Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The more Republicans pretend to change, the more they stay the same for their own benefit

Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas)
The more things change the more they stay the same, so goes the old adage. This 1994 interview with Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas), confirms the adage is true. Doggett began his political career in 1973 when he was elected to the Texas State Senate. He served until 1985. In 1989 he became a justice on the Texas Supreme Court, and an adjutant professor at the University of Texas School of Law. He served both positions until he was elected to Congress.
Doggett gained national attention in 1979 when he and 12 Texas Democrats, dubbed the “Killer Bees” walked out of the Chamber, leaving the Senate two members short of a quorum to pass legislation that would have changed the date of the Texas primary to March 11.

To make a long story short, the "Killer Bees" skipped town and hid out until the proposed legislation failed to pass, after five days. The GOP’s goal was to help former governor of Texas John Connally get the nomination for president in 1980. The "Killer Bees" wanted a closed primary. Their suggestion was rejected by Republicans.

The following interview is just as relevant today as was it was 17 years ago. Although there was no Tea Party Republicans, those who were newly elected or won re-election took  attitude to Washington. They  immediately began playing dirty politics in the name of the "American people."

Dorothy: Returning to Austin to keep contact with your constituents. Is this going to be a regular thing with you?

Doggett: Well, I’m sure gonna try. What brought me to Austin this time was the Martin Luther King celebration. So I think being actively involved in that, and in addition, to use time to meet with Police Chief Elizabeth Watson, and her staff to talk about some crime problems. I met last night with the Hispanic Contractors Association. I’ll be going to Wesley United Methodist and to David Chapel on Sunday. The key of what Jake Pickle (his predecessor) did was to be assessable and available to people. And I want to let people know that I am there for them, not for me.

Dorothy: Do you think you will be politically strong in Washington as you have been here in Austin? What is the political climate there right now?

Doggett: Well, it’s very unsettled. You got a lot of guys up there that’s been in power so long they don’t quite know how to adjust to being in the minority. It’s not a big adjustment for me because, even though I’ve been able to have some influence in Austin, usually I’ve been in the minority. By the time I was in the kind of Democrats who run it were not people that necessarily agreed with me on things. On the Supreme Court I did more descending that I did being in the majority.

I’m already equipped to take on Newt Gingrich if that’s what we have to do. Some of the things Republicans have done to shake up Congress are not bad. I think it needed shaking up. There were some things that might never have gotten changed had we not had this shake up. It created some opportunities for new comers. That’s why I got a chance to get up on the floor, and join in the debate within an hour of being sworn in.

While I expect to be in Washington again this next week on some matters that will be coming up in Congress, I feel  the leadership in the Democratic party is much more receptive to me as a new comer, letting me come in and have a role. I was also real fortunate in getting the committee assignment of my choice-- the House Budget Committee. It was really one of the committees I campaigned to get on. I think that is where a lot of the action is gonna be if they start talking about balancing the budget. I think we have to give high priority to these federal deficits. I don’t want to see all the burden placed on the backs of the people who didn’t get the budget out of balance in the first place. They don’t  have a lobbyist up there in Washington. I’m afraid that’s where some of the Republicans are headed. I don’t want to see huge cut backs in Medicare. There are enough people out there who don’t have health care coverage, much less getting cut back some more.

The second committee I sought and was able to get on was the Science Committee. It used to be Science and Technology. I think with the University of Texas and the Pickle Research Center which we need to defend, as well as Motorola putting this lab up on Ed Bluestein. That’s kind of where our economic future lies, and I want to be there shaping that policy.

Dorothy: I’ve been looking at C-Span to see how they are going to fix the budget, but no one has come up with anything. Is this just a lot of Republican posturing, giving all kinds of excuses? I say okay, put it on the table and tell us what you’re gonna do. They just keep going around and around.

