Category Archives: Event Paths

Comparing historical events.

The EARN IT Act: Too Important to be a Binary Issue

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

by Rick Bretz

The EARN IT Act or its proper name, Eliminating Abusive and Rampant Neglect of Interactive Technologies (or EARN IT) Act, if passed, will hold the IT industry responsible for the online exploitation of children and other criminal activity.  

The bipartisan legislation, sponsored by Senators Lindsey Graham, SC, Richard Blumenthal, CT, Josh Hawley, MO, and Dianne Feinstein, CA, creates incentives in the form of liability protection with their cooperation with the law and due diligence toward fighting exploitation.

As Senator Lindsey Graham said at the introduction, “This bill is a major first step. For the first time, you will have to earn blanket liability protection when it comes to protecting minors. Our goal is to do this in a balanced way that doesn’t overly inhibit innovation, but forcibly deals with child exploitation.”

This legislation is admirable in its desire to eradicate child exploitation and sites that harbor these images on the internet.  It could give lawmakers the green light to many other activities.

Another side of the issue has surfaced and it’s the privacy aspect of the issue. As with all legislation, privacy rights groups fear the law will be exploited for tracking all internet activity.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation’s (EFF) website sees it as a privacy issue as well as government interference with business practices.

An article on the site states, “(The Bill) grants sweeping powers to the Executive Branch. It opens the door for the government to require new measures to screen users’ speech and even backdoors to read your private communications—a stated goal of one of the bill’s authors.”

More than one senator agreed with that “stated goal.”  At a recent hearing, tech company leaders from Apple and Facebook and others were grilled about warrant-proof data encryption.  Congress concluded these companies protect terrorists, organized crime, and child abusers from criminal investigations and the proof needed to prosecute them.

The message sent in cold words at the hearing and forwarded to tech company managers was to “get on with it” and develop warrant- compatible encryption or congress will take up the matter and force them to do it.

As Senator Marsha Blackburn, TN, said at the hearing, “It is troubling to me to hear you say that giving the key to law enforcement would cause a weakness in the device that would be a bad trade-off.”

Blackburn summarized the issue, “Catching criminals is never a bad trade-off.”

The EFF article points out that the new legislation would undermine Section 230 of the 1996 Communications and Decency Act which generally states that you say or post something illegal online, the individual is responsible and not the provider, website or platform.  The new bill would hold companies, providers, and websites responsible for lawsuits, civil damages and state criminal prosecutions.

The new law would require companies to put measures in place to identify, screen user’s posts and speech broadcasted and to also integrate back doors in order to gain access for investigations.

Section 230 also gives email users protection from forwarding messages without being prosecuted.  Section 230 outlines many standard business practices that have been around several years.  Congress is essentially saying it’s for the law to catch up with innovation.

Privacy advocates see this as a direct shell shot into the bow at the free speech protection vessel.  The concern lies in the potential misuse by government officials, especially using the law in the wrong hands or wielded by a vindictive personality. See political axe to grind.

The other side, Senator Feinstein points out, “Technological advances have allowed the online exploitation of children to become much, much worse over recent years.”

Feinstein further explained, “Companies must do more to combat this growing problem on their online platforms. Our bill would allow individuals to sue tech companies that don’t take proper steps to prevent online child exploitation, and it’s an important step to protect the most vulnerable among us.”

As many as 70 groups representing survivors, families and stakeholders such as law enforcement, as well as the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC), Rights4Girls, and the National Center on Sexual Exploitation support the legislation.

Plenty of support exists for both sides of the issue.  One argument is that the legislation, if passed, will break the end to end encryption used for the CIA (Confidentiality, Integrity and Availability) security triad.

An additional criticism from opponents accuses the government of using horrific child exploitation internet and email activity by criminals to pass legislation to digitally spy on the public. The 2020 version of the black helicopter.

If two parties want to solve an important issue, put aside the rhetoric and solve the problem, especially when the solution has bipartisan support.  The EARN IT Act is not a binary issue. It’s not on or off. Right or Wrong. The arguments are not mutually exclusive.  You can speak common language from both sides of the aisle.  The government, tech companies, and advocacy groups must meet and hash out an agreement to both protect children and safeguard privacy for law abiding individuals.

