The Contra-Constitutional Behavior of John Dowdy

By Todd D. Rainer

In August 1963, Representative John Dowdy chaired a committee hearing to amend the District of Columbia’s Charitable Solicitation Act (the Act). The proposed amendment defined two alterations to the Act. First, it would convert the law from a “shall issue” law to a “may issue” law. This change would allow the commissioners to deny licenses to “undesirable” organizations. While ill conceived, this modification was perfectly legitimate legislation involving a regulatory issue. However, the amendment additionally specifically rescinded the Mattachine Society’s (MSW) license to solicit for charitable donations thus acting, amongst other things as a bill of pains and punishments.

A bill of pains and punishments is a subcategory to a bill of attainder and is an extrajudicial punishment created through legislation. The Constitution of the United States bars both under the Bills of Attainders Clause found in Article I, Section 9, Clause 3. The Clause simply states, “no bill of attainder or ex post facto law shall be passed.”[1] Following the Civil War, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) invalidated laws under the Attainder Clause on five occasions. The four cases that the SCOTUS heard prior to 1963, which have bearing on the discussion at hand are[1] Cummings v. Missouri and Ex parte Garland in 1866, Pierce v. Carskadon in 1872, and United States v. Lovett in 1946.[2] Later, in 1965, the court decided United States v. Brown, that case however occurs after events discussed herein.[3] In all the cases decided, the government actor considered the plaintiff some sort of political subversive, passing laws to restrict various activities. In the early cases, former Confederates or Confederate sympathizers were the subjects, in the later cases, usually Communists. The various laws singled out people for unfavorable treatment without the benefit of the judicial process. In every case, the offending legislation named not just groups and organizations, but individuals as restricted by legislation. This is a clear violation of the Constitution. The restriction on bills of attainder is a protection to the separation of powers between the judiciary and the legislative branches of both the federal and state governments of the United States. The restriction prevents legislatures from behaving as judiciary, thus ensuring the right to judicial proceedings prior to a taking of some right or property.[4]

As the precedential case, United States v. Lovett played a significant role in the events surrounding the hearing. One of the courts findings states, “legislative acts, no matter what their form, that apply either to named individuals or to easily ascertainable members of a group in such a way as to inflict punishment on them without a judicial trial, are bills of attainder prohibited by the Constitution.”[5] Additionally, all four SCOTUS decisions affirmed that the Bill of Attainder Clause was to be liberally construed, thus putting the legislature on notice that should a law even have the flavor of a bill of attainder, it was almost certainly unconstitutional.

In support of determining if legislation violates the Bill of Attainders Clause, the courts have established a dual level test to ascertain a statutes status. The first level is a two-pronged test; first – are specific individuals, groups, or entities affected by the statute and second – does the legislation inflict a punishment on those individuals? Should a piece of legislation meet both those tests, a second level test is then applied. Dowdy’s amendment specifically calls out the MSW. A license to solicit is, legally speaking, property. Therefore, a revocation of that property is a taking. The Amendment unquestionably meets the first test as a bill of attainder, both naming a specific group and taking property from them without the benefit of a judicial decision.

As part of the second level test, the courts have defined three additional checks of legislation, the finding any one of which results in an affirmative finding of a statute being a bill of attainder and therefore unconstitutional. These tests are historical, functional and motivational. The historical test finds burdens that are traditionally found to be punitive. For instance, a law that fines, banishes, or sentences someone to death would be traditionally found to be punitive. Additionally, a law that confiscated property or prevented named groups or individuals from participating in specific vocations would also be found to be punitive under the historical test.[6] The amendment, being a taking from a specific group meets this test. The functional test applies to legislation where the type and severity of the burdens are functionally equivalent to a punishment because they do not further non-punitive legislative purposes. This test applies directly to Lovett, wherein the court found that the legislation acted outside the bounds of a merely regulatory law in part due to the legislators’ discussion during committees and debates related to “charges” and finding the subjects named “guilty,” thus violating the separation of powers and the Bills of Attainder Clause.[7] Whether the hearing regarding the amendment meets the functional test is questionable. While evidence does exist to support an argument, the legal question is complex. Does rescinding the license of the MSW provide a regulatory function beyond any sort of punishment, perceived or real? While the courts are required to strictly interpret any such evidence of a functional nature, the question is impossible to answer given the evidence at hand. Finally, the motivational test, wherein the record shows a congressional intent to punish.[8] In an apparent attempt to evade expanding the historical test, which the courts have narrowly defined and been loath to expand, the motivational test allows the courts to take into account the apparent motivations behind the legislation. However, what constitutes sufficient evidence of motivation has varied between court to court. This test, the most challenging, and subjective of the three, has yet to have a bright line rule established by the SCOTUS.[9] Even so, Dowdy’s statements, behavior, and apparent temper during the committee hearing, as well as statements made outside the hearing indicate clearly an intent to punish the MSW. As such, the statute fails the motivational test as well as the history test in numerous ways discussed below.

As a conservative Democrat, Dowdy was, amongst other things, anti-communist, anti-civil rights, and anti-gay rights. Additionally, he conflated these three movements into a single, all-encompassing cabal of a world communist conspiracy. In a speech before Congress on March 21, 1962, Dowdy extolled his own anti-communist record of “consistently” voting against recognition of Red China, supporting the House Committee on Un-American Activities, and holding a variety of anti-communist and anti-liberal views. Additionally, he also railed against liberal organizations such as the Americans for Democratic Action (ADA) and the AFL-CIO’s Committee on Political Education (COPE), entreating “the people” to “consider just whose interests the ADA are really serving.”[10] Dowdy’s letter of November 14, 1957, to James C. Nesom of Falls Church, Virginia accused the executive and judicial branches of having turned the country over the Communists and the “communist-front NAACP.” This shows a clear bias not only against Communism, but more disturbingly, the executive and judicial branches of government.[11] In a letter to Rev. M.O. Frederick of Lufkin, Texas on April 17, 1959, Dowdy once again comingled the NAACP with the communist conspiracy, as well as accusing “80% of the members of the House and Senate,” the President and the Supreme Court of being a part of the cabal and “flying in the face of God’s command.”[12] He affirmed his support for the 1952 Immigration and Nationality Act, a.k.a. the McCarran-Walter Act, an act, in part, intended to prevent entry of people with “psychopathic personalities” into the United States.[13] “Psychopathic personalities” was a condition that, while not specifically called out in the text of the statute, included homosexuality as was enumerated in the first edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, Mental Disorders.[14] Finally, a 1967 campaign advertisement describes Dowdy’s record of supporting legislation to “control” homosexuals.[15] That same year, he further asserted his success in revoking the license of “a society of homosexuals” to solicit donations in the District of Columbia.[16] These statements, both before and after the 1963 hearing, are but a small sampling indicating Dowdy’s prejudices and motivations against those who do not follow his line of “right thinking.” Taken as a whole, these statements and positions are also an indictment of his intentions; conduct that ultimately is evidence of his motivation to legislatively punish the MSW and bypass the judicial process which he felt was corrupt.

Dowdy’s adversary in this contra-constitutional campaign was Frank Kameny. In 1957, Frank E. Kameny, Ph.D. and WWII veteran was an astronomer for the Army Map Services when he was called before Civil Service investigators and accused of being a homosexual. When he refused to cooperate with the investigators, the Army dismissed Kameny from his job. In 1960, nine years before the Stonewall Riots, Frank Kameny, reviving the race-sex minority analogy, entered into a civil rights case, the first of its kind in the United States. Kameny said, “My dismissal amounted to declaration of war against me by the government.” Kameny sued over what he felt was a capricious and unjustified blacklisting by the federal government of homosexuals and merely suspected homosexuals.

Kameny petitioned the courts for a mandatory injunction for reinstatement to his job. The court denied the petition entering a summary judgment for the Army Map Service. Effectively, a summary judgment indicates that in the opinion of the court there was no legal or factual issue to explore. To let that ruling stand would have been devastating to Kameny’s goal of returning to his job. Kameny appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. The appellate court, ruling strictly on procedural grounds, never addressed Kameny’s legal arguments. The court affirmed the lower court’s ruling, upholding the summary judgment.[17] After the appellate court denied a rehearing, Kameny, expanding his argument against the government policy of dismissing homosexuals out of hand, filed a writ of certiorari, a request for hearing, with the United States Supreme Court in October of 1960.[18]

Kameny, representing himself with some legal assistance, presented numerous arguments in his writ, some procedural, some legal. The procedural arguments are not relevant to the discussion at hand, and are therefore set aside. His legal arguments included, (1) that real legal questions existed and were ignored by the appellate court, (2) the legal questions presented were pertinent to a large minority, (3) that a government discharge was unlike the discharge of any other employer and created special problems for those affected by it, (4) that the discretion of the Government to be free from judicial review in matters related to employment created an environment which led to “abuses of the worst sort,” (5) that the regulation under which he was dismissed,  one which banned “immoral conduct”, was unconstitutionally vague, and finally (6) that the regulation is improperly discriminatory – taking an interesting tack by arguing that while in many instances homosexual activity may be contra-legal, the mere state of being a homosexual is not.  Kameny also applied a “test of reason” argument to his case, while providing no examples of such a test applying to government hiring practices.[19] Kameny’s writ, while presenting the arguments listed, asked only that the SCOTUS overturn the lower court’s summary judgment and allow for a full hearing before the court of appeals. The SCOTUS denied certiorari without comment.

Prior to Kameny’s case, homophile groups only requested, and occasionally insisted upon acceptance or tolerance. Kameny, by pursuing his case to the highest court in the land was the first to demand full rights for homosexuals as citizens of the United States. If Kameny made errors, it was first in not retaining new, experienced legal counsel after his attorney abandoned him. There is no evidence available concerning whether he even attempted to do so. It is possible such evidence exists within his records at the Library of Congress. Barring the very common mistake of having a “fool for a client,” his second and more important error may lay in his pleading. He requested merely a new hearing before the appellate court, not that the SCOTUS address the legal questions he presented. Had his arguments been in terms of his dismissal being the result of the morality regulation being a bill of attainder, it is possible that the court’s action may have been different. After all, based on precedential case law a declaration of guilt or innocence, without judicial review is a clear violation of the restriction. However, without an in depth review of both case law that makes similar arguments, and a review of the writs presented to the SCOTUS in this same period, this is a purely speculative conclusion – a dangerous one at that.

