Monthly Archives: October 2012

Movies that show the rich as good #4 Batman Begins

“And why do we fall, Bruce? So we can learn to pick ourselves up.”

Oh come on you knew he would be in here. Super rich guy who uses his money to battle crime and evil. Of course he’s going to be in this list.

So I chose this one film over the whole spectrum of Batman films for two reasons. The first is that I find the Bale/Nolan interpretation of the character to be far more human and realistic than any other version of the character. The second is that because this version of the film includes not one person to admire, but two.

The first is of course Bruce Wayne. Yeah a little off in the early parts of the movie, but once he finds his calling for his life—“I’m gonna show the people of Gotham their city doesn’t belong to the criminals and the corrupt.” It’s a very conservative/libertarian idea—I’m going to show people that they can stand up for themselves, I’m going to show them their problems aren’t so big that individuals can’t face them, and, as he says in a later film, “A hero can be anyone.” And this is what makes him better than the other visions of Batman which at their best seem to only be driven by revenge or guilt at their core (or campiness) and have merely sublimated it into something more productive…but rather someone who has moved beyond his need for revenge and self-pity to actually do something productive with his life.

Honestly, the argument for Bruce Wayne kind of gets made on its own…or you’ve really been living in a cave.

But there is another nice thing about Batman Begins: Thomas Wayne.
This film gives us a look at the virtues of the Wayne family that are often ignored just a little in the whole of films.

“In the depression, your father nearly bankrupted Wayne Enterprises combating poverty. He believed that his example could inspire the wealthy of Gotham to save their city.”

Thomas Wayne shows all the virtues of all those robber barons of the 19th century who used their earned wealth to build infrastructure, charities, fund churches and reform movements, who brought cheaper goods at greater quantities. Those evil bastards. They understood the call of the now overly forgotten virtue of noblesse oblige*–that with the wealth you have earned and inherited one of the most rewarding and fulfilling things you can do with that wealth is help others fulfill their potential as well. Wayne especially in his building a transportation system rather than just giving out the dole understands that it is systems and tools that help people more than just handouts.

“Gotham’s been good to our family, but the city’s been suffering. People less fortunate than us have been enduring very hard times. So we built a new, cheap, public transportation system to unite the city.”

Of course also this is the kind of man who through his superior actions as a parent also shows himself to be worthy of complete admiration. Even his dying words, “Don’t be afraid,” are concerned with the not just the physical well being of his son, but the mental and spiritual well being as well (yeah, it took Bruce awhile to internalize them, but he’s only human).

The Nolan series of Dark Knight movies as a whole is a wonderful depiction of human virtue and the good that people are capable of, but this movie also doesn’t give into the knee jerk ability to just portray the rich as vapid and pointless. (Notice also how offended even the rich are when Bruce starts to pretend acting like most Hollywood writers think the rich actually are).

*Yes I realize that the term has numerous definitions from the derogatory to the chivalrous, I’m going to use it here to more or less mean: To whom much is given, much is expected… or, if you prefer I keep in the comic book parlance for the blog, “With great power, comes great responsibility.” You might also look to Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics Book 4 Chapter 2 for a further discussion on this virtue.

Honorable Mentions in Film
I would be remiss to not mention two other rich people in film in conjunction with the Dark Knight films.

The first is Zorro. And I will say the best version of Zorro is still the The Mark of Zorro with Tyrone Power. Like Wayne, and in most versions of the Batman story the inspiration for Batman, Don Diego de la Vega is rich but cannot turn aside from the injustice he sees. So he dons a mask and becomes the Fox, Zorro. Now granted the wealth of a Spanish noble in Spanish California is probably not as ethically gotten as a modern industrialist, but it’s not as relevant to the story.

And of course, since most of Marvel’s stable of heroes are merely rip offs of DC characters we have to mention, Tony Stark. Robert Downey Jr.’s Ironman starts off as a bit more immature than Bruce Wayne, but over the last three films (and soon Iron Man 3) we have certainly come to love Tony, if not still finding him a bit egocentric.

These are highly entertaining films, albeit maybe not as deep as the Dark Knight films.

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Movies that show the rich as good #5 Sabrina

 

“What’s money got to do with it? If making money were all there were to business it’s hardly worthwhile going to the office. Money is a by-product.”

