Wondering Whatever Happened To…For September 12

Wondering whatever happened to the women of The A-Team while pondering…

Is Hollywood Bereft of Ideas? – Earlier this week, plenty of branches of the media – the sports and entertainment worlds, in particular – were abuzz over the latest casting decision made in Tinseltown. Word has it that mixed martial arts (MMA) champion Ronda Rousey had agreed to join the cast of a reboot of the movie Road House, with Rousey taking on the iconic role originally portrayed by the late Patrick Swayze. Road House, for those that have been able to avoid the 975 broadcasts of the movie per day on cable, is the story of a highly educated bouncer who goes to a small Missouri town to “clean up” a bar, but has to deal with a dastardly crime boss while romancing said crime boss’ ex-girlfriend (there’s more, but I hate to provide too many spoilers).

Give Rousey credit, she actually contacted Lisa Niemi, Swayze’s widow, to ask if it would be OK for her to take on the role her husband had created in the 1989 movie (according to reports, Niemi was more than pleased to give her blessing). And it isn’t as if Rousey hasn’t been working her way onto the Big Screen previously. Starring roles in both The Expendables 3 and Fast & Furious 7 plus a cameo in Entourage have already paved the way in demonstrating that Rousey may have some bankable acting talent. But why couldn’t Hollywood come up with something original for Rousey to make her big-screen breakthrough?

The current trend for Hollywood to “reboot” or “reimage” movies and television shows is wrong in that it gives those who are supposed to be creative an easy escape rather than challenging them to new material. Movies less than a decade old such as the Spider Man trilogy and the Fantastic Four franchise have been “rebooted” not for any artistic purpose but simply to either double-dip at the trough because the movies or shows were ahead of their time (re:  the acceptance of superhero movies as money-making outlets) or to fleece their audience a second time. While it hasn’t made the airwaves yet, the NBC series Heroes Reborn smacks of this double dipping also.

Instead of letting the creativity muscle atrophy to the point it’s nonexistent, why not come up with original programming and movies rather than fall back on tried and true tropes? Why not venture outside the box and allow for new minds to come up with programming and movies that challenge their audience while entertaining them at the same time (the USA Network’s Mr. Robot was one of the few things I’ve seen this year that challenged its viewers mind)? While Rousey is more than able to take on the role of Dalton, she should have her own vehicle to carry her to stardom.

It’s Not about Your Color, But… – The U. S. Open in tennis its final stages, looking to crown champions in the final major of the year. Tennis powerhouse Serena Williams is looking to become the first person since 1988 to win all four of tennis’ Grand Slam events (the Australian Open, the French Open and Wimbledon alongside the U. S. Open) in the same calendar year (last achieved by Steffi Graf), truly a remarkable achievement. It was the treatment of another member of the tennis community at the hands of the New York Police Department that has garnered the news, however.

On Wednesday, retired U. S. tennis star James Blake – who was ranked #4 in the world at one point during his career – was waiting outside his hotel to head to Flushing Meadows, where he was to offer commentary on the tournament. Much to Blake’s surprise, he was rushed by an unknown person, slammed to the concrete and forced to lay handcuffed face down by the attacker. The person was an undercover police officer, who never identified himself but seemed to enjoy his apprehension of a violent criminal. That was until the person laying prone in the street in front of them was identified, however.

A retired police officer told the approximately six officers standing around Blake that they, in fact, had violently attacked and apprehended a former tennis champion, not the credit card fraudster (a white collar crime, not one you’d think of for such treatment) they thought they’d apprehended. What was truly reprehensible after the incident was that the officers didn’t report the incident to their superiors; it took Blake stepping up to requests for an interview from the New York Daily News before any mention of the incident became public.

The mayor of New York, Bill deBlasio, and NYPD Chief Bill Bratton fell over themselves with an apology to Blake. “I would be very interested in talking to him to extend my apologies,” Bratton said in a press conference after the incident came to light. “Mr. Blake had no role or involvement in the criminal investigation that we were conducting and was totally innocent.” Here’s the kicker, though:  Bratton went on to say that Blake’s skin color had nothing to do with how he was treated, that “if you look at the photograph of the suspect it looks like the twin brother of Mr. Blake.” I’m sure that’s the case, Chief, and that’s why your officers were so quick to report the incident to you…

Hell Freezes Over, Occasion #1 – There is no middle ground when it comes to Fox News and the opinions that people hold of the channel. Either everything they say is the gospel and should be followed by an “Amen” or they are the second coming of the Antichrist. Sometimes, however, one of the many talented anchors and/or opinion makers they employ steps off the usual script and surprises people.