Nonetheless, this defeat motivated Frank Kameny to reestablish the Mattachine Society of Washington in 1961. [20] Kameny, the first president and spokesperson for the MSW was largely responsible for the re-politicization of the organization, overseeing the first picketing of the White House by a gay rights organization on May 4, 1963.[21] Kameny, ever aware of his challenges both social and legal, insisted that the activities of the MSW be legal and above the board.[22] Kameny, intent on taking action, applied for and after much resistance from C. T. Nottingham the superintendent of licenses and permits, was eventually granted a license to solicit charitable donations for the MSW in the District of Columbia.[23] Recognizing the importance of such a milestone, Kameny wasted no time in advertising what he saw was one of the first forms of public recognition for a homophile organization. On Sept 16, 1962, the Washington Star published an article with the headline: Group Aiding Deviates Issued Charity License.[24]

According to David K. Johnson in, The Lavender Scare: The Cold War Persecution of Gays and Lesbians in the Federal Government, the report “incensed” John Dowdy, placing the U.S. Congress and the Mattachine Society on a course towards conflict.[25] In the 1962 session, Dowdy introduced a bill to rectify what he considered an intolerable situation, however, it was introduced too late to act upon in the session. Dowdy entered into remarks in the Congressional Record of the 88th Congress, on July 8, 1963, that he opposed the Mattachine Society’s licensing, an opposition based on religious and moral grounds arguing that “The acts of these people are banned under the laws of God, the laws of nature, and are in violation of the laws of man.” Dowdy further accused the MSW of promoting sexual deviation and criticized the law for allowing them a platform. [26]

The law Dowdy was criticizing was the 1957 District of Columbia Charitable Solicitation Act.[27] Its purpose was to “to provide full and fair disclosure of the character of charitable, benevolent, patriotic, or other solicitations in the District of Columbia; and for other purposes.” The law merely required registration of an organization with little or no evidence of its charitable nature. The “shall issue” nature of the law proved to be problematical in that the commissioners had no right to refuse to issue a permit, a situation that offended Rep. Dowdy. On August 8, 1963, the House Subcommittee No.4 of the Committee on the District of Columbia met with Congressman Dowdy as its chair with the intent of debating the issues surrounding Dowdy’s proposed amendment to the Act. The committee consisted of Representatives John Dowdy (D-TX), George Huddleston, Jr. (D-AL), Basil Lee Whitener (D-NC), Bernice F. Sisk (D- CA), Jim Broyhill (R-NC), Frank Horton (R-NY) and Richard L. Roudebush (R-IN).[28] Witnesses included Robert F. Kneipp and C.T. Cunningham for the Commissioners, Frank Kameny and Ellen Keene for the Mattachine Society and Monroe Freedman representing the Freedom of Communications Committee of the National Capital Area Civil Liberties Union (the local chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU). After dismissing the other outstanding issues before the committee due to a scheduling conflict, Rep. Dowdy focused the session on the amendment to the Act. As previously discussed, the object of the amendment, entered as H.R. 5990 was two-fold. First, the amendment required that the commissioners to “affirmatively” confirm that an applicant’s activity benefited or assisted in promoting “the health, welfare and the morals of the District of Columbia.” Secondly, the amendment revoked the Mattachine Society’s certificate of registration.[29]

The first to testify was Robert F. Kneipp of the Corporations Counsel’s Office of the District of Columbia, representing the District Commissioners of the Department of Licenses and Inspections with limited remarks from Commissioner, C. T. Nottingham. Following Mr. Kneipp was Frank Kameny, appearing as President of the Mattachine Society of Washington, with a cursory testimony by Mrs. Ellen Keene, Vice President of the MSW. Finally, Mr. Monroe H. Freedman testified for the ACLU.

Mr. Kneipp expressed the District’s objections to H.R. 5990 in a letter to the chairman of the House Committee on the District of Columbia submitted prior to the hearing. The District’s objections were essentially two fold. The District objected to Section 1 due to the burden it placed on the District to hold a hearing for every applicant to determine if they met the criteria of promoting “the health, welfare and the morals of the District of Columbia.” In spite of Dowdy arguing that he did not read the bill this way, Mr. Kneipp insisted that it did. He maintained that the amendment did create a “heavy and difficult burden” on the commissioners resulting in the necessity to hold hundreds of hearings prior to issuing permits. Moreover, continuing this line of reasoning, Kneipp argued that, because the wording of the amendment was so poorly considered, the vast majority of the 163 organizations that held registrations would not qualify under the amendment. Frank Kameny raised similar objections in his testimony, arguing that the administrative and financial burden for both the government and the organizations would be “overwhelming” and that few organizations licensed at the time could even meet the standards of the amendment.[30] This concurrence of testimony led the committee to question whether Kneipp and Kameny had consulted with one another; they both asserted that they had not in any meaningful sense. However, this line of questioning set the tone for the committee seeking evidence of some sort of collusion between the witnesses that would continue throughout the hearing. This concern by the commission is mentioned primarily to dismiss it. Section 1 of the Amendment, while being fatally flawed, is a mere regulatory issue and does not bear on the unconstitutional nature of section 2.

The second, more important objection raised the specter of a bill of attainder, or more accurately, a bill of pains and punishment (used interchangeably herein as is custom).[31] Mr. Kneipp, a government employee, being somewhat reticent and trying to ensure that the committee did not take their objections to the amendment as an endorsement of the MSW, argued that the specific discriminatory nature of the amendment made it a bill of pains and punishments, and thus could not pass constitutional muster.[32] Citing United States v. Lovett, Mr. Kneipp strained to maintain an argument based solely on the precedential law, something the committee seemed intent on avoiding. Mr. Kneipp argued that by excluding, retroactively the MSW with the new amendment, Congress would be violating the constitutional restriction on bills of attainder.

Additionally, Kneipp argued, the commissioners, while not wishing to condone or support homosexual activities, were bound by the law as written to issue the permit as the law was merely a notification law as opposed to a may-issue law.[33] Even so, Commissioner Nottingham admitted before the committee that he had indeed refused a permit to a member of the communist party. The committee does not explore Nottingham’s reasoning for believing that he was empowered to reject the application of a communist organization, but not an application from homophile organization.[34] Leading one to believe that the committee was considerably less concerned with upholding the law and more concerned with punishing the MSW. Nevertheless, Mr. Kneipp’s testimony on this topic is most thorough, if somewhat restrained. The attorney established clearly that the commission opposed the implementation of section 1 of the amendment due to its burdensome nature, and section 2 of the amendment on Constitutional grounds. Mr. Kameny’s testimony on this subject, while expressed in layman’s terms, mirrored that of the commission’s. Enough so that the committee once again inquired if there had been any sort of collusion between the District and the MSW. There had not been.[35]

Frank Kameny’s testimony followed over two days. Kameny, the first openly homosexual citizen to testify on Capitol Hill, eventually testified for over four hours before the committee. Largely his testimony revolved around the organization of the MSW and its relationship with other homophile organizations. This further attempt by the committee to establish some sort of conspiracy – likely based on the “cabal of homosexuals” theory – ultimately failed in that Kameny made clear or at least attempted to make clear that the MSW was an independent organization beholden to no other, even while being in communication with many. These attempts to establish some sort of conspiracy or criminal activity additionally could be considered within a motivational test framework if a court were to determine that the question was outside the bounds of legislative necessity. A likely outcome.

The committee’s attempt to garner the names of the members of the society, and later Mr. Freedman’s personal information spanned the course of the interviews of Kameny, Keene and Freedman. These attempts almost certainly fall within the motivational framework of the court’s test of the statute in question. The committee’s attempt to hinge the legitimacy of the MSW’s claims on the public knowledge of their membership rolls was a not-so-veiled threat given the political atmosphere at the time, and the danger to homosexuals of being “outed.” A publicly known homosexual faced not only professional and financial harm but potential physical harm as well. Harm that could come not just from a thug on the street, but even from official sources. District homosexuals had taken the Washington D.C. Morality Squad to court over numerous cases of police brutality.[36] Kameny and Keene stuck to the MSW’s party line of stating that they did not believe that the questions were relevant to the topic or appropriate. When the committee attempted this line of questioning on Mr. Freedman, the ACLU attorney made very clear the inappropriateness of the line of questioning, going so far as to accuse Dowdy of subtly threatening him by inquiring as to his membership status in the society and his place of employment.[37] The continued attempts to garner further private information become important in the tests to determine if a piece of legislation is a bill of attainder. It is quite possible to argue that the only reasonable purpose for such information was to seek out legislative or regulatory punishment for those who offend congressional sensibilities.

According to Mr. Charles Francis, current president of the Mattachine Society of Washington D.C., Mr. Kameny saw Dowdy’s attacks as a boon to the growth of the society and the advancement of gay rights in general.[38] Frank Kameny then went on to use this newfound notoriety to further the cause of the homosexual American citizen. Ultimately, Kameny’s testimony primarily addressed the structure, purpose, activities and membership of the MSW and, except for passing comments did not directly address any issues pertaining to the theory that the second section of the amendment may be a bill of attainder. This only makes sense as Mr. Kameny was not an attorney and did not represent the MSW as a legal expert, but as an expert on the MSW itself who was hoping for some goodwill from the committee.