More safeguards and child protections can be accomplished and should be supported by everyone. 

At the same time, the media savvy public should not be wary of sending an email for fear of who is reading it in a big building in the center of Washington, DC, in a dark room with people standing behind the person, looking over both shoulders.

References:

https://www.judiciary.senate.gov/press/rep/releases/graham-blumenthal-hawley-feinstein-introduce-earn-it-act-to-encourage-tech-industry-to-take-online-child-sexual-exploitation-seriously

https://www.lawfareblog.com/earn-it-act-raises-good-questions-about-end-end-encryption

https://www.politico.com/news/2019/12/10/tech-companies-bipartisan-congress-encryption-080704

https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2020/01/congress-must-stop-graham-blumenthal-anti-security-bill

In the Year 1920 but 132 Years Late

architecture art clouds landmark
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

by Rick Bretz

Voting empowers oneself. It gives someone the feeling that they have a say in what happens around them.

History makes the argument that Americans didn’t have a representative government until recently.   The US Constitution was ratified on June 21st, 1788.  They made some mistakes, left out a few disenfranchised members of society,  and failed to address important issues.   The wonderful thing about the US Constitution is the document can be changed.

The Constitution was changed in 1791 with the Bill of Rights and subsequently, several more amendments were added– important ones. The United States of America and its citizens and representatives acted as the editorial board and added more wisdom to make our government by and for the people even better.

It’s President’s Day, a time to celebrate George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and all the other leaders that have taken us this far.  Some were better than others but, nevertheless, they served as best they could under their present-day environment.

These learned and successful men also kicked the can down the road on a few other issues in the name of getting the US Constitution ratified and creating a stable government.

The women’s suffrage movement celebrated their freedom to choose on August 18th, 1920 when the 19th Amendment became part of the United States Constitution.  132 years late but the error was corrected.

That is the day they could exercise their right to vote.  With all battles and wars, the suffrage movement fuel was moved closer to the revolution spark with the formation of the United States under the US Constitution.

In a letter to John Adams on March 31 1776, Abigail Adams wrote, “…in the new Code of Laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make I desire you would Remember the Ladies, and be more generous and favourable to them than your ancestors.” 

She continues her request with a warning, “Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the Husbands. Remember all Men would be tyrants if they could. If particular care and attention is not paid to the Ladies we are determined to foment a Rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any Laws in which we have no voice, or Representation.” 

The framers messed up and didn’t follow her advice.  That rebellion came soon enough with the leadership of Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.  These leaders of the suffrage movement were determined and focused on their ultimate goal and recruited an army of women to accomplish it.

On President’s Day, it’s significant to remember that women didn’t have the right to vote for a President until 1920, 100 years ago.  The fact baffles clear thinking people that it took a prolonged fight to give a fundamental right to a vital group of society, considering their role in America’s struggles and accomplishments.

white house
Photo by Aaron Kittredge on Pexels.com

The United States is a republic, not a democracy.  The majority does not rule.   A republic gives power to elected representatives to act on their interests.

A pure democracy argued Thomas Jefferson, “ …is nothing more than mob rule, where 51 percent of the people may take away the rights of the other 49.”

The argument could also be made that we didn’t have a fully representative government until 1920.  How can you have full representation when significant segments of the population are left out?  The first part got their voting rights in 1870 with the Fifteenth Amendment when African American’s were given the right to vote.  It took another 50 years for the 19th Amendment to pass.    For good measure, Lyndon Johnson passed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 because there were still people who wanted to deny people the right to walk in a polling place and vote. This legislation covered a wide spectrum of voting right abuses.

Native Americans also had a struggle for voting rights.  Like black voters after the fifteenth Amendment, they also had to struggle against state-mandated literacy tests, poll taxes, fraud, and intimidation.

