For those who like to look at the calendar for such things, today is the 77th anniversary of D-Day, June 6, 1944. I thought it would therefore be especially appropriate to post this video. It's the wonderful theme to the movie, The Longest Day, sung and performed most appropriately by the Cadet Glee Club of West Point, along with military band.
I first posted this video five years ago in 2017. It’s my favorite one on the subject – not just for the performance, but for how movingly the video is edited. It's particularly well-done, beginning with a minute of General Dwight Eisenhower's message to the troops before the invasion began, and interspersed with some excellent photos and archival film from the day, amid the soaring music.
By the way, the timpani you hear before the song begins is not only recognizable as the beginning of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, but more to the point, it's the Morse Code for “V” for Victory.
Also, in case you weren't aware, the main theme for The Longest Day, used throughout the film not just in the end titles, was written by pop-star heartthrob at the time, Paul Anka.
This is a very interesting, enjoyable report from Michelle Miller on CBS This Morning. It covers both entertainment and politics, and looks at the history of the controversial song about lynching, "Strange Fruit," that became a signature song for Billie Holiday. Though at the heart of the new Hulu movie, The United States vs. Billie Holiday, the politics of the time -- and its overlap with today -- weaves through the story.
But there are also a lot of surprises that pop in throughout, as the two sons of the songwriter give their insight into the song and its history. And the biggest twist comes about five minutes in. Not to overemphasize the idea of "surprises" and "twists," these aren't oh-my-God! things that take the story in completely different directions, but rather parts of the story that are unexpected and fun to learn, notably about people who are part of the tale.
There's also an interesting, small surprise at the end. However, the reporter makes a mistake about it. But being a surprise (of sorts), I don't want to give it away here. But I'll explain below the video that I've embedded below.
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Since you've gotten this far, I can now explain the minor mistake that Ms. Miller makes at the end of an otherwise very good, interesting report.
Actually, it's more a case of one minor mistake, and one small lapse of full information.
The other song referenced at the end that Abel Meerapol also wrote was titled, "The House I Live In." What Ms. Miller says is he title -- "What is America to Me" -- is only just a line from the song.
And also, although Frank Sinatra did record the song and sang it throughout his career, the impression given here is that he introduced the song, but in fact it was written for a musical Let Freedom Sing in 1942. Sinatra did popularize it, however. And the great Paul Robeson had a famous recording, as well. But more on all that tomorrow.
I was going to make this a "Tweet of the Day," since it comes from a tweet -- but it's to substantial for just that. As the note describes, it concerns Sir Nicholas Winton who saved many hundreds of children from Germany. The shame is that this is only a few minutes, because I'm sure the full TV program at the heart of this would have been especially moving and wonderful. Happily, this is plenty good.
It also puts in deeper perspective the previous administration taking children away from their parents and putting them in cages.
Elsewhere on Mr. Simanowitz's timeline, he had a quote from Nicholas Winton, who passed away in 2015 at the well-earned age of 106. "Don't be content in your life to just do no wrong. Be prepared every day to try to do some good."
A few months back, I wrote about an upcoming book co-written by my friend Steve Fifer back in Chicago, It's In the Action: Memories of a Nonviolent Warrior, an autobiography of Civil Rights legend C.T. Vivian, who collaborated with Steve. Vivian sadly died this past July at age 96, although happily his memorial service got a great deal of national attention, including having Barack Obama as one of the speakers
I'm above three-quarters through the book and am enjoying it -- especially because so much of it concerns voter suppression and the fight through the 1950s and early '60s for the Voting Rights Act. Talk about timely. (Vivian, who helped lead many of the non-violent protests during that time, also briefly addresses when the Supreme Court reprehensibly rolled back the Voting Rights Act, basically saying it wasn't needed in full anymore since basically All is Well. The reason I bring it up today is because of a passage I read yesterday.
