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No Elephants Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Aug-07-13 03:32 PM
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Are you now, or have you ever been, a member of the Communist Party?
This is the question that Joe McCarthy asked over and over during the hearings held by the U.S. Congressional House Committee on Un-American Activities. Of course, it has never been, nor is it now, illegal in the U.S. to be a member of the Communist Party..

It was the beginning of the end of many careers in the film industry. although some who could work under pseudonyms, like screenwriters, did so, though they could not not claim any awards their work won.

However, I did not know until today that that question also may have helped end some lives prematurely, as well as some careers.

John Garfield (March 4, 1913 May 21, 1952) was an American actor adept at playing brooding, rebellious, working-class characters.<1> He grew up in poverty in Depression-era New York City and in the early 1930s became an important member of the Group Theater. In 1937, he moved to Hollywood, eventually becoming one of Warner Bros.' major stars. Called to testify before the U.S. Congressional House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC), he denied Communist affiliation and refused to "name names," effectively ending his film career. Some have claimed that the stress of this incident led to his premature death at 39 from a heart attack.<2> Garfield is acknowledged as a predecessor of such Method actors as Montgomery Clift, Marlon Brando, and James Dean.

Not as widely known as McCarthy's anti-Communist crusade, were his various attempts to intimidate, and expel from government positions, persons whom he accused, or threatened to publicly accuse, of homosexuality. Former U.S. Senator Alan K. Simpson has written: "The so-called 'Red Scare' has been the main focus of most historians of that period of time. A lesser-known element . . . and one that harmed far more people was the witch-hunt McCarthy and others conducted against homosexuals."<6> This anti-homosexual witch-hunt McCarthy and others waged along with their "Red Scare" tactics, has been referred to by some as the "Lavender Scare".<7>

McCarthy's red-baiting assistant during this time was the infamous Roy Cohn, who was for years widely rumored to be gay and died in 1986 of complications of AIDS. Cohn insisted to his dying day, though, that he was suffering from liver cancer.

McCarthy had accused a number of people in the Dept. of State and the Army of being Communists, or disloyal to the U.S., or both. Hence, the Army hired lawyers to represent it in the hearings.

(BTW, it was at this time that Eisenhower vastly expanded Executive Privilege, to insure that McCarthy would leave his (Eisenhower's) advisors alone. Later, Eisenhower's Vice President would become President and claim that expanded privilege--unsuccessfully. Anyhoooo....)

Chief counsel to the Army was a lawyer from the prestigious Boston law firm of Hale and Dorr, Joseph Welch.

Welch was assisted during the hearings by Fred Fisher, a recent law school graduate. You could say that, for purposes of these hearings, Fred Fisher was to Joseph Welch as Roy Cohn was to Joe McCarthy.

Welch was the one who said the famous lines to McCarthy.

Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?

I saw a film of an interview of Welch once, in which he was asked about that line. Welch explained that he knew something about Cohn and McCarthy knew something about Fisher, namely that, while in law school, Fisher had been a member of the National Lawyers Guild, a left-leaning group. Welch and McCarthy agreed that neither of them would mention what they knew about Cohn and Fisher.

AFAIK, Welch never in his life said publicly what he knew about Cohn. At any rate, he did not say it during the interview I saw. However, during the hearings, McCarthy did claim Fisher had been a member of the National Lawyer's Guild, contrary to McCarthy's agreement with Welch. When McCarthy pressed the matter, Welch said:

Until this moment, Senator, I think I have never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness. Fred Fisher is a young man who went to the Harvard Law School and came into my firm and is starting what looks to be a brilliant career with us. Little did I dream you could be so reckless and so cruel as to do an injury to that lad. It is true he is still with Hale and Dorr. It is true that he will continue to be with Hale and Dorr. It is, I regret to say, equally true that I fear he shall always bear a scar needlessly inflicted by you. If it were in my power to forgive you for your reckless cruelty I would do so. I like to think I am a gentle man but your forgiveness will have to come from someone other than me.

When McCarthy tried to renew his attack, Welch interrupted him:

Senator, may we not drop this? We know he belonged to the Lawyers Guild. Let us not assassinate this lad further, Senator. You've done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?

McCarthy tried to ask Welch another question about Fisher, and Welch cut him off:

Mr. McCarthy, I will not discuss this further with you. You have sat within six feet of me and could have asked me about Fred Fisher. You have seen fit to bring it out. And if there is a God in Heaven it will do neither you nor your cause any good. I will not discuss it further. I will not ask Mr. Cohn any more questions. You, Mr. Chairman, may, if you will, call the next witness.