First off let me say that it’s a good thing that they never remade this movie because that would have been idiotic and foolish and would have just a worthless piece of…what? They did what? With her? Are hallucinogenics a requirement to be the person who greenlights films?

Sabrina the story of a young woman who has always loved the young rich rake her family works for…but ends up falling for his older more serious brother. It’s a classic with some beautifully timed scenes of comedy and wit…and with the rare appearance of Bogart in a comedy.

However, while it’s a classic, I will be the first to admit you have to be in just the right mood for this film to enjoy it…otherwise there are just so many plot points that just don’t work. You spend most of the movie loathing William Holden’s character of David Larrabee: the younger son of a wealthy family who exhibits every cliché of the vulgar and useless rich. Yes lots of jokes are wonderfully made at David’s expense, but if you’re not in the right mood you just don’t understand why the family didn’t have the brat exposed at an early age. And you also have to be in right mood to ignore Audrey Heburn’s Sabrina, and her rather naïve and childish behavior. The only character you do like throughout most of the film is Linus Larrabee, Humphrey Bogart’s rather likable rich executive…and even then you have to overlook things like age and temperament difference (I will never understand Hollywood’s obsession with sticking Hepburn with significantly older men…Bogart, Peck, Grant…).* Complaints aside, it is a good movie, you just have to be in the right mood to ignore the odd setups.

So let’s get to the truly positive aspects of this film. Linus Larabee played by Humphrey Bogart. Now some people I know find him distasteful for keeping Sabrina and David apart via his shrewd and not-so-shrewd stratagems (Yeah, cause letting her go off with the eternal playboy David who would use her and throw her away would be so much more humane?).

But what I really love is that Linus, and by extension the writer of the film, understood the true and positive nature of capitalism, outsourcing, and globalization.


LINUS LARRABEE: What’s money got to do with it? If making money were all there were to business it’s hardly worthwhile going to the office. Money is a by-product.
DAVID: What’s the main objective? Power?
LINUS: Agh! That’s become a dirty word.
DAVID: Well then, what’s the urge? You’re going into plastics now. What will that prove?
LINUS: Prove? Nothing much. A new product has been found, something of use to the world. So, a new industry moves into an undeveloped area. Factories go up, machines are brought in, a harbor is dug and you’re in business. It’s purely coincidental of course that people who’ve never seen a dime before suddenly have a dollar. And barefooted kids wear shoes and have their teeth fixed and their faces washed. What’s wrong with a kind of an urge that gives people libraries, hospitals, baseball diamonds and movies on a Saturday night?

Capitalism creates prosperity and wealth where none existed before.

And while more data is presented even Bhagwati’s book In Defense of Globalization, does not put the power of capitalism so succinctly as Linus’ speech.

Capitalism, business, creation, innovation, this is what rich can bring us through investment and management…
…and occasionally a romantic plot line as well.

This is actually what motivates a lot of people—this is the motivation of Ayn Rand’s heroes that she could never actually articulate in a way that was acceptable to most people—this is why capitalism works, because people love creating things that make the world better AND get paid to do it! You mean I get to do something great AND make a fortune? Sign me up.

The romance, the comedy, the bizarre situations, for me all is secondary to the beauty of this one little speech.

*Not to mention this film would almost be more sympathetic from the viewpoint of David’s fiancée as her future brother-in-law distracts the gold digging chauffer’s daughter who seems to have no qualms about going after an engaged man…you really have to wonder how the original pitch session went, “So we’re rooting for the girl who is trying to steal a man from his fiancée over nothing more than an infantile crush? Oh, no, we’re rooting for the guy old enough to be her father to get her?” Granted, the movie is far better than my cynical side is suggesting…but still, it has these elements are just a little off kilter. **

**I think this election year is just making me more jaded than ever and I’m just nitpicking.

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Why I’m A Conservative and A New Ager

[I had a request to turn a comment I made on a previous blog into a blog of it’s own…so if this seems repetitive…that’s why…]

Recently a commenter left the following post:

I was really hoping to find a softer side of Conservatism here. I can’t seem to find that wherever I look. I also can’t understand how you can call yourself a New Ager and harbor so much anger? Completely hypocritical, as is most of the right… New Age = Love

It’s not hypocritical at all, and I’m sorry you feel that way.

