Maine Writer

Its about people and issues I care about.

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Location: Topsham, MAINE, United States

My blogs are dedicated to the issues I care about. Thank you to all who take the time to read something I've written.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Was Governor Romney Effective in Massachusetts? Pundits Should Find out!

Patrick B. Pexton deserves a banner headline with his Ombudsman column link above.

Pexton writes about a survey he initiated of Governor Romney's past record as the political leader of Massachusetts. Pexton rightly says Romney's past performance as governor is a good indicator of how effective a President he would be, if elected.  Pexton read 700 articles published in The Boston Globe about Romney's one term as Massachusetts governor.

Moreover, Pexton recommends a journalist inquiry in the style of the late David Broder, asking reporters and pundits to go to Massachusetts, to ask the people how they perceived Romney's one term as governor.

Pexton's op ed summarizes the quality of Governor Romney's one term as Massachusetts governor was mediocre at best and inconsistent at its worst, with the emphasis on the latter.

Pexton writes:  "Romney, for example, is nothing if not agile. (Julie speak says agile is a euphemism for 'inconsistent'.) In his gubernatorial campaign, (Romney) tried many messages before finally landing on themes along these lines: 'I fixed the Salt Lake City Olympics and I’ll fix the patronage and budget deficits of Massachusetts. I’ll veto any tax increases. I support the statewide ballot initiative to abolish bilingual education. And I’m the only guy who stands in the way of an entrenched Gang of Three — Democrats controlling the governor’s chair, and House and Senate." (Yawn!  Does this rhetoric sound boringly familiar?)

Pexton goes on:  "(Romney)...also, in the final three weeks, ran a relentless and expensive negative TV ad campaign against his opponent, Shannon P. O’Brien, just like he did this year against GOP rivals Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry and others. Voters interviewed by the Globe in 2002 said they couldn’t wait for the election to be over and called it the most negative campaign for governor they could remember."
(OMG! Even children will be exposed to this horrid political negativity - they'll grow up believing all politics is negative.  There must be safety equipment or computer chips we can purchase to protect us from the same smelly-same old, heard during the nasty primary election!)

My point in this blog :  Romney gets a C-minus grade for his one term as Massachusetts Governor.

Our country can't trade the experience of President Obama, who gets some high marks for moving forward on many challenging initiatives,  for a risky Romney, who's term as Massachusetts governor was inconsistently mediocre.

Somebody in the world of political pundits must be assigned to Massachusetts, to ask people, many of them descendants of the original T-Party activists in Boston Harbor, whether or not they like Romney Care- the model for "Obama-care", aka, health care reform.  Pundits must also review the 700 articles in the Boston Globe about Governor Romney's administration, to evaluate his one term administration.

I agree with Mr. Paxton - A David Broder approach is needed.  Wake up America! Don't let the next president be elected based upon the decadent amounts of money spent on negative ads.  Instead, let's be thoughtful - let's evaluate the past performance of both candidates and create a side by side check list - the one with the higher grade deserves re-election.  I suspect President Obama's accomplishments to shine through the expensive smut the one term Governor Romney is bound to heave in Obama's re-election direction.


Saturday, April 28, 2012

Karl Rove Creates a New Political Form - The Jealousy-Negative Ad

As though negative ads needed more ill will attached to them, political strategist "with an attitude"
Karl Rove is credited with a new style of political discourse. I call it the jealousy-negative ad.

Rove is clearly jealous of President Obama's self deprecating ability to connect with younger
voters, as demonstrated in recent late night television among other venues.

Connecting with anything young or "hip" are traits Rove lost the ability to do when he turned 6 months old.

So, rather than create political discourse based upon issues or facts, Rove is responsible for an ad attacking President Obama's charisma - clearly a character trait Rove would buy if a transplant of it were offered.

My advice to Mr. Uncool Rove - you're wasting your clients money - millions of dollars of it!

While the base of people who are uglier and more mean spirited than you are probably become energized by your jealous attack on President Obama, the purpose of this blog is to push back on such wasteful political discourse.

Mr. Rove, you will do everything unethical or untruthful to win an election.  We've come to expect that from you and your negative ad cronies.  But to throw your personal uncool jealousy into the mix is creating a lower media form than any of the above.