Doggett: I think we have to hold them accountable for that. It was within the week that Dick Armey, the congressman from up in Arlington, Texas, the Majority Leader there, said 'Well, you know, if we go on and spell out where all these cuts are gonna be, some of these members of Congress . . . their knees are gonna buckle.'  If their program is not good enough to put on the table, and let everybody know who is gonna get hit by this, maybe they ought to rethink it. I think Republicans are trying to keep us in the dark about this, because if everybody know what the changes are they may not want to make some of them

The other side is the budget balance amendment I don’t support. As much as I would like to see our budget more balanced, it is really a way of deferring the problem to the future. Instead  of doing something right now, they said, 'Well, you know let Joe do it in the year 2002, maybe we won’t be here. He’ll have to make the painful choices.' That’s why we keep saying, lay out the plan; show us over the next several years what the cuts are gonna be, and they keep saying, 'Oh, no. We don’t want to do that.'

Dorothy: Do you think when they authored the Contract with America, Republicans actually had no idea they would be in power?

Doggett: Well, there is a little bit of that. You know the way they did that Contract with America is, they first got some campaign consultants to sit around with people and focus groups and tried out different phrases, and different promises to see which ones sounded the best. Then they put it all together, announced it on the Capital steps, and printed it in TV Guide. Now they’re kind of stuck with that. Some of the things in there are not very practical. Some of them are more talk than anything else. I just don’t think you can govern the country strictly based on campaign gimmicks.

***The Contract with America was written by Larry Hunter and passed with the help of Newt Gingrich, Robert Walker, Richard Armey, Bill Paxon, Tom DeLay, John Boehner and Jim Mussle. The Contract was introduced six weeks before the 1994 congressional election. It was the first mid-term election of President Bill Clinton, in which Republicans scored a victory similar to the 2010 mid-terms election.

Dorothy: I see Newt Gingrich is backing down on some of the things in the Contract. I personally think he wants to be president. Is he a lot of fluff or is there substance to him? Where does he want to take the United States?

Doggett: Well, I think he is very smart, just in terms of intelligence. I think he is very committed; very hard working, bordering on ruthless in his approach. He made some conciliatory comments on the opening day. I would like to work with him if he wants to work together. And then he turns around appoints a woman as House Historian, who said Congress didn’t give enough attention to the views of the KKK and Nazis. One of her associates said Newt knew all about that before he appointed her. I’m glad he unappointed her.

It’s like the book deal. He backed down on that too, getting this $4 million from this guy from Australia, but only after it was brought to light. I think you can see on both the House Historian and on the book deal, that unless we’re up there being very vocal and holding him accountable for some of this stuff, he’s gonna go off to benefit himself personally, and on a really far right tangent. Even on these orphanage comments, which I think is outrageous. He said we would pull children away from their mothers, and put them in an orphanage. I think he is committed to a far right agenda that is out of the mainstream. And in fact, they keep trying to move the mainstream farther to the right. People like Bob Dole, who is kind of an old fashioned conservative, was being viewed as a moderate, because Republican take it so far to one side. You can’t get to the right side of them.

Dorothy: What kind of changes would you like to see take place?

Doggett: I believe changes to our welfare system, for example. It’s not inappropriate to focus on the need for change. I don’t believe that system is serving the tax payer, or the people it’s designed to help. It is, perhaps, cheaper to keep them on a subsistence level, where they just barely get by, than it is to go in and spend the money to provide quality child care,  training and the skills they need to get ahead. 

I am all for reforming welfare, for putting some incentives against welfare usage, but only if we go the first half of the way. And that’s to get people the assistance they need to get a job. I can see that as a real battle with the Republicans, who don’t believe their own campaign speeches. Sometimes they are caught up in their own speeches--the welfare stuff--they can’t quite translate it back into the real world.

Dorothy: The problem with people on welfare is jobs. It’s up to the people to educate themselves and not depend on the government to educate them. Where will the jobs come from?

Doggett: I think individual responsibility is very important, and the government can’t take the place of that. But if we really want to solve the problem now,  we’ve got to go back and do something. I think the first step to jobs is people having the skills that are needed.

Dorothy: What about some kind of discount for people wanting to go to college but can’t afford it because it’s so expensive.