In that section, Rev. Vivian talks about a confrontation he had in 1965 with the infamous racist Sheriff Jim Clark in Selma on the courthouse steps. The event was noteworthy enough that the book quotes Andrew Young, former mayor of Atlanta and U.N. Ambassador as saying that without that moment, which was caught on film and played extensively on television, that "We would not have had the Voting Rights Act." Reporter Ernie Suggs of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution is quoted that because it was on television, historians have called the exchange on the steps "one of the defining moments of the civil rights movement."
The book even explains how to find the important moment online -- which I suspect was a Fiffer inclusion. I won't say why the confrontation was so important, since it will stand out all the more if you see it as if new, and I tracked down the video to post here.
Vivan says about Sheriff Clark that he "was a bully, but he was hardly unique. His society, his cultute allowed bullies. Look at the values that the churches they went to taught. You can't be good under those circumstances. Understanding this, you won't be surprised to learn that Clark not only denied our contingent of would-be registrants entry to the courthouse, but his manner was, shall we say, less than friendly polite."
And not only is that him saying this half-a-century later, but watching the video, and from want C.T. Vivian says in the book, it seems pretty clear that he knew this at the time about Sheriff Clark, and went out of his way to push things to their fullest on the courthouse steps. Clark, of course, could have stepped back and handled the situation as a sheriff should. Rev. Vivian appears pretty certain he wouldn't. In fact, as Pulitzer Prize-winning civil rights historian Taylor Branch said about the exchange that Vivian "knew it was gonna advance the movement the moment it happened."
Here's that famous confrontation on the Selma courthouse steps.
I've been planning to write a piece for a while about Mary Schmich, who is one of my favorite columnists and writes for Chicago Tribune. (She wrote the famous "Wear sunscreen" graduation tips most people think was by Kurt Vonnegut.) She has a very good piece today about the new "Chicago 7" Netflix movie by Aaron Sorkin and a juror who is part of local history. I'll get to the planned column later -- there's no rush on it these days, when other news pushes it back... -- but you can find her latest column here.
On this week’s Al Franken podcast, his guest is historian Douglas Boin. He and All discuss, as Al describes, “the uncanny parallels between Trump’s America and 410 AD Rome” when there was “hatred of immigrants, religious intolerance, systemic racism. And an Asshole emperor. Sound familiar?” The two talk about the story of Alaric, the Goth who led the sacking of Rome. Also, Al says he “establishes once and for all that the Romans killed Christ, not the Jews!”
The other day, to augment his clueless quote about Winston Churchill, Trump told the story of Churchill going outside to stand on the roof of a building during the Blitz and broadcast a speech to the British people. I think the fake point he was trying to make was showing how the Prime Minister tried to calm the public by showing there was no reason to panic and just stay calm and carry on. There's just one problem with his story -- and you're probably way ahead of me here -- it's not true. Need I say, "of course"?
It was legendary CBS newsman Edward R. Murrow who would periodically go on the rooftop of the building CBS would broadcast from, and he would do his news report back to the United States (his famous "This...is London" broadcasts), as bombs could be heard exploding in the background. And it wasn't done to calm anyone, but to keep people fully informed and and honest as possible.
Murrow is one of my few "heroes" in broadcasting, and I've read three biographies on him. So, when I heard Trump telling the story about Winston Churchill, I could only cringe and shake my head.
Which is a long way to explain why I thought it would be a good time to have this clip of Edward R. Murrow as the 'Mystery Guest' segment of What's My Line?
Murrow had one of the most recognizable voices in radio and TV (in large part because of those London broadcasts), and so he works hard to disguise it. This video comes from December, 1952 – that's notable because while Bennett Cerf is on panel, this is so early in the show's run that he's not yet in his traditional seat on far right.
If you want to jump right to Murrow's appearance, it starts around the 16:30 mark. Nice, too, is that after the game, he sticks around to make a nice, moving presentation afterwards
Watching Trump the other trying to quote FDR and Winston Churchill the other day was sort of like watching a chimpanzee try to fly. You know it had its eyes in heaven, but it will never understand when you try to explain aerodynamics to it.
