The digital, broadcast and print media reflect, daily, the worstparts of human nature.
Evil ISIS hate groups commit atrocities in the name of religion. Countries invade neighboring countries killing innocent civilians. In the United States road rage violence continues just because a mother wanted to teach her daughter the proper way to drive. With all of that in the open, I think it is time to focus on an event that has given people joy since it first sent audio waves across a room to the human ear.
On this day, February 19th, 1878, Thomas Edison received his patent for the gramophone or phonograph. Since this invention dropped its first needle on a cylinder and then a disc, musical instruments, arrangements, lyrics and the human voice have made the audience forget their problems for just a few minutes, or for a good hour if you wanted to hear the whole album, LP or song list. Producers, singers and talent have given us songs we’ll never forget.
Here are some of my favorites. These are songs, I think, have a perfect mix of lyrics, vocals and instrumental arrangements. Music and the arts in general are the best parts of civilization. Especially when being civilized is the exception rather than the norm in some parts of the world.
Let the Day Begin-The Call
Everyone should wake up and listen to this song before they do anything else. If everyone did, there would be happier people on the highways during the morning commute.
Night Train-Rickie Lee Jones
Rickie Lee’s voice is an instrument in itself and she uses it to perfection on this song about love and moving down the line.
On the Turning Away-Pink Floyd
This is a song that simply states, stop looking away and start doing something to make the society a little better.
It Was a Very Good Year-Frank Sinatra
This song is about growing up but all you have to do is think about your experiences to connect with this song. Also, reading between the lines for this song is a fun exercise because in Sinatra’s day, a song writer had to be more subtle with words.
Post idea suggested and with assistance by Olivia Boye from Florida
By Rick Bretz
The tobacco crop was an original export from the colonies to England and Europe at the onset of colonization of North America. It was a building block for the economic security of the United States. As the United States expanded and grew, tobacco products gained a healthy share of the disposable income market. In time, for some people, that disposable income became a necessary purchase for many Americans. The medical community and government officials came to the conclusion in the 20th Century that tobacco products, although enjoyable for some smokers, may create significant health issues with usage over time.
Tobacco product advertising from the 1940s through the middle 1960s remained unchallenged but the health argument remained in the background of the issue. Several television shows and networks brought on major tobacco companies to finance their programming. Film stars were seen smoking while some were paid to endorse a certain brand. The youth of America saw that smoking was cool and smoking meant that you were among the “in-crowd”; and furthermore, your personality exuded danger and adventure. All of this, in addition to the belief that smoking was harmless, contributed to the steady rise in smokers over time. This, of course, increased profits, and provided the necessary marketing funds for further advertising strategies.
The other side of the smoking issue relates to the altering of the carcinogen levels and other additives by companies to increase the likelihood of addiction. This is an important part of the story. Nevertheless, it is an issue for another time.
The advertising game changed after the Surgeon General released a Health Advisory Report on June 11, 1964, outlining the negative health issues from long-term smoking.
From the Center for Disease Control website:
The Advisory Committee concluded that cigarette smoking is—
A cause of lung cancer and laryngeal cancer in men
A probable cause of lung cancer in women
The most important cause of chronic bronchitis
Later, the U.S. Congress adopted the Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act of 1965 and the Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act of 1969. These laws—
Required a health warning on cigarette packages
Banned cigarette advertising in the broadcasting media
Called for an annual report on the health consequences of smoking
Despite pressure from the tobacco and broadcasting lobbies, the push to get a law passed to ban tobacco advertising gained momentum. That led to the act to ban cigarette advertising from television and radio in 1971. On April 1, 1971, President Richard Nixon, a pipe smoker himself, signed into law legislation that prohibited tobacco advertising on television and radio. Estimates at the time, showed that broadcast companies lost more than 220 million a year from advertising revenues. At that time, 220 million dollars was a big chunk of change that had to be replaced in order for the industry to satisfy investors and profit margins. According to broadcasting records, the last televised cigarette ad aired on the Johnny Carson Show at 11:50 PM on January 1st 1971. Carson’s ad occurred on January 1st, so that, in a compromise to the broadcasting lobby, they were able to get their last influx of profits by airing cigarette ads on the New Year’s bowl games. What was broadcast media’s loss, was print media’s gain. Tobacco company marketing campaigns moved advertising dollars to magazines and other print media.
