Dalton Trumbo, the screenwriter of such varied films as Roman Holiday, Spartacus, and Johnny Got His Gun, was one of the Hollywood Ten, a group of writers and directors blacklisted in 1947 for refusing to testify at the McCarthy hearings. I recently watched a documentary about him, Trumbo, which is available on Netflix streaming. When I heard the following passage on why he refused to name names in McCarthy’s witch hunt, I knew I had to track down a transcript:

I’ve delivered newspapers, reported for newspapers, peddled vegetables, clerked in stores, waited on tables, washed automobiles, picked fruit, hosed down infected cadavers, shoveled sugar beets, iced refrigerator cars, laid rails with a section gang, and served an eight-year hitch on the night shift of a large industrial plant.

I’ve looked at many American faces. I’ve seen them as flak burst around them nine thousand feet over Japan; in a slit trench on Okinawa watching the night sky to see where the next bomb would fall; in an assault boat as they moved toward a beach that tossed more violently than the surf through which they rode.

I’ve counseled with a paroled prostitute on how she might escape the clutches of a policeman who had caught her and was stealing half her earnings and sending his friends to her with courtesy cards that entitled them to take her without pay. I’ve also counseled with Secretary of the Air Force Tom Finletter on how the secretary of state might better explain his policies to a perplexed people. I’ve been asked by Louis B. Mayer why I had no religion, and by a ranking member of the State Department how I could bring myself to work with “all those Hollywood Jews.”

I’ve seen American faces in a miners’ union hall in Duluth on a night when the wind off the lake blew the snow so killingly and so deep that cars couldn’t be used and everybody walked to the meeting. I’ve seen their faces in the banquet room of a New York hotel when the American Booksellers’ Association gave me a National Book Award; and I’ve seen them again in a jury box as each of them twice said, “Guilty as charged,” and one of them wept as she said it.

I’ve been stripped by Americans and paraded naked with them and before them and obediently bent over on command to present my anus for contraband clearance. I’ve lived with and trusted and been trusted by car thieves and abortionists and moonshiners and embezzlers and burglars and Jehovah’s Witnesses and Quakers.

I’ve stood on a gray day in the Fifth Marine Division Cemetery on Iwo Jima and looked off at the graves of 2,198 Americans. In the center of all those graves on a slim white pole on a concrete pedestal flew the American flag. And I swear it was not the flag of informers. And if I could take a census of all the American faces I have seen and of all the dead whose graves I have looked on, if I could ask them one simple question: “Would you like a man who told on his friend?” – there would not be one among them who would answer, “Yes.”

But, show me the man who informs on friends who have harmed no one, and who thereafter earns money he could not have earned before, and I will show you not a decent citizen, not a patriot, but a miserable scoundrel who will, if new pressures arise and the price is right, betray not just his friends but his country itself.

Poking Dead Things with Sticks

Sometimes you can’t look away. Sometimes you’re fascinated by the heart of darkness. And sometimes you’re curious about the difference between the Truly Evil and the Merely Misinformed.

Not far from my hometown, one of the last vestiges of the Ku Klux Klan survives. I’ve mentioned a particular blog before, but I won’t link to it this time, just in case they check their backlinks.

I promised myself I wouldn’t comment on that blog. But sometimes I have to poke dead things with sticks. My anonymous comment is first here. Naturally I came at it with a sarcastic and self-righteous attitude, and I succeeded at creating no dialogue.

But what if I changed my personality and voice? What if I put myself into a similar mindset? I tried again with that in mind and succeeded! While the message didn’t make it past the blog owner/moderator, he liked it enough not only to excerpt it in a future blog post, but also to use it as the basis for a two-part sermon! The part in italics is what I wrote. I hope that there will be some way to see or hear this sermon online. I feel oddly proud of this accomplishment.

To get a better idea of the voice I wrote in, read the last comment on this page, which did make it past moderation. And since no comments have been left after it, I can feel some bit of satisfaction at having politely schooled one of the other posters.

Now I have to step back and ask…am I totally deranged for doing this?

Babies for Obama

Visiting clothing stores around the city, I see kids’ clothes becoming more and more like miniature adults’ clothes. Whether it’s faux vintage concert t-shirts or political slogans or smart couture ensembles, it leaves me with a vague uneasiness. Am I the only person who thinks that children’s clothing should be statement-neutral and distinctly child-like? A child should not be treated as a fashion accessory for expressing a parent’s hipness or politics.

Of course, there is a difference between using children’s clothing to convey simple cuteness and using children’s clothing to broadcast a parent’s socio-political agenda. I just wish I knew how to clearly draw that line.

I realize it’s hard for parents to be aware that a line exists at all. We indoctrinate our kids into every aspect of our lives, and so naturally our mistakes and misconceptions become theirs, too. But as much as we can, we need to be aware that some things should be a choice for the children to make on their own, when they’re ready to do so. Until then, a certain amount of neutrality should be maintained.

I think we can all agree that political slogans on children’s shirts are simply a reflection of a parent using their child as a kind of billboard for their own ideas. It’s a minor injustice, but it’s a telling reminder that more often than not, children take on the worldviews of their parents without really taking the time to examine things for themselves.

