Monthly Archives: July 2012

The Outlook on Control of the Senate

The time has come the Walrus said

To speak of many things

Of Senates—Of races—and filibusters—

Of polls—and vicious slings

And why Harry Reid still reigns–

And whether liberty rings…

Now as I’ve said before the Electoral College seems to be leaning to a Romney win, but that win will mean nothing if the Democrats remain in control of even a house of Congress.  Keep in mind Obama is already blaming Republicans for doing nothing in Congress when it is the Senate under Harry Reid that is not bringing  any bills up for vote even though House has passed bills that the Senate needs to vote on (but remember, in defiance of all facts, the Republicans are obstructionists). 

So, while the presidency isn’t a sure thing (although the odds are in our favor) it might be best to look at the Senate races before we start ushering in a new era of conservatism with Romney.  (I’d look at the House but with the economy, the lack luster coattails of Obama and the threat of putting Nancy Pelosi back in charge, I don’t think we’re likely to lose the House).  Granted what we would really like is 60 votes to ensure we always have cloture on votes (we can get them voted on).  But I always figure there are seven or eight blue dogs (or at least a few Dems who have to run in 2014) hanging around so we’ll probably be in decent shape if we can get to 53 votes in the Senate. 

So where do we stand right now?

Well According to RealClearPolitics, based on current polls we are at 47 safe or leaning  Democrat seats and 45 safe or leaning Republican states (when you count the seats not up for a vote) and 8 tossups.

 

But as with all things there is always a deeper level. RealClearPolitics, like any news agency survives on advertising, and as such makes money the more it brings you back to their site. If they declared that the Senate was going to swing Republican and there is nothing you can do about, no one would bother to keep checking the Race for the Senate seats more than once a month.  Non-battles don’t get press….so it is in their best interest to have a wide definition of toss up so as to get more people looking for information.  It’s not lying but, it’s also not a straight reporting of the facts.

So let’s look at some of these Toss-Up States.  (Keep in mind I’m working off limited data here).

First a word.  Now with the Electoral College I’ve been using the assumptions that in the end undecided voters tend to break 2 to 1 against the incumbent.  This logic doesn’t always apply here.  There are several seats that are open. Further, will people be voting against the incumbent Senator or the incumbent party (i.e., Democrats)?  Now if the incumbent is a Democrat it might be easier to assume that the undecided vote will break for the challenger, but I can’t be sure of the 2 to 1 ratio.  Whereas as of right now, with the limited data I have, it might be safe to assume that if the incumbent is a Republican the undecided vote is probably going to split pretty evenly. 

You have Wisconsin.  Now the Wisconsin Republican Primary hasn’t been held for the Senate Race but currently it looks like Thompson is ahead by double digits and will likely face off against Baldwin…at which point Wisconsin continues to favor Republicans like Scott Walker and Thompson will win, possibly by double digits, in “toss-up” Wisconsin.  Dems 47-GOP 46.

 

Next we have Nevada, where Heller is consistently up even in heavily biased PPP polls. Granted, there’s nothing terribly recent in terms of likely voter polls…but I get the feeling that so long as we aren’t running a Palin picked candidate (liberal at heart Palin can sure pick losers) Nevada is probably tired of Democrats constantly insulting their state and hurting business.  Dems 47-GOP 47.

 

North Dakota comes next.

Yes in a more recent Mason-Dixon Poll the Democrats are up, but given that it’s within margin of error and given that it is currently controlled by a Democrat (hence the undecided vote will go against the Democrats), the anti-Obama feelings will likely push N. Dakota into the red column.  I’ll admit this is a weak prediction, but I don’t have a lot of data to work with here.  Dems 47-GOP 48.

 

We follow this with Missouri.

Now Missouri is a tad trickier…the GOP primary hasn’t taken place yet and there is no clear winner yet.  However, given that all three candidates outdo the sitting Democrat, it’s probably a safe call to say that Missouri is going to switch to the GOP.  Dems 47-GOP 49.

 

And to round off 50 votes we have Montana where Republicans lead in legitimate polls and hold their own in BS PPP polls.  Dems 47-GOP 50.

At this point with 50 votes the GOP would control the Senate as Romney’s VP (oh please let it be Ryan) would be the tie breaking vote.  But let’s look at the other races.

In Massachusetts we have Scott Brown vs. Elizabeth “Dances with Bullshit” Warren.  As Warren continues to dig herself a deeper and deeper grave with the Pow-Wow Chow, while still up in the air, I think Brown, with the help of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, should be able to pull out a win.  47-51.

 

Turning down South we hit Florida, the source of so many election headaches.

Now technically the polls show the Democrats up in all of the polls, but notice that one is PPP, which can just be thrown out, and the others are registered voter polls, which means move the final number two or three points to the right.  Another close Republican victory…assuming we don’t have a rigged recount Dade county again.

 

And of the toss up states all we have left is Virginia…which I have no idea. The most recent polls has the GOP up…but it’s one poll in a sea of polls having the Democrat up (much older polls) but I have no reason to not believe this most recent one is an outlier…time will tell.  So with Florida and Virginia we could be as high as 47-53 (but that is could, not will unless we dedicate time, energy and money to all of these).

 

Now let’s talk about some long shots.  Now Connecticut and New Mexico are close, not spectacularly close, but not out of the realm of possibility to see a shift. Depending on how much the GOP wants to spend and how much time Romney spends in these states (New Mexico especially, it’s a weaker state for Obama) I would not be surprised to see one of them turn (keep in mind the Connecticut seat is the one being vacated by conservative-Democrat Joe Lieberman…a liberal Republican could stand a chance).

