Breaker Morant – a terrific Aussie film about a true story

The following post was written a few years ago. My wife and I re-watched another great film from Australia yesterday called “The Man for Snowy River.” It reminded me of this movie, which remains a favorite of mine.

When I am asked to list my favorite movies, I will usually include a film made in 1980 in Australia called “Breaker Morant.” The movie did not get enough airplay here in the US, so if you missed seeing it, that would not have been a difficult task. The movie was directed by Bruce Beresford, but starred several terrific actors who would go on to fame – Edward Woodward (an English actor), Bryan Brown and Jack Thompson. A key role was also played by a younger actor, Lewis Fitz-Gerald. Woodward would play in the US television series called “The Equalizer” while Brown would appear in a number of films like “Fx” and “Australia.” Thompson would also appear in “The Man from Snowy River,” another favorite of mine from Australia, as well as “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.”

The movie is about three men who were convicted as scapegoats for committing war crimes they had been authorized to perform during the Boer Wars in South Africa. The men were part of a guerilla team called the Bushveldt Carbineers, who had to resort to unusual tactics to remain safe and be effective. It is based on a true story from the novel “Scapegoats of the Empire” by George Witton. Lt. Harry Morant, played by Woodward was a former horse-breaker on which the title is based. He is a former Englishman of society who is forelorned over a lost love, so he has devoted his career to helping the military fight in faraway places. He is also an acclaimed poet, which is part of his fabric and the movie.

Brown plays Lt. Peter Hancock, who is Morant’s trusted friend, but a man with faults and desires which make him less than perfect like everyone else. Fitz-Gerald plays a more naïve young soldier who gets caught up with the others just doing as he is told. Thompson plays the second lead character as Major J.F, Thomas, an unprepared, but eventually very capable and practical attorney who defends the three in a court-martial trial. He was picked because the leaders wanted someone not to defend them well, but the opposite occurred.

The three are on trial as the British leadership wanted to distance themselves from the Bushveldt Carbineers’ tactics, which were successful. They also were on trial for killing a priest who was a Boer spy before he could get back to share his reconnaissance. The tactics included placing the captured military leaders in the front of returning horse soldiers from battle, as it dissuaded the Boers from attacking them. This was a guerilla type war, where new practices were being done and confirmed at the higher ranks.

Yet, as the war was winding down, the British leadership needed to provide a peace-offering, so the three were put on trial as scapegoats. I will hold off on the conclusion, although some of it is obvious from the title of the book. If you do watch it, know that the movie shows the horror of war, the lack of humanity that can be all-encompassing and how soldiers just doing their job often pay for the sins of their leaders. I also like the fact that they do not promote the three on trial as better men than they are, especially Hancock and Morant. These are cynical and worldly men who realize what they are up against.

If you have seen it or take the chance to do so, I would love to hear your feedback and thoughts.

Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein levels GOP after General Milley book

In an article by Ken Riley of Mediaite called “Carl Bernstein Absolutely Levels GOP for Ignoring Threat Posed By ‘Crazy, Delusional, Authoritarian, Dangerous, Criminal’ Trump,” Riley reports on comments made by Bernstein in an interview on New Day. Excerpts from the article follow, but the entire article can be linked to below.

“Bernstein joined New Day on Thursday to discuss ‘I Alone Can Fix It: Donald J. Trump’s Catastrophic Final Year,’ the incoming new book about General Mike Milley from the Washington Post‘s Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker. He was specifically asked for his thoughts about how Milley not only compared Trump to Adolf Hitler, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff also began to formulate a backup plan in case Trump tried to launch a coup.

Bernstein began by commenting that the report, while ‘extraordinary,’ merely confirmed, ‘what we already knew, that we had a crazy, delusional, authoritarian, dangerous, criminal president of the United States.

His character, his authoritarianism, his recklessness, his homicidal negligence through the pandemic. All of this was known to our leaders, and the party of Trump and the party of McConnell and what we saw in the insurrection. These are all things that were embraced up until the last minute by McConnell and Republican leadership. And they continue to be embraced: Trumpism, in all its derangement, terror and horror.