Stick to political facts, Mr. Rove! Your jealous attacks against President Obama are baseless and even more unbecoming than your grumpy demeanor.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Religious zealotry waxes ambiguous! Joel Osteen must know whether or not Mormonism is a Christian Religion or not when asked during a CNN Wolf Blitzer Interview

Wolf Blitzer asked Mr. Osteen if he believes Mr. Mitt Romney (a Mormon) is Christian?

This is the answer from the interview story

"(CNN) – Famed pastor Joel Osteen reiterated his position that Mitt Romney is a Christian on Tuesday, saying as long as the likely GOP presidential nominee believes that Jesus is the Son of God then he subscribes to the Christian faith."

Interesting response, because my experience with zealous Christians like Mr. Osteen is that being a Christian demands more than an ambiguous response. 

Rather, it requires Baptism and the internalization of the belief that Jesus Christ was the Son of God, born of the Virgin Mary and Resurrected from the Dead.  Osteen's response to Blitzer is much less precise than the proclamation of Christianity he would expect from one of his Born Again converts.

Typically, I'm not interested in discussing Mr. Romney's Mormon faith. a religion which is not based on traditional Biblical teachings, professed as doctrine, by many like Mr. Osteen.  Mr. Romney and his family appreciate the religious freedoms shared by every American.

What's absolutely hypocritical is how the Bible fundamentalists, like Mr. Osteen, would leap to criticize a candidate they disagree with as being other than Christian when the political occasion calls for criticism.  As a matter of fact, many continue to be unfairly, extremely critical, of President Obama's faith, even as he demonstrates, by church attendance, that he is Christian.

As Mr. Osteen knows, in purely theological philosophy, an ambiguous Christian is one of the first signs of being led into becoming"un-Christian".  I am now questioning Mr. Osteen's Christian belief as a result.

So, the point of this blog is:  Mormonism is either a Christian religion or not.  Dear Mr. Osteen, Don't make up ambiguous apologetic arguments to make the religion of a presidential candidate fit in a Christian mold, unless it does.


Monday, April 23, 2012

Well stated Op-Ed on Buffet Rule! USA Today Letter to the Editor April 23 2012: Savings Must Start Somewhere; et. al.

Hurray! One Mississippi opinion writer gets it about Congress defeating the Buffett Rule! Would they scoff at $5 billion if it meant funding popular public programs?

Unfortunately, this particular letter is not on-line; although the preceding letter about Mr. Romney's tax filing extension is:

Letter to the editor April 23, 2012 USA Today should have a url link, but it doesn't.

Title:  Savings Must Start Somewhere

It has become the reflexive fashion of Republicans to deride the Buffett rule as Democratic grandstanding that would generate "at best" $5 billion per year.  Other estimates range from $37 billion to $50 billion. But, let's go, for argument's sake, with the GOP low-ball estimate of $5 billion. ("Buffett Rule" fails in Senate, News Tuesday)

I wonder (writes John) whether these Republicans who could consider this particular $5 billion a trifle would similarly scoff at savings $5 billion per year if it concerned some tax expenditure or policy that they opposed such as funding for public television and radio or some subsidy for Planned Parenthood. Would they be saying it's a pittance compared with our national debt, so just ignore it? I doubt it.

Certainly, $5 billion per year will not approach fixing our grave economic problems. But to dismiss even that considerable sum as irrelevant while railing against immensely smaller expenditures concerning their own pet peeves, is hypocrisy plain and simple.

Such hypocrisy suggests that the GOP- the party that claims the mantle of fiscal conservatism - is concerned with financial responsibility and living within our means only up to the point at which the wealthiest Americans might actually lose a tax break or have to pay their fair share.  John Rachal, Hattiesburg, Miss.

Preceding letter: Rachal's letter follows a defensive opinion in support of Mitt Romney asking for a tax filing extension (a letter which is available on-line), written by Jack Bennett from Stevenson Ranch, California.  This particular letter claims the Democrats are covering up "out of control" spending by creating an issue about Mr. Romney filing for an extension on his taxes.  All I know about tax filing extensions is that they are usually done so because the person who can't make the April 15th or 16th deadline has "issues" to deal with or simply can't manage their fiscal house adequately.  Mr. Bennett knows full well it is expected that all Americans and corporations make their tax filing deadlines.  I don't know of a president or a presidential candidate who has been unable to make this deadline. By requesting an extension, Mr. Romney is in the minority among his colleagues.  Moreover, it further speaks to his inability to articulate his wealth to the American people. All the while, Mr. Romney makes false accusations to President Obama about the administration's truthfulness and transparency.  Mr. Romney is definitely irresponsible for not filing his taxes on time. Although many people ask for and receive tax filing extensions, it's poor administrative procedure for a president or presidential candidate to do so, in my opinion (especially when the others seem to get it done!