 

 

And last but not least I want to talk about three really long shots. Ohio, Washington and California.  Ohio has Democratic Sherrod Brown defending his seat.  This is a man who has railed against the correct Supreme Court Citizens United decision since the day it was passed because it doesn’t allow him to have the advantage union money used to give him.  This corrupt piece of shit deserves to go down in whatever the political equivalent of the phrase “to the pain” is.  It is unlikely that he will lose his seat, but I would be very happy to this man go.  As for the two west coast states with a Senator up…they’re pretty safe…except that even liberals are getting tired of their rhetoric…and we could manage to pull off a Romney landslide (not impossible) that is if it is clear Romney will win hours before the California and Washington polls close that might be just enough to discourage liberals from coming out to vote and swinging those seats in our favor…long shots, but stranger things have happened.  My point with these last three are if you have some spare cash and want to make a long shot investment…look to the GOP senators in the West.

Overall we are looking at a safe bet of taking back the Senate…not have the 60 votes necessary to push everything through without making deals, but back in control to where we let things come up to vote.  But we are close enough that this is not a hopeless fight…we are close enough that giving all we have for every last vote will actually lead to results.  Now again this should not be taken as a call to relax…no, with every vote closer to 60 we get in the Senate, more and more conservative proposals can get through without Democratic compromises.  We need to get as close as possible, and time, energy and money will get us there.

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A Tale of Two Visions of America


Meanwhile you have the other guy saying:

I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.

Yes, Greek exceptionalism.  You buy that don’t you?  With the nation falling apart I don’t think even Greeks are dumb enough to believe in Greek exceptionalism…

 

But don’t worry, Barack does believe one thing about American is exceptional without question…himself…

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The Most Patriotic Film Ever: State of the Union

“I can be interested in the county, without being interested in politics.”

State of the Union?  Haven’t heard of it have you?  (If you have you have to admit you’re in the minority on this).  Which is odd—it’s Tracy and Hepburn!  How can you miss Tracy and Hepburn?  And in a Capra film too!  It also stars Angela Lansbury as the woman trying to break our eternal couple up, and control Tracy…Lansbury always plays the villain, be it the communist mother in Manchurian Candidate or the weekly serial killer who always frames others for her crimes in Murder She Wrote (there’s no other way to explain the body count), she always plays the villain…

So since you probably are not familiar with the plot, let me quickly sum up. Estranged husband and wife Grant and Mary Matthews are thrown together when Grant decides to move from a highly successful business career to taking a chance at running for President in 1948.  But first he has to get the Republican nomination.  At first he speaks from his heart…but when swayed by Lansbury’s Kay Thorndyke, the other woman, and a W.R. Hearst-esque media baron, he begins to play the games of politics he had previously hated.  Here we see Capra in full swing detailing the cynicism of voting bloc politics, of playing one minority off against other, of making deals for votes.  This nearly destroys him, and his chances for election, until he’s brought back to his senses by his loving wife. Whether he wins or not, the movie doesn’t cover.

It’s a good story, but what makes this film so patriotic is that Matthews at several points makes comments on what does and doesn’t work in America. The character of Matthews is actually given to making some very detailed speeches, (which I sadly could not find clips of on youtube, found a couple edited to seem to benefit liberal positions alone, but not the full speech).  It is in these speeches that you see the virtue of America praised, and our flaws acknowledged and combated.

Matthews: Well the next time you’re up there, Mr. Conover, look down.  Look down on Pittsburgh, for example, what do you see?

Spike: Smoke

Mathews: That’s right, smoke.  From the steel mills.   Miles and miles of steel mills.  But you see something else, too, don’t you?  Farms, factories, lumber, mines, railroads, business, management, labor.  Not one able to exist alone, but together, working together with courage and imagination.  That makes America.  That’s a great picture from the air.  Yeah but come down to Earth and walk into one of those meetings like that one in Cleveland, and what do you find? Farmers, cattlemen, lumbermen, business, labor, they were all there.  All working together?  In a pig’s eye.  All scared to death, all fighting each other.  Each out for the biggest bite in the apple.  Well, there aren’t that many bites in the apple.

[…]

Because you politicians instead of helping pull the country together are helping to pull it part, just to get votes.  To labor you promise higher wages and lower prices.  To business, higher prices and lower wages.  To the rich you say, “Let’s cut taxes”.  To the poor, “Soak the rich”.  To the veterans cheaper housing.  To the builders uncontrolled prices. [Italics added]

Notice that here the win-win mentality of rational self-interest and capitalism is stated.  That capitalism is dependant on numerous individuals working together, out of their own rational self-interest, but together.  Rather than the greed and irrational, short-sighted self-interest of “what’s in it for me politics” of promising this group or that group something.  Notice this is in 1948, before the post-war boom, before the boom of the early 60’s before the boom of the 80’s and 90’s…and yet it foresees that our “courage and imagination” are the things that will bring about this great prosperity.  It subtly implies the truth, that while socialism simply divides the apple between this group or that, it is capitalism and capitalism alone that creates wealth (not just distributes it) so that there is actually an apple for everyone.

Or when he goes to see the White House while considering his run, a man chides him for bluntly stating the White House needs a new paint job:

Bystander: Do you know who lives in that historic mansion [the White House]?

Matthews: Yeah the spirit of all those who fought for human dignity lives there.  Moses, Buddha, Confucius, Christ, Paul, St. Francis, Thomas Aquinas, Roger Bacon, Joan of Arc, Martin Luther, Plato, Homer, Dante, Shakespeare, Michelangelo, Pasteur, Newton, Galileo, Edison, Franklin, Lincoln, Washington, Jefferson, Crispus Attucks, Lafayette, Garibaldi, Bolivar, Kosciusko.  The martyrs, the saints, and the poets.  Civilizations past and present. Man’s whole history. His evolution from worm to animal to Einstein, his long search for God, all those things live in that noble dwelling, but I still say it needs painting.