As the conversation continued to address the full connotations of Milley’s remarks, Bernstein offered his disgust over the likelihood that they will be ‘dismissed immediately’ by the Trump movement. As he mused on Milley directly tying neofascism to Trumpism, Bernstein asked ‘how did we get to a place where the leader of the American military compared the president of the United States to Hitlerian fascism?’”

I truly am tired of writing about the most deceitful and corrupt acting president in my lifetime, which now must include the word seditious to describe his actions. His actions and statements are overt and it puzzles me how so many critics can be so easily dismissed. His followers have shown a desire to stick with a person who is well-documented by numerous resources and people as untruthful.

It may go down in history as one of the biggest con jobs. But, don’t take my word for it, just read some of what the former president’s Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said. Or, if you don’t like his comments, the former president’s Secretary of Defense James Mattis said “Donald Trump does not even try to unite us.” Yet, the most all encompassing comment comes from Michael Cohen, the former president’s attorney and fixer (why one needs a fixer is in and of itself a concern), when he said under oath to Congress “Donald Trump is a racist, he is a con-artist and he is a cheat.”

Carl Bernstein Rips Republicans Ignoring Threat From Trump (mediaite.com)

War is old men talking and young men (and women) fighting

The following was written about nine years ago, but it still has merit. I repeat it to honor our Veterans on Memorial Day and Flag Day.

The above title is a paraphrased line from the movie “Troy” and while I cannot find it among any of the quotes from Homer’s “Iliad” it still resonates with me. Achilles is highly frustrated with Agamemnon and the other kings celebrating the day’s victory in battle, which none of them fought in. He is counseled with these words. You know what war is all about – “war is old men talking and young men fighting.” I use this quote today to honor our men and women who have fought in battles. They are the ones who put their lives in harm’s way and it is they who should be commended.

If you fought for your country, whether the cause was justified or not, you deserve to be honored. When you are lying in the mud or a foxhole and are being shot at, whether we went into a war without good cause is moot. You are there doing your job in the direst of circumstances. Our country learned that lesson from Vietnam where returning veterans did not get treated with the proper respect. This war dragged on and people asked why are we sending our teenagers and young adults to die over there? The Pentagon Papers revealed later our leaders were not very forthcoming as to the reasons, knowing the war was unwinnable.

We have similar kind of war going on which began in Iraq and has continued into Afghanistan. We have been doing this for over ten years. The reason for being there has now been called into question, yet there we still sit. However, the lesson we learned from Vietnam has at least helped Americans treat our troops better. They did not pick the fight with Iraq or Afghanistan, yet they are there to fight it our battles for us.

And, there is one other similarity to Vietnam and the gulf wars which makes it so tough on our troops and causes even more PTSD. The enemy combatants are hiding among the civilians. Our troops have to be on their guard even more, as they do not want to kill innocent people, yet the innocents don’t have a “red jersey” on like a quarterback in practice which says don’t hit me. This has to create a greater stress level to an already stressed situation.

What I don’t care for is when old men get together to discuss sending young people in harm’s way without doing their due diligence. Let’s just bomb Iran and get it over with you will hear some old men say. Or, let’s just invade Syria as some members of Congress and Senate have stated. This may be the reason I hold Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld in lesser regard as they sent Americans to die under false pretenses in Iraq. My thesis is before you commit Americans to die, do our country, soldiers and their families the duty of making damn sure we have exhausted every other means. And, when we do commit Americans to fight, define what success will look like. If we cannot do that, then maybe we should not be fighting.

So, let’s honor our Veterans. They have done our country a great service and some have paid the dearest price with their lives, minds and bodies. Let’s honor them by doing our homework to avoid conflict whenever possible and taking care of them when they return. We have too many veterans wandering the streets when they get back and too many waiting in line for disability and medical help. We need to fight less and serve them more. Thanks for your service.

I am still here





One of my favorite authors is Malcolm Gladwell, a Canadian born to a Jamaican mother and English father. In an interview, he responded to a question about his ability to look from afar at issues close at hand. He noted his bizarre appearance made him an obvious outsider, so he crafted an outside looking in perspective.