 But, Dear Mr. Bennett, to shift the discussion from Mitt Romney's request for a tax filing extension to Democrats spending is absolutely ridiculous!

I'll post this blog on the USA Today twitter feed.

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Sunday, April 22, 2012

Interviews with Child Sex Perpetrators - A Courageously Written Chronicle to Better Alert Innocents Who are Victims and Stalked by Predators

Although some new information may finally be forthcoming about the 1979 apparent cold case of missing 6 year old Etan Patz, a boy who may have been abusively murdered in New York over 30 years ago, the perpetrators of these kinds of crimes are seldom the subject of their own stories.

Justifiably, the innocent victims are the center of these horrible and seemingly random attacks. Too many thousands of them have happened since 1979, when little Etan disappeared, without a trace.

"The Innocent and the Evil" by William "Bill" Diamond, a Maine State Senator, is a newly published, courageously written, journal to protect victims of child sexual assault.  Diamond wants to help future victims by providing information he chronicled from dialogues he shared with the  predators of the heinous crimes.

I consider Diamond's chronicles to be courageous reporting, because he needed to speak with the people and the victims before obtaining the information he writes about. Diamond provides important first person interview documentation about the tragic subject we seem to read about on nearly a weekly basis.  This is, indeed, courageous interviewing.  I know this to be so, because, for 6 years I worked as the Director of Southern Maine Emergency Medical Services (SMEMS), when I participated in over 100 critical incident stress debriefings.  Believe me, it takes courage to hear horrible information conveyed, which is the reason for debriefings - so that people can somehow make sense of a terrible event.  Moreover, it takes amazing dedication to the cause of prevention for a write to write the brutal information.

Diamond's interest in prevention of child abuse has grown throughout his career as a Maine legislator.  In his book, he applies his knowledge of the issues into the stories of those who were victimized and the people who stalk the innocent.  Diamond's wrote this book with the intention of helping others, ie, clinical professionals, teachers, parents and protectors of the innocent. His candid warnings includes a chapter about the cunning disguises used by predators to lure victims.  I agree with him when he told me his purpose is to convey insight into the mind of the perpetrators for the purpose of protecting children, by alerting potential victims about what motivates these evil intended people.

Let's help the victims of child stalkers by giving Diamond's "The Innocent and the Evil" as much publicity as the terrible stories we read retrospectively about, usually with tragic consequences.

Diamond's book deserves national attention and book awards.  Thank you Bill for this achievement on behalf of the safety of children throughout the world.


Friday, April 20, 2012

"What I heard..." conversation on a Florida Beach: Word of Mouth Politics

So, a Florida beach might be someplace pundits need to check on, as lots of opinions appear to exchange during early morning walks , giving credibility to "word of mouth" politics.

I told the lady from Macon, Georgia that I didn't come to a gorgeous beach on Florida's east coast to talk politics.  But she rolled her eyes and said, "Well....let me tell you..." (Southern drawl emphasizing "weeeellll"). Then she proceeded to tell me what she heard about ...."that man".   So, that's when I gave her my, "I didn't come to Florida to talk politics...." response, cutting her off in the middle of her "...that man" sentence.

Although I didn't want to hear what man "that man" was, who she wanted to spew upon, the point of this blog is that the Macon Georgia lady was ready to spew out what "she heard".  She didn't read what she heard to be true.  Rather, her opinion was about something she heard.

Regardless of what "Ms. Macon" was about to tell me, I'm disturbed by the cunning way she was able to grab my attention, attesting to what she "heard".  I wasn't about to engage her in a conversation about what I just recently read in The New Yorker, the January 30, 2012 edition.  She would have cut me off before I could stump her "heard".  Thankfully, I was able to head her off by simply stating the obvious. On a beautiful Florida beach morning, sun shining, sea shell collecting....why in the world would a person engage in "...what I heard" politics?

