J. Edgar Hoover

Whatever respect you feel for Clint Eastwood, Leonardo DiCaprio, or even Warner Brothers (its distributor), I think you know that a $35 million dollar movie about J. Edgar Hoover, running over two hours (it often feels longer), is going to face this issue: Are we going to see Hoover in drag? You can argue that many things about this man are more important, but a movie is a movie. It depends on things it can show us, and this one runs the risk of “explaining” Hoover’s vicious pursuit of power (or his overcoming of insecurity) in terms of sexual repression.

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From the newly-released Watergate grand jury testimony of former President Richard Nixon (June 23 and 24, 1975). On big things and little things:  "One of the weaknesses I have, and it is a strength in another way, I am quite single-minded. Some people can play cards and listen to television and have a conversation at one time. I can't.

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Elmer Pratt, the prominent Black Panther known by his nom de guerre, Geronimo ji-Jaga, died at 63 on June 2 in Tanzania. He had served 27 years in prison in Los Angeles for murder, the first eight in solitary confinement, and had been denied parole 16 times before his sentence was vacated and he was freed.

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Watching the wake for Martha Coakley on television Tuesday night, I saw John Kerry hobbling into the Sheraton Boston ballroom, his crutches supporting the hip replacement he'd had last week. What a difference between this very serious and cerebral senator and the lightweight who aspired to join him in the upper house of the U.S. Congress. I allude to two efforts by Kerry to reveal facts that others would prefer to leave undisturbed. The first is a scandal of history. It has been quite evident that J. Edgar Hoover pursued Martin Luther King, Jr. in his life and after his murder.

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It's taken countless hours of TV crime-drama ("Crime Story," "Miami Vice") and nearly a dozen feature films (Heat, Collateral, Miami Vice again), but in John Dillinger, Michael Mann may finally have found an ideal vessel for his particular vision of masculine cool: stylish, charismatic, unflappable, adept at violence but not hungry for it. After spending nine years in prison for his rookie robbery (a grocery-store heist that allegedly netted him $50), Dillinger emerged in May 1933 to launch perhaps the most storied crime spree in American history.

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Secrecy and Safety

Bush's Law: The Remaking of American Justice By Eric Lichtblau (Pantheon, 384 pp., $26.95) I. In May 1940, defying a congressional ban, President Franklin D. Roosevelt secretly authorized warrantless wiretapping inside the United States. His attorney general, Robert Jackson, had ordered a halt to the wiretapping a few months earlier, after the Supreme Court made clear that the Communications Act of 1934 prohibited it. But when J.

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White Teeth by Zadie Smith (Random House, 462 pp., $25.95) A genre is hardening. It is becoming easy to describe the contemporary idea of the "big, ambitious novel." Familial resemblances are asserting themselves, and a parent can be named: he is Dickens. Such recent novels as The Ground Beneath Her Feet, Mason & Dixon, Underworld, Infinite Jest, and now White Teeth overlap rather as the pages of an atlas expire into each other at their edges.

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Uneasy Holiday

There was always a special patriotism to the speeches of Martin Luther King. No other American orator could bring audiences to their feet by reciting three full stanzas of "My Country, Tis of Thee." From there he often soared across the American landscape in perorations calling on freedom to ring "from the granite peaks of New Hampshire . . . from the mighty Alleghenies of Pennsylvania . . . from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado . . . from Lookout Mountain in Tennessee! Let it ring . . .

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He Was a Man of Principle

Headline, New York Times, September 10, 1962:  GENERAL WALKER SEIZES CAPITAL;    TANKS CIRCLE THE WHITE HOUSE;       NEW JUNTA PROMISES ELECTIONS From a “Letter from Washington, The New Yorker, September 22, 1962. Even in this blasé capital, there were some eyebrows raised by the whirligig of events that have made Major General Edwin A. Walker the provisional President of the United States until—or so his aides inform us—new elections are held in 18 months. That the army had become increasingly involved in the perturbations of politics had been known.

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Faithful to its responsibilities and unintimidated by the constables of church or state, the picture industry continues to battle on the social barricades. In this summer of coups d’etat, assassination, war and the threat of war, Hollywood has discovered that crime never pays and that history has inflicted a vile libel on the memory of the American Indian. The alarming message sent us by J. Edgar Hoover in the preface to “The Street with No Name” is that America is threatened by gangsterism of unprecedented ferocity.

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