One of his books is called “David and Goliath” about how underdogs sometimes are not whom they first appear to be. In one of his examples, he noted the Nazi’s bombing of London during World War II was actually counterproductive. Why?

People did perish and were injured. And, buildings were destroyed. But, the lion’s share of Londoners were not impacted other than being frightened. They were also galvanized with a defiant “I am still here.”

We should not set aside that galvanizing affect as it is crucial to the British resolve. Outside of tacit support from America before December 7, 1941, the British bore the heavy load to fight the Nazis and Italians in the Europe/ Africa campaign. I am still here was a big part of their perseverance, especially after near catastrophe at Dunkirk which may have cost them severe loss of soldiers had it not been for a make-shift volunteer navy.

Standing up against tyrants and bullies requires that kind of perseverance. It is said the tenacious Winston Churchill was the ideal man to lead Great Britain during these times. He saw Adolph Hitler for exactly who he was – a psychopathic tyrant. Churchill’s predecessor tried to appease Hitler, which seems ludicrous in hindsight. You don’t stroke a bully.

The only way to stand up to a bully is with resolve. Please remember that when bullies and liars try to denigrate and gaslight you. The truth is your ally. So, is your conviction. I am still here. And, I know who and what you are.

Representative Adam Kinzinger: GOP colleagues have thanked me for speaking out against Trump

In an article by Jordan Williams of The Hill called “Kinzinger: GOP colleagues have thanked me for speaking out against Trump,” it is revealed that, silently, Representative Adam Kinzinger has more support for his speaking out against the seditious acts of the former president. The Illinois Republican has served ten years following his Air Force service. So, he took two oaths to our constitution.

A few paragraphs follow, with a link to the entire article below.

“Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) says some of his GOP colleagues have thanked him for speaking out against former President Trump over the past few weeks.

Kinzinger, a staunch critic of Trump, was one of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach him for inciting the Jan. 6 riots at the Capitol that led to five deaths and over 100 arrests.

‘Well, there’s been backlash, you know. … Within the party base, there’s some, of course you know, as we’d expect. There’s also been a whole lot of outpouring from people that [said] ‘thanks for saying it,” he said on ‘The View’ on Wednesday. ‘I’ve heard it, even amongst my colleagues: ‘Thanks for speaking up.”

‘What it comes down to is maybe there’s backlash and maybe there’s not. But putting your career on the line when we’re going out and asking young people to be willing to fight and die to defend this country – being willing to give your career up to defend that same cause, that fidelity to the Constitution, is a small price to pay,’ he added.”

Kinzinger and Representative Liz Cheney are getting a lot of backlash from the MAGA base. Let me add a couple of thoughts for seasoning. First, Kinzinger served in the military, while the former president did not. As a result, Kinzinger swore to defend the constitution long before being elected to represent Illinois. Second, it takes a lot of courage to stand up against a vindictive person who keeps lists of people who oppose him and punishes them.*

Yet, like Cheney and the other eight Republican House members who voted to impeach the former president (while he was still president), he is getting a full measure of backlash of people who believe the well-documented untruthful former president. Oaths matter. Should not Kinzinger get more respectful consideration of his position? If someone gets vilified for kneeling during the national anthem, should not someone who fought for that flag get a modicum of credit?

*This assertion comes from two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Bob Woodward’s book “Fear” which quotes a Republican representative who saw such a list on the former president’s desk.

Kinzinger: GOP colleagues have thanked me for speaking out against Trump (msn.com)

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Are you watching “Casablanca” again? – a reprise post

This repeat blog from 2012 flows from a conversation between Roger, our British blogging friend, and me the other day. It was nice to add to our blogging friendship that he also likes “Casablanca.”

When my wife has caught me stopping while channel surfing on a showing of “Casablanca” as I did Friday night, she invariably asks “How many times have you seen that?” I usually answer “Not enough” depending on her mood. I was encouraged to write about my favorite movie when I stopped by a blog yesterday where the blogger did a wonderful job of talking about her favorite book and movie “Pride and Prejudice.” I should note my wife will do the same with “Somewhere in Time,” but since I appreciate the story and seeing Jane Seymour’s classic beauty it is a more than a fair trade – she of course has a thing for Christopher Reeve, but that is another story.