Doggett: My battle this time is to prevent them from eliminating what we’ve already got. No cuts in the Pell grants program to give people the opportunity to go to Houston Tillotson College or Austin Community College or University of Texas. Those programs are very much in jeopardy under the Contract with America. I am very determined to see that those opportunities are not denied. How can you talk about people having personal initiative, taking personal responsibility for themselves, and then cut out the key to them being able to exercise that responsibility.

Dorothy: What about the brouhaha about raising the minimum up another dollar?

Doggett: I think Congress will look at that later on in the year. The question is whether it has any real chance for approval. The Republican leadership have already come out with a over my dead body position. I will say now as I did back during the campaign, I would have rather see if there are going to be some additional employer participation; that it first be  on health care. The problems with getting off of welfare is, if you take a minimum wage job, and then you loose all your health care benefits, that doesn’t get you anywhere. You’re working harder and getting less. I am concerned about many of the minimum wage jobs. Whether it’s a dollar more than we get right now--is there going to be any health care benefits for many of those jobs? That would be my first preference. If we can’t make any headway there, then I think we should look at the minimum wage as a sub-minimum wage.

Dorothy: I saw some Republicans on C-Span talking about a meeting that was taking place, but they had shut out the Democrats. Are you beginning to feel ostracized?

Doggett: There is no doubt that Republicans are enjoying their victory. They are trying to run the show. I think when this 100 days are over, there is going to be a recognition that it takes two parties to govern the country. There has to be some shared participation here. In some of the meetings with Republicans I have been encouraged, particularly with some of those from the mid-west and north east, that there are some people with open minds. On the other hand, I have met some from California and from the south that I think are lost causes. It’s like talking to the wall. They are not going to be willing to change.  They have a whole different view of the world. So I have to offer them respect but vigorous disagreement.

***This article was initially posted July 19, 2011

Monday, September 9, 2013

A first: Hattie McDaniel wins Best Supporting Actress for 1939 movie 'Gone With The Wind'

Hattie McDaniel accepts Academy Award
Unless you are a movie buff or film historian, you probably are not aware of actress Hattie McDaniel, an African American who was born June 10, 1895 in Witchita, Kansas. She was called “colored” back then, among other names that supposedly identified her ethnicity. McDaniel was one of 13 children born to Henry McDaniel and Susan Holbert, a gospel singer. Her father was a Baptist minister who played the banjo and performed in minstrel shows.

In 1900 the McDaniel family headed for Denver, Colorado.
McDaniel is Mammy in Gone with the Wind
Hattie attended Denver East High School, where she graduated. When she was a teenager she trained to work in her father’s minstrel show. In 1920 she became a member of Professor George Morrison’s troupe, a traveling orchestra and minstrel show called Melody Hounds. She toured with the band for five years. 

McDaniel  began her singing and dancing career, performing comedy skits while attending high school. Years later she was asked to perform on Denver’s KOA radio. This gave McDaniel the distinction of being the first Black woman to sing on radio. Her brother Sam was a performer on radio station KNX. He was a regular on The Optimistic Do-Nuts. McDaniel was added to the show after she moved to Los Angeles in 1929. Sam and sister Etta persuaded her to move to California. On the radio show Hattie was popular with the listening audience. She earned the nickname “Hi-Hat-Hattie.” 

McDaniel’s brother, an aspiring actor, played a butler in the Three Stooges’ short film, Heavenly Daze. Her sister Etta also wanted to be an actress. McDaniel honed her skills as a songwriter while performing in her father’s minstrel. From 1926 to 1929 she recorded some of her songs on Okeh and Paramount Record labels. McDaniel had her eyes on getting into the movies, and in 1931 she got a break—sort of—as an extra in a Hollywood musical. 

A couple of years later she landed a nice size role in The Golden West, 1932. She got more bit parts, but no substantial roles. Significant roles for Black actors and actresses were few and far between, as is the history of Hollywood and Black actors. McDaniel was not discouraged by the roles she got. She refused to step away from her dream. In the meanwhile, she worked as a rest room attendant and other jobs to earn a living, while waiting for the next role.

Hattie McDaniel
In the movie Judge Priest McDaniel performed a duet with humorist/actor Will Rogers. It was a major role for her. Stepin Fetchit, another Black actor, also appeared in the movie. The next year she won a hefty role playing Mom Beck in The Little Colonel. McDaniel had finally gotten the eye of a Hollywood director, and her movie career was looking up.