A Ken Burn documentary on the suffrage movement called “Not For Ourselves” features the struggle for voting rights and the two women who fought the difficult fight, Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.  They fought the battle but passed away before their goal was realized in 1920. The documentary points out they were doing for all women after them. It’s worth a look if only to see the ridiculous arguments from the people fighting against women’s voting rights all those years after the US Constitution was ratified in 1788.

One last thought—the United States is not the only country that fought the battle.  Women from England, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East fought and won their voting rights.  In some places, the fight goes on.

We have an electoral college for many reasons such as counteracting voting fraud, creating a firewall against other election day shenanigans as well as resolving elections relatively soon.  The electoral college number that is given to states is a representation of that population.  The only way to get a true representation is for each segment to be given the right and the ability to vote, regardless of race, religion, and gender.

https://www.pbs.org/kenburns/not-for-ourselves-alone

https://constitutioncenter.org/blog/everything-you-ever-wanted-to-know-about-the-bill-of-rights/

https://pacificlegal.org/the-united-states-is-not-a-democracy-and-it-wasnt-meant-to-be-one/?gclid=EAIaIQobChMI0PqYsNPY5wIVxp6zCh3C5QkYEAAYAiAAEgIJfvD_BwE

https://www.loc.gov/teachers/classroommaterials/presentationsandactivities/presentations/elections/right-to-vote.html

https://www.history.com/topics/black-history/voting-rights-act

The Martian and Cast Away-Films Featuring Fortitude

green tree beside seashore near green mountain
Photo by icon0.com on Pexels.com

by Rick Bretz

Every now and then a movie comes along that can teach us a lesson.  Sometimes two.

Cast Away

Two of the best examples of this are from the year 2000 and 2015.  They are Cast Away starring Tom Hanks and The Martian starring Matt Damon.  One is a FedEx Manager while the other is an Astronaut and Botanist.

The Martian

In the digital color projection of these movies, the script carries a message that the audience can use long after the credits have rolled past as they file out of the theater.

gray and white robot
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Both stories involve some form of flight.  The Martian’s Matt Damon character is left behind when the crew must initiate an emergency lift-off from the Mars’ surface.  The other begins with a plane.  with Tom Hanks aboard, crashing into the Pacific Ocean far from civilization.  Hanks drifts exhausted in his life raft until hitting an Island.

Both barely escape death at the beginning of each movie.  From there, life and the movie really begin. The theme is clear to the audience—survival.

Another Tom Hanks movie comes to mind when thinking about these characters. In Apollo 13, the Ed Harris character portraying actual Flight Director Gene Krantz shouts to the Apollo ground crew, “Let’s work the problem people. Let’s not make things any worse by guessing.”

Hanks and Damon spend almost the entire movie deciphering, untangling—literally, and solving their challenges to remain alive.

“You solve one problem… and you solve the next one… and then the next. And If you solve enough problems, you get to come home.”–Mark Watney.

FOOD-A critical obstacle to hurdle was finding food, or in the case of Damon, figure out how to increase the food supply to last for many more Sols until mission control could figure out a rescue plan.  For Hanks in Cast Away, he needed to find food that would sustain life for months and years.  Living on coconuts was not going to cut it for very long.  Hanks needed fish and fire.  He figured out how to create both.

SHELTER-The other Hierarchy of needs involves making, finding or moving your shelter.  For Hanks, it meant first using the life raft as a lean-to tent and then moving into a cave by the ocean.  Damon had shelter at first and then a disaster forced him to rethink his shelter plans and move into the Mars rover vehicle.  Each one adapted to his circumstances as the movie move along.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

MOVEMENT and TRAVELLING-Transportation moved both movies along.  For Hanks, it was the plane, then the life raft, then building a raft out of logs and manufactured rope by the end of the movie so he could be picked up by a freighter, then flown home and then get his old Jeep vehicle from the beginning of movie.  Damon’s character had the rover, but he also had to figure out how to sustain the battery life over long distances.   This needed to be done to reach the spacecraft he would use to carry him to safety.  He had to adapt the spacecraft to lighten the load so he could reach the recovery spacecraft waiting for him.  This and he still had to get creative at the end.