Here are the primary 1971 smoking ad ban laws.
Made it unlawful to advertise cigarettes on radio or television beginning Jan. 2, 1971.
Changed the mandatory wording on cigarette packages from: “Caution: Cigarette Smoking May Be Hazardous To Your Health” to: “Warning: The Surgeon General Has Determined That Cigarette Smoking Is Dangerous To Your Health.”
Prohibited all state and local health-related regulation or prohibition of cigarette advertising.
According to the druglibary.org, “On October 20,1971, a U.S. District Court ruled that the Congressional ban on cigarette advertising is constitutional. The ruling stated that such advertising does not qualify under the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of speech; a sharp distinction was drawn between guarantees of freedom of speech for individuals and the “limited extent” to which broadcast advertising qualifies for such protection.”
Since those years when legislation was passed to curb cigarette advertising, the government and particularly congressional leaders have sought to prevent the sale of products to children, teenagers and adults by requiring age checks and high taxes on cigarette packs, cartons and boxes.
Some researchers have questioned whether this has curbed smoking numbers, considering the fact these same companies sell to foreign countries despite increasing legislation to do what the United States accomplished in the 60s and 70s. It seems today, that it may be easier and cheaper to buy a marijuana cigarette or product than a tobacco product. So, as they used to say in the military, “At ease, smoke ’em if you got ’em!”
SMOKING BY TOPIC
1940s-1971 1972-1990 1991-2000 2001-2015
Film Used frequently Used Sparingly
Television/Radio For advertising dollars until Jan 2, 1971 Characterization
Print Continued with Surgeon General’s Warning
Billboards Continued with Surgeon General’s Warning
Cold War consequences remained high from the end of World War II to long after the fall of the Berlin Wall. For some, the price of being captured meant prison time, public trials, or for some, torture and execution by being shot in the back of the head.
The authors of the book,”A Circle of Treason“, Sandra Grimes and Jeanne Vertefeuille, started their careers in the CIA in 1967 and 1954 respectively. The authors give a detailed account of their lives in the CIA. Each started out as Administrative and Intelligence Assistants and advanced to the level of station and branch chiefs.
The book is exactly what the subtitle states, “A CIA account of the traitor Aldrich Ames and the men he betrayed.” The authors produced a book that details the inside story of how the agency caught one of its own spies, Aldrich Ames. What can’t be denied after looking at the evidence is Ames’ dishonesty, lack of integrity, avarice and betrayal to the people he swore to protect.
Aldrich Ames, according to the authors, caused the deaths of many CIA assets who were vital to the security of the United States at a time when both countries had nuclear weapons and not that much command and control over them. The task force investigated Ames the detailed information on bank accounts and meeting they found led to his arrest in 1994. So why take this long to write the book. The authors let the readers know up front that their work was vetted and scrubbed by the CIA’s Publications Review Board so nothing in the book compromises security. The CIA review process took three years. Between that and the insistence that the book be accurate gave the book a published date of 2013.
The book covers the history of the team, the authors’ careers and how each arrived at the table of five principal investigators with the mission of trying to find out why their CIA assets were being systematically identified, called back to Moscow, tortured for information and executed. The years long investigation was tedious and frustrating but the Grimes and Vertefeuille continued their dogged pursuit eliminating a group of people to get to the only one they determined could be the mole that gave up their people.
The book makes clear that it is not enough to accuse someone of spying and being a mole for America’s adversaries but an agency has to have proof. Proof that can hold up in court. This means having dates, times, documents, video and audio if possible so that when an officer or agent arrest the person that person pleads guilty or there is a conviction. The book covers that and includes instances where Ames was given his own office so that the agency could hide a camera to get more information for their case.
What is particularly chilling is how Ames sells out his people for money and nothing else. The authors give their Soviet assets a human form by covering their backgrounds, their families and revealing why they might have chosen to spy for the United States and rather than be loyal to the communist regime.