It's like the cloths line gossip of years before electric dryers.  But, it still works, though not for me (this time).

Rather than gossip, "The Obama Memos: The Making of a post-post-partisan Presidency" by Ryan Lizza, in The New Yorker, should be required reading for anyone who wants to vote in the 2012 election.

Although the article is a detailed account of President Obama's challenges, untarnished by opinion, there is one paragraph I think should be a side bar, but The New Yorker isn't into that kind of publishing: 36..." 'Two well-known Washington political analysts, Thomas Mann, of the bi-partisan Brookings Institution, and Norman Ornstein, of the conservative American Enterprise Institution, agree.  In a forthcoming book about Washington dysfunction, 'It's Even Worse Than It Looks', they write, 'One of our two major parities, the Republicans, has become an insurgent outlier - ideologically extreme, contemptuous of the inherited social and economic policy regime, scornful of compromise, unpersuaded by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science, and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition'."

Although I'm presuming Ms. Macon, on the Florida beach, was about to give me a gossip oriented tirade about President Obama, I'm being unfair in assuming this to be true, because I cut her off.

Nevertheless, what I'm sure of is that she didn't read anything where her opinion might be measured against something printed in the main stream media, The New Yorker, of course, preferred.

And the point of this blog is this:  our political campaigns might put surrogates on Florida beaches, if they intend to win this state's impressive number of electoral votes.

Unfortunately, even the Internet on-line news age isn't dissuading word of mouth politics. This form of communication appears to be the way many people are forming their political opinions.

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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Economic Assault on the Middle Class- Congress is Not a Middle Class Group

A red-blue line chart in the above link shows how 1934 was the last time Americans saw a balance between individual and corporate taxes to pay for funding government services.  Ever since then, the widening gap between the two tax revenue sources has grown embarrassingly large. Corporate revenues are shrinking, going south on the chart, while individual sources spike upward.

This chart is an economic assault on the Middle Class because the blue line represents the bulk of the tax payers, in other words, the middle class.

This chart is a dangerous trend of anti-middle class public policy assaults where the Republican Party is intent on opposing tax fairness.

Moreover, lukewarm support by Governor Romney for the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the law requiring equal pay for equal work, supporting women, demonstrates duplicity.  How can Romney give speeches about putting women on public assistance to work, while not demonstrating support for equal pay?  Another economic middle class assault, harming the welfare of women.

Republicans are typically anti-union because collective bargaining can take chunks of money out of profits for the purpose of writing labor contracts. But anti-middle class economic policies will drive worker unrest- look at Wisconsin, where people are in a state of civil strife because the Republican Governor Scott Walker launched a union busting campaign.  Regardless of the outcome of the Wisconsin assault on the middle class by Governor Walker, the divisiveness caused by his lack of leadership has cost the state in low employee morale, political cynicism about Walker's administration and related lost productivity.

Yet another economic assault on the middle class was levied this week, when the US Congress voted to oppose the tax fairness law called the "Buffet Rule". In other words, the law would have required millionaires and billionaires to pay more in taxes, at least at the 30 percent level.  A clear majority of Americans support the Buffet Rule concept.  A majority of Americans supported the Buffet Rule, but Congress opposed it.  Perhaps, this is because many in our US Government are among the millionaires who would pay more in taxes if the law passed?  Our US tax money made these greedy elected officials into millionaires, but many of them don't want to vote for a law that would pay back their fair share.

Hello? Middle Class? Are you listening?

There's an economic assault being launched on those of us who are not millionaires.  Nonetheless, somehow Republican strategists are convincing some, especially right wing extremists, that our economic problems are related to the poor on welfare.  I say "welfare" is the money we pay government officials who will not speak truth to the American people.  They use our tax money to create regressive economic policies.

We are the majority who must vote to protect economic policies that grow the middle class.

If Republicans really care about the middle class, they would speak the truth - America grows when the middle class is supported rather than assaulted.

Democrats should carry the red-blue line chart pictured in the link above to every political rally this year.  Perhaps, this line graph should be a power point slide displayed on the wall of the US Congress whenever tax policy is debated.

But, I'd add a third line to the graph.  Let's put a green line on the chart to show how US Congressional  salaries have grown while corporate taxes have declined and individuals are paying more.