However, Monroe Freedman was an attorney, neither seeking goodwill of the committee nor beholden to his client as Mr. Kneipp was in his restricted responses. Mr. Freedman was a highly educated and experienced attorney and a law professor representing an organization whose interest lay solely in protecting the Constitution of the United States from what they saw as “gross violations of civil liberties”.[39] Mr. Freedman made clear in the early exchanges that he would not be, and in fact could neither be intimidated nor dragooned by the committee. He went so far as to advise the board that he had what were in his opinion, more important things to do than teach Congress the basics of Constitutional Law. Mr. Freedman, after some semi-heated exchanges with committee members concerning privacy, established his identity, his credentials and his interest in the amendment. He then went on to eloquently lecture the Committee arguing that the amendment would “…impose an unconstitutionally vague qualification on freedom of speech” and therefore was a probable violation of the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights. [40] Additionally, intercepting objections by the committee, Mr. Freedman plainly asserted that in this instance he was not speaking of any sort of sexual expression, nor of the amendment’s effect on any particular group (including the MSW), but of the freedom of communication and association overall.[41] In doing so, he came at the crux of what the NCACLU objected to beyond the bill of attainder/bill of pains and punishments issue. In a confrontational exchange with Dowdy, Freedman explains – even chastises Dowdy on the basics of freedom of speech and the legal difference between regulating an act that may or may not be protected by the Constitution and regulating speech/association that very clearly is protected. Freedman extended his allocution into the foundations of the creation of the First Amendment. As an example, Freedman compared an organization lobbying for stricter laws on homosexuals – which Freedman contended would have surely been granted – and the MSW – which espoused a philosophy that the committee found repugnant, which would, in Freedman’s hypothetical scenario be denied licensing. In this comparison, Freedman citing an unnamed article in the August 1963 issue of the Journal of the Bar Association of the District of Columbia, calls such standards as “morals” amorphous concepts and thus, unconstitutionally vague. Freedman entreated the committee to distinguish between what the MSW stands for and its right to free speech. As to the amendment being a bill of attainder, of those testifying, Mr. Freedman expressed the simplest, clearest opinion of the second section of the amendment in stating that it was “as clear a case of a bill of attainder and denial of equal protection of the laws and denial of due process of law as one could conceive of.”[42]

Press coverage of the event was largely supportive of the MSW and dismissive, even critical of Dowdy and his position. In fact, when finally passed in 1964, Dowdy complained that the Washington Post had been attacking him for two years over his sponsorship of the amendment.[43] The archives of the Washington Post include numerous articles published in relation to Dowdy’s amendment. John Groshko covered the hearing; his first article on August 8, 1963 was entitled Unpopular Causes. This article was clearly disapproving of the Amendment stating, “we think that the organization (MSW) has a clear right to make a plea for public support”. Additionally, the article recognizes the second section of the amendment as a bill of attainder, arguing that the Constitution flatly forbids Congress from passing it.[44] Groshko’s article the next day went on to criticize the committee for focusing on “morality” in lieu of the law.[45] Coverage the following day went on to criticize the pertinacity of the committee indicating that little was accomplished due to their far-ranging “digressions” from discussion of the law itself into the morality of homosexuality and even into the details of what constitutes a homosexual act, and what is meant by homosexual in the first place. The author even makes note that Mr. Freedman had to correct the committee on no less than seven occasions regarding the organization he represented.[46] Groshko, described as a stalwart veteran of the Washington Post showed little appreciation in his writings for the belaboring of the discussion of homosexuality in what was supposed to be a legislative matter, repeatedly pointing out when Dowdy or some other member of the committee strayed from what was supposed to be the point.[47]

Throughout the hearing, Rep. Dowdy’s tone could best be described as confrontational, at times argumentative, and occasionally downright insulting. Dowdy first accused the commissioners of allowing the MSW to promote “perversions and immorality,” then accused Kameny and the MSW of perversion, and then argued with Freedman that the ACLU was condoning the same. In fact, Dowdy returns to the accusation of promoting perversion frequently, repeatedly returning to Biblical authority to justify his position. The Texas representative was generally insulting of the MSW throughout the hearing making numerous snide, side-comments such as “queer” and “fairy.” Additionally, he compared MSW publications to “pornography.” Dowdy raised the topics of prostitution, incest and bestiality as well, further establishing the reasoning behind his motivations.[48] Unfortunately, the pornography charge may have a basis in fact even if the pornography in question did not originate from the MSW. Bruce Schuyler, the MSW secretary sent a scathing letter to ONE magazine in Los Angeles regarding their publication of a particularly offensive cartoon of a nude sailor defecating in public. [49] Schuyler’s letter took the magazine and its editors to task for giving Rep. Dowdy yet another piece of evidence to use against the MSW. ONE magazine was not associated with the MSW in any way; even so, this seems to have had little bearing on Dowdy’s position. This merely further supports the impression that Dowdy was intent on punishing the MSW, no matter what the facts. Numerous other malicious remarks including discussion of the nonsensical urban legend of homosexuals gaining weight on a diet of semen, and a comparison between dinner parties and homosexual orgies, clearly shows the prejudicial nature of the hearing.[50] It also positively fulfills two of the secondary bill of attainder tests, historical and motivational. Dowdy seems unconcerned about this, even to the point of admitting that the purpose of the amendment is to specifically revoke the MSW’s permit without judicial action, an act that as an experienced attorney, Dowdy had to have known was unconstitutional on its face.[51]

Additionally, Dowdy made quite clear his opinion of the connection of the homophile movement with communism, another subset of people who had been subject to bills of attainder. Dowdy set forth the very common, but largely unsupported argument that homosexuals were security risks, even citing the Martin and Mitchell defection as evidence.[52] Dowdy also discussed the existence of “homosexual schools” in communist countries, and homosexual orgies in communist embassies, thereby linking homosexuality with communism yet again.[53] Essentially, Rep. Dowdy used this forum as sounding board for his own personal, religious, and moral arguments against homosexuals, and forsook his duties under his oath of office to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States.” His behavior was reprehensible and provided further evidence that homosexuals were subjected to irrational, even unconstitutional hatred and prejudice at the highest levels of government.

In The Lavender Scare, a seminal work on the topic of repression of the early gay rights movement, Johnson makes a number of leaps of logic that that are questionable. The first is that Kameny somehow gave away the “secret” that the officers of the MSW were using pseudonyms – an act which may or may not have been in violation of district regulations.[54] In a strict reading of the transcripts, Kameny does no such thing, a refusal to answer a question is not, and never has been an admission to the fact. This is basic legal canon in the United States enshrined within the Bill of Rights itself and a plethora legal opinion. Historically, the legal protection against self-incrimination stems from the English Puritans refusing to answer questions of their torturers as explained by Chief Justice Warren in Miranda v. Arizona.[55] Even if Dowdy declared that the committee should just assume that a refusal to answer was an admission, such a declaration has no meaning in law or reality except in the declarer’s mind. However, the attempt to garner membership and officership information of a named organization, under the guise of criminal accusations, goes toward a positive finding in all three, historical, functional and motivational tests for an affirmative finding that the statute is a bill of attainder.

Johnson’s second – and more important error– is the idea that somehow Dowdy won because the MSW lost its license. The MSW did not lose its license, which may actually have been unfortunate. Congress overwhelmingly passed the Amendment in August 1964, in spite of its obvious failings.[56] However, under the advice of an attorney, the MSW surrendered its license as unnecessary and potentially legally burdensome.[57] It is a fine distinction, but fine distinctions are what make good law. Kameny himself did not consider this a loss, as the attention garnered from the hearing and Dowdy’s later remarks in 1964 was greater than the small benefit of a semi-official recognition of the MSW’s legitimacy. It is unfortunate because had Dowdy successfully rescinded the MSW’s license through legislation, the MSW would have gained standing to bring a bill of attainder violation case against the US Congress. As this did not happen, we can only speculate as to the results. However, after Dowdy made it abundantly clear that his purpose was to deny the Mattachine Society a means of raising funds, it is difficult to conceive the SCOTUS going against long standing stare decisis to find for the government in such a case.[58]

In The Lavender Scare, Johnson concludes that Dowdy made a strategic error in judgment in challenging the legitimacy of the MSW. Trapped in Cold War thinking, his fear of communists, of integration, and of homosexuals ensnared him in an unwinnable state of affairs, one that made him and his cohorts look bad. By attacking what was ultimately a relatively new, tiny and largely unproductive group – a condition hinted at by Kameny himself in the hearing – Dowdy and the committee did more to augment the MSW’s prestige and dignity within Washington D.C. In the space of two days, John Dowdy did more to help the MSW than anything that Frank Kameny may have done over a much longer period. The attention to the hearing generated enough interest in the MSW and its purpose that ECHO, the East Coast Homophile Organizations voted Frank Kameny the man most responsible for furthering the goals of homophiles in the United States in 1963, largely due to the actions of John Dowdy.[59]

However, not only did Dowdy make a critical strategic error, but also he acted in a contra-constitutional manner. The Commission, the MSW, the ACLU, and the Washington Post all concurred that the second section of the amendment was a bill of attainder. Freedman of the ACLU pointed out that it likely was a violation of the First Amendment as well. Even ignoring the possible First Amendment violation, the Constitution’s Bills of Attainder Clause and the extant case law was long-standing legal doctrine of which any experienced and competent attorney, no matter what his specialty would be aware. It cannot be stressed enough here just how much the prohibition was Constitutional canon, or how much an experienced attorney would have known this. This is particularly true given the educational requirements to sit for the Texas Bar exam in 1940, the year Dowdy entered into the practice of law. Section III, Part VI of the Rules of the Supreme Court of Texas requires that a law student study not just the Constitution of the United States, but also the Constitution of Texas. The student must as well study Constitutional theory and case law from Black’s Constitutional Law or Rottschaefer’s Constitutional Law, and Black’s Cases on Constitutional Law, all of which address the issue of bills of attainder.[60]

Numerous of the founding fathers spoke out against these measures, which had been sorely abused by the crown to punish colonists.[61] James Madison argued that such laws are contraindicative of a sound legislative system. In the Federalist Papers he wrote, “bills of attainder, ex post facto laws, and laws impairing the obligations of contracts, are contrary to the first principles of the social compact, and to every principle of sound legislation.”[62] Alexander Hamilton expanded the discussion in the Federalist Paper no. 78, “a limited constitution . . . [is] one which contains certain specified exceptions to the legislative authority, such, for instance, as that it shall pass no bills of attainder, no ex post facto laws, and the like. Limitations of this kind can be preserved in practice no other way than through the medium of the courts of justice, whose duty it must be to declare all acts contrary to the manifest tenor of the Constitution void. Without this, all the reservations of particular rights or privileges would amount to nothing.”[63] Thomas Jefferson, Justice Samuel Chase, George Mason, and a host of other founders spoke out against bills off attainder as incompatible with a democratic government and a threat to constitutional law.