During the late 1930s Blacks appeared in movie roles that were stereotypical and somewhat demeaning in tone and context. Black actors played maids, mammies, slow taking buffoons, tap dancers. Despite these roles that would not make them rich, Black actors wanted to make it in show business. They understood the roles they accepted, and limitations put on them in an all White industry. In a racist tinged America White movie goers were not ready to accept Blacks on the big screen unless they played subservient roles.

Stephin Fetchit appeared in the comedy Carolina, Judge Priest and Steamboat the Bend. Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, a tap dancer, was in The Little Rebel, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm and One Mile From Heaven. Louise Beavers, playing a maid in the classic movie Imitation of Life and No Time For Comedy. She went to get more memorable roles. 

Whereas African Americans viewed her roles as stereotypical, McDaniel milked her roles for all they were worth. And, yes, she had answers for her critics. The Kansapedia-Kansas Historical Society wrote of McDaniel: "Hattie McDaniel's screen career was built upon the image of the verbally flip, clever maid whose knowledge of human nature is wider and wiser than that of the bourgeois sorts who employ her. Hattie McDaniel filled these roles with an ironic energy, using her massive figure,enormously mobile face, and rich voice to transform the meek servant into a knowing critic of the ways of the masters. When asked why she played only these stereotypical domestics, McDaniel replied: 'It's Better to get $7,000 a week for playing a servant than $7.00 a week for being one.'

"That was her practical response; her artistic response was equally direct. She created a series of memorable characters whose inescapable humanity could be enjoyed by both white and black audiences. In Alice Adams (1935), Show Boat (1936), Saratoga (1937, and The Mad Miss Manton (1938), she managed to embody the conventional virtues of the faithful servant, while preserving a sense of pride and autonomy in her characters. McDaniel's control over her own artistic vision built toward her portrayal of Mammy in Gone With the Wind (1939). Named best supporting actress for this performance, she became the first black American to win an Academy Award."

McDaniel’s big break came when she auditioned in 1939 for, and got the role of Mammy
McDaniel auditions for role of Mammy
in Gone With The Wind, a movie that earned her $1,000 a week; considerably less than what  White female actresses earned. She beat a number of Black actresses bidding the role. McDaniel auditioned in full “mammy” costume, making her stand out from her competitors. Butterfly McQueen also had role in the movie. Her career basically stood still after Gone With the Wind.  McDaniel was awarded for her efforts by winning  an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. The 12th Academy Awards  took place at the Cocoanut Grove Restaurant of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles.

The award presentation was preceded by a banquet in the hotel. McDaniel and her guest had to sit in the back of the room. They were not allowed to mingle with the White actors and their guests. Her fellow White actors appeared to be satisfied with the arrangement. At the premiere in Atlanta, McDaniel and other Black actors were not allowed to attend because of racism in the segregated South. Clark Gable, the leading male actor in Gone With The Wind, threatened to boycott the premiere if McDaniel could not attend. Supposedly she persuaded him to attend. When the movie premiered in Hollywood McDaniel was there.

A gossip columnist name Louella Parsons wrote about Oscar night, 1940: "Hattie McDaniel earned that gold Oscar by her fine performance of 'Mammy' in Gone with the Wind. If you had seen her face when she walked up to the platform and took the gold trophy, you would have had the choke in your voice that all of us had when Hattie, hair trimmed with gardenias, face alight, and dress up to the queen's taste, accepted the honor in one of the finest speeches ever given on the Academy floor.” 

McDaniel said in her acceptance speech: “Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, fellow members of the motion picture industry and honored guests: This is one of the happiest moments of my life, and I want to thank each one of you who had a part in selecting me for one of their awards, for your kindness. It has made me feel very, very humble; and I shall always hold it as a beacon for anything that I may be able to do in the future. I sincerely hope I shall always be a credit to my race and to the motion picture industry. My heart is too full to tell you just how I feel, and may I say thank you and God bless you."