To me, Casablanca takes me to another place in time. It is a great story told well, set at a crucial time with a backdrop of Nazi antagonism, and played by great actors under great direction. You can go to Wikipedia and see the Best Picture, Best Director and Best Screenplay Academy Awards and the numerous nominations, so it is acknowledged for its surprisingly unexpected brilliance. Also, the fact that the movie is included as one of the all-time best movies confirms it is a classic. Yet, to me it is the dialogue and interaction between the starring roles, supporting roles and the many smaller roles, that make it worthwhile.

I enjoy the banter between Carl and Sasha, the head waiter and bartender, and their patrons as much as the dialogue between the lead roles. And, the most moving part of the movie includes only the third star – Paul Heinreid as Victor Lazlo with a brief nod from Humphrey Bogart as Rick – as Lazlo directs the band to play “La Marseillaise” to drown out the Nazi sing along in Rick’s Americain Cafe. This scene never ceases to give me chills as it shows what a heroic figure Lazlo is and why people look to him to lead and why the Nazis are so wary of him.

Setting aside this emphatic moment, it is the dialogue and story that deserve the credit more so than anything. The movie is a compilation of conversations leading us to the inevitable climax. You have little reason to like Rick at first, so the dialogue helps paint a better picture of this gray character – why he is bitter and how he was not always this way. At the same time, we see the grayness of Claude Rains’ Captain Louis Renault’s character evolve into someone who gives a damn at the end. Even Ingrid Bergman’s Ilsa Lund is not perfect, as she is torn between Rick and her devotional love to Victor Lazlo. So, the grayness of these characters and others (such as Sydney Greenstreet’s Ferrari) shows how imperfect we all are in our daily struggles between survival and doing the right thing. In fact, the only true hero and villain are Victor Lazlo and Major Strasser with others having many shades of gray in-between.

The writers, primarily Julius and Phillip Epstein with help from Howard Koch, deserve the Best Screenplay award. The dialogue reveals the characters in this struggle. The movie is remembered for its six classic quotes being included among the 100 Best Movie Quotes, but those quotes should not overshadow the dialogue that give them meaning. The classic “round-up the usual suspects” after Major Strasser has been shot is based on earlier dialogue. It has extra meaning to me as the writers initially did not know how the movie should end even after filming began. When one of the Epsteins blurted out “round-up the usual suspects” they knew Strasser had to be killed and that led them to Lazlo getting on the plane with Ilsa as Rick had to be the one who shot him.

Greenstreet, Dooley Wilson as Sam, Peter Lorre as Ugarte and Conradt Veidt as the villainous Strasser all are ideally cast in their roles. Plus, the many dialogues and scenes expose us to Rick’s handling of the essential sub-story of the Bulgarian couple trying to win their way to America while the young wife considers sleeping with Renault and Rick’s relationship with his casino boss, Sam, Sasha, Carl, Ferrari and Ugarte among others.

Yet, we should not forget the role of Michael Curtiz and his other directors who helped him when the Academy Award (he was not the only director used on the film). Focusing on the sadness and beauty of Ingrid Bergman’s Ilsa shows that much can be said without a word even in this movie of words. And, it doesn’t stop with her as the facial expressions of the people listening to other people is very telling. There is a brief moment when the guitar playing female singer cannot hide a glimpse of her disgust over Major Strasser; note it is not overtly apparent, as in real life, he may have noticed it and said something to her. There are also classic scenes where the camera catches the silhouette of one of the actors in a dialogue, to let us see the other party. There are some very effective scenes like this in Rick’s office.

So, I watch again and again. Note, I do not stop every time, but I do enjoy parts of the movie so much, that I will at least catch a taste before I move on. If you have not seen it, I would encourage you to do so. I have seen it in a theatre and it is even more special as you can see more facial expressions than on a TV screen.  If you have not watched it in a while, please check it out again and look at the facial expressions and listen to the dialogue. And, if you love it like I do, “This is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.” Please feel free to share your favorite moments, characters, etc.