Despite the backlash, Dowdy continued his moralistic crusade, adding to the accumulated anxiety of an already anxious period. His writings and speeches persistently spoke of “truth and morality”, and railed against progressivism, calling collectivists “kindhearted but short sighted men and women with befuddled thinking, arousing covetousness and destroying faith and self-confidence.”[64] In spite of all his assertions to morality and truth, John Dowdy was tried and convicted of multiple counts of accepting a bribe, conspiracy, and perjury and eventually served time in prison, bringing into question his own morality, ethics and ultimately coloring his motivations.[65] The idea that Dowdy, as a prosecutor and attorney in Texas, one who is called a constitutional attorney in at least one article, would not be aware of the court’s position on the matter of something as legally vital and fundamental as bills of attainder is beyond ludicrous.[66]

Based on the evidence presented, while highly circumstantial, one can only assume that Dowdy simply intended to ignore the Constitution and the long-standing rulings of the Supreme Court in an attempt to expand the powers of the legislature into realms reserved for the judiciary. In doing so, John Dowdy followed closely to the traditions of his upbringing, his religion, and the conservatism prevalent amongst southern democrats of his time. Nevertheless, his actions stood in direct contravention to the laws, history, and Constitution of the United States.

©2015 Todd D. Rainer

 

ENDNOTES

[1] The Constitution of the United States, Article I, Section 9, paragraph 3, Cummings v. Missouri, 71 U.S. 277 (1867), 278-279. Ex Post Facto Laws deal with criminality and as such are not relevant to the discussion at hand.

[2] Cummings v. Missouri, 71 U.S. 277 (1867), Ex Parte Garland, 71 U.S. 333 (1867), Pierce v. Carskadon, 83 US 234 (1872), United States v. Lovett, 328 U.S. 303 (1946).

[3] United States v. Brown, 381 U.S. 437 (1965).

[4] Aaron H. Caplan, “Nonattainder as a Liberty Interest.” Wisconsin Law Review 2010, no. 5: 1203-1268. Legal Source, EBSCOhost (Accessed November 28, 2015).

[5] United States v. Lovett, 328 U.S. 303 (1946) citing Cummins v. Missouri, 4 Wall. 277; Ex parte Garland, 4 Wall. 333. P. 328 U. S. 315.”

[6] Thomas, Kenneth R., “Bills of Attainder: The Constitutional Implications of Congress Legislating Narrowly.” August 26, 2014. Congressional Research Service. 7-5700. www.crs.gov. R40826. 5.

[7] Ibid. 6-7.

[8] Ibid. Summary.

[9] Ibid. 9, footnote 63, footnote 64.

[10] Ibid. Box 549, File 57* (note: file number appears to be cut off from our source – probably file #572 and/or 573).

[11] Ibid. Box 134, File 5.

[12] Ibid. Box 206, File 296.

[13] United States Statutes at Large, 1952, Vol. 66, 82nd Cong., p. 163-282. § 212 (a) (4).

[14] Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, Mental Disorders. The American Psychiatric Association Mental Hospital Service. (Washington D.C. 1952). 13, 39. Note; a full copy of the DSM1 can be found at www.turkpsikiyatri.org/arsiv/dsm-1952.pdf.

Possibly because of legislative confusion caused by the poorly worded 1952 act, the passage of the 1965 amendment to the INA added “sexual deviation” as a specific medical ground for denying prospective immigrants entry into the United States. No statements by Dowdy have been found concerning this amendment, however, according to the website www.govtrack.us. Rep. Dowdy voted against the amendment, as did 2/3rd of the rest of the Texas representatives. Southern opposition likely resulted from the abandonment of the national origins quota system, replacing it with a skills and family oriented preference schema. This interesting outcome deserves research beyond the scope of this paper. Davis, Tracy J. “Opening the Doors of Immigration: Sexual Orientation and Asylum in the United States.” Human Rights Brief. (No publishing date given). American University Washington College of Law. Accessed 11/25/201. https://www.wcl.american.edu/hrbrief/v6i3/immigration.htm To Agree To The Conference Report On H.R. 2580, The Immigration and Nationality Act. https://www.govtrack.us/congress/votes/89-1965/h177 (Accessed 12/02/2015).

[15] John Dowdy Collection. “As published by the Friends of Congressman John Dowdy.” Box and File location not identified.

[16] Ibid. Box 569, File 208.

[17] Franklin Edward Kameny, Appellant, v. Wilber M. Brucker, Secretary of the Army, et al., Appellees, 282 F.2d 823 (D.C. Cir. 1960) – U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit – 282 F.2d 823 (D.C. Cir. 1960) – Argued May 18, 1960, Decided June 23, 1960, Petition for Rehearing Denied August 31, 1960.

[18] Kameny v. Brucker, Petition for Writ of Certiorari, No. 676, 365 U.S. 843. U.S. Supreme Court, October 1960.

[19]  This is possibly an oversight on his part; we have no way of knowing without further research in his records. However, it is also possibly an attempt to extend a legal concept. The “Rule of Reason” is a valid legal test of a doctrine or law. It is, however used primarily in the United States in evaluating trade and antitrust laws. E.g. Addyston Pipe and Steel Co. v. United States, 175 U.S. 211 (1899).

[20] The Mattachine Society of Washington, DC, Our Mission. http://mattachinesocietywashingtondc.org/mission/ (Accessed 10/25/2015).

[21] Michael G. Long, Ed., Gay is Good; The Life and Letters of Gay rights Pioneer Franklin Kameny. (Syracuse, 2014), Kindle Edition. Kindle Location 636. NOTE: It is unfortunate that as of this writing, the Library of Congress has not digitized the collection it received from the Mattachine Society of Frank Kameny’s papers. The cost of acquiring the collection was prohibitive and going to the LoC even more so. Thus, this book is the closest thing we have to a primary source for Frank Kameny’s letters.

[22] Ibid. Location 293.

[23] David K. Johnson, The Lavender Scare: The Cold War Persecution of Gays and Lesbians in the Federal Government (Chicago, 2004), Kindle Edition. Location 2632.

[24] Ibid., Location 2637.

[25] Ibid., Location 2638.

[26] Congressional Record, Vol.109 part 9, A4211-A4212.

[27] Public Law 85-87, 71 Stat. 278-282. The full text of which can be found through the Government Printing Office. http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/granule/STATUTE-71/STATUTE-71-Pg278/content-detail.html (Accessed 12/03/2015).

[28] Transcript of the House Subcommittee No.4 of the Committee on the District of Columbia, August 8, 1963. Amending District of Columbia Charitable Solicitation Act hearing. 1. See also Biographical Directory of the U.S. Congress, (1774–2005), Official Annotated Membership Roster by State with Vacancy and Special Election Information for the 88th Congress. http://historycms.house.gov/WorkArea/DownloadAsset.aspx?id=40934 (Accessed 10/23/2015).

[29] H.R. 5990 §1 (d) and §2.

[30] Transcript of the House Subcommittee No.4. 63-4.

[31] According to the Legal Information Institute at Cornell University, a bill of attainder refers primarily to punishments of a capital nature in which a person or persons are supposed guilty of high crimes such as treason or high felonies. A bill of pains and punishment deals with milder degrees of punishment than death or banishment. It has become commonplace to use these terms interchangeably. CRS Annotated Constitution, The Legal Information Institute, Cornell University Law School. https://www.law.cornell.edu/anncon/html/art1frag89_user.html. (Accessed October 24, 2015).

[32] Transcript of the House Subcommittee No.4. 10.

[33] Additionally, Mr. Kneipp argued that nothing in the language of the Amendment necessarily prevented the Mattachine Society from reapplying for and obtaining a new license under the Amendment.

[34] Transcript of the House Subcommittee No.4. 17.

[35] Ibid. 76.

[36] Johnson, The Lavender Scare, Locations 2483-2484.

[37] Transcript of the House Subcommittee No.4. 118-119.

[38] Email correspondence with Mr. Francis, 10/05/2015.

[39] Transcript of the House Subcommittee No.4. 103.

[40] Ibid. 106.

[41] Ibid. 107.

[42] Ibid. 109.

[43] Johnson, The Lavender Scare, Location 2684.

[44] Groshko, John, “Unpopular Causes,” The Washington Post, August 8, 1963, Page not identified.

[45] Groshko, John, “Morality’ Talk Slows Sex Hearing,” The Washington Post, August 9, 1963, Page not identified.

[46] Groshko, John, “House Group Continues Homosexuality Hearing: Not Much Headway”, The Washington Post, August 10, 1963, Page not identified.

[47] Johnson, The Lavender Scare, Location 2684.

[48] Transcript of the House Subcommittee No.4. 73, 88.

[49] Long, Gay is Good, Location 757.

[50] Transcript of the House Subcommittee No.4. 71. Note: Given that human ejaculate holds on average of 25 calories, and it takes 3500 calories to make a pound of fat, the idea of this legend being true is simply beyond the pale. An average of 140 ejaculations would be needed to even reach the threshold of “weight gain” except in the sense that the ejaculate itself, averaging about 3 grams each would weigh just shy of a pound. The legend seems about as reliable as accounts of Bigfoot, with even less evidence presented.

[51] Ibid. 12, 85.

[52] Ibid. 74. Johnson, The Lavender Scare, Location 2041. William Martin and Bernon Mitchel defected to the USSR in 1960; The NSA claimed in the furor afterward that there was potentially a cabal of traitorous homosexuals within the government.

[53] Transcript of the House Subcommittee No.4. 17, 28, 74. An unusual claim given the criminalization of homosexuality in the USSR – By 1934, the USSR codified anti-homosexuality laws in Article 121 of the Russian Federation Criminal Code. By 1936, Nikolai Krylenko, People’s Commissar for Justice decreed that homosexuality was counter-revolutionary. Donald J. West & Richard Green, Sociolegal Control of Homosexuality: A Multi-Nation Comparison. (New York, 1997). 224.