My point is, the US Congress has left the Middle Class even while they are supposed to represent us.


Sunday, April 15, 2012

Republican Convention Releases Tampa Security No-No Stuff - Guns Not On The List But String is a Risk

Another horrible murder in small town Greenland New Hampshire last week, raises the toll of gun related deaths, completely avoidable homicides, this time with beloved Police Chief Michael Maloney murdered in drug related violence.

In Sanford Florida, the recent avoidable death of Treyvon Martin was completely preventable, if George Zimmerman, who admitted to the homicide, did not own a gun.

Taxpayers pay for the fall out of these, and all other gun caused and violent crimes.

Gun related violence notwithstanding, I was appalled by the short side bar report in the April 13, 2012 "The Week", the only place I've seen this story in the news:

"Tampa (Fla) officials have released a list of items considered a security threat during the Republican National Convention in August, including water pistols, masks, and even pieces of string. Fire arms are not on the list.  State gun laws prohibit any local restriction on the carrying of guns. 'If we'd tried to regulate guns, it wouldn't have worked,' says a city official".

I buy string with a purpose. If I buy a water pistol, it's likely for a party where they may be used for entertainment.  Masks are purchased for masquerade.  Guns are purchased to kill.

Although second amendment rights for Americans to arm ourselves is sacred (if only people took freedom of religion as seriously), the intention by which people purchase guns must somehow be balanced.

Many people say they buy guns for self defense.  But perpetrators of violent gun crimes might also use this as their motivation to buy killing guns, while their real intentions are to murder others.

Therefore, I firmly believe gun related violence should hold the supporters of second amendment rights accountable for the cost this freedom burdens on communities, when the purpose has run amok.

In other words, the National Rifle Association (NRA) should be required or "mandated", to pay the cost of the murders in Greenland New Hampshire. This means paying for what taxpayers in the state and community now must pay for the clean up, investigation, morgue services, medical care, legal council, emergency medical services and insurance compensation for all the victims in this horrendous and preventable violent incident.

We know the NRA spends copious amounts of money to support second amendment rights for lobbyists and lawyers.

Likewise, the NRA should be mandated to pay equal amounts of their membership money to take care of the victims of their over zealous advocacy.

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Thursday, April 12, 2012

Wonderful Warrior - GOP War on Women and Senator Murkowski

Rachel Maddow on MSNBC, is probably the most energized pundit on television.

She creates uplifting drama, even around the most mundane images - like the GOP use of the word "caterpillers", for example (as reported in comments by the Republican National Committee chair Reince Priebus).

Ms. Maddow was at her best during the April 11th broadcast, when she highlighted Alaska's woman Senator Lisa Murkowski, as a Republican hero in opposing the Grand Old Party's continued "war on women".  She said Murkowski has spoken out, on her own, against her party's oppressive statements about women, which impressed Maddow - and me too.

I find the brutal phrase "war on women" caustic and verbally offensive, which is why this is the first time I've blogged about the terminology.  Frankly, my naivete shows, when I say, the "war on women" is so unbelievable, I keep thinking it will simply go away with yesterday's rubbish.

Instead, as demonstrated in one GOP political debacle after another, the war keeps getting worse.

War on women is, obviously, a stupid, regressive GOP driven campaign. It came out of their own communications, now eroding confidence in the party's ability to support women's access to health care, contraception and, now, remarkably, to take away our right to equal pay under the Lilly Ledbetter Act of 2009, signed by President Barack Obama.

With Rachel's passion as my fuel, and after listening to Senator Murkowski speak against her own party about these harmful attacks, I'm ready to adopt the language defining this debate.

I agree with Ms. Maddow, who affirms the effectiveness of Senator Murkowski, when she spoke in support of women and against her own party, on this issue.  In fact, as a Democrat, I'm even a little worried Romney will wake up and consider Murkowski as his Vice-Presidential running mate. This concerns me, politically speaking, especially given Murkowski's sincerity and passionate ability to connect with women about the mishandling of women's issues. She might improve Romney's poll numbers among women.

I don't suppose Romney would actually do something out of conviction. He could demonstrate unequivocal understanding of women's issues. Polls clearly indicate he needs to do something bold to win women, especially, when he didn't even mention the radio "bimgaugh", Limbaugh's comments, slandering a woman Georgetown law student, calling her a "slut", when she exercised her right to free speech about contraception.

