Wednesday, September 14, 2016

A List for Watching Westerns for People Who Haven't Watched Westerns

If you aren't fairly familiar with the Bible (Torah, Writings, New Testament) you will be face-blind to the whole of Western history, philosophy, and literature before about 100 years ago. By the same token, if you aren't handy with the peaks and feel of Westerns, you will not understand cinema before the 1980s or cinema by people who came to love film during that time. 

Westerns pre-80s were just a vehicle for all the other genres of the time. There were kitchen table dramas, romances, cultural-political examinations/commentaries, detective stories, revenge stories, bright lights big city stories. It would be more reasonable to lump Star Wars and Gattaca together as "two common examples of SciFi" than to willy-nilly lump any movies with a horse in them as a "Western".

All Westerns share a similar stereotypical setting: They are set at a time before the pre-eminence of the automobile (City Slickers isn't a "Western") and in a place west of the Mississippi. That said, there are, very broadly, two kinds of the Western: First, there's the Mythos Western, the default. It has heroes not far divorced from those of the serials of the 20s and 30s. There are standard heroes with a close relationship to law and order, as well as anti-heroes who nevertheless land on the right side of morality. Such law that exists is embodied in a few men (and fewer women) who stand up to enforce it - either with or without a badge. So, Revenge Stories are pretty common. But so is the story of the hero who stands up for the Right even though no one thanks him for it. 

But, at least as early as the 40s, a new kind of Western began to appear that was created for people who grew up on Mythos Westerns. The Anti-Mythos. They were complex people, often on the wrong side of the argument. These movies turned a mirror on the Mythos heroes to consider their problematic facets. They often considered what a true hero is. But to appreciate this second kind of Western, you need understand the feel of the Mythos kind. There's no hard recipe for the latter. You have to stew in them for a while. So my list starts with the Mythos stories and then moves on to the ones calling out and riffing on the Mythos stories.

1. True Grit (Coen Bros) - Since this is a getting-started list, the Coen's will ease you into it gently.

2. Tombstone - In many ways, this is an unremarkable Mythos Western but Val Kilmer's performance is stand-out.

3. True Grit (John Wayne) - Now your ready to take on John Wayne's performance in this movie. It's a revenge story. Robert Duvall, is Lucky Ned Pepper, the boss villain, and this is one of the two movies where Dennis Hopper dies in John Wayne's arms. Also, Glenn Campbell and Kim Darby.

4. Gunsmoke (TV show) - Just start with "Bloody Hands", "Seven Hours to Dawn", and "The Jailor" (with Betty Davis). What people forget is that Gunsmoke was launched as an "adult" drama series in a Western setting.

5. Maverick (TV show) - The "Gun Shy" episode with James Garner's Maverick (there were four Mavericks in the series including James Bond's Roger Moore as "Cousin Beau"). The episode makes fun of the motif's of the Gunsmoke series, such as why everything in town seems to gravitate around the four major characters, the long-view street shoot-outs, etc. This is Anti-Mythos but we'll put it here since this episode is so enjoyable to watch after a fresh watching of Gunsmoke. Essentially, the entire Bret Maverick character uses the Mythos Western hero as a foil. Think of your classic Western Hero from the serials, such as Tom Mix, or think of Gary Cooper. Or better yet think of Errol Flynn's hero in Captain Blood: smooth, earnest, noble. Now imagine the Captain Blood comedy sidekick character, Honesty Nutall, got his own show. That's Maverick in a way. Bret Maverick is lazy, cynical, conniving, and not the sharpest tool in the shed. He's competent if he has to shoot it out and he's smarter than most of his marks when he plays cards. But he's not a tough cookie per se. If he wins a physical encounter, it is by employing some tactical advantage. Garner's trailer-residing detective character, James Rockford, is a modern continuation of Bret Maverick. 

