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  • Glenn Sonnenberg

Musings from the Bunker 8/5/20

Good morning!



“We are all born ignorant, but one must work hard to remain stupid.” - Benjamin Franklin



Here’s part two of Andrea’s favorite genres. This is “legal movies.” The law is, after all, that which stands between us and anarchy. Many of the following movies encouraged people to enter into this noble profession:

To Kill a Mockingbird—“Jean Louise, stand up. Your father’s passing.” Love this movie. Gregory Peck nails it.

Kramer v. Kramer—It’s a great film, in many ways quite sad. Lots of issues that remain to this day. But for an even better movie on divorce, go for The War of the Roses.

Philadelphia—Tom Hanks’s second academy award, as a homosexual lawyer wrongly fired by his firm. Quite a movie, with Jason Robards and Denzel Washington in a Jonathan Demme masterpiece.

In Cold Blood—Truman Capote’s great book on the Boston Strangler.

Michael Clayton—George Clooney—Great mid-2000s uplifting story of a cynical fixer.

Erin Brockovich—The famous case involving contaminated water, Julia Roberts in this Steven Soderbergh film.

The Verdict—Paul Newman delivers a great turn as an alcoholic lawyer down on his luck taking on the case of his career

A Few Good Men—“You want the truth? You can’t handle the truth…” Tom Cruise, Jack Nicholson, Kevin Bacon. And directed by Rob Reiner (who has The Princess Bride to his credit as well)

My Cousin Vinny—Fred Gwynne as the judge, Marisa Tomei (“Oh yeah, you blend”), and Joe Pesci (“The two utes”). Hysterical.

12 Angry Men. Originally a stage play. I never grow tired of this, in theatre and the film. A great study of a jury in action, their collective story and their individual inner stories.

Paper Chase—John Houseman’s contracts professor is a classic that has scared generations of first year law students getting ready for law school.

Presumed Innocent

A Civil Action—True story of environmental pollution. Stephen Zaillian, one of the writers in Hollywood, adapts the great book by Jonathan Harr. Robert Duvall and John Travolta. With a great supporting cast including James Gandolfini, John Lithgow, Tony Shalhoub and William H. Macy…

Amistad—Anthony Hopkins does a great turn as John Quincy Adams, one of the greatest men to hold the office of President. This is Steven Spielberg’s telling of Adams’s taking on the mutineers of the slave ship, the Amistad, post-presidency. In many ways as good as Schindler’s List and Lincoln in Spielberg’s historical canon. If you don’t get choked up with “Old Man Eloquence,” whose best days were when he returned to the House and defied the gag rule on slavery at each and every turn, I’d be surprised. JQA is the bomb!

Judgment at Nuremberg—Classic. A Stanley Kramer classic with Spencer Tracy, Burt Lancaster, and Maximillian Schell. To think this came out only 14 years after the trial makes it that much more powerful and poignant. And how about Judy Garland, Marlene Dietrich, Montgomery Clift to boot? Even Captain Kirk and Colonel Klink have roles (well, the actors playing those roles, I kid you not).

Yes, I know there are a lot of John Grisham movies out there. It’s practically its own genre. Some are actually pretty great thrillers, like The Client (has there ever been a bad movie with Tommy Lee Jones or Susan Sarandon?), The Firm (a Sydney Pollack thriller starring Tom Cruise), Runaway Jury (John Cusack, you bad boy…), and A Time to Kill (hats off to the truly odd Matthew McConaughey). Others are not so great e.g., The Pelican Brief.



After experiencing some blowback, AOC’s has attempted to clarify her position on Father Damien’s inclusion with all the other men in the Congressional statutory collection. Here is her latest:

“We have 100+ statues and portraits in the Capitol. Almost all of them are of white men. Every single statue there could be of a canonized saint and that *still* doesn’t change the fact that the erasure of women & BIPOC from American history is a feature of white supremacy.”

First, she is absolutely correct that the history of the Western world has been disproportionally reported as one of White men in positions of authority (just as in Asia it is dominated by Asian men and in Africa by Black men). So it is not surprising that these men, who were accorded greater privilege and position, would have achieved more of historic significance. Of course, that’s not the complete story of our history by any stretch. We as a society have made progress in changing this paradigm—and no doubt there is more to do. It probably is time for the States to reconsider the people they designate. For instance, I was shocked to find that Frederick Douglass—by any measure one of the greatest Americans—is not represented.

I think what AOC has not taken into account is that most of the men represented in the Capitol actually contributed meaningfully to the nation and/or to humanity. Others are not nearly as significant and their inclusion should be reconsidered. There are a few women represented but MORE should be (although I think Princess Lili’uokalani may not be one of them).

Here are some of the women already in the statutory collection:

Helen Keller

Mother Joseph

Maria L. Sanford

Sarah Winnemucca

Esther Hobart Morris

Jeannette Rankin

Florence R. Sabin

Frances E. Willard

Sakakawea (aka, Sakajawea)

By the way, here is a quick list of the Native Americans and Latinos in the collection, just based on names:

Dennis Chavez

King Kamehameha I (Hawaiian, but native!)


Chief Washakie

Chief Standing Bear


Sarah Winnemucca (also a woman)

Sakakawea (also a woman)



There really is no excuse for the veneration of figures who defended slavery and/or were leaders of the Confederacy. Here are the four most immediately recognizable. I’ve noted the State that should be designating someone more worthy to represent them:

Jefferson Davis (Mississippi)

John C. Calhoun (South Carolina)

Alexander Hamilton Stephens (Georgia)

Robert E. Lee (Virginia)

Just focusing on worthy women from South Carolina’s history only, here are a few South Carolinians who could be good substitutes for John Calhoun:

Mary McLeod Bethune—Daughter of slaves 10 years after the end of the Civil War, decided early on that education was the key to ending the cycle of poverty. Served as Special Advisor on Minority Affairs to FDR.

Mary Chestnut—Famous diarist of the Confederacy during the war. Probably not a good choice; although her contribution to the history of the time is legendary.

Septima Poinsette Clark

Marian Wright Edelman—First woman admitted to Mississippi Bar and Founder of the Children’s Defense Fund (but she’s still living and probably therefore not qualified)

Shannon Faulkner—First woman to attend The Citadel, winning a Supreme Court case to do so.

Althea Gibson—World class tennis star

Eartha Kitt

And then, of course, there’s that favorite daughter of South Carolina, Vanna White…



Please check out my article in this week’s Jewish Journal:



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