[54] Johnson, The Lavender Scare, Location 2674.

[55] Not only does the Fifth Amendment enumerate this right in the Bill of Rights, but a host of legal decisions have reaffirmed the right under a very large array of conditions. I.E. Cohens v. Virginia, 6 Wheat. 264, 387 (1821). Blau v. United States, 340 U.S. 159, 71 S, Curcio v. United States, 354 U.S. 118 (deals with demands for documents), Escobedo v. Illinois, 378 U. S. 478 (1964), and most importantly, Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966), and other legal decisions.

[56] Johnson, The Lavender Scare, Location 2686.

[57] Johnson, The Lavender Scare, Location 2680. It turns out that the lawyer that advised them to surrender the license was none other than Monroe H. Freedman. Transcript of the House Subcommittee No.4. 122-123.

[58] Transcript of the House Subcommittee No.4. 133.

[59] Johnson, The Lavender Scare, Location 2692.

[60] Rules of the Supreme Court of Texas; Governing the Examination for Admission to the Bar and the Course of Study for the Examination: Exemptions from the Examination: and the licensing to Attorneys from other Jurisdictions. General Laws of 1940. Texas Board of Legal Education, http://www.ble.state.tx.us/ (Accessed 12/02/2015). Henry Campbell Black, M.A., American Constitutional Law. Minn. 1895. 708, 709-715. (Available gratis from Google Books). Henry Rottschaefer, Cases on Constitutional Law. Minn. 1932. 744-766. Black’s Cases on Constitutional Law was un-locatable.

[61] An excellent review of bills of attainder is found in Duane L. Ostler, Bills of Attainder and the Formation of the American Takings Clause at the Founding of the Republic, 32 Campbell L. Rev. 227 (2010). Accessed 12/02/2015.
http://www.law.campbell.edu/lawreview/articles/32-2-227.pdf

[62] Madison, James, “Restrictions on the Authority of the Several States”, Federalist Number 44, January 25, 1788. Library of Congress. The Federalist Papers. http://thomas.loc.gov/home/histdox/fed_44.html (Accessed 11/29/2015).

[63] Hamilton, Alexander, “The Judiciary Department”, Federalist Number 78, June 14, 1788, Library of Congress. The Federalist Papers http://thomas.loc.gov/home/histdox/fed_78.html (Accessed 11/29/2015).

[64] John Dowdy Collection. Box 568, File 183. “The Price of Freedom.” (1965).

[65] Ibid. Dowdy Personal Bio – “The Framing of John Dowdy” (The Liberty Lowdown, Oct, 1972). Box 476, File 66.

[66] John Dowdy Collection. Box 186, File 129.

The Bundle of Sticks

The error, one seemingly intentionally made in many cases, that certain demagogues and their ill-informed followers are making today is that they believe the constitution gives people rights.  It does not.  The rights have always been there, a scattering of “sticks” if you will, that the people gather about them in bundles of rights, tied together with the bonds of freedom.  These bundles are sometimes strong, sometimes weak.  What is critical is that the bundle is strengthened and weakened depending on the structure of the bundles.  When a stick is removed, or left lying on the ground, the bundle is weakened.

However, when a stick is replaced, or added, that bundle becomes stronger, more solid. A strong bundle of rights is what the founding fathers of this nation envisioned for the United States.  Were they perfect in their vision? Of course not, and presuming that they should be so is pure, unadulterated ignorance of the human condition.  If you are seeking perfection, you will be seeking forever.  Especially if what you are seeking involves the endeavors of man.

No, what the constitution does is recognize the existence of rights, while broadly restricting the behavior of government (with one exception) from restricting certain of those rights.  The constitution and the bill of rights are restrictive, not permissive.  I.e., the first amendment: congress shall make no law…, the second amendment: …shall not be infringed…, the sad and lonely third amendment: no soldier shall…, the fourth: shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue… and so on.

That said – the idea that “the constitution doesn’t say anything about marriage” is utterly and completely wrong-headed.  Such position presumes that the constitution is a listing of any and all possible rights that a person may have. It is not.  Let me say that again, the Constitution of the United States, the Bill of Rights and the several amendments to the Constitution is not a menu of rights allowed to the people.  It is a mandate to the government restricting its powers to remove a stick from the bundle.  That is all.

The 14th amendment, in part says; “no state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

This amendment, meant to protect a certain class of persons who had been abused since the imperfect beginning of this nation from laws designed to discriminate against them, has been applied this week to laws that were designed to discriminate against another class of person who has been traditionally discriminated against.

Some of the demagogues, and their ill-informed followers, have bemoaned the creation of a new right for this class of people.  Nevertheless, they are wrong.  There was no new right created, that right had always existed, laying disused outside the bundle of stick where it belonged, except for the bigoted and hateful interpretation of the demagogues.  This stick, intentionally, and with malice aforethought, left lying on the ground by people who preach hate, ignorance and division was merely picked up off the ground by the Supreme Court, shown to us, and placed in the bundle of rights that all American citizens have the right to enjoy.  Thus, today the bundle and the country is stronger for it.

It is time for all good Americans to stand up to the forces of hate, fear, and ignorance within our own country. Tell them that no, this is not the darkest hour, this is the shedding of the light of freedom into a dark place and therein we found a rainbow for all good people to enjoy.

FROM NATZY SPIES TO INGLORIOUS BASTERDS HUMOR, COMEDY, AND SLAPSTICK IN AMERICAN WWII FILMS – 1940 – 2009

The Effectiveness and Evolution of Wartime Humor from the Greatest Generation to the Y-Generation

Propaganda, as defined by Michael Shull and David Witt is the “methodical spreading of ideas in the promotion of some cause, group or nation.”[i] What better way to spread an idea than through mass media? Today we see this taken to the nth degree in the form of the internet, but in middle twentieth century the choices for dissemination of ideas was considerably more limited. This paper focuses not only on the use of movies as propaganda, a means to influence public attitudes, but specifically addresses the use of humor in those films and the ways in which that humor had evolved over the period between about 1940 to 2009.

It is widely accepted that belittling, dehumanizing and laughing at a rival or enemy culture helps one’s own culture overcome both its doubts about the justice of a war and the fear of defeat.[ii] If this assumption is true, then comedy is an ideal method for indoctrinating a culture. Perhaps one of the best places to look for information about the effectiveness of using humor to influence people lies in the advertising industry. Betsy Gelb, Associate Professor of Marketing and George Zinkham, Assistant Professor Marketing at the University of Houston explore the available research to answer the question of “how humor influences responses to a communication.”[iii] What they find is that humor has a greater effect on “brand choice” if a positive relationship already exists.[iv] If, on the other hand, no such relationship exists, multiple exposures to both the “brand” and the humor are necessary to develop a positive relationship.[v] There is a problem though. Gelb and Zinkham found that humor and “product recall” might be negatively related, with humor actually distracting from the product. This creates a need for the marketer (propagandeer) to expose his subject to his product multiple times.

This essay attempts to briefly explore the evolution of humor in films related to World War II from a period beginning just before the United States enters the war to contemporary times. It split into several, admittedly arbitrary periods. Pre-war is any movie released before the attack on Pearl Harbor. Wartime is any movie released between the declaration of war and the surrenders of Germany and Japan. Post war is any period between the end of WWII and the end of the Vietnam War, approximately 1975. Finally, a contemporary period spanning the remaining years.[vi]

The earliest known, American produced parody of Adolph Hitler comes to us in the form of the Columbia Pictures short film, You Nazty Spy! starring Moe Howard, Larry Fine and Curly Howard, The Three Stooges. The short released just before Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator in 1940, a period when the United States was not only still at peace with Germany, but also was a period in which Germany found a fair amount of support from Americans. You Naztzy Spy! was also released well before the enactment of the Selective Training and Service Act of 1940, which would inspire later recruitment focused movies.[vii] As such, its message is less about inspiring the masses and more about ridiculing the Third Reich and their associates. It is pure farce, low comedy highlighting the usual Three Stooges gags.

On the other hand, The Great Dictator with Charlie Chaplin was serious comedy. Even high comedy with the purpose of ridiculing not only the Third Reich, but the masses of officials, businesspersons and even religious leaders defending Germany as a “Christian” nation. These same leaders vehemently, even maliciously criticized Chaplin’s production of the movie.[viii] The controversy surrounding the movie delayed its release for fear of public reaction.[ix] Chaplin did not care; he wrote, directed, starred in and even funded the movie. When released, the movie was a hit with the public.

Chaplin lampooned Hitler and Mussolini and addressed Nazi Germany’s official anti-Semitism. While no public reaction from der Fuehrer was ever recorded, Hitler did ban the film in Germany and German occupied nations.[x] Chaplin’s impassioned plea in the deservedly famous speech at the end of the The Great Dictator is as applicable today as it was in 1940.[xi] To quote Chaplin, “The Great Dictator is my first picture in which history is greater than The Little Tramp.”[xii] Chaplin’s son, Sydney Chaplin confirms his father saying that if he had known the extent of evil of the Nazi empire, he could never have made this movie.[xiii] For better or worse, we are fortunate that this was not the case; Chaplin set out to convince America to take a stand for what was just, and as Brownlow puts it in his documentary, “…his only weapon, his absolute weapon, was laughter.”[xiv] The humor in The Great Dictator is distinct from the humor in You Natzy Spy in that Chaplin did not just ridicule, he explored the pain of living in a post Kristallnacht Germany.

Buck Privates, directed by Arthur Lubin, is the first of a series of three pre-Pearl Harbor movies starring the comedy duo Bud Abbott and Lou Costello. The movies also features the Andrews Sisters, and Shemp Howard working on his solo career. The main characters, a pair of scam artists selling unlicensed ties, find themselves caught by the cops, hilarity ensues when they mistakenly line up at a movie theater showing, according to one bystander You’re In the Army Now. Oblivious to the evidence right in front of their faces, the two scoundrels accidentally enlist.