6. Stagecoach (John Wayne) - All I'll say is that it probably is not what you expected.

7. High Noon - Gary Cooper is a town sheriff. Some time ago, he busted an outlaw that terrorized the town. Now the outlaw is out of jail and he and his gang are coming back for revenge. The town collectively decides they don't want to help him. As I said, This is a common example hero in Mythos Western. The one man standing for the Law when no one else can or will, and no one cares if he does or not. This was remade as a snoozy SciFi movie, Outlands, starring Sean Connery.

8. 3:10 To Yuma (1957) -  Same heroic theme as High Noon. A guy is offered the chance give up his life to protect money that isn't his. A Western The Narrow Margin.

9. Hombre - Same heroic theme as High Noon. Based on an Elmore Leonard novel, Paul Newman is a white man raised on an Apache reservation on a stage coach with really awful people. He finds himself constantly in the position of having to protect these people and the whole thing evolves into a kidnapping/ransom caper.

10. High Plains Drifter - In this movie, Clint Eastwood puts a twist on the theme from High Noon3:10 to Yuma, and Hombre. I won't give any details since they would be spoilers, but it deserves its R-rating and would probably never, ever be made in America today.

11. The Quick and the Dead - Sam Rami's straight Mythos Western. Gene Hackman, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Sharon Stone (as a dead-eye gunslinger out for revenge). It's comic-booky but very watchable. 

12. The Man from Laramie - Jimmy Stewart revenge story. If almost anyone else had done this movie it would be pure Mythos Western. But Stewart can never portray that sort of character. It has hints of Lee Marvin's Point Blank.

13. Nevada Smith - Steve McQueen searches the West for the outlaws who murdered his parents. However, this story considers the cost of exacting that revenge. The Red Dead Revolver video games owe almost as much to this movie as they do Clint Eastwood movies.

14, 15, 16. Fist Full of Dollars Trilolgy - FFoD, For a Few Dollars More, and The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. These are Mythos Westerns but the first one is a remake of Kurosawa's Yojimbo which was a retelling of Dashiell Hammett's Red Harvest. which was also adapted as the unremarkable Bruce Willis film, Last Man Standing. Maybe the Coen Brothers' Miller's Crossing owes a little to Hammet.

17. Magnificent Seven - Mythos Western remake of Kurosawa's The Seven Samarai.

Now you've got a solid grounding in the Mythos Western, so you're ready to see the Anti-Mythos movies that play against your established expectations.

18. Red River - Directed by Howard Hawks, John Wayne's character is subversive to the stereotypical Mythos Western hero and the movie turns the Revenge story on its ear. This is also considered a touchstone of gay Hollywood.

19. Shane - An honoring, deconstruction, and rejection of the heroes of the Western serials. Joey Starett is a stand-in for the kids in the theater seats when those movies played. The film considers "Who is a real hero? The icon of Saturday afternoon fantasy who descends on trouble at dawn and leaves at sunset? Or is it  the guy who slugs it out everyday for a woman, his children, and his community?" One of the landmark fight scenes of cinema.

20. The Searchers - Directed by John Ford. This is John Ford's Unforgiven. He had directed dozens of movies where settlers killed Indians who flung themselves carelessly into bullets. This movie examines the racial bigotry that underlied those movies. It is interesting that John Wayne - who is considered the standard for the Mythos Western hero - has so often been involved in landmark movies that directly unfavorably comment on and subvert the Mythos.

20. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance - John Ford reinterpreting the West again. Here John Wayne is the Old West gunslinger who takes Jimmy Stewart under his wing: an attorney devoted to bringing civilization and law to West. Again, "Who is the hero?" The guy who kills every bad guy he meets or the guy changes the whole game that allows bad guys to operate without limitation?"

21. Unforgiven - Directed by and starring Clint Eastwood. It deconstructs the Western  (and perhaps the Dirty Harry movies) where all disputes are settled with guns and murder with little consequence, and revenge is mercilessly exacted despite the fact that in real life the details would be much more muddy. Tarantino and DiCaprio's recent Westerns and the Deadwood series have taken no education from Unforgiven. They are good in their way but they display no more comprehensive knowledge of the so-called "genre" than Jonah Hex comics.

