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Line-walking magistrate is out for justice

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By G. Michael Dobbs Managing Editor An intriguing British drama and a thought-provoking documentary are in this week's DVD column. City of Vice This British television series may sound on paper as slow going, but it really is quite the opposite. In the mid-1750s, acclaimed British novelist Henry Fielding he wrote "Tom Jones," among other books, plays and pamphlets and his half-brother were appointed magistrates for part of London. At the time, they had a constable who brought in criminals, but there was no organized police force. They worked to create one and this television series depicts how they did it and what British justice was like. The position of the British government at the time as presented by the series was that in a free society a police force wouldn't be tolerated. Only dictatorships had police. Fielding was apparently appalled at the conditions of life in London at the time. If you didn't have money to insulate yourself, you led a hardscrabble life. The five episodes of this mini-series that was broadcast earlier this year on British television are richly produced stories that reflect those terrible times. Although the producers admit using creative license, they crafted the series from Fielding's own writings of his experiences. Ian McDiarmid best known as the evil emperor from "Star Wars" plays an all-too-human Henry Fielding. He drinks a little too much. He has a scandalous second marriage that isn't too happy. He wasn't adverse to torture to achieve a confession. Yet his sense of justice and his desire to actually improve the quality of life in London drove him to getting Parliament to give him funds for a rudimentary police force. The show's episodes depict cases in which Fielding and his brother exercise their investigative skills. While the crimes themselves are no grimmer than what is on the various "C.S.I." shows, the language typical for British television is "colorful." They swear. They swear a lot. So if historical dramas are of interest to you, seek out "City of Vice." Uncounted: The New Math of American Elections I'm sure that many voters who call themselves "conservatives" might want to dismiss this 2007 documentary as merely a whine about how the Democrats lost the last two presidential elections. If that's the case, they are doing themselves a disfavor because this film isn't about ideology as much as it is about upholding out rights as voters regardless for whom we vote. The film does use the last two presidential elections and the 2006 Congressional election as examples though of the issue of voter disenfranchisement through either having inadequate number of voting machines the situation in Ohio was examined closely in the film or by the adoption of electronic voting machines that have been shown to be easily hacked and manipulated. Although voter fraud has been a factor in American elections for years, the premise of the film is that American society should have transcended it by now. In the 21st century, though, the cheating doesn't come from people being paid to vote at multiple precincts under assumed names. Now large corporations sell governments electronic technology that can discard votes or flip them from one candidate to another. This is heady stuff and if you're not angry by the end of the film, then perhaps you believe winning an election for your side is more important than an election being the will of the voters. You need to see this film before this presidential election.

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