The movie, while clearly slapstick, it is also obviously designed to glorify service in the Army and encourage recruitment. Lubin wastes no time in throwing us into a parade and goodbye party with pretty girls (Camp hostesses) giving out free cigarettes, apples, and other treats.[xv]

The usual tropes are here, starting with the Andrew Sisters singing You’re a Lucky Fellow, Mr. Smith, a patriotic song about the glories of being born free in the United States, ending with the new recruits taking up the song and marching off to the trains and to their life in the service.[xvi] This breaking into song is a popular modus operandi for movies of the period and is used repeatedly in Buck Privates. The black car steward joining in the song responding “Yes’m, I’m Uncle Sammy’s fair haired boy…” in a “black” patois smacks of the ingrained racism that people of the time took for granted, but would today likely result in outrage.[xvii]

In the Navy, released that same year is essentially more of the same with running gags, music (sometimes even overtly racist music; Gimme Some Skin, My Friend is a real head-shaker), and a romantic sub-plot. It was, like Buck Privates, essentially an 86-minute long recruiting film to promote service in the Navy.[xviii]

Different from their predecessors, which largely were meant to humiliate and entertain at the expense of a certain Austrian corporal, Buck Privates and its two companion movies are only incidentally comedies (which is not to say that there are not enough laughs). They are effectively early pieces of peacetime (though prophetic) military propaganda designed to inspire and support the recently established peacetime draft. Abbott and Costello’s running gags keep the audience’s attention, or perhaps even distract the audience from the notion that the movie is really a showcase of military indoctrination.

However, the world and Hollywood changed on December 7, 1941 when aircraft of the Imperial Japanese Navy infamously attacked targets in and around Pearl Harbor, Hawaii throwing the United States into the Second World War. The government’s attempts to secure cooperation from Hollywood in promoting the war resulted in Hollywood producing a number of wartime comedies.[xix] The first was apparently a movie by director Edward F. Cline entitled Private Snuffy Smith, released in January 1942. Snuffy Smith, a hillbilly character who first appeared in comic strips in 1919 and as a comic strip, is still in production, making it one of the longest running comic strips today.[xx] Director Roy Mack later released a second Snuffy Smith movie, Hillbilly Blitzkrieg in August that same year.[xxi] The first movie’s humor was simple, even grotesque, obviously playing on the popularity of the character, more than being a developed script. As such, the almost non-existent plot is distracting, taking away from the movie as a whole.

The challenge of movies up to this point is that their focus is not to be comedic, but to inspire patriotism and support for the war effort, being a comedy it seems was simply a vehicle to attract audiences. It seems that based upon our tiny sample here, that for truly comedic WWII movies, the public would have to wait until after the war.

Catch-22, based on the novel written by Joseph Heller in 1953, is the story of a B-25 bombardier, Captain John Yossarian as he deals with the challenges of maintaining his sanity in the Italian theater of operations during WWII. The title itself is satirical, referring to a situation in which a desired outcome or solution is impossible to attain because of a set of inherently contradictory rules or conditions. The movie, directed by Mike Nichols, and released in 1970 is irreverent, showing the aviators of the 256th Bomber Squadron as shiftless, paranoid, sarcastic and, in the case of some, opportunistic mercenaries.

This pattern of sarcastic, even black satire is seen throughout war movies released during this period. Kelly’s Heroes (1970) portrays a U.S. Army unit in less than honorable terms. The movie puts satirical characters in a serious situation, the planning of a bank heist behind German lines. Kelly’s Heroes finds its humor in the cast of characters, more than the situation they are in; Oddball (and really his whole crew) – drugged up, checked out, sexually ambiguous hippies – or, to quote Big Joe, “Oddball! He’s a Freak!” Crapgame – the swindler. General Colt – the oblivious dolt. All led by Kelly, a disgraced former office, demoted to sergeant who, disgruntled at his lot leads this collection of misfits. Is it possible, even likely that these characters reflect public opinion of soldiers at the time?

MASH (1970), portrays the exploits of three womanizing, alcoholic, rule-breaking, anti-Army combat surgeons.[xxii] While this movie is outside the WWII genre, it further illustrates the change in tenor of the time. A change that was not necessarily welcomed, in one review in the journal Daedalus, the author, identified in the review only by the initials S.R.G. says; “…Since books not worth reading are not worth reviewing and Catch 22 is worthless, my review needs justification.”[xxiii] S.R.G. concludes his scathing review saying, “If Mr. Heller wishes to be a humorist, let him relax. There is more humor, even more satire, in a strip of the cartoon “Peanuts” than in the whole of Catch-22.”[xxiv] In comparison, Pinsker Sanford, in the Sewanee review called Catch-22 profound in that in the story the enemy no longer wore the uniform of the Nazi or the Italian soldier, but instead wore the greens and khakis of the American service member.[xxv] Pinsker states that Catch-22 has become a piece of classic American humor in a way that the vast majority of the wartime pictures have not.[xxvi]

Even so, by 1970, 7 years after S.R.G. wrote his review, the movie brought in $24,911,670., ranking it as the tenth highest grossing picture that year.[xxvii] M.A.S.H. brought in $81,600,000.[xxviii] Kelly’s Heroes (1970) brought in a paltry $5,200,000.[xxix] It seems that demand for this sort of humor existed, regardless of the genre the movie depicted.

The trend for dark humor continued through to contemporary times. 1941 (1979) directed by Stephen Spielberg and starring Dan Aykroyd, John Belushi and Toshiro Mifune to name just a few, grossed over $94 million.[xxx] Lambasting the west coast fear immediately following the attack on Pearl Harbor, 1941 is an example of the humor that the public had come to expect from a cast largely populated by Saturday Night Live veterans. Irreverent, even disrespectful, the style is modern slapstick. It is however, slapstick aimed internally at America and not at some foreign or alien source. Comparisons to National Lampoon’s Animal House (1978), which shared much of the same cast, are inevitable. Additionally it is difficult to not make comparisons between 1941 and the numerous recruiting movies of the WWII era. There are inept soldiers defending the country, chasing after women, running from authorities, an Andrews Sisters analogue singing at the USO, and even a choreographed dance/fight bit. The only truly noticeable difference seems to be the demise of the straight man.[xxxi] It seems that we have come full-circle.

I started to exclude Inglorious Basterds (2009) from this essay, but it was the most recent WWII related “comedy” available. Additionally, the movie received eight Academy Award nominations including nominations for best director and best screenplay.[xxxii] Christopher Waltz took home the best supporting actor award for his portrayal of the gloriously evil, Jew hunting S.S. Col. Hans Landa.[xxxiii] This makes it hard to ignore. Is it really comedy though?

The writer and director, Quentin Tarrantino describes the movie as a “Spaghetti Western set in France during World War II”. Neither he, nor Weinstein Films bill the movie as a comedy. Additionally, as a comedy, compared to most of the other movies we have looked at, it does not stand up. There is no singing and dancing, no glorification, or criticizing of patriotism. Unlike 1941, which seemed to do away with the straight man, in Inglourious Basterds everyone is a straight man. This movie clearly sits outside the pattern we have established thus far. So, what makes Inglorious Basterds a comedy? Basterds is largely comedy of the extreme, more akin to The Great Dictator than to any of the other films that come between. Unlike the Stooges, or Abbott & Costello, or even Capt. Yossarian of Catch-22, the Basterds, Hans Landa and Shosanna are taken only to the extreme to put them outside the norm yet not so far outside the norm as to be unbelievable, or even unlikely. Like the Brad Pitts’ War Daddy from the movie Fury, Lt. Aldo Raine is a man driven without resorting to overt patriotism/anti-patriotism. Both men are capable of committing acts of extreme brutality; both men are driven by a hatred for Nazis (or, in Lt. Raine’s case, Natzis – yet another circle fully closed. Intentionally? Maybe, given who the writer/director was), both men have standing orders for their crew to kill every German they see. Yet no one could confuse the two characters if placed side-by-side. Whereas Wardaddy can be seen regretting his actions in rare, solitary moments, Lt. Raines shows absolutely no regret for his actions, seems bored and irritated with the whole endeavor and in the final scene of the movie even admires his own handiwork in the form of his trademark swastika carved into Col. Landa’s forehead. This is comedy, which on the surface, is not meant to inspire, or anger, or change the way we think. Basterds is comedy meant to make us uncomfortable, and in making us uncomfortable subtlety inspires us, angers us and makes us change the way we think. Tarrantino wields comedy like a scalpel, in the vein of the clearly graceful and balanced Charles Chaplin, instead of the bludgeon of the Stooges or Abbott and Costello.

With one exceptional outlier, we have come full circle here, starting with You Natzy Spy! and The Great Dictator meant to ridicule and belittle the enemy, leading into the recruitment drive comedies of the war-era, and then into the post-war comedies poking fun at the establishment, to movies wherein the comedy is so refined that the audience does not even really understand on a conscious level why they are laughing. With the rare exception, war comedy has evolved from the ridiculous through the subtle, finally evolving into something only barely recognizable as humor.

Is humor an effective means to influence people? The only answer this essay can give is … possibly. As with any complex topic, there are numerous schools of thought. If Betsy Gelb and George Zinkham’s conclusions are correct and raw humor is a distraction instead of an enhancement, then it is possible that comedies akin to Inglorious Basterds will have greater effect on audiences than any number of Abbott and Costello movies.

Bibliography:
Shull, Michael S. & Wilt, David E., Doing Their Bit – Wartime American Animated Short Films, 1939-1945. McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, North Carolina, 1987.

Waller, J. Michael (2007-04-23). Fighting the War of Ideas like a Real War (Kindle Location 1379). Institute of World Politics Press. Kindle Edition.

Gelb, Betsy D. and Zinkhan, George M., Humor and Advertising Effectiveness after Repeated Exposures to a Radio Commercial Author(s): Source: Journal of Advertising, Vol. 15, No. 2 (1986), pp. 15-20+34 Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd. Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4622089 Accessed: 07/17/2015.