COMMUNICATION MODES-Communication was a significant part of each movie also.  Damon’s character solved the communications issue by finding a communications satellite, digging it out of the sand, bring it back, then assembling it and turning it on.  From there, remembered that he could communicate by computer language ASCI table, using the hexadecimal and character columns and transmitted pictures until they could get the rover communications altered to send out messages.

Hexadecimal Language

Hanks’ issue involved more than just communicating with his rescuers.  First, he tried to alert any rescue planes by making a help sign in the sand and then by using sticks.  When he realized that “help” would not arrive any time soon, his next problem was loneliness, evolving into suicidal craziness from not talking to anyone.  He used the trick of making an inanimate object his best friend so he could talk to her and then bounce off ideas to see if they were valid.  I use bounce because the object was a ball named Wilson and could have been a replacement for his girlfriend Kelly Friers, played Helen Hunt.  His next communication was equally important, talking to the lady whose package he saved from the very beginning.  He was at a crossroads literally and figuratively in life and the director left it up to you to complete the story.

TOOLS FOR SURVIVAL-Tools and how to use them played an important part for both characters. Damon used the tools he had to start planting crops and to save himself with duct tape.  Hanks used netting from a dress to catch seafood and used the blades on a set of skates for a sharp instrument.  In the end, the most important tool was a left-over damaged port-a-potty for a sail to get him out to sea. He also used tree bark for rope.

Resiliency and Determination-Both Damon and Hanks had the intestinal fortitude to overcome circumstances put in their paths.  They also had the ability to recognize when they needed to take a chance.  For Damon,  exiting the spaceship at the right time to meet with the tethered rescuer proved opportunity combined with preparation can yield a fortuitous outcome.  For Hanks, his decision rested on building a raft with a makeshift sail so he could have a chance of reaching a sea vessel.

Movies are chiefly for entertainment purposes but some of them can teach us life lessons.  If life puts a rock in front of you, it doesn’t mean you can’t work the problem and solve it, and then move the rock out of the way and get on with your life.  Nothing is permanent–except traffic, death, and taxes.  Everything else is temporary and can be overcome, even taxes if you have the right accountant.

Matt Damon said it for everyone again at the end of his movie.  “You solve one problem… and you solve the next one… and then the next. And If you solve enough problems, you get to come home.”

In life, if you solve enough problems, you get to continue because you just never know what the tide may bring in.

Crossing the Line with Hate Speech

crossingtheline

by Rick Bretz

During the congressional hearings on Facebook management responsibilities concerning data,  one of the questions to CEO Mark Zuckerberg was “What is hate speech?”  Zuckerberg hesitated for a moment and the congressmen interjected, “I can tell you what it isn’t, hate speech is not something you disagree with.”

[Amendment I.] Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

The congressman wanted to drill down on the accusation that Facebook selectively let liberal political viewpoints get through their algorithms designed to block hate speech and bullying type posts and but also block conservative slanted articles. .

Who knows how their code is written and what type of firewall configurations they use? The more interesting part of the exchange was “What is the clear definition of hate speech?”  Do you know it when you see it and is it actual hate speech?

The representative had a point but he wasn’t completely right because most people also disagree with certain forms of hate speech.  Hate speech can have a general definition but the details concisely and clearly defined.  As Mark Zuckerberg testified at his hearing, “Details matter.”

“If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”

George Orwell

The Supreme Court defined it this way in 1942. In the case of Beauharnais v. Illinois , Justice Frank Murphy explained where free speech can be judged as outside the accepted normal speech. These instances include,  “lewd and obscene, the profane, the libelous and the insulting or ‘fighting’ words — those which by their very utterances inflict injury or tend to incite an immediate breach of the peace.”

All hate speech and free speech does not fall into the verbal or written bucket.  Hate speech can also be an act or symbol such as a burning cross on a yard.  It is noteworthy the Supreme Court has sided with the defendants or refused to hear the cases over such hateful acts as Nazi marches and a cross burning on yard.

Adolf Hitler’s escalation of the subtle hatred to the blatant gave him time to build his military and economy before waging war with Europe, Eastern Europe, Britain and its commonwealth, Africa and the Soviet Union.