Extra Credit

The Lone Ranger (2013, Disney) - Armie Hammer as the man with the silver bullet. Johnny Depp at his Indian friend Tonto. This movie faces an uphill battle because it can make some people of a certain worldview feel uncomfortable. Depp is an Anglo actor playing an Indian. Whether Tonto had the role of subservient side-kick or magical enabler, it was going to be a bit offensive. Depp sidesteps this by making his character insane, an object of contempt in his tribe, and maybe not even a human being at all but a sideshow manikin animated by the Great Myth of the West. 

Zorro (TV Show) - I never got a chance to try watching this series with my kids when they were young enough to enjoy it. No streaming yet. But it might be worth it to try now. Find a grade-schooler and see if these stories have aged as well as I think they have. It stars Guy Williams, "Professor John Robinson" from Lost In Space.

Zorro, the Gay Blade - The benefit of a mild familiarity with the Zorro TV show is that it will add to the pleasure of watching this wonderful, wonderful film that is to Western serials what Young Frankenstein was to Horror.

5 Card Stud - A murder mystery starring Dean Martin, Robert Mitchum, Roddy McDowell, and - really worth seeing - Yaphet Kotto.

Monday, August 29, 2016

On Sally Hemmings

Sally Hemmings of course, was the slave and (candidly) baby-mama of six children by Thomas Jefferson, four of whom survived until adulthood. The two oldest, simply left Monticello when they became adults and moved to Washington DC where they disappeared from the historical record. The oldest, Harriet, passed as a white woman. The two youngest, who were not 21 when Jefferson died, were freed in his will. But since Jefferson's estate was heavily in debt, it took an actual act of the Virginia congress to ultimately pull it off. It turns out that being Jefferson's child wasn't all bad. (That's sarcasm.)


That issue of  Harriet "passing as a white woman" is quite ironic and reveals how pernicious and corrupting was the system of racial slavery in the US. Harriet was legally a slave and "negro" because her great-grandmother was an African slave who had had at least one child (Harriet's grandmother) with a white sea captain. The captain allegedly tried to purchase her great-grandmother and his daughter, but the owner wouldn't sell for whatever reason (maybe the owner had children by her as well). All Harriet's grandfathers in her maternal line were white men and, of course, all her paternal grandmothers and grandfathers were white.


But it goes beyond that: Harriet's mother Sally Hemmings, Jefferson's life partner since the death of his wife, was Jefferson's sister-in-law. She was the half-sister of his wife by their father, John Wayless. Wayles was the ultimate owner of Harriet's grandmother, Betty, and her great-grandmother - his wife received Betty, as a wedding present from her father. Since it was legally stipulated in the transfer that Betty was always to be the legal property of Wayles's wife or her children, it seems that Betty was considered family. After his wife's death, Wayles and Betty, Harriet's grandmother remember, had six surviving children (including Sally who was inherited by her half-sister, Jefferson's wife).

All this demonstrates that slavery in US, and then in the South where it persisted, involved generations-long bondage of people by their intimate relatives.

Since the importation of slaves was banned by Federal Law in 1808 (the US Constitution prohibited the government from banning it any earlier), all slaves born after were born in America. Had state laws not been imposed to prevent estates from freeing their slaves if they were not entirely debt free and other hurdles, it is hard to imagine that slavery could have survived beyond the 19th century.

There could have been good motivations for these laws as well as bad ones. Imagine an unscrupulous owner who opted to make his farm more efficient by "benevolently" freeing slaves who were too old or infirm to work. A law ostensibly intended to protect such people, however, harmed young, hale, family-aged slaves, who coincidentally were those that Southern established institutions feared most. This was referred to at the time as The Problem of Slavery: How to free all the slaves without any socio-economic-political disruption of current norms - which of course was not possible.