Purcell, Darren Purcell, Scott-Brown, Melissa, and Gokmen, Mahmut, Achmed the dead terrorist and humor in popular geopolitics Source: GeoJournal, Vol. 75, No. 4, New Directions in Critical Geopolitics (2010), pp. 373-385 Published by: Springer. Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/41148405 Accessed: 07/17/2015.

Shull, Michael S. and Wilt, David Edward, Hollywood War Films, 1937-1945, an Exhaustive Filmography of American Feature-Length Motion Pictures Relating to World War II. McFarland & Company, Inc., NC. (1949).

Koppes, Clayton and Black, Gregory, Hollywood Goes to War: How Politics, Profits, and Propaganda Shaped World War II Movies. University of California Press, Berkeley. 1990.

Daedalus, Vol. 92, No. 1, The American Reading Public (Winter, 1963), pp. 155-165 Published by: The MIT Press on behalf of American Academy of Arts & Sciences Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20026763 Accessed: July 18, 2015.

Pinsker, Sanford, Reassessing “Catch-22”. Source: The Sewanee Review, Vol. 108, No. 4 (Fall, 2000), pp. 602-610 Published by The Johns Hopkins University Press. Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/27548930 Accessed: 07/18/2015.

Botting, Douglas; Sayer, Ian (2012-01-27). Nazi Gold: The Sensational Story of the World’s Greatest Robbery – and the Greatest Criminal Cover-Up. Mainstream Publishing. Kindle Edition.

The Tramp and the Dictator’: The Laugh Was on Hitler, Susan King. Los Angeles Times, September 30, 2002. URL: http://articles.latimes.com/2002/sep/30/entertainment/et-king30 Accessed: 07/18/2015.

Rose, John, Barney Google and Snuffy Smith. Comics Kingdom, July 18, 2015. URL: http://comicskingdom.com/barney-google-and-snuffy-smith#about Accessed: 07/18/2015.

Source: IMDB.com
URL: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0034854/
URL: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0032553/trivia?ref_=tt_ql_2

Filmography:

Charlie Chaplin – The Great Dictator – Full Documentary, directed by Kevin Brownlow, (2002). Source: YouTube URL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BR7VpE2gpdM Accessed: 07/18/2015.

Buck Privates. Directed by Arthur Lubin. (1941). 8 Movies: Wartime Comedies. DVD.

In the Navy. Directed by Arthur Lubin. (1941). 8 Movies: Wartime Comedies. DVD.

Caught in the Draft. Directed by David Butler. (1941). 8 Movies: Wartime Comedies. DVD.

You Natzy Spy! Directed by Jules White (1940). Source: Dailymotion.com. URL: http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xqlsgo_three-stooges-044-you-natzy-spy-colour_fun Accessed: 07/17/2015.

The Great Dictator, Directed by Charles Chaplin (1940). Source: Amazon Prime digital download.

1941, Directed by Stephen Spielberg (1970). Source: Amazon Prime digital download.

Kelly’s Heroes Directed by Biran G. Hutton (1970). Source: Amazon Prime digital download.

Inglorious Basterds (2009), Directed by Quentin Tarrantino (2009). Source: Amazon Prime digital download.

Hillbilly Blitzkrieg, Directed by Roy Mack, (1942). YouTube URL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=INn-45Kq_lY Accessed: 07/18/2015.

Private Snuffy Smith, Directed by Edward F. Cline, (1942). Archive.org URL: https://archive.org/details/private_snuffy_smith# Accessed: 07/18/2015.

Private Buckaroo, Directed by Edward F. Cline, (1942). Archive.org URL: https://archive.org/details/private_buckaroo# accessed 07/18/2015.

[i] Shull, Michael S. & Wilt, David E., Doing Their Bit – Wartime American Animated Short Films, 1939-1945. McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, North Carolina, 1987. 9

[ii] Waller, J. Michael (2007-04-23). Fighting the War of Ideas like a Real War (Kindle Location 1379). Institute of World Politics Press. Kindle Edition.

[iii] Gelb, Betsy D. and Zinkhan, George M., Humor and Advertising Effectiveness after Repeated Exposures to a Radio Commercial Author(s): Source: Journal of Advertising, Vol. 15, No. 2 (1986), pp. 15-20+34 Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd. Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4622089 Accessed: 17-07-2015 16:37 UTC. 15.

[iv] Ibid. 20.

[v] Ibid.

[vi] I thought to divide the contemporary period up further, into Reagan era, and War on Terror Era but the limitations of size of this essay make the current divisions difficult enough to manage.

[vii] Aka: Burke-Wadsworth Act, Pub.L. 76–783, 54 Stat. 885.
Full Text of the Act: http://www.legisworks.org/congress/76/publaw-783.pdf

[viii] Charlie Chaplin – The Great Dictator – Full Documentary, directed by Kevin Brownlow, 2002 Source: YouTube URL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BR7VpE2gpdM Accessed: 07/18/2015. Mark: 5:34-7:00.

[ix] Shull, Michael S. and Wilt, David Edward, Hollywood War Films, 1937-1945, an Exhaustive Filmography of American Feature Length Motion Pictures Relating to World War II. McFarland & Company, Inc., NC. (1949). 114.

[x] Source: IMDB.com. URL: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0032553/trivia?ref_=tt_ql_2 Accessed: 07/17/2015. In Italy, the film was not seen in its full version until 2002.

[xi] The speech can be found online. Source: Youtube.com, URL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dX25PDBb708 Accessed: 07/18/2015.

[xii] Brownlow, Mark 1:34 – 1:38.

[xiii] ‘The Tramp and the Dictator’: The Laugh Was on Hitler, Susan King. Los Angeles Times, September 30, 2002. URL: http://articles.latimes.com/2002/sep/30/entertainment/et-king30 Accessed: 07/18/2015.

[xiv] Brownlow, Mark: 7:00-7:08.

[xv] 11:23.

[xvi] “You’re a Lucky Fellow, Mr. Smith” Mark: 12:42 – 16:08.

[xvii] Mark: 15:07.

[xviii] Interesting aside: In the we did not do our research department, when Pomeroy Watson (Lou Costello) is sent to the fleet, he is sent to the USS Alabama BB-60, he talks of going to Pearl Harbor. The Alabama was not commissioned until 1942 and was an East Coast ship until 1943 stationed out of Norfolk protecting lend-lease convoys bound for Britain and Russia on the “Murmansk run.” Source: Battleship Memorial Park Website, Battleship USS Alabama (BB-60). URL: http://www.ussalabama.com/battleship-uss-alabama/ Accessed: 07/17/2015.

[xix] Koppes, Clayton and Black, Gregory, Hollywood Goes to War: How Politics, Profits, and Propaganda Shaped World War II Movies. University of California Press, Berkeley. 1990. (vii). An accurate accounting of the numbers of comedies alone does not appear to have been produced and no reliable listing was found.

[xx] Rose, John, Barney Google and Snuffy Smith. Comics Kingdom, July 18, 2015. URL: http://comicskingdom.com/barney-google-and-snuffy-smith#about Accessed: 07/18/2015.

The Bodacious Best of Snuffy Smith: A Barney Google and Snuffy Smith Collection by John Rose was released in January 2013.

[xxi] Source: IMDB.com, URL: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0034854/ Accessed: 07/18/2015.
Hillbilly Blitzkrieg, Directed by Roy Mack, 1942. YouTube URL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N-2MNiVETCE Accessed: 07/18/2015.

[xxii] While not a part of the WWII genre, M.A.S.H. still illustrates a sea change in the humor in war movies during the Vietnam period.

[xxiii] Daedalus, Vol. 92, No. 1, The American Reading Public (Winter, 1963), pp. 155-165. Published by: The MIT Press on behalf of American Academy of Arts & Sciences. Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20026763 Accessed: July 18, 2015, 155.

[xxiv] Ibid. 165.

[xxv] Pinsker, Sanford, Reassessing “Catch-22”. Source: The Sewanee Review, Vol. 108, No. 4 (Fall, 2000), pp. 602-610 Published by the Johns Hopkins University Press. Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/27548930 Accessed: 07/18/2015. 602-603.

[xxvi] Ibid. 609.

[xxvii] IMDB.com, URL: http://www.imdb.com/search/title?year=1970,1970&title_type=feature&sort=moviemeter,asc Accessed: 07/18/2015.

According to the Westegg.com inflation calculator, $24.911.670 is the equivalent of $149,830,961 in 2014.

[xxviii] Box Office Mojo. http://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=mash.htm Accessed: 07/18/2015. Over $490,000,000 in today’s money.

[xxix] Box Office Mojo. URL: http://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=kellysheroes.htm Accessed: 07/18/2015.

[xxx] The Numbers. URL: http://www.the-numbers.com/movie/1941#tab=summary Accessed: 07/18/2015.

[xxxi] Unless we count Toshiro Mifune’s Japanese submarine commander as such, his playing off Slim Pickens – who always plays Slim Pickens – is excellent.

[xxxii] Quentin Tarantino Biography – Film Actor, Screenwriter, Television Actor, Director, Producer (1963–). URL: http://www.biography.com/people/quentin-tarantino-9502086#recent-work Accessed: 07/18/2015.

[xxxiii] Source: Oscar Awards official website. URL: https://www.oscars.org/oscars/ceremonies/2010 Accessed: 07/18/2015.

Writing Prompt – “The sand settles and I finally see the giant silhouette in front of me”

The sand settles and I finally see the giant silhouette in front of me… “damned…” I thought, “they missed.”

“Godddamnit Sersai, get your shit together!” I yell over the secure channel at my artillery officer. I simply must replace the dumb bitch and find a new Longbow squad leader; she’s been missing more than hitting of late, and when she hits, she hits lesser targets. Nothing to be done about it now …time to go to work.

Before the chastened lieutenant can mumble her apologies I kick the radio over to the general channel; “So, a tough bastard, eh?” I say, hitting the fast charge on my heavy lasers, leaving the two massive plasma cannon to cycle to full power normally.