And of course the central point of the movie is when after giving an off camera speech filleting big labor he prepares to give an equally harsh speech against what would be called big business then, but now we use the more correct term cronyism. (Please note that in 1948 almost everything he says is the action we should have taken…from a man this principled however, the speech would be different on a few points, so please keep the times in mind as you read it).

Matthews: Those men [labor bosses] in there are the kind of men who are responsible for the wildcat strikes.  If I can make them see something bigger than their own jobs as head of their own locals and what little power they get from that…Why? What did I say to them? I just said that when the members stop running the unions, the unions start running the members.

[…]

Matthews: I’m going to tell them they do a lot of yapping about communism but as long as they think about high profits instead of high production, they’re playing the communist game.  High production is the way to kill high prices.

Conover: They want high prices.

M: High prices means inflation. Inflation today means depression tomorrow.  And a depression in these United State is exactly the ace card Moscow is waiting to draw.

C: They don’t want to hear these things.

M: They’re gonna hear them.  They’re going to hear that capitalism itself is being challenged.  If it doesn’t survive, it’s because men like themselves haven’t the guts or the imagination to make it survive.

C: You can’t talk to that crowd this way you’ll antagonize them.

All right.  So what?  So I’ll antagonize them.  I yelled my head off about labor, didn’t I, and its responsibilities.  Well, I’m going to lay it right on the line about industry too.  Now look here Jim, you know just as well as I do that there are men at that banquet who’ll be rooting for a depression, just so they can slap labor’s ears back.

C: And I suppose you have a few well-chosen words to say about tax reduction.

M: You better not worry so much about tax reduction until we accomplish some of the things we have to accomplish.  I’m going to tell the wealthiest nation in the world it is a failure unless it’s also the healthiest nation in the world.  That means the highest medical care for the lowest income groups.  And that goes for housing, too.  The one thing this nation is not rich enough to afford is not having a roof over our heads.  And I’m going to tell them the American Dream is not making money.  It is the well being and the freedom of the individual throughout the world from Patagonia to Detroit.  We can’t be an island of plenty in a world of starvation.  We have to send, food, clothing, machinery, and money to the bitter, impoverished people of the world.  Try to recreate their self-respect.  Give them the desire again for individual freedom.  And I’m gonna tell them that as long as dictatorships remain in the world, we better remain well armed.  Because the next time we’re not going to get two years to get ready.  They’re gonna jump us overnight.  And I’m gonna tell them that there’s only one government which is capable of handling the atomic control, world disarmament, world employment, world peace, and that’s a world government.  The people of thirteen states started the United States of America.  Well, I think the people of that many nations are ready to start a United States of the World.  With or with out Russia.  And I mean a “United” States of the World.  With one Bill of Rights.  One international law. One international currency.  One international citizenship. And I’m gonna tell them that the brotherhood of man is not just an idealistic dream, but a practical necessity if man is going to survive. [Italics added]

Here he correctly realizes that there are two sides to both labor and business.  In labor there are actual workers, and there are the corrupt union bosses who fleece their members, pad their pockets, and make ungodly campaign contributions to politicians who allow them to repeat the cycle. A bit prophetic in his critique of labor isn’t he?  I would never advocate for ending unions (except for public employees and professional), they serve an important function, but today they have become worse than the caricatured robber barons they were supposedly formed to end.

Meanwhile in business there are real businessmen like Matthews who enjoy making a great product and enjoy making profit off that great product (the heroes of an Ayn Rand novel) and there are those who like cronyism, who as this movie makes clear are very un-capitalistically for high tariffs, anti-free trade, protectionist legislation against competition from new inventions, and low taxes ON THEIR INDUSTRY (GE, GM, Google, Goldman Sachs, and basically all the biggest Obama contributors).  And I’ll forgive Matthews’ statement about not lowering taxes before we have paid for what we need to do, at least he’s advocating balanced budgets, and 10 years before Rand, 15 before Goldwater, 20 before Milton Friedman, and before Laffer and Reagan it’s forgivable to not know the truth and facts of supply-side economics (at least implicitly he understands the heart of supply-side economics by putting the focus on high production).  And before anyone thinks I’m giving up my conservative roots by praising his call for the healthiest nation and housing for all…go back and read your Hayek and Friedman…you need a safety net, it just should be at the local, not federal level (and in 1948, I can assume a Republican defines “the lowest income groups” as the bottom 5% not the modern Democratic definition of the “the lowest income groups” as the other 99%).

And I have to love the admission that America is not a nation of isolationists, as some would now have you believe.  We are the beacon of freedom in the world and that comes with a responsibility to spread freedom.  There’s a throwaway joke early on “After all Senator Fosdick was an isolationist.  I think he should be isolated.”  This was the correct view of isolationism: it doesn’t and can’t work.  Not just on pragmatic reasons, but on ethical ones.

And you’ll also notice that the ideal world government presented is one of a union of free nations, that will advocate and push for liberty around the world, not just throwing everyone into one body and being run through with corruption.

This is close to the kind of speech I want to hear now. Praising America’s greatness and condemning those who see it only as a way to make a quick buck for themselves and screw everyone else.

The movie is also quick to condemn the evils of identity politics and condemn those who trade in it (I’m looking at you Democratic Party).  It is expressed best by “Spike” McManous, a reporter sent to keep an eye on Matthews, “In Conover’s eyes a lazy people, an ignorant people, a prejudiced people are not free.”  And he’s sadly right; people who are lazy, ignorant, and prejudiced are always slave to those who would exploit those flaws.  And that is why it is the responsibility of Americans to keep themselves informed and reasonable…but it is also the responsibility of politicians to not to play to such disgusting habits.