Romney should join Murkowski's reprimand of her GOP colleagues. They should both push back on those in the GOP who are apparently entrenched in a frightening power struggle with right wing extremists, for control of their party's presidential aspirations.

Also, Romney should openly oppose Limbaugh's loud mouth's assaults on all his innocent victims, too many to count.

Senator Lisa Murkowski deserves to be a general in the GOP's push back on the harmful rhetoric against women. She is my choice to receive a 3W award for "wonderful woman warrior".

I worry about the possibility of a potential Romney presidency, especially if he has the ability to recall the Lilly Ledbetter Act.  Nevertheless, I would be relieved if Romney acknowledged the bravery of women political leaders in his own party, Murkowski and others - like Snowe, Collins, and Hutchinson, for example, who are openly appalled about this horrific "war on women".

If Romney wants to show how capable he is to lead America, he must support the causes close to the heart of half of our citizens who are female.  He could certainly make a good start by acknowledging the wonderful woman warrior he has in his own party - Senator Lisa Murkowski.

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Monday, April 09, 2012

Maine Senate Candidate and Former Governor Angus King Speaks About the Value of Compromise

Maine's Governor Angus King with Juliana L'Heureux:  King calls for a renewed focus on compromise in the US Congress:  He's running as an Independent for the US Senate seat held by Senator Olympia Snowe, who announced she is stepping down in 2013.

Opening his campaign office in Brunswick ME today, April 9th, King spoke to a cheering crowd of about 300  friends, colleagues and well wishers who applauded his call for bringing back the leadership needed to create compromise in Washington DC.  King quoted President Abraham Lincoln, who demonstrated extraordinary leadership when America was bitterly divided by the devastating slavery issue and related politics, that lead to our American Civil War of 1861-65.

A public opinion poll released later in the day showed the Independent King has an early advantage over Democrats and Republicans running in their respective primary elections, with large percentages of undecided voters in both parties.  Although King has momentum, a strong message of working for change, name recognition and a positive perception by the public, the two national parties are already targeting his campaign with negative social media and advertisements.  King promised not to run any negative ads to win the US Senate seat, but he cautioned his supporters to prepare for a rough campaign.

Governor King's wife, Mary Hermon, thanked supporters and asked us all to brace ourselves for a difficult campaign.

From a personal point of view, I've worked with Governor King during his gubernatorial campaigns and in his administration, serving on a board and committees.  He's a brilliant communicator and a very accessible public servant.

Although it's difficult to imagine how any one person can change the entrenched stalemate now bogging down the US Congress, due to political partisanship, I believe Governor King, soon to be Senator King, is the best person our country can have in our government, who can bring hope for progress and change.

Angus King will not be influenced by the harsh partisanship in Congress.  I've seen him lead Maine.  I believe King can transcend the divisive politics of the US Congress, to improve our political discourse, while serving the people of Maine and our nation with intelligence, adorned by common sense.

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Sunday, April 08, 2012

Racial Language in To Kill a Mockingbird - Could This Film Be Made Today?

Would the honest racial language in Harper Lee's classic book "To Kill a Mockingbird" be included, if a potential remake of the powerful movie were made today?

When the movie was made in 1962, Gregory Peck superbly portrayed the Southern white defense lawyer, Atticus Finch, who defended a poor Black man against the trumped up charge of the rape of a white woman. Peck gave an Academy Award winning performance - the role of Atticus Finch defined his long and successful acting career.

Movie makers today might be pressured to create a commercially successful movie from the book, even film it in technicolor, rather than protect the black and white original.  In the black and white film genre, the screen play accurately contrasted the dramatic story of white racial hatred toward Blacks in the South, during the Great Depression.

Moreover, use of the word "Nigger", by 9 year old Scout, coupled with a vivid description of sexual harassment perpetrated on a black man by a white woman, might be camouflaged as euphemisms, were the film to be re-made.

USA network's 50th anniversary restoration of the magnificent black and white movie, was as powerful to watch, as it was in 1962, when it was first released. Harsh racial themes and the reality of the language are still riveting. Unfortunately, the issues depicted continue plaguing our American society.

