Sunday, February 12, 2012

"Red Tails": A WWII Drama

Uncle John in Raleigh, NC 1944
My motive for this commentary is attributed to my father, Private Walter J. Chavis, Sr., and his brother, 2nd Lieutenant John H. Chavis.  My father and Uncle John were members of the famed "Tuskegee Airmen."  In short, they were the Nation's first Black fighter pilots in WWII.  My father was not a pilot--he was a crewman mechanic; but my Uncle was, and was declared missing over Italy while on a bomber escort to Germany on 16 Feb 45, a couple of months before the end of the war.  I never met Uncle John.  I have no anecdotes of him or his exploits, and I don't know what became of him, or if his body was ever recovered.  However, in March 2007, my father was the proud recipient of the Congressional Gold Medal, presented (personally) to the surviving Airmen by President George W. Bush. 

When I heard about a new movie about the Tuskegee Airmen called "Red Tails," I was very excited.  I was looking for a movie that would go a few steps further than the 1995 flick ("The Tuskegee Airmen"), staring Lawrence Fishburne.  The 1995 movie went into detail about the prejudice the Airmen experienced before the War Department would "allow" them to actually die for their county.  I was kinda looking for any slight, minor reference that might hint about a pilot named Chavis.  When I heard that George Lucas ("Star Wars") was producing, directing, and funding the "Red Tails" movie, a small "uh oh" went off in my head.

I admit that when I sat down to watch the movie, I was concerned about seeing some 2012 "hip-hoperized" characterization of Black WWII fighter pilots, wearing their pants around their asses, using words like "knowwhatimsaying" and "for shizzle" at every opportunity, and after shooting down an enemy, they'd land, jump out of the cockpit, do a chest bump with their crewman, a flight line "end zone" dance, then look for the sideline camera for a "it's all about me" moment.

I was pleased that I didn't see any of that--not even close.  But overall, I was disappointed with the movie.  The main subplot was more about a love affair between the squadron's best ace ("Lightning"), and an fairly good looking Italian girl.  Not that I had a problem with a Black American airman in 1944 falling for a White woman, but I would have thought SOMEBODY in that small Italian country town might have had a slight problem with it, but no one seemed to object!  Less than 2 minutes after introducing himself to the senorita, he's sitting cozy in the front parlor with her and her mother--she with a warm, welcoming "Do you want to marry my daughter?" smile!  Not long after they meet (a few "movie" days I assume), Lucas shows the pilot waking up in the morning, half naked in the very same front parlor with his underwear-clad girlfriend. 

The only people who seemed to have a race problem were the White bomber pilots and that quickly melted when they saw the courage and skill of their Black fighter escorts.  Somewhere in the movie, they mentioned the problem the Pentagon brass had with using Black combat pilots, but that fact was only barely a key subplot.  Oh, I forgot there was a part when they showed a P-51 (truly a kick-ass WWII fighter plane with a max speed of 487 mph) outrunning (and shooting down) a German Messerschmidt Me 262 jet (max speed 900 mph).  Interesting.  The movie's climax shows the squadron replacing their P-40s with P-51s, then going on one of the biggest bomber escorts of the war--they were supposed to escort the bombers half way to the target, when another fight escort group (presumably White) would take over, but that group "didn't show up" so the Tuskegee Airmen finished the mission...but we never found out how that mission ended!

So, there were a lot of these little nits that bugged me throughout the movie.  The movie wasn't well acted (many of the lines were corny) and during one battle, I half expected to hear: "Use the Force, Leroy!"  They certainly could have better used the talents of Cuba Gooding, Jr. and Terrance Howard.  But the biggest problem with the movie occurred within the first 10 seconds when the introductory subtitle read: "Inspired by true events."   Inspired by events??  Why not "Based on a true story!?"  After stewing on that fact for a few days, it suddenly dawned on me that "Red Tails" was no more about the history of the Tuskegee Airmen than John Wayne's "The Sand of Iwo Jima" was a biography about the U.S. Marine Corps or a historical account of the battle of Iwo Jima.

It was a piece of film fiction--a WWII drama complete with the obligatory sex subplot, the improbable prison escape, personal redemption, and "good" conquering over "evil" (although "justice" seems to have been glossed over).  A pure drama.  Taken from that perspective, I can appreciate Lucas' effort a little better.  The movie wasn't about the Tuskegee Airmen and it wasn't about my Uncle John.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

More Actual Voter Fraud By Yet Another Republican

That isn’t surprising in itself, but what that bastion of virtue, Mitch Daniels did is.  Instead of filling the Secretary of State’s position with a permanent replacement, he appointed a temporary replacement in hopes that the judge will reduce the 6 felony counts to misdemeanors and bring back Charley White, the Secretary of State that was found guilty on 6 of the 7 felony counts.

Indiana Secretary of State Charlie White was convicted of six felonies early this morning, and consequently lost his job.  But the Republican could get it back soon.  White, 42, Fishers, plans to ask a judge to reduce his convictions – all class D felonies – to misdemeanors at sentencing. It’s uncertain whether that move would allow him to reclaim his job.
Damn.  Wanting his job back where he committed crimes is bold.  And he is getting support from the governor of Indiana.

Shortly after White’s verdict was read, Gov. Mitch Daniels announced in a news release shortly before 3 a.m. that he has appointed Jerry Bonnet, White’s chief deputy, as interim secretary of state.“I have chosen not to make a permanent appointment today out of respect for the judge’s authority to lessen the verdict to a misdemeanor and reinstate the elected office holder,” the Republican governor said in the news release. “If the felony convictions are not altered, I anticipate making a permanent appointment quickly.”

Holy guacamole batman.  The governor of Indiana is not phased by his Secretary of State committing crimes in office.  So much for accountable government in Indiana.

After about 12 hours of deliberation, a jury convicted White of three counts of voter fraud, two counts of perjury and one count of theft.  He could face six months to three years in prison on each of the counts.  White was acquitted of his most serious charge, fraud on a financial institution, a class C felony.

I hope that the judge keeps the convictions in the Felony column and has this public official sentenced to between 7 and 10 years in the pokey.

This has been cross posted over at An Angry Dakota Democrat.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Drug Test Them Instead

The constant, constant chatter from the right regarding drug testing anyone who receives support from the taxpayers prompts this brief post.  Why is it always so easy to blame the defenseless for something that isn't occurring to veil your contempt for the unfortunate?  Why don't you just come out and say that you don't want to pay taxes for any reasons but most especially for the disadvantaged?
The people who should be drug tested are those who constantly ring this false alarm because they're ignoring the data that repeatedly shows that the incidence of welfare recipients who use drugs is far, far below the percentage of people applying for state and federal jobs who pop on piss tests.  Florida is learning that right now, where I believe the percentage of welfare recipients who've tested positive is 2% and the percentage of people drug tested for other reasons is 7 to 9%.  Welfare recipients want to feed and house their family, and want to get back on their feet and be self sufficient.  There are those wanting to scam the system wherever you look but getting rid of subsidies to Monsanto or getting GE to pay taxes of any kind is much more worth the effort than this old boondoggle.  And don't even get me started on the fact that in Florida the company running the drug tests is a company "formerly" owned by the same Governor who pushed the legislation.
These cries come from the same side of the aisle who claim they want less government, less government intrusion into the rights of citizens and a reduction in government spending.  More money is spent implementing, carrying out and analyzing these programs than the money saved by catching the rare welfare recipient smoking pot.
Cross posted on Inside Zebster