In Trump's speech, one of his writers attempted to come up with a way to explain him lying to the American public about how the coronavirus was pretty much contained, that people didn't get infected by it from airborne droplets, that it was no deadlier than the flu,and that young people were pretty much immune to it, when he knew none of that was true.
To be fair, while Trump did know at a certain point all that was untrue, it's possible -- being a malignant narcissist and pathological -- that eventually he convinced himself with his only lies. But still, from what he said on the recording to Bob Woodward that we all heard, he did know the truth at least at that time. When he said it.
But to try to make everything think he was just being noble (which I'm sure not many people ever thought likely -- including his family and those who have known him for decades) and that he just didn't want people to panic (which I'm sure not many people ever thought likely -- including his family and those who have known him for decades, or a few days), the speechwriter figured he'd try to throw in a couple of the most famous, nurturing thoughts by the two legendary democratic world leaders who helped save the world from Naziism and fascism.
That would be President Franklin D. Roosevelt telling the American public, "The only thing you have to fear -- is fear itself. And Prime Minister Winston Churchill telling the British people to "Stay calm, carry on."
Okay, this is really easy.
When FDR made his statement, first of all it wasn't about WWII, but the Great Depression. And the point wasn't to hide anything from the public to keep them from panicking. It was to let people know precisely what was going on, and let them know that the only actual danger to be concerned about was the terror of not knowing. That when you don't know what's going on, you create all manner of disastrous scenarios in your mind. But when you're told, you can understand what is happening and see what the government is doing to resolve things. Which removes fear and panic And so he would keep Americans informed, even to the point of later giving his famous Fireside Chats.
When Churchill made his statement, he wasn't keeping information from the public. He understand as clearly as could be that the British actually knew there was a war on in Europe, and that Hitler and the Nazis were taking over nations, and that England would be Germany's target. This wasn't a secret. He wasn't hiding the news about that. And it was specifically because the British public knew that he dealt with them openly and honestly, so that they could see what the government was doing to resolved things. And knowing the plans, being kept informed, they should them be able to stay calm and keep going.
This is pretty basic and obvious to anyone who takes half a moment to grasp the moment and have a clue about history. Which I understand leaves out Trump. It is also the exact opposite of what Trump told Bob Woodward he was supposedly doing in lying the everyone.
And one other thing: as Brian Williams noted, we also all know that after the Blitz, Churchill didn't say to the British people, "It is what it is."
While we can hope that Trump would have understood (or even just cared) what FDR and Churchill were actually saying, I think there's a better chance on that chimpanzee learning to fly.
I was tempted not to say anything upfront, and just post this column as is, and only afterwards give an explanation. But in the end, the piece has too many inconsistencies to be believed as having been written today and ultimately it was more fair to do it this way, at the top.
This is an article that I wrote for the Huffington Post -- over 13 years ago. It was written on March 15, 2007, and I came across it while looking for a different column. Skimming through, I was taken by how much of it not only holds true for today, but holds true so precisely, at times down to the word. And not just the title, paralleling Trump's regular tweet of his "LAW AND ORDER!" rant.
But then, that's been a mantra of the Republican Party for years. As has so much of this. Which is why my oft-repeated comment, "This isn't about Trump, we know who he is, this is about the elected members of the Republican Party who enable him and are complicit," isn't just a catch-phrase. This is about the Republican Party. It's who they are, and who they've been for many decades. The foundation was there. Trump merely opened the door to let it out, and took it to a much higher, and fascist level. But the GOP enabled him and are complicit because it's who they are.
So, here it is, from ?March 15, 2007. Not a word changed.
“The Party of Law and Order” Decoded
Okay, so we know that the Republican Party officially hates “activist judges.”
And we know that they hate trial lawyers with a passion almost as great.
And also we know they utterly hate defense attorneys to the point of apoplexy. (Although the growing number of Congressional Republicans on trial are beginning to see their virtue.)