A real action hero died today

A real action hero died today. The following article caught my eye this morning, “Chuck Yeager, pilot who broke the sound barrier, dies at 97” by Pete Muntean, Hollie Silverman and Joe Sutton, CNN. Here are two brief paragraphs, that only provide a glimpse at Yeager’s heroics.

“US Air Force officer and test pilot Chuck Yeager, known as ‘the fastest man alive,’ has died at the age of 97. Yeager broke the sound barrier when he tested the X-1 in October 1947, although the feat was not announced to the public until 1948.

‘This is a sad day for America,’ John Nicoletti, Yeager’s friend and ground crew chief, told CNN Monday night. ‘After he broke the sound barrier, we all now have permission to break barriers.'”

Yeager’s heroics are captured in the book and movie “The Right Stuff” and his biography, which I also read. The Right Stuff is a quiet bravery to do something that you know is dangerous, but in so doing, you test both yourself and the development of the aircraft you are flying. Many who did what Yeager died doing their job. Yet, Yeager revealed a calmness to the radio tower which belied his stress in doing his job.

A couple of stories will give you a greater glimpse of this man over the more known stories. While not college educated, he was an astute student of flying and aerodynamics. His lack of college degree meant he was passed over for the first astronaut team. But, those who made it give him high regards as the best pilot they ever saw.

During World War II, he was an ace pilot, that often trained against other American pilots in captured German planes. The story goes Yeager would beat you flying the German plane, then switch planes and beat you in the American plane.

Yet, the story that I like best, when he was flying as a test pilot at Edwards Air Force base, a plane was causing the death of many a pilot. He investigated it and went to the manufacturer and found out that one mechanic was not following the diagrams and putting the bolts in the wings the wrong way, insisting they must be down, not up. This slight change was causing the plane to wobble at very high speeds leading to the crash.

Let me finish with the story captured in the movie, which I like to think was true as Yeager had a cameo part in the movie. Yeager (played by Sam Shephard) would bum a stick of gum called Beeman’s (made out of cloves) from his ground engineer before he flew. This request of “Hey Ridley, you got any Beemans?” showed he was ready to fly.

Chuck Yeager, pilot who broke the sound barrier, dies at 97 (msn.com)

From a retired federal employee

In the letters to the editor in my local newspaper was the following letter. It speaks for itself, but I will make one comment following the letter.

“As a retired federal employee with over 34 years of service during the administrations of eight presidents of both political parties, I want to offer my heartfelt thanks to the millions of current federal employees across the country and around the world for your work on behalf of all of us.

Never in my experience have I seen such disdain from a president and his administration for federal employees, calling them “idiots,” “a disaster,” and otherwise demeaning service.

Federal employees deserve better than that, and I am here to just say thanks for your service.

Any boss who treats federal employees the way the current president does should not be the boss.”

This is well said. In Michael Lewis’ well researched book “The Fifth Risk” which looks at what these federal employees actually do and how the current administration did not take much time at all to learn what they do and the heightened risks as a result, he noted the following theme. The deep state (as these folks are often called) are the people who actually know what they are talking about.

If we don’t know our history, we are destined to repeat it

I read this week from an UPI article that 60% of millennials and Gen-Zers are unaware that 6 million Jews were exterminated in the Holocaust by the Nazis in World War II. I use the word “exterminated” as that is what the Nazis did by gassing Jews after they rounded them up. If the brashness of this statement offends – I apologize for the needed candor. It is meant to wake people up.

But, the Nazi genocide of Jews is among too many persecutions around the world and over time. The United States has had three persecutions of groups of people, two of which leading to many deaths. We should never forget these sad parts of our history or white-wash (word intentionally chosen) them away.

– European settlers of the US over time seized land from, killed many and moved Native Americans over the course of three centuries. Even today, Native Americans have to go out of their way to protect the rights granted when they were forced to move or areas dear to them were protected by law. It seems the pursuit of fossil fuel acquisition and transport usurps rights.