From Adolf Hitler’s speech in 1937, given on January 30th, the anniversary of the Nazi takeover of power in 1933, nuried deep within the pages of the text comes this, “.…the failure to recognize the importance of conserving the blood and the race free from inter-mixture and thereby the racial aspect and character which are God’s gift and God’s handiwork. It is not for men to discuss the question of why Providence created different races, but rather to recognize the fact that it punishes those who disregard its work of creation.

And further along this, “…so the blood-and-race doctrine of the National Socialist Movement will bring about a revolutionary change in our knowledge and therewith a radical reconstruction of the picture which human history gives us of the past and will also change the course of that history in the future.”

He was talking about the Jewish communities and culture and also was warning everyone who paid attention that his words would be followed by action.

This passage is notable because of his words after 1940 when giving speeches.   These words were spoken later during World War II, speaking to a crowd at the Sports Palace in Berlin, January 30 1942, “And we say that the war will not end as the Jews imagine it will, namely with the uprooting of the Aryans, but the result of this war will be the complete annihilation of the Jews.”

Hitler’s party and propaganda ministry later published a pamphlet with the offensive title, “The Jew as a World Parasite” in 1944 for “educational” purposes.

Hate speech in America could be just as vile when referring to races, gender and sexual orientation from groups like the Ku Klux Klan and other organizations.  Hate speech can be and often is protected by the First Amendment.

Freedom of speech ceases to be protected when it incites violence against people resulting in injury or death.  The crossing of the line should be recognized when it initially occurs.

Recognizing hate turning into violence several years later as in the case of Germany and the holocaust, or in the case of way the United States treated the Indian Nations in the 1800s can be disastrous for a whole section of society.   Issues remain concerning  the Trail of Tears episode and President Andrew Jackson’s decision.  Many countries have their records that force their citizens to hang their heads in shame when reading the pages of history.  The British have theirs, and so do the Russians, Australians and the Japanese.

What is important is that leaders and citizens learn from it so the world will be a better place.  It’s a constant struggle as we all can see when turning toward the Middle East or more recently when looking back at the breakup of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s.

Facebook is confronting tough questions about what is permitted on their social network as well as what they do with their data metrics.  Discerning real hate speech from different viewpoints is an issue that must be resolved so bad actors don’t have a platform for recruitment.  These are questions that should answers by getting all of the right people in a room.

Some people talk or post and then go back to their cave.  Some people talk and then they turn it into action.  These are the people we all have to guard against and prevent them from carrying out a plan that could maim or kill innocent people.

 

Notable Links:

http://www.uscourts.gov/about-federal-courts/educational-resources/about-educational-outreach/activity-resources/what-does

https://www.recode.net/2018/4/10/17216734/live-facebook-mark-zuckerberg-testimony-senate-hearing-data

https://www.thoughtco.com/hate-speech-cases-721215

https://www.npr.org/2011/03/03/134239713/France-Isnt-The-Only-Country-To-Prohibit-Hate-Speech

http://research.calvin.edu/german-propaganda-archive/hitler1.htm

http://research.calvin.edu/german-propaganda-archive/weltparasit.htm

http://www.worldwarii.org/p/hitler-speeches.html

http://ww2history.com/key_moments/Holocaust/Hitler_talks_of_Jewish_annihilation

http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/nazi-statements

http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/anti-semitism

 

 

First? Ohio or North Carolina

By Rick Bretz

Driving the nation’s Interstate Highways you may have noticed Ohio and North Carolina license plates trumpeting their aviation claims to fame.  Ohio license plates show the state is the “Birthplace of Aviation” while North Carolina license plates have a “First in Flight” motto on their plates.

ohiplate

first in flight

Over the years, a disagreement among these states developed concerning the one that can claim the birthplace of aviation.  The disagreement formed because Orville and Wilbur Wright lived in Dayton, Ohio, and engineered and tested their prototypes near there.  However, the Wright Brothers first documented powered flight occurred on the Outer Banks near Kitty Hawk, NC, where the sea wind could help them achieve their goal.