Innocence opens the story. It begins with three children playing neighborhood pranks, to test their bravery against a neighborhood disabled phantom character known as "Boo" (Robert Duvall).

Scout (Mary Badham) is a tomboy 9 year old, the sister to older brother, Jem (Phillip Alford).  Their father is the widower and lawyer Atticus Finch (Gregory Peck). Soon, the siblings are joined by Dill Harris (John Megna), a 7 year old boy who is visiting his aunt. The story takes place in 1932, in the sleepy Southern town of Maycomb, where racial tensions were easily ignited between Depression era struggling white farmers and Black tenant sharecroppers.

Soon, the innocence of the playful encounters gets replaced by the racial bigotry in the plot. Life changes when soft spoken Atticus Finch agrees to defend a Negro named Tom Robinson (Brock Peters), accused of raping a local white girl.

Racial language was relatively common in the 1930s. But today, it was particularly disturbing to hear the use of the word "Nigger", by 9 year old Scout.  When Scout uses the word "Nigger", Atticus tells her not to use the word because it is slang, only used by people who are common.

Nonetheless, Scout somehow buffers the caustic racial slur, because she is the symbol of  blessed naivety. Yet, I wonder how movie critics today would respond to a 9 year old using the word "Nigger", if the film were remade.

Unsettling language in the movie continued in the court room, when the Negro accused of the crime described the unwanted seduction he experienced by the white woman who claimed she raped him.  It was a straightforward description, by the black man, toward unwanted sexual advances, difficult to listen to, even by tolerant modern mores. This encounter, in my mind, raises the question of how such a powerful film would be made by the 3-D movie industry today.

In my opinion, "To Kill a Mockingbird",  could not use the same powerful language and brutal description of interracial sexual harassment, if it were made today - doing so would likely create an intercultural and racial bru-ha-ha.  What movie mogul would even invest in it?

I believe Robinson's black man encounter with the white woman Mayella Violette Ewell (Colin Wilcox) would not even be dialogue, at all. Rather, the scene would likely become a color flashback, probably portrayed in a snippet of collage style footage, loosing the dramatic impact of the compellingly delivered narrative.

Moreover, I submit the word "Nigger" would be completely cut, except when the Black community in Maycomb might have used it to refer to one another. Essentially, the role of Scout would be completely eviscerated. She would become an adornment to the film, rather than the lead character and story teller.

In other words, Harper Lee's riveting story, with it's caustic lessons about racial bigotry, and discrimination against Negroes and disabled people like Boo, hasn't moved the needle very far along toward the resolution of the social biases described in her story. Acceptance of racial differences and social inclusion for people with disabilities are still difficult subjects.

Which is precisely why reading Lee's book and watching the well written screenplay by Horton Foote, directed by Robert Mulligan, must be encouraged for each new generation - as President Barack Obama so aptly explained in his introduction of the film's 50th anniversary restoration.

I'm glad to have watched this film, a superb encore, 50 years later. Yet, like others, I'm sad to think about how the powerful themes are still with us, unresolved, and just as difficult to discuss as they were when Lee wrote her now internationally acclaimed award winning novel.


Saturday, April 07, 2012

Passover and Easter - Interfaith Dialogue With Hope for Political Application: On Morning Joe

On Good Friday, Morning Joe's Faith special feature hosted a hopeful interfaith discussion about Understanding Holy Week, especially this particular year 2012, when Passover and Good Friday occur on the same day.  Their discussion filtered a subliminal message about political discourse and how to improve the caustic dialogue we are subjected to today.

Passover celebrates the liberation of the Jews, the liberation of the Israeli People, led by Moses.  Good Friday is the beginning of  the three days between the ignominious death of Jesus on the cross  and the Resurrection on Easter Morning.

Donald Cardinal Wuerl, the archbishop of Washington DC, led the religious level of the discussion by describing the Easter Story as witnessed by the disciples of Jesus.  Rabbi Steve Gutow spoke about how Passover is a universal celebration because it exemplifies the miracle of people overcoming oppression.  Both of the Christian and Jewish holidays are rooted in reality- something happened and it was witnessed.  Cardinal Wuerl explained how faith is rooted in reality.  Father Kevin O'Brien, of Georgetown University, said to become a good Christian, we should understand how to be a good Jew.