In the early 1830s, chronicler Alexis de Toqueville, encountered an owner who had spent his waning years trying fruitlessly to free his children before his death.
I happened to meet an old man, in the South of the Union, who had lived in illicit intercourse with one of his Negresses and had had several children by her, who were born the slaves of their father. He had, indeed, frequently thought of bequeathing to them at least their liberty; but years had elapsed before he could surmount the legal obstacles to their emancipation, and meanwhile his old age had come and he was about to die. He pictured to himself his sons dragged from market to market and passing from the authority of a parent to the rod of the stranger, until these horrid anticipations worked his expiring imagination into frenzy. When I saw him, he was a prey to all the anguish of despair; and I then understood how awful is the retribution of Nature upon those who have broken her laws.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

At Fighting In the War Room, They Make a Mean Casserole

A message to the Fighting in the War Room podcast. Maybe my last. It's a trilogy.

Hmm #1 Why would your conservative listeners prefer you didn't inject politics into your discussions? Possibly because, at best, you end up talking about them like they belong in a zoo (you guys know that half the country voted for Romney, right?). I mean you've run across a conservative or two and it was nice, but not the *crazy* ones! (Given your attitude, do you think they'd tell you what they really think?)

Because you laugh at how conservatives are blackballed in Hollywood and Journalism because progressives are so intolerant - especially toward social conservatives. Ha ha! Lighten up, everyone!

Have you considered that your conservatives listeners kinda like you and would prefer you didn't portray yourselves in that light?

#2 Why is it painful for conservatives to listen to you guys mix politics and pop culture since Joanna has a token conservative friend with whom she enjoys discussing the political angle of movies? Because when the 4 or 5 of you talk politics, there is no discussion. You all essentially agree. You're just nodding at each other. It makes you sound smug. Apparently, David E. couldn't even HAVE a civil conversation of any sort with a social conservative. Joanna said it would break her heart to learn that an artist she likes doesn't agree with her about Hillary. Free your minds.

#3 How do your conservative and libertarian audience engage with pop culture? They appreciate music as music, literature as literature, film as film. They regard artists as artists. They don't reduce people (no, not even the black ones or gay ones) to a political cypher. They take their arguments -- even ones they disagree with -- at face value rather than reducing them to "Democrat B.S". I recall Bob Dylan answering critics (haters) who objected to him playing songs on his radio show from time to time with religious content. He told them , "Try just appreciating it as music." But conservative fans go further than that. When I listen to Spoon's "Don't Make Me a Target", I know it's about George W. Bush and his foreign policy. So what? Doesn't he deserve his point of view? I enjoy it as a song. When I listen to Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land", I know more than most people that he intended it as a Marxist argument against private property. But when Obama shut down the national parks (and the ocean, and roadway views of Mt Rushmore and Mall monuments that didn't even have government minders) to win a political argument with the Republican Senate by holding America's heritage hostage, that song resonated WITH ME.  Good art outlives contemporary politics. Guthrie's music transcends any politics, even his own.

Your conservative listeners don't discount the work of an actor or director (or put an asterisk by their praise) based on her political opinions. They certainly don't see it as the righteous choice. I know some conservatives do that. If they're listening to your podcasts, they don't.

For a movie like "In the Valley of Elah" with an overt, tired political agenda? Yeah, that's tougher. But progressives don't line up to see that kind of movie either. When conservatives in your audience are aware that a movie is oh-so-not-so-cleverly injecting a progressive social message like the "X2" movie (not as a discussion but as a sermon), it's tiresome but conservatives deal with it the way most of them deal with YOU GUYS when you can't resist a political aside during your podcasts: How's that? Well...

Pretend you're black (I know this is a stretch) and you go with a white friend to a party of all white people. You hear them talking about the recent shootings of police and they are (reasonably) horrified. But it never occurs to any of them to discuss it in a wider context. Because they don't recognize that there IS a wider context. Not a legitimate one. But these are nice people. They welcomed you to their party. So you make excuses for them. "Well, I'm not going to stir things up because they just don't get it. They can't get it right now. They make a mean casserole though."

Conservatives FORGIVE you guys for being limited in your perspective and occasionally even small-minded. Even though your world is so small that you assume only ignorant people think Hillary Clinton ought to be in jail and that she ran around shutting down women after Bill harassed and raped them and she's been incompetent-to-a-non-entity in every job she's had and that all that disqualifies her from leadership.