To this important issue the Federal government stepped in and Congress decided the issue in 2003 by voting Dayton, Ohio, as the birthplace of aviation by 378-3.  You can probably guess which state the “Ney” votes came from, North Carolina.

It makes sense that the home of Wilbur and Orville Wright is the birthplace of aviation. Dayton is where they grew up, went to school and set up their bicycle shop.  They tested their plans in a field near there, fine tuning the engine and the wings, before moving the plane to Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.

the-wright-brothers

This is explained in great detail by a book written by David McCullough, “The Wright Brothers.”   The book describes how meticulous and mechanical they were while developing a prototype.  McCullough also explains in detail the challenges involved in developing an engine that would produce enough power and speed to lift an airplane.  The engineering also had to take into account stability and aerodynamics.  All of this while other inventors and engineers around the world were racing to produce the first documented flight.

The author also gives us an insight to the personalities of Wilbur and Orville Wright.  McCullough’s literary genius and research portrays the Wright Brother’s parents and family members while giving us insight into their work ethic and passion for research.

After reading the book,  the Wright Brothers would be pleased to have their hometown of Dayton, Ohio, named as the Birthplace of Aviation.  However, the argument over Ohio versus North Carolina would have amused them.  They saw moving to North Carolina as a practical matter not only for testing their plane but also as financially sound due to budget constraints. the were pragmatic and were interested in solving issues.  The license plate mottoes for both states are correct.  Ohio is the birthplace of aviation while North Carolina can boast that it is the state where the first documented flight began the new age of flying.  To cement their status in aviation, as an afterthought, Ohio can boast the largest number of astronauts, 24, including John Glenn and Neil Armstrong.  If you are keeping score, the most astronauts from colleges are The United States Naval Academy, The United States Air Force Academy, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), in that order.

 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RriKI7u72Xs

 

Notable Links:

https://www.csmonitor.com/2003/0310/p02s01-usgn.html

http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/ohio-defends-status-birthplace-aviation-dispute-article-1.2219588

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/may/16/flight-wright-brothers-gustave-whitehead-connecticut-ohio-north-carolina

http://www.wral.com/3-states-tussle-over-bragging-rights-to-1st-flight/13031320/

https://www.ncpedia.org/aviation/overview

http://www.enquirer.com/editions/2003/06/14/loc_ohioflight14.html

https://www.britannica.com/technology/history-of-flight

 

The 10,000 Day War and Ken Burns’ Vietnam War PBS Series

by Rick Bretz

Before analyzing these two documentaries, it is important to note the definition of a documentary.

From the Oxford English Dictionary–Documentary: Using pictures and interviews with people involved in real events to provide a factual report on a particular subject.

Documentaries strive to be objective but their reliance on human beings makes that goal honorable but a little out of reach. People have their own views and biases as witnesses to history and those who write their first draft of history are subjective.  Documentaries are the truth according to who produces them. In the end, documentaries can be a source for information but just like all forms of research, a scholar must seek other sources and make his or her own conclusions.

Vietnam War (1)

Many Vietnam War documentaries have been produced but two stand out.  One was done more than 30 years ago while the other aired recently on PBS.   One was produced by a Canadian journalist and narrated by Richard Basehart while the other was produced by the noted documentary producer Ken Burns and narrated by actor Peter Coyote, airing recently on PBS.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-pacific-16568035

http://afe.easia.columbia.edu/timelines/vietnam_timeline.htm

 

The Vietnam story goes back centuries before the United States became a nation. The people of  Vietnam were conquered and abused by the Chinese and French before the American government and military were major players in the Vietnamese struggle for independence.  Ho Chi Minh wanted to speak with Woodrow Wilson after World War II in Paris.  However, politics and diplomacy married with class defined government protocols can be complicated.  Not seeing then how Ho Chi Minh could be a leader is understandable.  What is not excusable is how the United States could ignore the Vietnamese leader after working with him during World War II to defeat the Japanese.  It’s only because they believed France’s Charles de Gaulle when he suggested the communist ideology would be taking a foothold in Western Europe.   Leaders saw the dominoes falling and became worried about the Red Menace.  This was also the time that the United States government thought that communism was infiltrating American society from Hollywood to the local unions.  The Korean War and the influence of Communist China was also dominating foreign policy strategy during the early 1950s.