“Oh, yes, ah’m not quite so fhuckin’ stupid as me squad mates ” the massive fighting robot, a Clan Kodiak, straightened to its full height of eighty-five feet, it’s paint and markings scarred, it’s armor dented and scratched, but no real visible damage. My sensors confirmed that – at least the front of the beast – had suffered only negligible damage from the artillery barrage. Some of his allies hadn’t been so lucky, I note. One Kodiak was down, two lighter mechs burning in the background, a horde of foot soldiers torn to pieces and scattered… The light mechs and the infantry mean dick to me, fucking Sersai fired early letting this big bastard through.

“That’s not saying much you son of an infected dog,” I moved, my much lighter but heavily armed Marauder Mod IVc accelerating rapidly to flank speed as the Kodiak’s heavy auto cannon’s lit up shredding the ground I’d just vacated.

“Sphere bastard!” the clansman screamed, “I am Delarian Spachhed of the Black Clan, who do I have the honor of killing today?” The lumbering beast moved with me, trying to get ahead of my flanking maneuver, the clansman turning and rotating his mech’s torso expertly to keep up with my run. I could see immediately that he’d catch me shortly…and I couldn’t take too many hits from that 605mm cannon of his.
I set my smaller, 320mm autocannon on automatic track and engage, its ball joint pivoting as the Iron Shield targeting radar locked onto the Kodiak, the greatest threat on any field of battle, and the only threat nearby. Joints, heads, any spot of armor over fifty percent damage, the fire control computer would automatically lock on and engage these targets, unfortunately, I’d run out of time.

Bitchin’ Betty started screeching in my helmet; “TARGET LOCK, TARGET LOCK, TARGET LOCK!” That Kodiak driver had managed to catch me in my turning run and that damned big gun was about to open up on me. Naturally, that was the least of my problems, I may have been at extreme range for it, but Betty – bless her nagging soul – almost in the same instant started alternating “TARGET LOCK!” with “Vampire! Vampire! Vampire!” Inbound missiles! The whole time the damned clansman is screaming obscenities about my heritage over the radio.

My holographic helmet display flared twelve red triangles with trajectory indicators pointed right at me. My fire control systems automatically deployed chaff and flares to distract the missiles, and I could hear the twin six-gun turrets of my close in weapons system spin up and start chattering off 40mm rounds just as my autocannon started firing. I on the other hand had to fire my jump jets myself.

Jump jet is a misnomer, in smaller medium and light mechs, yeah, it’s a turbojet. But in my eighty ton machine, jets would be most inadequate. Two solid fuel boosters fired, accelerating me straight up at nearly seven g’s shoving me back into my chair and activating my g-compensators. My fire control computer maintained target on the Kodiak, tracking and firing on it until my autocannon could not depress any further. Explosions rocked the Kodiak, armor fell off in huge chunks as I rose out of range of that damned big gun. My anti-missile defense had either spoofed or destroyed his salvo – that was luck, not the norm.

Four steerable ramjets fired next. A modification found only within my army. Limited of course, as heavy mechs fly like bricks, but bricks with several hundred thousand pounds of thrust still fly for a good minute. A full flight of heavy Marauders approaching at attitude tends to make one’s enemies think, and often makes them run, even when they’re running heavies.

Unlike the Kodiak, which mounts its heaviest weapons in its torso, the Marauder mounts its main weapons, two heavy pulse lasers and two heavy particle projector cannon in arms that rotate on a free floating ball joint, powered by their own polymolecular musculature servos, giving then nearly a free range of movement obstructed only by the mechs torso.

I turned, flying over my apparently stunned opponent. The sensors tracking my target flashed “FIRE” in my helmet reticle and I stabbed down on the primary weapons relay, unleashing hell. The heavy pulse lasers and particle cannons fired straight down into the big Kodiaks shoulder joints burning through the missile launchers, detonating the remaining missiles and blowing the mechs head and cockpit clean off. Then my third solid rocket booster blasted a stream of star bright fire straight into the gaping wound that was the Kodiak’s neck joint and through to the reactor core. My Marauder blasted up and out of range of the colossal resulting explosion. “I am Kelvin Delvarian of House Sungto, and today is just not your day!”

An Interesting Take on Obama’s Stance on Guns

I love listening to the rants about Obama and how he’s anti-gun. Sure, he appears that way, he talks the talk but he doesn’t really walk the walk, does he? Truth is, Obama’s presidency has been the best thing for gun manufacturers ever. There are TWO publicly traded gun manufacturers in the country. Sturm Ruger and Smith & Wesson. Sturm Ruger’s stock has increased in value 10 times (YES, TEN TIMES) since Obama became president, all on fears that ‘Bama is gonna take our guns. S&W? 7 times. I wish to all the Gods that I’d invested in either one before he took office.

In fact, NO PRESIDENT that I can find has done more to bolster the gun industry.

In fact, since Obama took office, the rights of licensed chl holders have increased, we can now carry in National Parks and on Amtrak. Interesting isn’t it? He also called Holder to the carpet at the beginning of his presidency and read him the riot act about saying how his administration would support a Clinton style AWB and then released a statement repudiating Holder’s statement.

But the NRA endorsed Romney. Mitt Romney as governor of Mass. signed into a law a PERMANENT Assault Weapons ban. That means he signed into a law a piece of legislation that was WORSE for gun owners than the Clinton Ban, which had a sunset clause (Which means that when Clinton signed it into law he KNEW that that law would eventually die a horrible death suffocated by political hubris). Not only that, but Romney signed into law a gun registration law …something the NRA says they would fight and fight and fight. Then, after that he signed into a law a TRIPLING of the registration fee. Remember, this the man that the NRA says is a friend to gun owners. Then, just before his first run at the White House, he goes and joins up with the NRA and hypocritically claims to be a hunter.

What has Obama done, other than, as an Illinois legislature toe the line (except of course for that vote to allow retired police officers to concealed carry in Illinois), and as president give lip service to the anti-gun crowd?

The truth is Obama has been very pro-gun control in his speech, but very neutral on gun control in his actions. Did he support Feinstein’s stupid attempt last year? Yes, but I think that was a political maneuver because the only person who thought that pig would pass was Feinstein herself ( and as far as I’m concerned, she’s the devil).

No. Anyone who thinks Obama is really pro-gun control simply hasn’t assembled the evidence for themselves and either is busying listening to Fox or the NRA (of which I am a life-member). Obama, for all his faults, has been very astute on this topic. Telling people what they want, maintaining the appearance of being a good little “gun grabber” all the while quietly undermining their position. I don’t think I could ever call him pro-gun, he’s an Illinois politician after all, but to say he’s an anti-gun president is a big, big stretch.

What’s Wrong at the NRA?

Those of you who know me know that no sane person would ever say I’m anti-gun.  The fact that I’m an NRA Life-Member, Instructor and RSO goes further to support the theory that I’m very pro-gun ownership and pro-2nd Amendment.   What I am against, are half-truths, lies, panicky-ness, and zealotry.  As such I do have some issues with the current leadership of the NRA.

This is one of them.  I’ve just casually gone through three of their monthly magazines.  In those magazines there are at least (and I have to confess to not be UBER thorough) fifteen articles about gun RIGHTS.  Articles about how the gubment is trying to tramp on your right to own, carry, shoot, buy, etc. whatever firearm you want.  Invariably, these turn into rants against Obama, or Biden, or Feinstein, their favorite targets.  In those same three magazines, I saw ONE article about gun owner RESPONSIBILITY.  An article about safes, which, if you’ve been paying attention, you know is something that I personally harp on.   If you are a gun owner, then you should also be a gun safe owner is very much a mantra of mine.

The tone, which this current crop of NRA “leaders” have cultivated to create fear and division, is one of “I want, I want, I want” when in fact, we should take a primary position of “I MUST.”

Instead of “I WANT MY GUNS,” the attitude should be “I MUST be responsible with my guns.”  The constant hew and cry against the Obama administration, while endorsing a gun-grabber like Romney for President, simply makes the organization look like a bunch of partisan boobs.

I’m struck by article about some idiot who went out and followed V. Pres. Biden’s advice on how to chase attackers off from the house.  That is, take your double barrel shotgun outside and shoot it into the air.  Now, anyone with a lick of sense knows that this is not only stupid and dangerous, but in many cases, simply illegal.  I’m not even going to get into how many laws here in Texas this would violate, reckless endangerment, illegal discharge, disordely conduct, and those are only the things that are at the top of my head.  Well, our particular idiot did just that and sure enough was arrested.  He now claims that he was just doing what the VP said to do.  The NRA article is trying to make it out that this is somehow Biden’s fault.  I do not agree.  Biden said something ignorant, yes.  But he’s not the person who shot the gun!  As a gun owner, this person had a HIGHER duty to know the laws, to know what he is allowed and not allowed to do in defense of his property.  It wasn’t Biden’s duty to teach him that – thought I DO wish the VP would shut the hell up about things he clearly has no knowledge of.  That said, ANYONE who listens to the “advice” of a politician on the pulpit, falls squarely into the category of moron.  Morons should NOT own guns.  The NRA seems to think the man has a valid defense, but I’m of the opinion that gun owners have a higher responsibility than to listen to kneejerk advice – especially from a career politician who is know to suffer from foot-in-mouth disease.  I hope this particular idiot is convicted and disallowed to own firearms.  He’s making it harder for those of us who actually have a brain and giving ammunition to the Feinsteins and Brady Campaigns types out there.

I’m still wondering if there might be room out there for a new gun owner organization. One that pushes for the “Well Regulated Militia” as well as The Right to Bear Arms not being infringed?  Sure would be nice to see a balanced approach for once, and not one based on politics, dogma and fear.

The new voice to text in Android Jelly Bean needs work.

I was using the notepad on my phone to transcribe some thoughts. …and I get this.

“One of the worst policies come out of the Second World War in the concept of the enemy of my enemy is my friend . This policy this unstated policy the United States has what is down the garden path in many ways and every single conflict that we have been involved in since the world war has resulted from this unstated policy here so beautiful and this evening inability hopper have a headache all legend decisions that correct glad to tucson or if you kill the superbowl. Some of the boy in the summit road villa deviation mine when you get write down to it in a billion comprehend what asian lady is based solely on western arrogance”

I think I want to write a book with this software.   We can all be surprised!