The internal political issues and personality clashes hindered the process as it moved along. As an understatement, these problems are systematic of the Washington, DC, area government offices in general. It is a testament to the group that they stuck with their mission of identifying the traitor.
The book is highly recommended for getting the inside story from two people who actually were there and understood the process and why it took a while to capture on of their own. In the aftermath, many people didn’t get proper recognition for sticking with the investigation. This book outlines who the primary heroes in this case and who in the bureaucracy set out to place blame and take credit where credit wasn’t due.
These two highly skilled professionals and authors fall into the heroes category but they are professionals and getting the man who betrayed so many people was enough. This book opens the building cipher lock doors, walks by the badge checker to the rooms where daily CIA operators work so the reader can find out how they caught their mole. It doesn’t tell you everything but it is as close as the public will get.
A song that references the Civil Rights Act passed in 1964 and specifically the formation of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to “Give those who ain’t got a little more” as Bruce Hornsby sings. The also refers to the Food Stamp Act of 1964 to help those people who need an assist to boost themselves up the economic ladder. Best remembered words of the song: That’s just the way it is. Some things will never change. That’s just the way it is. Ah-but don’t you believe them.
Billy Joel has stated that he doesn’t like singing this song in concert because he has to remember a string names and events from history. Indeed, he’s on record as saying he didn’t think the song was “that great to begin with.” Song criticisms aside, the song does a good job of listing several famous people and historical events while rhyming at the same time.
Here’s one of the best:
“Rosenbergs, H Bomb, Sugar Ray, Panmunjom Brando, The King And I, and The Catcher In The Rye
Eisenhower, Vaccine, England’s got a new queen Maciano, Liberace, Santayana goodbye”
The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald-Gordon Lightfoot, 1976
Gordon Lightfoot researched the tragedy of the Edmund Fitzgerald and put the events leading up to the freighter sinking into a song that is classic still being heard today. The SS Edmund Fitzgerald Great Lakes Freighter surrendered to the cold waters of Lake Superior on November 10, 1975 during a heavy storm and with it took the lives of its crew of 29 souls on board. It’s a perfect blend of words and haunting music.
I know this doesn’t reference history but it refers to the people who write the first draft. This is an amusing song to listen to but it is so true. He wrote this song in 1982 but it is relevant as ever today. He’s turns the microscope on media but he’s really scolding us, the audience, for liking it way too much. Lines like “People love it when you lose” throughout the song disrobe the media so the listener can see the king, the media, without their clothes while simultaneously scolding the audience for giving the media the power to continue their wicked ways.
Considered one of the best call to action songs of all time. Bono tells the listener he’s tired of the violence. It’s non-partisan song but he is clear from the lyrics that he wants the killing to stop. The militaristic drum beat in the beginning sets the tone for the words and music U2 brings to the song. Lead singer Bono sings, “I can’t believe the news today. Oh, I can’t close my eyes and make it go away.” Later, he asks “How long must we sing this song.” From their “War” album, the song concentrates on the “Bloody Sunday” incident in Derry, Northern Ireland in the Bogside area on January 30, 1972 when 13 protestors died from injuries from battling British forces during a Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association March.
This is a song that has been covered by many singers and is about three significant people in the fight for civil rights. The words, “Has anybody here seen by old friend Abraham” and repeated for Martin and John are poignant throughout the rendition. A song about what might have been.
A song about a terrible plane crash near Clear Lake, Iowa on February 3, 1959 that killed everyone on board including Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson.
On the surface this masterpiece of writing is about that plane crash but has several references and meanings in the lyrics left to interpretation of the listener. The interpretation is left to the audience because Don McLean refuses to say what he had in mind when writing the lyrics. This has left several people to create websites to fill the void about what the song means.
This song is about the Vietnam War and how it affected soldiers after they came back to the United States. It is a song that is relevant to every soldier coming home from every country involved in a conflict, As the song title states, the average age of the Vietnam soldier was 19 years old. An age significantly lower than the Korean War and World War II.
Honorable Mentions: The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down-Joan Baez; Strange Fruit-Billie Holiday; Pride (In The Name In Love)-U2; Zombie-The Cranberries; Ohio-Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.