Religious significance notwithstanding, during this co-occurring celebration of Christian and Jewish traditions, it  was evident that the interfaith understanding should be reflected in American politics.

In fact, Father Kevin O'Brien, chaplain of Georgetown University, acknowledged this reality by suggesting this as a lesson on cooperation.  If the Jewish Council of Public Affairs, the Cardinal of Washington DC and the Chaplain of Georgetown University can agree on faith forming principles, then the same values should be reflected in our elected politicians.

Christians and Jews express hope for the redemption of mankind through the Passover and Easter experiences.  Christians believe the hope comes through redemption.  Jews express hope through  overcoming oppression.

As Americans, who live in an environment of religious freedom, perhaps the hopeful relationship between Passover and Easter can translate to more collegiality and hopeful political discourse as well.

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Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Senator John McCain Calls Out Justice Scalia Sarcasm on This American Life

I listened two times to this link to hear Senator John McCain criticize Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia for his sarcasm.

Although Senator McCain spoke in the context of how the Supreme Court made scrap paper out of the McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Reform law, supporting the Citizens United case, the disdain for Justice Scalia came through loud and clear (it's a short quip near the end of the MP3 Bar).

Justice Scalia was singled out by McCain in the radio broadcast.

Both McCain and Feingold spoke candidly on This American Life, about how the Supreme Court ruling in favor of Citizens United, a group that includes right wing political adviser Carl Rove, is among the worst rulings, ever, by the court.

It was also Justice Scalia who said something like (paraphrase) "if the government can make you buy health insurance, can it also make you buy broccoli?". How ridiculously flippant! People who eat broccoli don't pay for the cost of people who don't, as is the case in health care, where the insured now pay for the uninsured (prior to health care reform 2010)

I met Justice Scalia once, at an event in Portland Maine, when he was inappropriately flippant with me. I suspect his sand paper personality uses sarcastic humor as a barrier against rational communications. (I was covering his Maine visit for a Roman Catholic newspaper, when he commanded me not to take his picture!)

But the point of this blog is:  When President Barack Obama cautions the US Supreme Court to pay attention to their overreach of judicial power -he is not speaking like a voice in the wilderness.  He spoke to the court during a State of the Union speech, regarding  "Citizens United"- striking down a bi-partisan law to reform political fund raising. He recently cautioned them, again, in advance of  a potential 5-4 decision to strike down the health care reform insurance mandate, a law passed by both houses of a Democratically elected Congress. President Obama is paraphrasing what others are saying about this partisan court.  Moreover, Justice Scalia brings a negative focus to the court's arrogant decisions with his flippant behavior.

Although the Supreme Court is supposed to rise above politics, the court has appeared to be "all politics all the time", in recent rulings.  It's judicial undue influence of the political process, in my mind.

Using Scalia's "brocolli" analogy, if the Surpeme Court can elect a president, as in Bush vs. Gore, then they might as well have the power to uphold laws requiring people to eat broccoli.

Senator McCain said he attended the court's arguments during the Citizens United case.  His observed that questions asked by the Court's Justices demonstrated they had no understanding, whatsoever, about how political campaigns operate.  But, they ruled in favor of corporations having free speech rights, just like people.

But, it was also the Supreme Court that ruled in favor of slaves being property in the 1857, the Dredd Scott Case. But, more timely, it's the very same Supreme Court that ruled in favor of police strip searching people arrested, even without suspicion - this includes women who may be picked up for drunk driving in the middle of the night.
" 'Every detainee who will be admitted to the general population may be required to undergo a close visual inspection while undressed,' Justice Kennedy wrote, adding that about 13 million people are admitted each year to the nation’s jails."

" 'Justice Stephen G. Breyer, writing for the four dissenters, said the strip-searches the majority allowed were 'a serious affront to human dignity and to individual privacy' and should be used only when there was good reason to do so."

When President Obama criticizes the US Supreme Court, he echoes a swelling mantra from  Americans who believe the court is loosing it's way, too full of it's own power, too vested in manipulating the political process and too inflated with inappropriate sarcasm from Justice Antonin Scalia.

Thank you, Senator McCain, for your truth to power comments made on This American Life.
I join millions of Americans who are very sorry about the Citizens United decision, as I've previously blogged....we're all experiencing the consequences of that terrible split decision.