I have a lot of very conservative friends (and progressives ones too! Crazy, I know) but I'd be appalled to have any of them say they couldn't be friends with someone who disagreed with them about abortion. I've never met one. I'm stunned to discover that David E. is so crabbed and narrow-minded. That's not sarcasm. I'm really surprised. Give that guy power and he'd be Robespierre. He makes a mean casserole though.

Addendum

I can understand anyone down-voting "The Passion of the Christ" on it's merits. Slow. Relentless. But then don't tell me what a master Werner Herzog is.

Bob Dylan's "Hurricane" is an amazing song. That violin makes you feel like you really are in a horrifying storm of injustice. The pacing of the story-telling is unsurpassed. Of course, the details of the story are completely unrelated to the facts of the actual murders and the case against Rubin Carter. It actually smears the bleeding-heart Liberal judge in the case. "The Ballad of Pretty Boy Floyd" also makes no attempt at being historically accurate. Who cares? I don't have to actually buy in to the belief that C.A. Floyd was a great guy to enjoy hearing the Byrds sing it.

David, check out the articles by the progressive Kristin Powers in the Daily Beast regarding Wendy Davis and Kermit Gosnell. You'll learn that not only is the circle of good people wider and more varied than you supposed, *progressivism* is too.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

The Traveller has come! What did you do, Joanna?!

Fighting In The War Room, a podcast I like, has done it again. Previously, I used them as a foil to rant against an irrational obsession with Girl Power when critiquing pop culture. Their consensus, at that time, was that we should cheer the work of female directors even when their work is not so great. Why? Because there aren’t enough female directors (by some weighted model) so any movie directed by someone identifying as female is a definitive Good based on that criteria alone. Ugh.

This time, the topic was the Ghostbusters all-female cast and the offender was the onliest Joanna Robinson of Vanity FairJoanna -- who didn't seem to like the movie at all -- expressed concern that the failure of this property would undermine support for genre movies with an all female cast. So, even though she says it’s not a good movie, she advised  audiences to “Go see it!”

Now, before I say anything else, I haven’t seen the movie. For all I know, I’ll love it when I rent it on Redbox. At the least, I’ve liked the work – to varying degrees -- of most of the core cast. The actual merits of the movie are not relevant to me at this point. This issue here is that the inestimable Ms Robinson thinks it’s a bad movie but never-the-less is recommending the poor and down-trodden common people support (with their inequitably distributed time and money) a product of a wealthy, powerful, cold-hearted movie corporation ONLY because they cynically remixed an old successful property with an all-female cast. That’s crazy. And it devalues the overall recommendations of this prominent female pop-culture columnist. That can’t be good. I suspect such writers slant heavily male. Can we really afford to sacrifice Joanna Robinson for the sake of the profitability of a major patriarchal media empire?

Secondly, her premise is dubious. Is it really believable that a production company would pass on a vehicle with an ensemble cast of proven bankable female stars because Ghostbusters didn’t do well? No. However, it might be a valid warning regarding lazily rebooting a franchise thus:
“Lets revive a thirty-year-old property with an all-new cast. Now how do we make it fresh? Let’s reverse the genders of the cast. Done.”
Arguably, Ghostbusters is contemptuous of female-core casting. The Female Ghostbusters compels proven funny women to slavishly service in a novelty homage to a story written for male actors decades ago -- a time (the 80s) when male-female roles were far more backward than they are today. Why couldn’t these women have been employed in a NEW genre movie that isn’t tied to a property invented, designed, and well-worn by MEN? We wouldn’t have watched these four female actresses in that?

And in joylessly converting Ghostbusters to an all-woman cast, the writers have locked every other aspect of the thirty-year old movie in place. We need one –and only one—black ghostbuster because that’s what the original had. A Polynesian-looking ghostbuster? An Indian ghostbuster? No! That would be nuts! We can change genders but there needs to be four ghostbusters and three of them must be white! 

Assuming Joanna is right about the quality of this movie, the fanboys who reflexively denounced this movie’s concept on social media were right…100% right. 