I see and hear many negative news items on the web, radio and television. I decided to write about what is great about living in today’s society. For the most part, people practice their religious faith or lack thereof despite a few pockets of backward groups and societies. Wars and violence have always existed. Unlike the past with local papers and radio, today each instance is magnified by all of our media choices. Blank internet pages need to be filled with content so local news gets more real estate on the screen. This means that the world and the people who live on it, separated by cultures, religions, language and nation boundaries, remain a work in progress. We all have issues to work on but overall today’s societies have many positives to offer.
1. Fighting Diseases–The current Ebola virus issue is an example of how countries today are better equipped to stop the spread of dangerous diseases. Sure it has moved to other countries but it has been identified and individuals quarantined. In the past, the disease might have moved without anyone knowing about the virus until it would have become a worldwide epidemic. Today the Center for Disease Control and the Worldwide Health Organization monitor the spread of diseases and create strategies to combat any epidemic. In addition, vaccines prevent the spread of disease among children and adults. Penicillin and other drugs prevent or hold many health issues in check. A hundred years or so, it was common for parents to lose children to diseases before the age of 10. Today it happens but rarely from a common disease like mumps or other types of contagious diseases
2. Technology–Let’s face it. We have hardware today that just makes life easier. The dishwasher, the microwave, the GPS, the SMART phone, ATM machines, remote controls, cameras on cars for backing up, and garage door openers help us get through the day. Here’s hoping that all of the satellites stay in the sky because if they fall out, all of us will have to pull over on the side of road because we will all be lost. We even have automated windshield wipers. I recently bought a new car after driving the same one for more than 10 years. The new car has all of the wiz-bang stuff such as satellite radio and Bluetooth command technology but it also has auto sensing windshield wipers so if it rains we don’t have to bother with turning the knob on the steering wheel. Just in case I can’t recognize that it is raining, the car does it for me. Yesterday’s cars didn’t even have power steering.
3. Freedom of Movement–We can go anywhere, anytime by car, train, airplane or boat as long as we have the money, time and the means. Today travelers move at a faster rate across the country and the globe for less cost than at any time in the history of the human race. We can run anywhere but we can’t hide. But that’s another list about today’s tracking technology.
4. Consumer and Worker Safety–Watchdog groups have made it a safer world to live and work. Some may hold the view that they go overboard but you could also say that if it has the potential to happen, it will happen, either at work or at play. Nobody wants to see a loved one hurt and organizations like the Consumer Products Safety Commission, the Food and Health Administration and Occupational Safety and Health Administration oversee safety and health in the United States. International organizations include the International Consumer Product, Health and Safety Organization in addition to an individual country’s safety departments. With procedures and equipment in place like fall restraints, harnesses and safety glasses, the labor force is more secure and protected than ever. Lately work place violence has been in the news but that has always been a danger due to personalities and conflict issues. Stress will always be a part of everyday life. Making sure one takes care of a family’s health and well-being tends to do that to someone.
5. Less Crime and Violence–This one may be controversial but it is true. Taking into account the single years where crime statistics rise slightly, FBI Crime figures show a decrease. If you cherry pick certain years and types of crime you can justify certain increases but overall there has been less crime. In addition, if you zero in on cities with large populations with high murder rates, you would think that violent crime in increasing. Statistics by the FBI and other organization like the Department of Justice show a downward trend. From its peak in the middle 90s, violent crime rates have been dropping or holding steady. That’s in the United States. In most European and Asian countries you can walk around relatively safely. Now that is not taking into account areas of the world where war is raging. For any traveler though, it is best to take precautionary measures whether traveling form the United States to another country or international citizen flying to the United States. We always need to work on decreasing violence but domestic violence, reported and unreported, is what needs to be addressed. Check it out for yourself.