– Slavery of blacks in the US is well known and was the principal reason the Civil War was fought. Even the reason for the war was white-washed and taught as a battle for states’ rights in too many class rooms. This propaganda was to get poor whites to fight the battles of landowners to allow their richer neighbors to keep slaves. Slaves were treated and abused as property. Yet, after the reconstruction period was legislated away years later, an ugly era of Jim Crow laws began to suppress blacks and make/ keep them as second class citizens. I encourage you to read “To Kill a Mockingbird” or listen to Billie Holiday sing “Strange Fruit” about black bodies swinging in the trees regarding this hateful period.

– To protect them (and other Americans, as a stated reason), FDR ordered the encampment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. These folks and their families were taken from their jobs and homes and imprisoned in camps during the war. They were not killed, although maybe some were while trying to escape, yet their rights were taken away.

Outside of North America, USSR premier Josef Stalin rounded up and killed far more people as enemies of the state than Adolph Hitler ever did. Yet, it did not get the notoriety of Hitler’s heinous crimes of the holocaust. In the 1990s, Radovan Karadzic and the Bosnian Serb military commander, General Ratko Mladic, were among those indicted for genocide and other crimes against humanity as they captured and killed about 8,000 Bosniaks.

In 1994, a planned campaign of mass murder in Rwanda occurred over the course of some 100 days. The genocide was conceived by extremist elements of Rwanda’s majority Hutu population who planned to kill the minority Tutsi population and anyone who opposed those genocidal intentions.

More recently, in Iran the Sunnis felt left out of the largely Shia governing body in Iraq after Saddam Hussein was toppled. They made the mistake of inviting in Daesh to help them. Daesh conducted genocide against all who stood against them, with beheadings and terror, until they were contained.

Sadly, there is so much more. Often the conquering power or the group in power will suppress people in their own lands. The leaders of the Mongols, Romans, Spaniards, Greeks, Brits, Syrians, North Koreans, Russians, Chinese, etc. have put down dissidents or dissident groups or made them disappear. There is an old saying – winners write the history – so, written history may be kinder than oral history to the strong-arming

These sad events involve two themes – power and fear. The first theme is obvious. The second is an age old practice. Tell people to fear another group, tell them these groups are the reason for your disenfranchisement and the people will do what you tell them.

How do we avoid this? So-called leaders who tell us whom to fear, should be questioned. This is especially true if the voice is not one of reason or veracity. Fear is a lever to divide and conquer – we must guard against its wielders.

When a heart is empty – words from conservative pundit David Brooks

I have shared before David Brooks is one of my favorite conservative pundits. I read his columns and have read two of his books, “The Road to Character” and “The Social Animal.” I even went to hear him speak when he came to town, as he focused on remembering community and community gathering places. Monday’s editorial column by Brooks is called “When a heart is empty.”

Brooks highlights how an unfeeling, self-absorbed author named Emmanuel Carrere is forever altered by a crisis, when he loses his granddaughter to a horrible tsunami. Per Brooks, Carrere “develops a deep and perceptive capacity to see the struggles of others” and he writes about the change in “Lives Other Than My Own.”

Brooks uses this change to contrast it being “opposite of the blindness Donald Trump displayed in quotes reported by Jeffrey Goldberg in The Atlantic and Bob Woodward in his latest book about the administration, ‘Rage’

Brooks goes on to say “Trump can’t seem to fathom the emotional experience of their lives (the deceased soldiers he called ‘losers’ and ‘suckers’) – their love for those they fought for, the fears they faced down, the resolve to risk their lives nonetheless.

If he can’t see that, he can’t understand the men and women in uniform serving around him. He can’t understand the inner devotion that drives people to public service, which is supposed to be the core of his job.

The same sort of blindness is on display in the Woodward quotes. It was stupid of Trump to think he could downplay COVID-19 when he already knew it had the power of a pandemic. It was stupid to think the American people would panic if he told the truth. It was stupid to talk to Woodward in the first place…

It is moral and emotional stupidity. He blunders so often and so badly because he has a narcissist’s inability to get inside the hearts and minds of other people.”

There is more, but the gist of the piece can be gleaned from these quotes. Brooks said earlier this year, “Donald Trump does not have a sense of decency or empathy.” He reiterates this theme above. And, there is a line from one of my favorite political movies “The American President” with Michael Douglas and Annette Bening. “Being president is entirely about character.”