And seeing comments from top Republican analysts and party leaders dismissing the Lewis Libby verdict, and because it was just a “Washington jury” anyway, they apparently hate jurors, too.
And given that Republicans have underfunded police departments across the country, they seem to hate policemen.
And of course now with news reports of the White House involving itself in the political firings of U.S. Attorneys – with an inquiry even coming whether the entire lot of them could be fired – the highest levels of the Republican Party appear to hate the Justice Department.
And with the Administration regularly ignoring new federal laws with the President issuing over 600 “signing statements,” and nary a complaint from the Party, Republicans evidently hate the legal system of statutes, as well.
After all of this, it’s become clear what the issue is:
Leadership of the Republican Party hates the law. Period. And they’ve convinced much of the membership of the party to feel so, too.
This isn’t a recent phenomenon. Republicans have long-proclaimed their detestation of most of these legal standards for years, decades in some cases. It’s just that the Bush Administration has made it an art form. After all, this is the President who was famously quoted as calling the Constitution of the United States “just a piece of paper.”
When the Republican Party didn’t hang him out to dry for that, you knew the country was in for a bumpy ride.
We have an Attorney General – the highest law official in the land – who previously wrote a memo to the President and Defense Secretary explaining how the U.S. could ignore the Geneva Convention and justify torture.
We have FBI leadership dismissing abuse of the Patriot Act as really just a mere paperwork oversight.
Then again, this is the Administration who, when given its first opportunity to nominate a Supreme Court justice, gave the name of a person who was generally agreed to be among the most unqualified nominees in history, Harriet Miers – the woman, by the way, who sent the memo about firing all the U.S. Attorney’s. (This would all suggest that maybe the White House also hates the Supreme Court, although since it owes its Presidency to that august body, there’s probably a certain grudging appreciation.)
And the Republican Congress, indeed Republicans throughout the country, accept all this. All of it – the hatred of “activist judges,” trial lawyers, defense attorneys, runaway juries, taxes to fund police departments, federal statutes, U.S. Attorneys and the Justice Department, civil rights, human rights and, presumably, the Constitution.
At what point did the Republican Party get away with convincing the American public that it was the “party of law and order”??! This is a trick worthy of Houdini. It’s flimflammery that would make P.T. Barnum proud. It’s a fabrication that makes Pinocchio look like a snub-nosed pug.
The only thing that Republicans seem to seriously like about “Law and Order” is that Fred Thompson plays a D.A. on it.
Now, I know that every single Republican doesn’t feel this way. There certainly are Republicans outraged by the abuses and anti-law attitudes of the vast majority of their party. (These Republicans are generally known as “disenfranchised.” Or “conservative Democrats.”)
And I also know that most other Republicans who have made it this far reading are likely up in arms, spitting nails, insistent that they love law and order even more than common decency itself. Of course, this is the same mantra they’ve been spitting for decades. But the reality is, if you hate “activist judges,” trial lawyers, defense attorneys, runaway juries, taxes to fund police departments, the Justice Department, human rights and think it’s okay to consider the Constitution “just a piece of paper,” then you can spew all you want, but you hate the law.
Because the whole point of the law is that it is blind. (You know, that whole “Justice is blind” thingee? It’s not just a slogan, bucko.) The law pastes everyone equally, and if you don’t like how it applies to you, tough tooties, you still can’t drive 60 MPH in a school zone. If you don’t like a law, you hit the pavement and work to change it –
– and hope and pray that once you’ve changed the law, there’s not a President in office who will ignore it with a “signing statement.”
The Republican Party is no more the “party of law and order” than a kegger is a party of good manners and fine tea.
The next time a Republican struts around, puffing out his chest to make sure you see the plastic flag decal pinned there, and proclaims he’s in the party of law and order, ask whether you can join and if you should bring your toga.
For all the complaints of Trump and the GOP that the press only writes about Trump scandals and Trump officials in jail and indicted -- and ignore the Obama scandals...
In fairness, I note that today is the 6th anniversary of the Barack Obama Tan Suit Scandal.
August 28, 2014
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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