And at the end of the film, when, after making a dozen crooked deals, Matthews realizes his sins, he takes to the air and gives an impromptu speech baring his soul and again showing what is great about this nation.

I had the right idea when I started to talk to you people of America. The idea that you voters, you farmers, you businessmen, you working men, you ordinary citizens of whatever party, are not the selfish scum that venal politicians make you out to be. I thought I could speak my peace straight out and forward. I thought I could tell you that this country of ours is young, it’s not old. That we’ve just begun to grow. That all we need is courage, and from out of that courage will come a greatness greater than we ever dreamed. I wanted to tell you that we Americans are the hope of the world, and the secret of our great plenty is freedom, and we’ve got to share that secret and that plenty with the other nations of the world. And I wanted to tell you that we face a great problem, because when people are cold and hungry and scared, they gather together in panicky herds, ready to be led by communists and fascists who promise them bread for freedom, and deliver neither.  [Italics added]

A sobering reminder we still need to this day.

As he says, we are a young nation.

Today we are 236 years old. 236 years old…just for comparison at 236 years the Roman Republic had managed to come up with a crappy constitution, get the city burned to the ground by Gaul’s and conquer most of Italy (which sounds impressive until you realize that France was once able to conquer most of Italy, and if France can do it, well…) and at 236 England had done…well…um….nothing. Same story for France. Certainly none of them were the center of the world at 236. Oh and before you ask none of these countries had art at 236 let alone jazz, rock’n’roll, Frank Lloyd Wright, almost all film, Faulkner, Twain, Hawthorne, Frost, Gibran, Whitman. Not bad for only 236 years.  None of these others were economic powerhouses, or beacons of any ideal. And that’s at 236 for nations that would leave an undisputed mark on history.  We’ve already begun to make our mark and it is one of spreading liberty, freedom, capitalism, and all that speaks to the best in human nature.

This movie, possibly more than any other, reminds me of what a great nation this can be, and what we are capable of.  It reminds me of our greatness that was, is, and will be if we just embrace the best within us and do away with the rest.

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Only 100 days to go!!!!

Only 100 days to go until the release of Atlas Shrugged Part II. I’m still not sure why they felt the need to replace the entire cast, but I assume there is method to the madness.

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Greatest Patriotic Films of All Time #2: John Adams

Join, or Die

Unite or Die

Appeal to Heaven

Liberty or Death

Don’t Tread on Me

These are the phrases that one sees during the credits for HBO’s John Adams (one wonders what happened to a network that could bring us great TV like Rome and John Adams that it has fallen to The Newsroom and Bill Maher so quickly).  But I think part of this film’s greatness comes from its director, Tom Hooper.  Hooper would later give us the great work of British patriotism, The King’s Speech, and is currently filming Les Miserables which speaks to French patriotism…let’s hope Hooper stops his world tour as films that speak to German patriotism tend to end badly for Poland.

Now there are numerous things in this seven part series to be proud of.  The least of which is an obnoxious, suspected and unpopular man with his outspoken wife doing anything and everything in their power and sacrificing everything they have to constantly do what they know ethics and morals dictate not just for their own lives but for the fate of their nation.  A liberal acquaintance of mine once tried to tell me that the deep love of the Adams was a Hollywood invention, that no man from that era would have held as his chief confidant a woman…clearly this ignorant wretch never had read the letters that John and Abigail wrote often to each other (In reality the show should have been named John and Abigail Adams as few men in history have so relied upon their wives as equals, partners, and true loves as much as John Adams did…which maybe why for all his fault he is possibly the most enviable of the Founding Fathers.).  And these letters are quoted heavily in the movie:

“My Dearest Friend,

Whether I stand high or low in the estimation of the world, my conscience is clear. I thank God I have you for a partner in all the joys and sorrows, all the prosperity and adversity of my life. To take a part with me in the struggle.” –John Adams to Abigail Adams

“Should I draw you the picture of my heart, you would know with what indescribable pleasure I have seen so many scores of years roll over our heads, with an affection heightened and improved by time. Nor have the dreary years of absence in the smallest degree effaced from my mind the image of the dear, untitled man to whom I gave my heart. You could not be, nor did I wish to see you, an inactive spectator.” –Abigail Adams to John Adams

In their letters she was his “best friend” and his “Portia” to her, he as her “Lysander” (see Shakespeare if you don’t get the references).  I hate to be really mean to other nations, but tell me which heads of state of any other power have had not just a position that was enviable, but a personal life that is almost the definition of what we want in our significant other.  And I may be reaching here, but for all of our problems in society, past and present, at least to me America seems to breed more of these true loves than other nation.

While probably not the greatest of presidents, (you’ll never be remembered for keeping America out of a war it couldn’t afford to fight at the time, only for the wars you get the nation into) there is the fact that it’s nice to think that as lacking humility Adams may have been, when he was in an office it was the good of the nation, not himself that took first priority (even if his abrasive nature may have made many an enemy).

Or that here is a man dedicated to liberty above all other things.

“We have a right to [our liberties] derived form our maker.”


But, of course it is the second episode, “Independence” that stirs the strings of patriotism the most for me.  And for obvious reasons—it is this episode where the Declaration of Independence is created and adopted.  I know I am very odd, but I cannot read or hear the Declaration of Independence with crying.  It is a singular achievement of man and the divine working in harmony…or as the character of Adams puts it:

“This is something all together unexpected, not only a Declaration of our Independence, but of the right of all men.”