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Blogger Reimagines His Family as Disney Princesses

Snow White and Aurora

These orphan girls (Aurora thought she was an orphan) were forced to take their naps by baddie old ladies. Not dirt naps, but nice comfortable feather bed naps that came with handsome man alarm clocks.
IF THEY WERE MY NEPHEWS



They would be a gruff but lovable Middle School teacher and a scarlet haired hipster. And check out those beards. Watch out for chaffing, princes

Belle, Jasmine, and Pocahontas

These strong-minded young women were put in perplexing situations by their family meddling in their romantic choices.


IF THEY WERE MY DAUGHTERS
They would have left a trail of thousands of bodies behind them on Xbox. Disney offers lots of opportunities for kids to interact with princesses online. But if these princesses were my daughters, you would never want to meet them online. Online, they would be serial-murdering psychopaths.

Rapunzel

This coiffured lass was locked in a tower by an evil witch and had to turn her own hair into a stairwell.


IF SHE WERE MY BROTHER

She would live in a fourth floor walk-up in West Harlem which, it turns out, is a good deal harder to get in and out of. And if Rapunzel ever did without hot water for half a year while her witch landlord secured the proper permits to fix it it and then trudged through small claims court for the rest of the year to work out the rent, that part ended up on the cutting room floor.



Friday, May 27, 2016

Corporations Are People

You say corporations aren’t people. If corporations aren’t people then they don’t have Constitutional rights. Only people have Constitutional rights.

In that case, the New York Times corporation doesn’t have First Amendment rights. The NAACP doesn’t have standing to file law suits for civil rights violations. In that case, the government doesn’t need a warrant to enter the property of the Sierra Club and peruse their membership files or bug their phones. If corporations are not people then they can’t own property. They can’t enter into contracts.

English Common Law has always treated corporations as people for the purposes of the law. Boston and other colonies were founded by corporations. If corporations are not people, where did all the people in the Massachusetts Bay Colony come from?

Typically, no one claims corporations don’t have *those* rights. They usually argue that they merely don’t have the rights (especially free speech rights) that they don’t want them to have. It’s very picky-choosey.

But what is a “corporation?” Where do they come from? Do they condense from the morning fog or spontaneously generate from rotten meat? Answer: Corporations are PEOPLE who have combined their after-tax labor, resources, and stored labor (money) in order to accomplish some endeavor, such as making a profit, performing some public good (as they see it), or effecting political change. Corporations are legal fictions representing actual, distinct people. They inherit their constitutional rights and the right to act in the political sphere (as when the New York Times endorses a candidate) from the people they stand for.

If we revoke our own ability to cooperate together in the physical sphere, we hand control of our government to whoever has taken its reins at any time. Because those people certainly act in concert with privileges and powers not available to any other human association. And those people are not disembodied parties or departments, nor esoteric goals, nor angels descended from Heaven. They are politicians and bureaucrats who have very particular ideas of what is best for the rest of us formed from their own PERSONAL interests (it’s THEY the People; not WE the People).

As De Tocqueville said in “Democracy in America”:
“Among democratic nations it is ONLY by private associations that the resistance of the people to government can ever display itself; so [governments] always look with ill-favor on those associations that are not under its power. And it is remarkable that among democratic nations, the people themselves often entertain a secret feeling of fear and jealousy against these very associations which prevents the citizens from defending the very institutions that they so greatly need.”

The “Citizens United” Decision

“Citizens United” was a small media company that wanted distribute a film that would influence political debate just as Paramount and Miramax do and have done; just as national newspapers do. Unfortunately for them, they were not powerful, wealthy, connected big-shots like those corporations. They were a small media company. So when they tried to distribute a film about the politician Senator Hillary Clinton, the FEC prevented them from doing so.  The FEC ruled that advertisements for the film constituted a violation of the McCain–Feingold Act that prohibited broadcast, cable, or satellite communications that mentioned a candidate within 60 days of a general election or 30 days of a primary (essentially everything any network or cable news organization does). Senator Clinton had not yet officially declared that she was a candidate in the primary, but the FEC ruled that the law applied because they *assumed* she would be.

