpetrator of this mass slaying.  According to his brother, Eric, Paddock was a retired accountant who lived outside of Las Vegas and spent his time gambling, principally in high-stakes poker.
  3. Eric claims to be unaware of his brother having any mental or emotional problems or drug or alcohol addictions.
  4. He was cognizant that his brother owned a couple of handguns, but he was unaware that he owned any of the sophisticated weaponry used in the shootings or found at the scene.  Fully automatic weapons made after the mid-1980s are illegal in the US.  Moreover, those produced prior to then can only be purchased under very stringent conditions.  How, then, did Paddock acquire them or convert them? “There’s absolutely no sense, no reason he did this,” Eric told a reporter.
  5. What was Paddock’s motive?  Why was he not on the FBI’s radar?
  6. As of yet, investigators have not uncovered any links to any terrorist group, although ISIS has claimed he is part of its network.
  7. How was Paddock able to accumulate the vast amount of weaponry that has been found so far.  In addition to what was recovered in the hotel, investigators have found some 19 weapons in his home, plus several pounds of ammonium nitrate, which can be made into explosives similar to that which was used in the 1995 OKC bombing.
  8. What is the role of Paddock’s girlfriend, Marylou Danley, who had been living with him and who has since fled to the Philippines.  Did she mastermind this?  Is she the link to a terror network?  Good questions with no answers yet.

CONCLUSION

We are all shocked that something of this magnitude could happen on US soil.  As I write this, DHS has advised it is not cognizant of any additional “creditable” threats, but many of us are extremely concerned nonetheless.

Now is the time for us to put aside our political and social differences and come together.  Even so, some politicians have seized on the opportunity to score cheap political points and sow fear and dissension.  For example, Hillary Clinton opportunistically tweeted an inane comment about the NRA and silencers: “Imagine the deaths if the shooter had a silencer, which the NRA wants to make it easier to get.”  White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders diplomatically replied: “This isn’t a time for us to go after individuals or organizations.  I think we can have those policy discussions, but today is not that day.”   Ben Shapiro, editor-in-chief of The Daily Wire, was more blunt, characterizing Clinton’s tweet as “ignorant, irrelevant and exploitive.”  I’m with Ben.

President Trump spoke for us all labelling it an act of “pure evil.”  He added words of encouragement saying “our unity cannot be shattered by evil.  Our bonds cannot be broken by violence. …. It is our love [for our fellow citizens] that defines us today – and always will, forever.”  Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval called the attack a “cowardly, despicable act” and heaped praise on first responders, whose quick, brave actions saved “scores of lives.”

Tragedies such as this tend to bring out the best in Americans.  Indeed, there were many examples of people helping those in distress, even at the risk of their own lives.  For example, there was Sonny Melton, who covered his wife with his own body to protect her from flying bullets at the loss of his own life; there were first responders who bravely ran TOWARD the action to treat the wounded and distressed and help restore order to a panicky situation; there was the off-duty policeman who borrowed a weapon and stood guard over several panicked civilians until help arrived; and there were people who voluntarily transported wounded to hospitals on their own in their own vehicles.  These people and others helped selflessly and without hesitation.  They did so without regard to race, color, religion or political affiliation.  This made for a stark and welcome contrast to what we have seen during recent political demonstrations as portrayed (and, perhaps, exacerbated) by the media.

Many of our leaders have been warning of this possibility since “9/11,” and now that it has occurred we realize there could very well be additional attacks.  America is replete with extremely inviting “soft targets,” such as schools, churches, malls, and sporting events, etc.

I urge people to live their lives.  Don’t be paralyzed by fear.  Don’t “hide under your bed.”  If you do, the terrorists win.  However, use common sense, and be vigilant.