And this is what America is supposed to be, not just a nation out for ourselves, but a beacon, a promise, and a hope that one day liberty will reign not just in America but the world over and that tyranny will only be found in history books.

But what also makes this section so stirring is the arguments during the Continental Congress for Independence against John Dickenson and his cowardly and treasonous ilk (at one point in the episode it becomes clear that Abigail would just as well shoot the man for opposing independence if she were to go down to Philadelphia…it’s sad no one in real life had her conviction and wisdom).

“I see hope.  I see a new nation ready to take its place in the world—not an empire, but a Republic.  And a Republic of

Adams, Jefferson and Franklin…the creators of the Declaration.

laws, not men.  Gentlemen, we are in the vey midst of revolution—the most complete, unexpected, and remarkable of any in the history of the world.  How few of the human race have ever had the opportunity of choosing a system of government for themselves and their children.  I am not without apprehensions, gentlemen, but the end we have in sight is worth more than all the means.  I believe, sirs, that the hour is come, my judgment approves this measure, and my whole heart is in it.  All that I have, all that I am, and all that I hope in this life, I am now ready to stake upon it.  While I live let me have a country.  A free country. ”

This film makes clear Adams’ vision that America and its promise of liberty is worth the fight. Of course what also strikes me is his statement:

“There are persons in Philadelphia, to whom a ship is dearer than a city, and a few barrels of flour dearer than a thousand lives.  Other men’s lives.”

It’s good to know that my current intellectual (I use that word loosely in reference to my opponents) battles with the un-American tripe that is isolationists, cowards, and Paulbots, that their kind isn’t just a recent phenomenon but rather a sickness that has been around for years. And it’s good to know they’re losing power—before they almost destroyed America before it began, and delayed our entry into WWII to save people from genocide…now they’re just an annoying fringe.  Maybe within a generation their evil will be as dead as John Dickenson would been if he had been justly shot.

But it is also one of the last scenes that stirs my patriotism.  Adams’ last words.  His last words in the series and in real life really were:

“Thomas Jefferson survives!” (even though Jefferson had died 2 hours earlier. Both died on July the 4th, 1726, the 50th anniversary of the Declaration.  Skeptics would call it coincidence, patriots a higher message in that.)

I’ve always liked to think that Adams, at the threshold of this world and the next, actually knew that the man was dead…but his vision “that all men are created equal and endowed with certain unalienable rights, among these the right to life, liberty, ad the pursuit of Happiness” not only survived in that moment but for all moments to come (but then again I am a hopeless patriot and man of faith).

My dearest friend whether I stand high or low in the estimation of the world, my conscience is clear.  I thank God I have you for a partner in all the joys and sorrows, all the prosperity and adversity

Should I draw you the picture of my heart scores of years

“Oh, posterity. You will never know how much it cost us to preserve your freedom. I hope that you will make a good use of it. If you do not, I shall repent in heaven that I ever took half the pains to preserve it.” –John Adams

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The Greatest Patriotic Films Ever # 3 Mr. Smith Goes To Washington

 

“What do you know about laws or making laws or what people need?”

“I don’t pretend to know.”

“Then what are you doing in the Senate?”

 

Frank Capra has this rather naïve view of humanity.  He sees all life as nothing but a battle of extreme good and extreme evil; a war between the Baileys and Potters; where the rich are seldom if ever wise, where the poor are noble by virtue of being poor.  Any single story has flaws that are forgivable (except maybe for when he added the speech of extreme pacifism into Lost Horizon which never existed in the book, good call Frank, add a call for appeasement and peace at all costs in a 1937 film…let me know how that works out in the real world), but taken together they have revealed a view of the world that is a little off kilter.  But as I said if you just take Capra’s films each on their own merit, and ignore the collective body of his work, they are good films.  And Mr. Smith is no exception.

 

The forgivable flaws?  That our supposed hero, Jefferson Smith, has to be the most seemingly ignorant Senator in the history of the body (I say seemingly, because, as we sadly know that most Senators make Smith, for all his ignorance, look like a Rhodes Scholar).  Still the scene where his aide, the real hero of the film Clarissa Saunders (Jean Arthur), has to explain how a bill becomes law is just so sad.  I fully realize that I currently live in a nation where the majority leader in the Senate, the minority leader in the House, the President, and the Chief Justice put together don’t know jack about the Constitution or how a bill becomes law…but I have a hard time finding heroism in staggering ignorance.  Especially for a man who claims to be a patriot.  If you say you’re a patriot and don’t know how a bill becomes a law, well SHAME ON YOU—ENDLESS HEAPS OF SHAME!  Now they claim Jefferson Smith knows the history of our nation and can quote it quite fluently (although they never show it) if you’re going to be a patriot you need to know something about your country, and I think how a bill becomes law is kind of simple (considering, that with the exception of knowing about committees, it’s kind of part of knowing the Constitution).

 

But enough about the flaws…because the strengths do overpower them.

 You see, boys forget what their country means by just reading The Land of the Free in history books. Then they get to be men they forget even more. Liberty’s too precious a thing to be buried in books, Miss Saunders. Men should hold it up in front of them every single day of their lives and say: I’m free to think and to speak. My ancestors couldn’t, I can, and my children will. Boys ought to grow up remembering that.

First there is the point in this film that for all the corruption and flaws, this is a nation of laws.  All the money and the corruption in the world can last for only so long against the law when it is enforced. Granted the Senate rules on filibuster may not be our most revered law, but the point is still clear.  Even corruption is no match for the law when it is applied (that caveat being the important part).  And this is why I think Saunders is the real hero of the film.  She is the one who knows the law, and the one who teaches it to Smith.  And it is in knowing the law that gives Smith the power to confront the corrupt in the Senate.  And it is this moral that I think makes this movie the most patriotic that we have had yet: learn the laws of your nation, with them they give you the power to enforce liberty and justice, without them you are the victim of those who do know them.