12th_Inf,_4th_Inf_Div,_Vietnam_War_Hill_530

They documentaries interview key players or use interviews recorded years ago.   The 10,000 Day War is less passionate and more forensically produced.  It tries to stay away from making judgments and conclusions.  The recent Ken Burns documentary uses more editorial language and interviews veterans and other key players to illicit an emotional response.  Both of them use archival news footage and photographs.

They were both ambitious in their attempt to explain why the world, an especially the United States, became entangled in a war many people thought we had no business waging.  They both make the point that our commitments to our allies like France’s Charles de Gaulle and the strict following of the Truman Doctrine led to sending advisers that eventually led to more than a half million servicemen fighting there in the 1960s.

In both documentaries, the Presidential Administrations that were a part of the Vietnam problem don’t look good.  The early administrations, Eisenhower and Kennedy, look better than others because they were wary of the South Vietnamese leadership in the early stages.  In addition,  the US wasn’t fully committed yet and the early administrations conclusions were that “this is their war and the South Vietnamese were going to have to win it.”

The one criticism of The 10, 000 Day War is that it is a US dominated production and doesn’t give any other country’s diplomatic view, and that it doesn’t take to task the French Government’s insistence in occupying Vietnam after World War II when France was liberated themselves from Nazi rule.  The Ken Burns’ series points out that the only reason France wanted to control Vietnam was national pride and the economic exploitation of its resources.  The PBS series points out that the French occupiers treatment of the local population gave rise to Ho Chi Minh’s recruitment efforts.  The Burn’s PBS series also makes a better attempt to explain the North Vietnamese and South Vietnamese points of view.

Ho Chi Minh for is part couldn’t understand why the Americans couldn’t see his side of wanting to gain his country’s freedom from colonial rule.  He reasoned the United States was in the same position 200 hundred years ago so they must be able to relate to his struggle.  He didn’t count on America’s fear of communism and the spread of it across the globe. What is fascinating to know from the PBS series is that Ho Chi Minh’s influence in the decision making process was diminished late in his life.

The 10,000 Day War documentary is called that because it lasted that long.  Scholars might say the United States is still fighting the war by the decisions they make concerning other wars and because they are trying to make up for the ill-treatment of the Vietnam veterans after they came back.  The PBS series does a good job of telling the veterans story and their experiences there.

Vietnam veterans are looked upon wrongly as fighters who went over, lost the war, were there to do drugs and commit war atrocities.  As with many events, negative headlines become the perception and finally the reality.  The movies from Hollywood never helped the perception.  This is far from the truth.  The majority of Vietnam veterans were honorable and went over there to do a job and come back alive. They were put in a situation they had little, if no control, over. They made the trip, they didn’t skip out or make excuses.  Some of them came back alive but 58, 220 didn’t make it.  That’s a high price to pay for a generation.

Both documentaries are worth watching but they are both just additional sources. Do your own research and make your own conclusions.  You walk away from both of them shaking your head and wondering why decisions were made and why opportunities were not explored, especially after World War II.

Notable Links:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vietnam:_The_Ten_Thousand_Day_War

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gvo3yeTYvNc

https://topdocumentaryfilms.com/vietnam-ten-thousand-day-war/

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0174323/

https://undertheradar.military.com/2013/04/revisiting-the-ten-thousand-day-war/

http://www.pbs.org/kenburns/the-vietnam-war/watch/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Vietnam_War_(TV_series)

http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/ken-burnss-vietnam-war-is-no-profile-in-courage/

http://kenburns.com/films/vietnam/

 

 

When War Invades Your Personal Universe

tanks rolling through town

 

by Rick Bretz

“The Gate of Hell has opened and shrapnel came through the windows,” a Gaza resident said today. The Gaza resident’s statement could apply to any war throughout history.  One hard truth remains: Once the gate of hell opens it is difficult to close.