New Age belief does not encourage or require that I turn off my brain or reason…and reason has a way of getting outraged when confronted with policies and actions that hurt others–you see it in the actions of Christ whipping the money changers, of Krishna telling Arjuna to slaughter his unjust relatives, in Lao Tzu talking about war needing to be conducted with the aim of peace, and in the actions and words of numerous other saints and enlightened beings in religions all over the world.

Yes New Age belief does believe in unqualified love of the soul…but not of the actions of the ego which hurts that soul. Those actions and the ideas that create them must be challenged both in ones own soul, one’s mind, and outside in the physical worlds. I cannot love the soul, and support the left which hinders the growth of the soul. And I cannot say obsequious appearance of concern for someone in the transitory moment is love, even thought the left tries to say it is. Love is caring for the true nature of the person, which is the soul and the soul’s journey to enlightenment.

May I ask you what you would consider “the softer side of Conservatism?” because is seems like all that term means is “a conservative who is willing to give in on any and every point, sacrifice any value, and capitulate on any policy just so liberals like you can be happy.”

If you’re repeating the liberal line about social conservatism, you’ll find none of that here. Social conservatism is simply liberal desire to control others by another name. As for my unwavering defense of capitalism and liberty, which parallel the New Age belief in free will, my support of charity over welfare, which parallel’s the New Age belief in spiritual growth…any moving from these points (other than in terms of practical compromise) to appear “softer” is to give into the manifestations of the ego in the physical world. I can’t be true to my beliefs in the New Age and not support them, defend them, and advocate for them. Yes I’m a little overzealous, (if you’re a New Ager you know it’s a habit of Indigoes to be passionate in the extreme)…but is there anything wrong in zeal for what is right and true?

Love is not opposed to reason, love and reason go hand in hand

But I would like to challenge your comment of “Completely hypocritical, as is most of the right…”
New Age belief believes in the free will. To support the leftist belief in government over the individual, entitlement over personal charity, control over choice…that would be hypocritical to support.
New Age belief believes that life is spiritual journey of learning. To support the left’s call for over-regulation that seeks to keep people from making mistakes takes away the ability to learn…that would be hypocritical of me to support.
New Age believes that every soul must make it to enlightenment on its own…thus the left’s call to force equality holds back individuals, and thus retards the day when all will make it to enlightenment…that would be hypocritical of me to support.
New Age belief believes in the quality of life, not the quantity…the left’s concern with income redistribution and entitlements of physical things places the focus on life on the wrong thing…that would be hypocritical of me to support.

In fact on every central tenet of New Age belief I can think of, New Age belief matched up with conservative economics and conservative foreign policy.

Almost every point of the left in economic and foreign policy is opposed the principles of New Age belief. And every belief of the left on social policy takes the correct idea to an illogical extreme. (I disagree with the social conservatism…but if you actually read a bit of my blog you would see that there are more than enough articles opposing that).

Is the right perfect. Nope. But it supports the individual. It supports choice and freedom and liberty. It supports my ability to grown and learn and develop. These are the bedrock principles of New Age belief as I understand them.

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Basic Econ Lessons #2 The multiple causes of this recession

“It’s all Bush’s fault, my completely inept behavior is not to blame in the least.”

I am tired of Obama claiming that he inherited this mess, that he prevented us from falling into another Great Depression, or that we can’t go back to the failed policies of the past as if it wasn’t his party instituting the failed policies that are actually to blame.  All of these lines are lies.

 

So let’s take these one at a time.

 

The first is that he inherited a bad economy. The truth is that he helped cause it.

 

Now how do I justify that?

 

Well think about the nature of what we say caused something.  For instance if someone has HIV and dies, it’s not as simple as saying they have HIV and it killed them. It’s that they have HIV, which caused AIDS, which allowed a flu virus to wreak havoc on their body, caused pneumonia which causes their lungs to fill with water stress the cardio vascular system and either die from drowning or heart failure.