On Tuesday, Fox News anchor/commentator Shepard Smith apparently forgot to check his in-box for the latest memos or he simply decided to think for himself. The discussion over the continued jailing of Kentucky court clerk Kim Davis – who at that time was still incarcerated for her refusal to do her job and issue marriage licenses to all couples, including those of the same sex – was at a boiling point (this was but a few hours before her release from jail) when Smith ripped off his commentary on the subject.

Smith stated that Davis’ refusal to do her job on religious grounds was but a publicity stunt aimed at drumming up supporters of “religious freedoms.” “We thought what this woman wanted was an accommodation, which they’ve now granted her, something that worked for everybody,” Smith said after telling his audience that a compromise – her clerks performing the duty – had been offered. “But it’s not what (Kim Davis and her attorney) want.”

“This is what they want, what you’re hearing now, and this what they’re going to get: stirred up argument and a couple of days in the news cycle,” he said. Smith also pointed out the hypocrisy of their argument, saying, “This is the same crowd that says, ‘We don’t want Sharia law, don’t let them tell us what to do, keep their religion out of our lives and out of our government.’” Seems as though Smith might have to go to the Fox “dungeon” for some attention…

Now to answer the question…what happened to the women of The A-Team?

Of course, The A-Team was a popular television show from the mid 1980s that focused on a crack military commando unit helmed by Colonel Hannibal Smith (the late George Peppard) that was convicted of a crime they didn’t commit. Along with Templeton “Face” Peck (Dirk Benedict), B. A. “Bad Attitude” Baracus (Mr. T) and H. M. “Howlin’ Mad” Murdock (Dwight Schultz), the team helped out those who could afford their services while trying to clear their name and get the U. S. Army off their back. As a part of that effort, a young reporter was a part of the show’s cast.

Amy Amanda Adams (portrayed by Melinda Culea) was a reporter who accidentally hooked up with The A-Team through an investigation she was doing background research. She became a valuable member of the team, often getting them access to certain areas and providing them with information on the parties they were attacking. Behind the scenes, however, the “team” wasn’t quite as tight as portrayed.

Culea wanted to expand her role in the show, even to the point of taking up arms beside her male costars, but the creators and producers of the show didn’t want to breach the fraternity of the military ensemble. After slightly more than one season on the show, Culea was written out of the show and had a semi-successful life afterwards as a guest star on such programs as Star Trek:  The Next Generation, Murder, She Wrote and Knots Landing. She last was seen on the silver screen in 2001, when she was in the movie Dying on the Edge.

Although Culea’s character would be mentioned on occasion, the producers still felt the show needed a female presence. With that in mind, Marla Heasley was brought in to portray another reporter, Tawnia Baker. Heasley confirmed the anti-female mentality of the program through two instances with Peppard and, by the start of the third season, she was gone as well. Although she later would appear in the movie The Marrying Man, Heasley was out of the industry by 1993.

A third female was given a shot in the fifth season, but she didn’t even reach beyond the introduction. Tia Carrere was supposed to play a Vietnam war orphan (The A-Team was supposed to be Vietnam War veterans) who would join up with the team on its missions but, due to conflicts with General Hospital (the ABC soap opera she was also performing on), Carrere was unable to take on the show following her debut. Following that disappointment, Carrere went on to have arguably the best career of the three actresses.

Carrere would be the paramour of Mike Myers’ character Wayne in the two Wayne’s World movies and had a long run in the syndicated television program Relic Hunter as the lead character Sydney Fox. Most recently, Carrere has earned two Grammy Awards for her performance of Hawaiian music and lives in Los Angeles where she continues to perform.

It’s Tough to Give the GOP the Benefit of the Doubt

Here we are, six months from whence the primaries for the 2016 election of our next President will be taking place, and I’ve yet to find some candidate to get behind. In the past, that person was pretty much self-evident and I could step into the ballot box on Election Day with a clear conscience as to whom I was voting for. Recently, however, it has been a difficult road when it comes to picking that one candidate.

When it comes to the Democratic side of the equation, it looks more like the Republican side has looked like for most of my life. In the past, the GOP normally had a hierarchy that ran as such:  if you lost to a Republican who became president in the previous election, the next time the office was open without a Republican incumbent, it was your turn to take the nomination. This has happened in the Republican Party for virtually the last 50 years.