 

And of course there is the subtle point here that ANYONE can challenge their government.  Smith may have been lucky enough to get to the floor of the Senate, but any and all can peaceably assemble to “petition the government for redress of grievances.”  (More so now in the day of mass communication and the internet).

And then there is a point about this movie that I find ironic, and I find it ironic because it is the reason so many liberals say they love the film.  The film’s villain is a media mogul who uses his clout to control everything the public sees and hears and thus controls their opinion, and who then uses that power for his own avaricious ends.  Capra seems hell bent on condemning the media.  First for their desire to report on trivial nonsense only for entertainment, as when they tricked Smith into looking like a fool on his first day in Washington.  And second for this monopolistic control of information.  Liberals I know who like this film are very adamant at how evil this second point is….and then in the same breath will critique the existence of FOXNews, the Drudge Report, and Rush Limbaugh.  How dare the media report anything but the left wing talking points! Just a slight irony there.  However, I think it is also this point that will soon date this movie a little out of relevance.  In an age where three major networks, three major cable networks, online journals, blogs, twitter, facebook, youtube, and Wikileaks…in an age where anyone from any strata of society can post a blog that can go viral, where anyone can donate to a SuperPAC that can get the message they believe in out, in a day and age like this is simply impossible to control the message.  Your only option now is to make the more appealing message…and I may be more naïve than Capra, but I feel “the truth will out”, as it did in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.

 

 

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The Greatest Patriotic Films Ever: #4 The Postman

“You have a gift, Postman. I saw it back in Pineview. You’ve given us all back what we’d forgotten. You made Mrs. March feel like she could see again. You made Ford feel like he was part of the world. You give out Hope like it was candy in your pocket.”

I know what you’re thinking, The Postman? Really? And I know why you’re feeling that way. It was the first movie Costner did after Waterworld and just about the time you might have forgiven he came out with Message in a Bottle so the hell if you were going to go back and give anything else a shot. I understand completely. And that was the feeling I had when I first watched it but I had nothing better to do and was with family so I couldn’t very well just tell my family to go to hell I wasn’t about to watch what I was sure would be a piece of crap.

And then I watched it and found out it wasn’t crap. It was quite good in fact.

And then you ask, ‘if it’s so good why hasn’t it garnered any acclaim since it first came out?” And the answer is: because it is so patriotic, and you know how the intelligentsia loathes that.

So, while I would recommend you see the movie before I reveal the plot, for any valid discussion I have to go over the plot a little.

The movie follows The Postman, played by Kevin Costner. Yes the character is never actually given a name. This is intentional. A drifter in a post-apocalyptic future (actually its 2013…damn Obamacare is going to ruin everything faster than I thought…I’m sure it sounded semi-reasonable in in1997). The first part of the film introduces us to this world where an army of thuggish marauders, called the Holnists, terrorize and control much of the Pacific Northwest. The Postman is at first captured and impressed into their fascist army, but escapes…and in his escape he finds a crashed US Post Office truck, fully loaded with a bag of mail and the skeleton of a dead postal official (still wearing his uniform). He takes the uniform and mail bag and concocts a story that the US government has been restored back East and he is a federal employee of the Restored United States, hoping this story will get him something to eat from every town he passes. What he doesn’t realize is what news of a Restored United States does to a population that has had all hope ripped away from them. Within only months he soon has his own army of mostly young men and women following him, carrying the mail all over Washington, Oregon and Idaho. Hope returns, people start fighting back…and with his band of very disgruntled postal workers they defeat the Holnist army and turn The Postman’s lie of a restored government into a reality.

So what makes this post-apocalyptic film, a film that shows the United States reduced to rubble, that states the White House had been burned to the ground, a patriotic film?

First it clearly points out what America isn’t. About halfway through the leader of the Holnist army, the psychotic and utterly taken with himself General Bethlehem, gives a speech on what he thinks made America great:

“We had a great nation once. You know what made it great? I can. Till the weak came along, the ‘I Can’ts” destroyed us. But I’m going to make us strong again. I’m going to be the father of a new nation. And do you know why it will be me? Because I can.”

The point here is to show exactly why this wasn’t what made America great. Any bully or tyrant can say “Yes, I can” any mindless mob can say “Yes, we can” but might doesn’t make right. America is great not because of brute strength but because we stand for ideals instead of might, we stand for ethics instead of the club, because the American ideal is “I should” not “I can.” America is great because we look at the greatest obstacles and say “I will” and look to the future instead of the mere tyrant who says “I can” as their only justification. Only tyrants and bullies speak of “I can”…the moral is the best in America speak of “I should.” And this is shown in the film, The Postman is offered a lot of things he “can” do, but it is the fact that in the end he chooses what he “should” do that makes him the emblem of America that he is meant to be.

The next is the very nature of democracy is shown in this film. Power coming from the people is the natural state of governments and it is antithetical to tyranny. After capturing a postal carrier and reading through the mail, Bethlehem’s men dismisses it as “Births and deaths, the weather, gossip. There’s nothing here.” Bethlehem recognizes the threat of people banding together to agasinst his little feudal rule. “Nothing? Everything is here. Am, I the only one who sees that?” People banding together is the greatest threat to tyranny. Always has been, always will be (the next most dangerous is an armed populace). (Granted people banded together can just as easily fall from one tyranny to another, see the Russian Revolution or the Arab Spring, but it always spells a short reign for the current dictator). This is why tyrannies spend so much time and money to control all forms of information, when people begin to associate and talk without government control, not much can stand in the way of the storm that is to come from their banding together. George III found this out, and this is why one of the first things the Continental Congress did after declaring independence is establish a postal system. Communication is essential for liberty and it is antithetical to slavery.