The Oscar that McDaniel accepted at the award ceremony was not the actual Oscar (golden statue) she received. The presentation was a farce. Off stage or sometimes later, McDCaniel received a golden plaque with the image of Oscar statue imprinted on it. She donated the Oscar to Howard University. Not long afterwards it disappeared during six days of rioting in Washington, D.C. after the April 4, 1968 assassination of Martin Luther Kings. To this day no one knows what happened to the Oscar. The university told Jet magazine in 1998 that the university had no record of it arriving at Howard. It has been rumored that civil rights protesters took the Oscar and threw it in the Potomac River. 

Sidney Poitier was the next Black actor to win an Oscar 24 years later for “Lilies Of The Field.” It took 38 years before another Black actor won an Oscar. Denzel Washington won an Oscar for his role in “Training Day.” Even today the Oscar is elusive for African Americans in movies. None of Tyler Perry’s movies have ever been nominated for an Oscar, despite his movies being big money makers, attracting integrated audiences.

Through the 1940s McDaniel appeared in many more movies, but her on screen characters did not change. The NAACP and the African American community were not happy seeing Blacks playing the roles written for them. They did not feel these were the only parts Black actors and actresses could play. The NAACP did not consider the fact that there were no “colored’ directors, producers or “colored” owned studios during that time.

Walter White, president of the NAACP, asked Black actors and actresses to stop accepting the negative roles. He reasoned that the roles reflected poorly on the Black community. He said Black people were portrayed as a people incapable of progressing farther than cleaning and cooking and being mammies for White people’s children. He urged White owned studios to create positive parts for Black actors. White’s plea fell on deaf ears. Besides, White movies goers would not accept “colored” actors playing roles like those of White actors and actresses. Because of the conflict between McDaniel and the NAACP, roles for her slowed down considerably.

McDaniel returned to radio in 1947 to perform in “The Beulah Show” on CBS radio. The show debuted on TV in 1951. Before the show had a full season McDaniel suffered a heart attack, forcing her to take a short leave of absence. She returned shortly to continue filming. Misfortune hit again when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1952.

Hattie McDaniel succumbed to cancer October 26, 1952 in Woodland Hill, California. She was 57. She was the first African American actor be interned at the Angeles-Rosedale Cemetery. She married four times, three of which ended in divorces; her first husband preceded in her death. 

Her estate was valued at less than $10,000 when she died. She left $1.00 to her first husband, Larry Williams. She had no children. McDaniel was posthumously awarded two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In 1975 she was inducted into the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame. Her face was on a  January 25, 2006 Commemorative Stamp, which was produced for Black History Month.

 McDaniel played a maid 93 times out of the 300 movies she appeared in.

Black actors and actresses that have received Oscars:

  • 1940 Hattie McDaniel  Best Supporting Actor, Gone With The Wind 
  • 1963 Sidney Poitier  Best Actor in Leading Role,  Lilies of The Field
  • 1982 Louis Gossett, Jr.   Best Supporting Actor, Officer and A Gentleman
  • 1989 Denzel Washington  Best Supporting Actor, Glory
  • 2002 Denzel Washington  Best Leading Actor in Leading Role, Training Day
  • 1990 Whoopie Goldbeg  Best Supporting Actress, Ghost
  • 1996 Cuba Gooding, Jr.  Best Supporting Actor, Jerry McGuire
  • 1999 Michael Clarke Duncan  Best Supporting Actor, The Green Mile
  • 2002 Hally Berry  Best Actress in Leasing role, Monster's Ball 
  •  2004 Jamie Foxx  Best Leading Actor, Ray
  • 2004 Morgan Freeman  Best Supporting Actor, Million Dollar Baby
  • 2006 Forest Whitaker  Best Leading Actor, The Last King of Scotland
  • 2007 Jennifer Hudson  Best Supporting Actor,  Dreamgirls
  • 2009 Mo’Nique  Best Supporting Actor, Precious
  • 2009 Roger Ross Williams,  Best Documentary Short Subject
  • 2011 Octavia Spencer  Best Supporting Actor,  The Help
  • 2012 T. J. Martin  Best Documentary Feature, Undefeated