In 1968 it was Richard Nixon (defeated by Kennedy in 1960, won nomination in 1968); 1980 brought us Ronald Reagan (a half-hearted try in 1976 to topple incumbent Gerald Ford, who took over after Nixon resigned) and 1988 brought us George Bush (or Bush I, lost to Reagan in 1980). In 2000, George Bush (Bush II) was an outlier in that he didn’t show any interest in running in 1996, but John McCain (defeated by Bush II in 2000) and Mitt Romney (defeated by McCain in 2008) picked up where he left off.

On the other side of the aisle, the Democrats normally throw a donnybrook when it comes to choosing their own nominee for President of the United States. 1968 saw a reluctant Hubert Humphrey step up after the incumbent, Lyndon Johnson, decided not to run for a second term (by law, he technically could have; he served the remainder of John Kennedy’s term from 1960 and only was elected once himself in 1964) and another bright star from Camelot, Robert Kennedy, gunned down in Los Angeles just as it looked as if he were to win the nomination. 1972 saw six different candidates enter with George McGovern capturing the hearts of Democrats over Humphrey, George Wallace, Edmund Muskie, Henry Jackson and Shirley Chisholm. This occurrence of multiple choices – and viable ones, not half-assed efforts – has repeated itself pretty much every time over the Democratic Presidential nominations since…except for this one, where it seems the parties have flip-flopped.

There’s very little choice in 2016 if you examine the Democratic nominees. While everyone might grouse over Hillary Clinton and the Titanic-load of baggage she has, the other candidates lack the ability to forge a way past her as Barack Obama did in 2008 (there’s also the instance that this is the Democratic Party’s payback to Clinton for being a “good soldier” in losing to Obama in 2008, something as shown previously to be something the GOP did often). Even the person most likely to have some power to go against Clinton, incumbent Vice President Joe Biden, doesn’t seem to have the heart for a drawn out campaign battle (understandable after the death of his son). Anyone thinking that Clinton won’t be the nominee when the Democrats hit Philadelphia next summer would be considered out of their mind, even with the problems hovering over her.

The 2016 GOP field is the one that is reminiscent of the Democrats in the “come one, come all” approach they’ve used in throwing the door open and allowing anyone to come to the party. In total there are 17 candidates as of September 2015 and, in theory, there should be something there for anybody in the election even if the candidate themselves aren’t viable. The actions of the candidates since the campaigning has begun full bore this summer hasn’t exactly shown that “something for anyone” feel and makes it very difficult to give any member of the GOP the benefit of the doubt going forward, however.

Over the past week, there were a couple of instances where members of the Republican Party could have made great inroads into showing that they were someone who could lead all citizens of the U. S., not just those from one party or the other. First there was the shameful assassination of a police officer in Houston, TX that, instead of being a chance to not only unify people behind law enforcement but also a chance to have a moment of commiseration with their Democratic opponents, some members of the conservative movement chose to attack. These attacks were picked up on by some of the Presidential nominees who, in trying to make inroads into Donald Trump’s lead, came up just short of insinuating that the “Black Lives Matter” groups were the spearhead for the number of police shootings.

If you are going to piss off about 35% of the population (and their supporters), that seems to be the way to do it. Fox News talk show host Bill O’Reilly stated, “Every time there is a controversy about an officer shooting a black person, they’re out there stirring the pot.” Conservative radio “host” (I’ll be nice here) Rush Limbaugh has out-and-out called the “Black Lives Matter” organizations “hate groups.” Meanwhile, some on the GOP slate of candidates are following this lead with their rhetoric as a way to get back in the good graces of the Trump-mad acolytes. (And this doesn’t count Trump’s previous insulting of the Hispanic community, which he continues to do; count another 15-20% of the electorate out there the GOP can’t count.)

While there have been some tremendously stupid rallying cries heard during these “Black Lives Matter” rallies (anytime you advocate for the killing of a segment of society, your rally should be shut down), there has actually only been one proven and one possible case where a black person gunned down law enforcement individuals due to prior grievance against law enforcement’s treatment of blacks. In December 2014, two New York officers were executed in their squad car by a maniac who actually stated that was his goal (the proven case) and the Houston case mentioned previously, where Shannon Miles “allegedly” (I say that for legal reasons; when you have videotape, it’s tough to debate) executed Deputy Darren Goforth while he fueled his squad car (the possible case). That is two out of the 85 deaths of law enforcement officers in 2015, not exactly an indicator of rampant incitement of the masses against law enforcement.