If you believe, though, that there are things about which children should be allowed to decide for themselves, and that political t-shirts for kids aren’t a good idea, then neither are religious t-shirts, or religious indoctrination in general. Children are almost never given a free choice to choose their religion, because how many parents would really tolerate that?

So true statement-neutrality is an apparent impossibility for most parents. Maybe, though, we could start by at least leaving the cute political shirts at home.

Obama Bits

Two tidbits of Obama that I came across this week on

First, the omnipresent Obama “Hope” poster by Shepard Fairey was adapted from an AP photo taken at a National Press Club gathering on Darfur, where George Clooney was speaking about his recent trip to that region. So the person Obama is looking at in the iconic poster is either Senator Sam Brownback (R-Kansas, shudder) or George Clooney.

Second, the new is up and running, with no apparent archive of the Bush-era website. However, Kottke points out that the new robots.txt file has changed considerably. The robots.txt is a small file that sits in a web server and tells search engines what to index and what not to. The Bush administrations txt file had almost 2400 lines of DISALLOW. Obama’s has one, the /includes/ directory, which contains no readable content anyway.

Oh, and there’s a White House blog.

President-Elect Denounces Yappy Dogs

Now we’re getting somewhere. This is the sort of hard-nosed policy declaration I can fully stand behind, and I’m glad to see that it’s already on the president-elect’s agenda: Obama is staunchly anti-little yappy dog, and firmly pro-big rambunctious dog.

My apologies to my right honorable colleagues in the pro-yappy dog community, but I’m sorry to say that conscience demands I take a stand. We’ve had far too much of your tyranny these last 8 years. We’re going to get back on track. This crap has got to stop; we’ve got to get back to serious business.

The Electoral College

This season’s electoral landslide highlights once again that the Electoral College is a device of questionable political accuracy. How are we supposed to interpret these particular tea leaves, these apparently random numerological phenomena? Does it make a cohesive statement? Can we say with confidence that these United States have definitively spoken, and with a greater than 2 to 1 electoral margin at that? As much as I’d love to say it’s true, I fear it’s not.

The defenders of the EC say it’s a marvelous device for preventing tyrannical majorities, but in the absence of any such tyranny either way, what purpose is served? One thing this country seldom produces is a strong majority. The defenders also say that it gives greater representation to individual states, allowing the little guys to get a piece of the action, but I say that’s irrelevant today. I think that the mass media and culture of the United States produced by the 20th century has tied the country together as a cohesive entity. I can ask myself if I am an Arkansan or a New Yorker, but it’s irrelevant because I’m an American first. Even McCain’s campaign slogan was “Country First.” Not “States First.” The US always comes first in the minds of nearly every American. We wear our state citizenship as a sort of alma mater, secondary to our federalist identity. We even label ourselves with the misnomer, “American,” because it’s too weird and untrue to say “United Stater.”

Contrary to the randomly drawn borders of the US map, the needs and minds of Americans generally fall into two socio-economic camps: urban and rural. The red state/blue state map is a crock. Name me one major US city that voted McCain[1]. Even Tuscaloosa, Alabama voted Obama 62% TO 38%! I’ll repeat that, TUSCALOOSA, ALABAMA VOTED OBAMA. It has a peculiar rhythm to it that I think nicely underscores the unmitigated glee behind the words.

Looking back over past blog entries, I’m reminded that Heath had some great links on the Electoral College, and my rant from four years ago is still pretty applicable. I stand by it: city mice and country mice are we. I say it as a born country mouse.

1.) It’s so hard to find them because everything is county oriented. I wish somebody would compile a list of major US cities by vote, no suburbs or rural outlying areas added.

More Fun Things to Look Forward to

Wired has a tantalizing piece on the things we may learn once the Bush Administration is finally put out to pasture.

“I’d bet there are a lot of career employees in the intelligence agencies who’ll be glad to see Obama take the oath so they can finally speak out against all this illegal spying and get back to their real mission,” says Caroline Fredrickson, the ACLU’s Washington D.C. legislative director.

New Yorker investigative reporter Seymour Hersh already has a slew of sources waiting to spill the Bush administration’s darkest secrets, he said in an interview last month. “You cannot believe how many people have told me to call them on January 20. [They say,] ‘You wanna know about abuses and violations? Call me then.'”

Meanwhile, Andrew Sullivan still wants to see the medical records on Trig Palin. Who knows what else we’ll discover in the coming days. Hopefully it will soon become inescapably apparent to the average American the exact size, weight and velocity of the bullet we’ve collectively dodged.

Palin was also quoted in the Times as saying:

“I don’t have any idea of what the next chapter of life is going to open up into, and I look forward to just the surprises that life offers.”

Same here.

What Does 700 Billion Mean To You?

So we’re bailing out Wall Street with 700 billion dollars. To quote Seth Meyers on SNL, “to give you an idea of how much money that is, I CAN’T give you an idea how much money that is.”

But I can tell you this. 700 billion divided by the US population of 300 million = $2,333.

So the next time you hear anyone complain about welfare spending for the poor, remember that’s only $50 of your annual taxes. So one silver lining to this debacle is that we’ll never have to hear the argument against welfare from conservative Republicans because we’ve just handed the fattest of possible cats FORTY SIX TIMES more money than we’ve ever given the poor.