This movie is also patriotic in what it shows the United States, just as a concept is. It is a beacon of hope. Just the words “Restored United States” encourages people to stand up and resist their oppressors, it makes them believe in the future which they had stopped doing. Some of the more cynical are even afraid of what this hope means,

“These people don’t need dreams, Mr. Postman. They need something real. They need help with the goddamn Holnists. Are you going to bring them that?”

But the film does a great job at showing that it is this hope and this ability to believe that the future is worth fighting for is exactly what will give them the help they need. And the movie itself culminates in a personal battle between Bethlehem and the Postman and in a moment of attempting to gloat over his impending victory Bethlehem taunts the Postman with:

General Bethlehem: I know your problem. Do you know why you won’t fight? Because you have nothing to fight for! You don’t care about anything! You don’t value anything! You don’t believe in anything! That’s what makes me better!
The Postman: I believe in the United States.

The Postman immediately proceeds to beat Bethlehem to a bloody pulp. It helps when you believe in something real and something worth fighting for.

And one of the more overlooked parts of the film is a final reason why it shows film to be exceedingly patriotic.

The film ends with a speech given in 2043 by The Postman’s daughter at the commemoration of a statue to him.

“My father saw how fragile we are, how quickly we fell into the hands of tyranny. He saw that ordinary men could reach deep within themselves and find courage. He saw that if we began to communicate as a nation we could become strong again, united, but he never did see St. Rose. He said there was too much to be done. He’d made a promise. And in keeping it he traded one dream for another. With no regrets.”

And it is not only a speech that shows what America is capable of. The scene is not a post-apocalyptic wasteland just recovering. It is a healthy civilization. Prefabricated boats in a marina, factory made clothes on all the people gathered, cameras, electricity, mass media, a society that can spare the time and money to commission a giant bronze statue. It shows an America that can rise from its own ashes in a mere 30 years and recover all of it past glory in only a generation. And this is an accurate depiction of America. Time and time again we have endured depressions, natural disasters, the hell of war, and whatever else the world can throw at us. And each time we come back, stronger, more resilient, and wiser. Name for me a nation that can not only do that once, but time and time again, other than America.

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The Greatest Nation On Earth…not according to “The Newsroom”

So apparently on the most recent HBO piece of trash (from the network that brings you Bill Maher’s constant trash) is a new show “The Newsroom” which thought it would be risky and daring and by saying the thing that liberals and their ilk have been saying since Jamestown was founded, that America is not the greatest nation.  Oooh…how gutsy of them.  Like I haven’t heard that one from liberals all my life.

But let’s take a look at what was actually said.

This seems like an impassioned but also well reasoned argument.  After all he has numbers!  It must be true.  Except that it’s not.

Let’s go over the specifics.

It’s NOT the greatest country in the world, Professor. That’s my answer.

[Debate Moderator]
You’re saying

[Will]
Yes.

[Debate Moderator]
Let’s talk about

[Will]
Fine. Sharon, the NEA is a loser. Yeah, it accounts for a penny out of our paycheck, but he gets to hit you with it anytime he wants. It doesn’t cost money. It costs votes. It costs airtime. And column inches. You know why people don’t like liberals? Because they lose. If liberals are so fuckin’ smart then how come they lose so goddamn always?

No I think that people hate liberals because at their worst, they are the greedy and corrupt that they claim to be against what they promote.  And at their best they are an ideology that advocates against liberty and for control by the government.

[Will (to Lewis]
And with a straight face, you’re gonna sit there and tell students that America is so star-spangled awesome that we’re the only ones in the world who have freedom? Canada has freedom. Japan has freedom. The U.K. France. Italy. Germany. Spain. Australia. BELGIUM has freedom. (laughs) Two hundred and seven sovereign states in the world, like, a hundred and eighty of them have freedom.

Okay, let’s deal with his list.  We are the first nation founded specifically on liberty.  And yes we are currently not doing a great job of liberty, but we are still one of the freest nations on Earth. And this screed is wrong.  Of all the countries he lists only Canada ranks above the U.S. in economic freedom  and keep in mind that Canada has so little respect for free speech you can be fined for saying true things about Muslims— oh yeah, that’s really free.  And actually it’s around 184 sovereign states, 5 of them are free another 23 are mostly free, another 62 are moderately free.  So only about 90 are moderately free or better.  (And what qualifies as moderately free is pretty sad.  It’s closer to only 28 of the 184 are even mostly free).

 [Will]
And you, Sorority Girl, just in case you accidentally wander into a voting booth one day, there’s some things you should know. One of them is there’s absolutely no evidence to support the statement that we’re the greatest country in the world.

We’re seventh in literacy.

We’re actually 10th, but that might be because we allow some liberty in our nation and not force people into government run propaganda mills at the point of a gun (Unlike some of the countries that beat us out like Cuba)…also our literacy rate is 99% literate…hmmm.  Yeah we’re doing really bad at literacy.  99% of our citizens can read.  Really failed there.

 Twenty-seventh in math. Twenty-second in science.

Well there are two problems here.  Most of these statistics on comparing national scores are often off.  Most countries do not main stream their special education students and test them, we do which drags our scores down.  Further most of those nations place their students in tracks, and only test their best and brightest, again comparing that to our tests of everyone.  Hell I’m not surprised that we don’t do worse on standardized tests.  However, you’ll notice that these scores mean that students do well on standardized tests..and the people in those countries notice that too…and they want more of what we have, free thinkers, creativity, innovation () none which comes from doing well on standardized tests.  A better way to judge American understanding of science and technology is to look at patent applications and grants. The U.S. leads in total number of patents (i.e. The U.S. has more patents than ALL other nations combined…and only during the Obama years have ALL other nations combined out done us…I expect we’ll go back to being the leader once the idiot is out).  We may not do the best on standardized tests for a myriad of reasons, but our education system for all its flaws still produces more creators, more leaders, more free thinkers and innovators than anyone.