When people can’t settle their differences through diplomacy, civilians inevitably see the failed results at their front door step. History has proven that leaders and generals believe adversaries surrender when spears and arrows find their way to a civilian’s living space. News channel broadcasters describe horrific tragedies from current events daily.  It happened in Persian Gulf and Afghanistan Wars, the Vietnam War, Korean War, World War II, World War I all the way back to the first earthly disagreement over territorial rights.

It’s happening now in the Ukraine and in the Middle East while Hamas and Israel fire rockets at each other. For most non-combatant civilians, it doesn’t matter who is right or wrong. Some civilians even pick a side until they see at what a cause costs. What matters then is the smell of death has entered their universe and they want it to stop.

The First Battle of Manassas Battlefield
The First Battle of Manassas Battlefield

July 21st marks the anniversary of the First Battle of Manassas or the First Battle of Bull Run as the Union Government called it. The battle marked the first major fight between the Armies of Virginia. If there is one truth other than death inside the universe of battle and that is the fight will always involve civilians on the battlefield. Such is the case at the Battle of First Manassas or Bull Run depending on your loyalties during the Civil War.  The Confederates refer to the battle as Manassas while the Union called it Bull Run.  The signs leading to the battlefield today read “Manassas” as you travel down Interstate 66 in Virginia just outside Clifton and Centreville, Va.

Judith Henry's grave site along with her children.
Judith Henry’s grave site along with her children.

A key part of the Manassas battle occurred on Henry Hill around the Henry House. Judith Carter Henry, 84 or 85 years old, stubbornly refused to leave her upstairs bedroom while the battle continued around her house. Judith Henry was killed by a Union cannon shell meant for the snipers who were using her house. She was the first civilian killed at First Battle of Manassas, July 21, 1861. The house had been in the family for a number of years and grave markers remain on the battlefield in front of the house rebuilt in1870.

General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson's monument.
General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson’s monument.

The battlefield is a place where you can get a sense of the “Universe of Battle.”  This is where armies and governments from both sides may have formulated the idea that this war would be over later than sooner as General Tecumseh Sherman predicted at the beginning.  Another dynamic general,  General Thomas Jackson got his name that would go down in history when General Bernard Bee yelled, “There is Jackson standing there like a stone wall.”  So it was General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson as the name remained throughout history. Some accounts have claimed that the statement was meant as a criticism of Jackson’s refusal to move and help his fellow units. However, history proves that Jackson’s unit suffered many casualties during the battle.

When walking most battlefields including this one, the observer gets the sense that communication must have been difficult. They used flag signal codes and runners for communication. Command and control as well as integrating battle elements such as cannon units, cavalry and infantry must have been difficult. Today’s satellite communications and almost instant intelligence data from the field gives today’s commanders more time to make decisions.

The phrase “Universe of Battle” suggests different meanings to a person’s point of view. It can represent the horrors of war invading a civilian’s universe as in the case of the recent downing of Malaysian  Flight MH17 or the conflicts in the Middle East between Hamas and the Israeli defense forces.

The universe of battle could also mean the particular space you’re living in when fighting in a battle. The kind of universe where all your senses reach a new level  from hearing every audio wave,  and smelling the cannon’s gunpowder to seeing the blood on wounded soldiers and civilians.  It’s a bubble atmosphere until it’s all over.

IMG_3295

I choose to visit battlefields to honor those who find themselves, through the accidental fate or personal choice, in a situation where they have to fight or die for a cause, defense of a country, for the elimination of a social system,  for a particular religion or for the continuance of mankind’s maturity.  Maybe there will be a time when people will cease creating new battlefield parks.  Imagine.

 

Notable Links:

http://www.civilwar.org/battlefields/bullrun.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Battle_of_Bull_Run

http://www.nps.gov/mana/historyculture/first-manassas.htm

http://civilwarwiki.net/wiki/Henry_House_(Manassas)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_A._Haskell

http://www.stonewalljackson.org/