The shipyard painter, political activist and razor-sharp cartoonist Bob Starrett has just written a new book The Way I See It on his eventful life and times. Below we reprint one of his stories and review an essential read
Is it just a coincidence that the director's film about Lincoln hits the screen in the week of Obama's presidential inauguration
Coincidence or not - Spielberg's sanctimonious portrayal of Lincoln being released almost simultaneously with the second inauguration of Barack Obama's presidency?
Or is it simply a mighty fine time to give Old Glory a bit of spit and polish and emphasise the statutes of the Constitution the US has tarnished with its war on the world?
Written by Tony Kushner from a biography by Doris Kearns, Lincoln portrays all the double-dealing necessary to get the 13th Amendment outlawing slavery on the statute books before the civil war ended.
The prologue sums this up, with the improbable image of two black soldiers talking to camera in response to Lincoln's questioning about their role during the war and their hopes for the future.
Having said they enjoyed killing slave masters, they echo the same sentiments that would be articulated in Martin Luther King's famous dream and even hint at the possibility of a black president.
They walk away reciting the Gettysburg address. In reality, black soldiers weren't allowed to bear arms until the shortage of white recruits, as was recalled in Edward Zwicks's 1989 film Glory.
The question is asked by Lincoln as though he were Shakespeare's Henry V mixing with his troops before battle, only for the centre of the struggle to be shifted almost exclusively to Washington.
It's close to a one-man-show, with the great contortionist Daniel Day Lewis proving perfect as the tall, crook-backed politician who proved a master of the Machiavellian arts.
Among what seems to be a cast of thousands, Spielberg concentrates on the major players who vied for Lincoln's attention - his "mad wife" Mary (Sally Field), their sons and significant protagonists of the era.
They include his spin-master William H Seward (David Strathairn) who had to promote the ideals of staunch abolitionists like Thaddeus Stevens (Tommy Lee Jones) despite degrees of difference in the anti-slavery camp.
In the finale the principal characters read aloud the words of the 13th Amendment, as though to impress it on the popular psyche - like learning by rote.
Not that it ends there. As with Spielberg's Schindler's List, the epilogue is almost an advert for Israel as Abe tells Mary he would like to walk in Jerusalem before he dies.
At that moment, we witness not just principles being shaped by the demands of real-politik but Spielberg recruiting the most iconic US president in his personal commitment to zionism.