Forty-ninth in life expectancy. A hundred and seventy-eighth in infant mortality.

Now this is also another misleading statistic.  Only a fool would say that there is not a genetic component to both of these numbers.  When you correct for life expectancy or infant mortality by ethnicity we’re on par with the top nations, and what we are off would be considered statistically negligible.  Yes our diversity is a strength, but just coming to America doesn’t change how genetics affect health, which they do.

As for infant mortality.  It might be because we count all births a live births.  Most other nations do not count children born under a certain weight as a live birth.  (Guess which group tend to die a lot?) So if we’re counting the one who make up the majority of that infant mortality rate and other nations do not, shocker that we don’t come in first place.

Third in median household income. Number four in labor force and number four in exports.

That’s a bad thing?

And when you take all of these together, it’s never the same countries ahead of us in any of these lists, when you consider the whole picture, it is America that is consistently at the top of every list across the board.

 

 We lead the world in only three categories: Number of incarcerated citizens per capita,

Okay, I’ll grant you that. Of course part of this is because the people who should be behind bars are the ones running the nation, given the high number of genocidal butcher in China, Afghanistan, Iran or Syria, if the people who deserved to be in jail were, then we wouldn’t be leading this list. It’s also a side effect of not making just about every crime be a death penalty case, as with some nations, you have to house the people you don’t kill in droves? Are we number one, if you counted “re-education camps” and “concentration camps”as prisons?  I know we’re not number one in those categories.

number of adults who believe angels are real,

Wow, since when did religious faith become a fault?  First, angels are real.  Second, thank you liberals for once again insulting anyone who dares believe in anything bigger than the government.  Contrary to your petty beliefs, faith is a virtue not a weakness.

and defense spending, where we spend more than the next twenty-six countries combined, twenty-five of whom are allies.

Again none of these are a problem.  And all classical liberals/constitution understand that defense is the only reason for government – individuals take care of other issues.

Now none of this is the fault of a twenty-year-old college student, but you nonetheless are without a doubt a member of the worst, period, generation, period, ever, period.

No the worst. Generation. Ever. Would be the baby boomers, a bunch of whiners who have demanded everything been given to them and then left their children with the bill.  If the current generation has problems it’s because they were raised by whining children who never grew up.  The worst generation is the one that bitches about how not great America is and yet has never done anything to improve it…you know the generation the speaker of this worthless diatribe from this worthless show is a part of.

So when you ask what makes us the greatest country in the world, I dunno what the fuck you’re talkin’ about. Yosemite?

How about the fact that we’re the most charitable nation on Earth. 

We’re number one in legal immigrants…if we’re such a terrible place, why does everyone come here? 

If we’re not number #1, then I promise you that we’re still near the top in terms of economic mobility, and we will return to #1 in the coming years.

We have shed more blood to free other peoples and other nations from slavery and tyranny.

We are the ONLY nation founded on an ideal.

Sure used to be. We stood up for what was right. We fought for moral reasons. We passed laws, struck down laws, for moral reasons. We waged wars on poverty, not poor people.”

Really “The Great Society” is what he lists as our great moment.  Odd that the war on poverty is what killed the growth of the middle class and thus did wage a war on poor people that he touts as our high point. In the long run we usually always stand for what is right and moral but often not our first step.  We still pass laws and ignore others but no longer for moral reasons…but that would often be because of people like Harry Reid who prevent laws from coming up for a vote…I’m sure he’s a favorite among the makers of “The Newsroom.”

 

 “We sacrificed. We cared about our neighbors. We put our money where our mouths were. And we never beat our chest.”

We still do the first three…we’ve always beat our chests, just look at history.

“We built great big things, made ungodly technological advances, explored the universe, cured diseases, and we cultivated the world’s greatest artists and the world’s greatest economy. We reached for the stars. Acted like men.”

His use of the past tense is correct.  But the present and the future tenses are also correct…he incorrectly seems to suggest that they aren’t.

We aspired to intelligence. We didn’t belittle it—it didn’t make us feel inferior.

We still aspire to intelligence.  I don’t know what he means about belittling it, unless he means our distain for Ivory Tower idiocy, which we’ve always had.

We didn’t identify ourselves by who we voted for in the last election, and we didn’t, oh, we didn’t scare so easy. Ha. We were able to be all these things and do all these things because we were informed. By great men. Men who were revered. First step in solving any problem is recognizing there is one. America is not the greatest country in the world anymore.

No the problem is that we’ve hit a downturn…but we are still the greatest nation, we still have our virtues, we just need to remember them and use them.   And again this guy doesn’t know much history.  People have always identified themselves by how they voted (or did you miss how vicious the Adams/Jefferson political wars were?).

The writer for this idiotic speech seems to think that we were only great when we were under FDR and LBJ letting the world and our own nation fall apart, but saying we cared about people.  And they revel when we hit low points like we have now.  The problem is that this is not our lowest low point, and even if it was there is something about America…something that refuses to die for too long.  There is something of the Phoenix in our nature—we may fall and die, but each time we arise from the ashes of our self immolation stronger and more alive than before.  The future will be no different from the past, and we will remain the greatest nation on Earth.

(Personally I think Daniels was hoping to use this for his audition for Dumb and Dumber 2).

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