While the brilliant movie, Good Night, and Good Luck implies that Edward R. Murrow caused the nation to turn against McCarthy, I believe it may have been Welch's rant, a film of which was shown as part of the movie. (The McCarthy hearings were televised on network television, perhaps a first.)

I believe what Welch knew about Roy Cohn and agreed not to say was that Roy Cohn was gay.

Was Welch attempting to toy with McCarthy on that issue with this exchange--and did McCarthy give it right back to Welch?


Though the hearings were primarily about government subversion, the hearings also took on occasional accusations of a different taboo: A portion of the hearings were taken up for the express purpose of evaluating the security risk of homosexuals in government and the issue would be brought up on other occasions, as well as being an undercurrent in the investigations.

One such example of this undercurrent during the testimony was this humorous exchange between Senator McCarthy and Joseph Welch; Welch was questioning McCarthy staff member James Juliana about the unedited picture of Schine with Stevens and Bradley asking him "Did you think this came from a pixie?", at which point McCarthy asked to have the question re-read:

Senator McCarthy. Will counsel for my benefit define I think he might be an expert on that what a pixie is?
Mr. Welch. Yes. I should say, Mr. Senator, that a pixie is a close relative of a fairy. (Laughter from the chamber) Shall I proceed, sir? Have I enlightened you?
Senator McCarthy. As I said, I think you may be an authority on what a pixie is.

(There was also an issue whether Cohn had shown favoritism to an army private, David Schine, because Cohn was attracted to Schine, or perhaps even having a relationship with him with him, beyond friendship, but I won't delve into that.)
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rpannier Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Aug-07-13 09:57 PM
Response to Original message
1. Very interesting. A lot of good research there
Thanks for sharing
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No Elephants Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Aug-08-13 12:48 AM
Response to Reply #1
2. Thanks and you-re welcome, rpannier.
Edited on Thu Aug-08-13 01:37 AM by No Elephants
Believe it or not, I started googling because PBS was running a program about "girl" singers and groups of the doo wop era and that got me to John Garfield.

Supposedly, some on the right have been trying to vindicate McCarthy because some things from the Soviets in WWII have since been decoded. That bit was in one of the wiki articles, but I don't remember which one.

Depends on what the Soviet documents said, doesn't it? What if all they said was "So and so attended a meeting and paid dues." That was never illegal.

The ideals of some kind of fairness to workers and racial equality would, I have no doubt, appealed to the left in the roaring 1920s and 1930s (lead up to the Depression and the Depresssion) at least as much as they did in the 1950s to the 1970s, when the left was pro civil rights and pro union.

If the Soviet documents said anything like, "John Garfield gave us a bundle of classified info we never saw before," I'm sure someone on the right would have found a way to leak that by now, much as the right hated Hollywood until Hollywood started going right and much as McCarthy gave red baiting a bad name. And much as it was an embarrassment that people like Goldwater and Nixon continued to back him until the very end, so the Party twice ran people holding a discredited extremist position for the Presidency.

Besides, it's not as though the documents vindicated McCarthy. It is pretty well understood that J. Edgar Hoover was feeding Joe McCarthy names. The wiki articles do not say that outright. However, one of them mentions that some document that purported to have originated in the FBI could not be admitted into evidence during the hearings because Joe McCarthy denied the FBI had given it to him, but would not say what his source was. So, the document could not be authenticated.

As most of us have probably heard, Hoover probably had more than a friendship with his "long time companion," to whom Hoover left his estate. And Hoover made a practice of getting sexual information about prominent people. Also, McCarthy's assistant, Cohn, died of AIDS, while denying it. Yet, McCarthy was as big a gay baiter as he was a red baiter. This has made people question whether McCarthy was gay. I don't know, but there is evidence that he was a habitual drunkard, given that he had cirrhosis of the liver. Back in the days when the Senate was called a clubhouse, his fellow Senators had to have known about his drinking. Yet, they allowed this to go on.

Doo Wop.