To understand the degree to which the Supreme Court’s final decision protected American civil rights, it is important to note that the Obama administration’s Solicitor General argued that the FEC could ban print books published or distributed by a corporation or union that had a single sentence expressly endorsing or calling for the defeat of a candidate. Further, he said that the government could ban the digital distribution of political books over the Amazon Kindle or prevent a union from hiring a writer to author a political book.

Friday, March 4, 2016

The Crucifixion of the Executive

Subtitle: Time Is a Quagmire


This is post was initiated upon reading Donald Trump's interview in Time where he said he couldn't say for sure whether he would have done what President FDR did and interned American citizens of Japanese-decent during World War II.

The legal argument is easy: There is no Constitutional authority for the US government to imprison Americans when they have done nothing wrong.

But, of course, FDR didn't really give a hoot about the Constitution and that's how we got the New Deal. And if I read Mr Trump right, he's probably the same. He'll come up with argle-bargle to justify whatever he decides wants to or has to do. It is a contemporary political quirk that the interment of Japanese in WWII is a such a dangerous third rail, but President Obama does not suffer for assassinating/executing an American and his 16 year old son in Yemen because that American was speaking his mind in ways that was punching holes in the current administration's foreign and domestic security policy. So... so much for the the Constitution.

The easiest attack on any executive decision is to wait for something bad to happen that can be tied to that decision. The context of the decision will be mostly lost. The bad events will be viewed within the narrow perspective what what historically happened. Not with the uncertain future that was faced when the decision was made. The best defense in that case of any person given the responsibility of Decision-Making is the one that is so hard it is almost pointless: What would have happened if we had not done it? This is especially vexing for the executive when there was no vigorous resistance against the decision at the time (or even general, positive approval ala The Iraq War).

So, that's a question I want to ask here, What was the possible downside to not interning Japanese? What might have happened?

Nobody at the time knew of the event that probably had the greatest single impetus for the decision to intern all Japanese: The Battle of Ni'ihau. In summary, a Japanese pilot was shot down during the Pearl Harbor Attack. He landed on the tiny remote, rural Hawaiian island of Ni'ihau. The residents had no direct contact with the mainland and didn't know initially about the attack. On this island there were exactly three people of Japanese descent, the only people who could directly converse with the pilot and knew immediately about Pearl Harbor. Two Americans and one immigrant. All three quite quickly began to conspire for the pilot -- eventually, violently -- against their neighbors.

Why did the Federal government keep the details of the event secret until 1956? Likely, because revealing that 100% of Japanese on the island of Ni'iahu quickly turned against the US it would have led to a panic that would have then led to an effective genocide of  all people of Japanese heritage in the US -- maybe of all Chinese and anyone who looked like they might have been Japanese.

What if the Defense Department had considered the Constitutional rights of Japanese Americans and opted to not treat Japanese Americans as an active security threat? And then suppose (as was almost inevitable) a Japanese American was caught conspiring with the enemy to do something that cost American lives? What would have been the public reaction then? Would you have wanted to be one of the tiny minority of Japanese-descended people in America in that case? This happened with German Americans in both WWI and WWII, but if you were an American of German descent, you could just change your last name and move. Japanese couldn't just Americanize their names and manners and move on. There were other reasons I think for why German Americans proved to be view as less of a risk than Japanese immigrants and citizens.

But the question remains, Did FDR's decision prevent an event that would have led to an irreparable stigma on all Japanese within the United States?

The problem is that the answer is unknowable. FDR's illegal act might have had a better practical result than following the Constitution. Or it might not. It is more that merely arguable that the Japanese on a remote island (technically American soil but it probably didn't feel that way) were not a good proxy population for the Japanese living in San Francisco. The reason we have a Constitution that is not supposed to be malleable to contemporary events is that it will constrain the government from acting (without the difficult process of obtaining an Amendment) when certain authoritarian courses of action seem like such a good idea.