Second, there was the controversy regarding Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk who refused to issue ANY marriage licenses due to her religious objections to same-sex marriage. If there was a point for the GOP to demonstrate that they weren’t beholden to religion or religious groups, the opportunity to point out that Davis was violating her duties and should be jailed or fined was the one to take. Instead, the GOP fumbled over itself trying to placate the Religious Right.

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee was the worst, calling Davis’ jailing the “criminalization of Christianity” and the latest attack in the “War on Christianity,” insisting he will go to Kentucky next week to hold a rally/campaign stop at the jail where she is currently incarcerated. Senator Ted Cruz stated he stood with Davis “unequivocally.” There were some surprises such as former Senator Rick Santorum, who stopped short of criticizing Davis’ arrest but commended her stand on her “principles” and Scott Walker, who hemmed and hawed on both sides of the issue, as did Trump. No one on the GOP slate, however, held up following the U. S. Constitution, a familiar battle cry for the Republicans, instead kowtowing to the small religious wing of their party.

If they were to have shown some chutzpah, the GOP had a chance here to capture someone in the center, the “independents” that have to be captivated in order to win an election. If the GOP candidates had just stepped away from the religious question – as they are supposed to do with the separation of Church and State in the U. S. Constitution – they would have stated outright that Davis was violating the laws as they are on the book. They could have said, “Despite (my) personal feelings on the issue, the law of the land is the Constitution and, as such, she has to follow it.” How many did that? Exactly zero.

Instead of demonstrating that they are a party with 21st century ideas and people who can bring those ideas to the forefront, the candidates for President from the GOP instead fell back on mid-1900s (at the minimum) philosophy, when blacks “stayed in their place” and the addition of “In God We Trust” to our currency and the Pledge of Allegiance was allowed to fight off the “godless” Communists. Unless they can actually demonstrate that there are some original ideas left in the party, that there are those who can embrace the future and attack its problems with science, education and thought – and they have people who aren’t afraid to leave those that cling to the past with the intent on bringing it back – the GOP will not encourage me to pull the handle for them.

Religious Freedom Doesn’t Give You the Right to Break the Law

Two things we’ll establish from the start here. A long time ago (and I mean a LOOOONG time ago), I attended Butler University with the ambition of going to law school following completion of my undergraduate work. I enjoyed the pursuit of the truth, figuring out the “right” answer to an investigation (a court case) and, perhaps most of all, the debate that came along with the profession. Secondly, I’ve never had a particularly close relationship with religion; I’ve personally always believed that the separation of Church and State isn’t a flimsy one and, quite honestly, that religion doesn’t take science into its canon to be able to answer the myriad questions of life (“you have to have faith” isn’t an answer, unfortunately). Thus, the recent hubbub in the state of Kentucky has particularly intrigued me.

In June, the U. S. Supreme Court ruled on the constitutional right for same-sex couples to marry in the United States. After heartfelt and legally well-thought oral arguments from both sides, the Court decided by the slimmest of margins (5-4) that states could not deny those that sought to marry someone of the same sex that ability, basically asserting that marriage, under the “pursuit of Happiness” clause in the U. S. Constitution, was a right. As expected, the Court broke along philosophical lines, with the four conservative justices dissenting, the four liberal justices concurring and Chief Justice Anthony Kennedy, famous for being the “swing” vote in many decisions in front of the Court, joining the liberal justices and even writing the majority opinion in the decision.

This set about a shitstorm that only reached its apex last month. The state of Texas initially decried the ruling and, for a period, refused to issue licenses for same sex couples. The Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, Roy Moore, decided that the ruling by a court superior to his own wouldn’t apply to his jurisdiction. Both of these states decided, after further review and a look at the costs of pursuing a lengthy legal battle, that the issue was settled and apparently have reluctantly begun to issue the licenses. Then, last month, an elected official decided to take the fight the ultimate distance.

In August, a woman elected to the Rowan County, Kentucky Clerk of Courts office began refusing to issue licenses to same-sex couples, citing that it conflicted with her “religious beliefs” in “God’s authority” (as if issuing a piece of paper would sentence her to fiery pits of Hell). The woman, Kim Davis, did take the right approach in that she didn’t issue ANY marriage licenses in the county, even to those of the opposite sex, but that wasn’t going to hold up for long (in fact, when a lawsuit was brought against her by the American Civil Liberties Union, it was filed by two same-sex couples and two opposite-sex couples). Davis went to the U. S. District Court, which shot her arguments down and ruled she had to issue the licenses.