It reminds me of today, with people in Congress so scared of appearing disloyal to the US that most of them vote for the Patriot Act, which contained several provisions that even a Republican dominated SCOTUS declared unconstitutional. And they still vote for amendments that go even further than the original abomination.
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Enthusiast Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Aug-08-13 01:32 AM
Response to Original message
3. That's some interesting stuff, No Elephants.
What a tangled web.
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No Elephants Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Aug-08-13 02:21 AM
Response to Reply #3
4. Thanks, Enthusiast. Maybe I should google doo wop singers more often?
Edited on Thu Aug-08-13 03:00 AM by No Elephants
No matter what, nothing justified the government's ruining people's lives and careers and getting them blackballed with no trial, simply for refusing to "name names."

That was the only "crime" of some, who had freely admitted attending meetings and maybe even joining the Party at some point in their lives.

Speaking of whom, I wonder how Julian Assange, who refused to name his source, is doing in the embassy these days?

After I learned that the USG got Paypal and Amazon to cut off payments to wikileaks ASAP, with no trial, I cancelled my accounts with both Somehow, that doesn't seem to have helped anything, though.

Assange may indeed be far worse than war criminals for doing the same thing that the NYT did when it got the Pentagon Papers from Ellsberg. I am not sure exactly what the difference is, though.

New York Times Co. v. United States, 403 U.S. 713 (1971), was a landmark decision by the United States Supreme Court on the First Amendment. The ruling made it possible for the New York Times and Washington Post newspapers to publish the then-classified Pentagon Papers without risk of government censorship or punishment.<1>

President Richard Nixon had claimed executive authority to force the Times to suspend publication of classified information in its possession. The question before the court was whether the constitutional freedom of the press, guaranteed by the First Amendment, was subordinate to a claimed need of the executive branch of government to maintain the secrecy of information. The Supreme Court ruled that the First Amendment did protect the right of the New York Times to print the materials.

Then again, I've been reading that Obama did not so much teach Constitutional law at UChi, but race relations and the 14th amendment. Twelve times, he taught a course entitled " "Current Issues in Racism and the Law."

At the school, Mr. Obama taught three courses, ascending to senior lecturer, a title otherwise carried only by a few federal judges. His most traditional course was in the due process and equal protection areas of constitutional law. His voting rights class traced the evolution of election law, from the disenfranchisement of blacks to contemporary debates over districting and campaign finance. Mr. Obama was so interested in the subject that he helped Richard Pildes, a professor at New York University, develop a leading casebook in the field.

His most original course, a historical and political seminar as much as a legal one, was on racism and law. Mr. Obama improvised his own textbook, including classic cases like Brown v. Board of Education, and essays by Frederick Douglass, W. E. B. Dubois, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, as well as conservative thinkers like Robert H. Bork.

Mr. Obama was especially eager for his charges to understand the horrors of the past, students say. He assigned a 1919 catalog of lynching victims, including some who were first raped or stripped of their ears and fingers, others who were pregnant or lynched with their children, and some whose charred bodies were sold off, bone fragment by bone fragment, to gawkers.

Also: "Mr. Obama arrived at the law school in 1991 thanks to Michael W. McConnell, a conservative scholar who is now a federal appellate judge."

File that article under "another thing I wish I had seen and read more critically before donating more than I could afford to Obama's campaign." Then again, I would have dismissed it as thinly-disguised RW attack on Obama, designed to discredit him with liberal voters. One way or another, I dismissed a lot of facts then.

Thing is, back in 2007-08, I was too busy reading things about Obama for the sole purose of countering the arguments of Republicans and PUMAs. I made up my mind in November 2007. After that, I never let anything really sink in for any purpose other than supporting and defending Obama. And I am not proud of that. Also, I sure wish I had that money back.

Ah, but I was so much older then. I am younger than that now.

Obama on Obama and Bush, in 2007: "I was a constitutional law professor, which means unlike the current president I actually respect the Constitution."

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Enthusiast Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Aug-08-13 09:10 AM
Response to Reply #4
5. Good stuff!
"After that, I never let anything really sink in for any purpose other than supporting and defending Obama."

Yeah, me too. We won't be fooled again? We just will never again have a true choice.
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No Elephants Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Aug-08-13 09:37 AM
Response to Reply #5
6. Thanks!
Edited on Thu Aug-08-13 10:20 AM by No Elephants
I remember someone telling a group in which I participated, "You always have a choice, unless someone has a gun to your head....

and even then, you have a choice."

I don't know if we have fewer (or more) political choices than we've always had. The question is too big for me.

But, I think we may be just boiling frogs. Will we die before we notice how warm the water is? Will that be true of everyone in the country?

More questions that are too big for me.

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