6. Less War–It’s true that more people have been killed by war and conflict in the 20th century than any other. The statistics are inflated due to weapons technology. Bigger, better, faster weapons used against citizens as well as the military means more death and higher numbers. Two world wars and a long Vietnam War as well as the war on terrorism that began long before this century has contributed to the human death toll. Having stated that, previous centuries were filled with conflict in several countries at the same period in history for different reasons. The exception was peace rather than war during a lifetime. You can point to a certain year on a timeline and examine Europe, Asia, North America, South America, Asia Minor, Russia and Africa and more often than not a conflict or war was raging among countries on those lands. Although the United Nations has its critics, the organization does provide an opportunity for countries to resolve differences and hold leaders accountable for their actions.
7. Economic Stability–Despite pockets of poverty and suffering throughout the world, a majority of the world enjoys the ability and the right to earn a comfortable wage and most make enough to satisfy the Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, such as food, shelter, security, and other things like SMART Phones. Furthermore, governments, having passed measures and legislation, prevent wild stock market fluctuations and crashes by using all of the countermeasure tools after learning the lessons of 1929 and 2008 economic collapses. Laws such as antitrust legislation also exist today enabling justice departments to catch white-collar financial crime.
8. Natural Disaster Measures and Warnings—The ability to forecast hurricanes, typhoons, earthquakes, tornadoes as well as snow storms and other weather problems has helped people throughout the world prepare before nature unleashes its wrath. Sometimes forecasters miss the mark but more often they let us know what is moving in well before the day it arrives. Often predicting disasters like the 2004 Tsunami is difficult. The good news is that with each year, forecasters and scientists are learning and finding out more information about how to prepare.
That’s it. When you think about it as President Barack Obama said to the United Nation’s General Assembly recently, “this is the best time in human history to be born, for you are more likely than ever before to be literate, to be healthy, and to be free to pursue your dreams.” He is right. If you think objectively without any political leanings, he is correct. We do live in a world today that is much safer and more convenient than ever. And that’s a positive.
We’ve all seen the movie “Marathon Man” when Dustin Hoffman’s character is repeatedly asked, “Is it safe?”. Lawrence Olivier not getting an answer then sadistically digs into Hoffman’s teeth as a form of torture.
Today, professionals working in the journalism and broadcasting fields have to ask themselves, “is it safe?”, before venturing into dangerous areas of the world where hate, revenge and conflict rule the day. The job has always had its inherent dangers with the threat of prison sentences, injury, assassination and outright murder before every interview or timely picture.
The brutal murders of media professionals James Foley and Steven Sotloff in the last few weeks by ISIS, a terrorist organization without any morals or a modicum of decency, has answered that question for many in the profession.
The ISIS cowards have gone as low as to behead British hostage David Haines, an aid worker trying to help others in a war-torn part of the world. British Prime Minister David Cameron called it an “Act of pure evil.” I have other words but I won’t use them in this article.
Journalists and broadcasters write history’s rough draft for authors to analyze and research later. I love history and I don’t like people who try to suppress the information writers might use later. People who harass, kill, maim or intimidate journalists, videographers, photographers or broadcasters contribute to man’s inhumanity towards man in perpetuity.
There’s a difference between media professionals being captured and killed purposely for an organization’s propaganda purposes as opposed to a journalist being killed in the line of getting the story. One is an accepted risk while the other is just pure calculated murder for propaganda reasons and to show the world how brutal one can be. In reality terrorists are just plain old cowards who would rather make the world a darker place rather than an enlightened one. What courage does it take to kill someone kneeling with their hands tied behind their back?
I’ll answer that, none whatsoever, not an ounce. The person kneeling before the terrorist has the courage.
Have you ever watched a film or tape from the prohibition era, of war atrocities, or someone fighting racial inequality? If you have, you must realize someone had to be in harm’s way to capture that moment in time so a student or government representative could learn from it. Someone has to be on the other side of the lens to get it to the audience watching and reading safely in their homes.
The danger that media professionals have had to endure has been around a long time. If there’s a story, a person has been there to tell it. That’s why we have history.
The Committee to Protect Journalists is a website that exists to monitor media professionals and how many have given their lives so we can understand what is happening throughout the world.
More people should read this website and find out about the latest information.
These courageous journalists and broadcasters have understood one truth, If evil, death, intimidation and fear hide behind a curtain, then nothing will change. Their words and pictures shine a light on these issues and force the world to wake up. Their lives will not go unnoticed.