Give Davis her due, she does have a true commitment to her beliefs. She continued to appeal the decisions up the ladder to the Appellate Courts for the Sixth District and, eventually, to the desk of Chief Justice Elena Kagan, the overseer of the Sixth District and one of the nine Supreme Court Justices who made the ruling back in June. Kagan filed Davis’ request for a stay on Monday morning; the full Court declined to issue a stay without any comment early on Tuesday, with the previous decision by the District Court standing and ordering Davis to start issuing same-sex couples licenses or face ramifications.

The ramifications are potentially significant, especially for Davis. Should she continue to defy the “law of the land,” Davis could be forced from the position that the people of Rowan County elected her to hold at the minimum and, at the maximum, could be jailed for her refusal to issue a piece of paper. As it stands at this time, the offices of the Clerk of Court of Rowan County are darkened as Davis considers her next step.

There’s been quite a bit of discussion over “religious freedom,” the right to exercise your religious beliefs in society, and Davis’ fight is only the most recent example of the discussion. I personally have never thought this was a problem – Can you worship openly? Can you wear a religious medallion or trinket without having your head hacked off? Can you openly have holidays that are religiously based? If the answer to these questions are “Yes,” then you’re not being subjugated and you have “religious freedom.” – and it really isn’t a problem now except for the fact that the laws of the U. S. aren’t in relation with the beliefs of some of those religious factions. When it comes to operating the government – be it local, state or national – religious beliefs have to be left at the door.

Many like to state that the “Founding Fathers” brought the concept of democracy and the United States as a God-ordained and religiously ruled governmental philosophy. Truth be told, there couldn’t be anything further from the truth. You need some examples?

“Of all the animosities which have existed among mankind, those which are caused by a difference of sentiments in religion appear to be the most inveterate and distressing, and ought to be deprecated. I was in hopes that the enlightened and liberal policy, which has marked the present age, would at least have reconciled Christians of every denomination so far that we should never again see the religious disputes carried to such a pitch as to endanger the peace of society.” George Washington, 1792

“In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own. It is error alone that needs the support of government. Truth can stand by itself.”Thomas Jefferson, 1814

“The civil government functions with complete success by the total separation of the Church from the State.”James Madison, 1819

This is just scratching the surface. I could go on, but you get the point.

The oath that military members take upon enlistment says you will follow the orders of the Commander in Chief (the President of the United States) and defend the U. S. and the Constitution against all enemies “foreign and domestic” (maybe we’ll get into that one of these days). When you’re in the military, you don’t get to decide which orders you want to follow. You have to follow ALL orders (unless it can be proven that the order is an “illegal” one, a bar that is set very high and for good reason). Although Davis’ situation may not be as extreme as that of being in the military, as an elected official you also take an oath to uphold the laws of the United States and defend the Constitution.

Once an elected official takes that oath, they no longer have the right of refusing an action, order or law because of their religious beliefs because if you choose to serve in a public forum as an elected official, then you have to abide by the public law. . If the position is an appointed one, then there might be a different answer to the question, but that isn’t what has come up in any previous situation in Texas, Alabama or Davis’ situation in Kentucky. If we allowed for the “picking and choosing” of which laws people wanted to follow, the U. S. would descend into a chaos that would be unimaginable.

So what should be Davis’ potential punishment and the outcome of the case? I personally believe that jailing Davis would be the worst move possible in that it would only give certain groups a “martyr” to hang the hat of their cause on. A fine isn’t going to do any good either as those same groups would just head over to GoFundMe to start an ever-refilling account. There are only two actions that can be a just outcome for this case:  Davis can come out, state that she still holds her religious objections to same-sex marriage but will abide by the law and issue the licenses, or that Davis resigns her elected position in the Rowan County government immediately and a new person is elected.

There are some areas where the “religious freedom” argument can still be discussed. I am still personally debating the usage of the argument for individual businesses and, as of yet, have been unable to come up with a concrete answer for that situation. When it comes to Church and State, however, the concrete is quite firm in that never shall the twain meet. If we undermine that situation, then we move closer to a theocracy, something that U. S. citizens continually rail about with the government of Iran.