 

The economy works in a similarly complex way. The Great Depression wasn’t caused by a single point.  The terms of the Treaty of Versailles weakened the international economy, caused gross inflation and many nations to default on loans, which hit at the same time as the bust in the natural boom and bust cycle of the US economy.  Now if this were the only problem the late 20’s would have seen a strong recession but little else.  Rather the US Congress in its usual stupidity considered the grossly idiotic Smoot-Hawley Tariff which would further depress the economy if implemented.  Businesses seeing that the tariff would be passed and not being idiots, prepared for worse economic times and pulled back on labor and investment.  This is what businesses do when they see bad times ahead, they cut, they save, they batten down the hatches so that they are lean enough and have enough reserves so that they can survive the bad times and still be around for the good times when they come again.  (Remember this point I’m going to come back to it).  This pullback to survive the coming bad times, combined with being at the height of an investment bubble, some bad banking policy, and the press overhyping the seriousness of the stock market, resulted in Black Tuesday.  Now the government turned a moderate recession into a bad one with just the rumor of the Smoot-Hawley Tariff…but then they did two thing that were even worse.  The first was that they actually passed the stupid tariff which further hurt trade and then the Federal Reserve, whose almost sole point during this period was to provide short term funds to get us out of emotional portions of panics and economic down turns, didn’t just not provide the funds which they were created to provide, but clamped down on funds and drastically pulled back on funds reducing the stock of money (the opposite of their intended purpose) which caused even more panic*, runs on banks, foreclosures and a whole host of other ripple effects which we call the Great Depression.  (This was then further exacerbated by FDR’s policies which turned a depression of a couple years into a decade of suffering).   (Am I simplifying here?  Yeah.  But let’s be honest you were already bored, you don’t want me going further into technicalities).

 

The point of these two examples is that there are structural problem (HIV and AIDS in the medical example; the boom and bust cycle, issues with banking structure, and the economic problems caused by Versailles in the economic one) and there are inciting incidents that cause the underlying problems to come out with a vengeance (contracting the flu or just considering the Smoot-Hawley Tariff).

 

How does all of this relate to Obama being the cause of the mess he said he inherited?

 

Well let’s deal with the structural problems in 2008. High debt (caused by both Democrats** and Republicans over spending), the government forcing banks to make bad loans via the Community Reinvestment Act, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (all Democrats to blame there) which caused a housing bubble, the threat of taxes being raised (Democrats to blame as they wouldn’t allow the Bush tax cuts to be permanent), energy price problems (mainly Dems to blame), corporate welfare weakening the fundamentals of businesses (most Dems, but also the GOP to blame), and over regulation getting in the way of commerce (again mostly Dems to blame).

 

But these had been issues for years so what was the inciting cause, the thing that made the bubble burst, and more importantly that prevented the usual kind of recovery we generally see in a boom and bust cycle?

 

Well we could probably find the cause by looking at how business reacts to changes in the political field.  As I said before, businesses aren’t stupid, they make long term predictions based on likely outcomes so that they can survive the coming disaster. Under this assumption you would likely see them cutting the fat in their business within a month or so of a development that bodes poorly for the economy (I say a month because it takes about that amount of time for a corporate structure to decide which investments to cut and how many employees they need to shave off the rolls).

 

So let’s take a look at the job losses in 2008.

 

Yes I know it says “Jobs Lost” and then shows the loss as negative number…which would actually mean jobs gained…but this is from Pelosi’s website when she was Speaker as I prefer to use Democratic numbers to show that even their own numbers show them to be in the wrong. I can’t help it if she and her staff are too stupid to properly set up a graph.

 

 

Now from this it is clear 2008 starts off bad but most of that initial loss you would usually see in a stagnant economy as those are the losses from seasonal jobs.   What we actually see are two major changes: one in March where we shift from just mild trimming of the fat to full on cuts, and another in August which starts off a major firing phase. So if it takes a month to respond to what happened in February and July of 2008?  Well in February Romney dropped out of the race telling businesses they were going to get stuck with center left Clinton, liberal McCain or socialist Obama…none of these good options.  And in July it became obvious to everyone that Obama had the election.  Amazing that every time that Obama went up in the polls losses grew. It’s almost as if business hearing the socialist shit he was peddling knew they were in for very long economic hardship…oh wait that’s exactly what they did.

 

Obama is the inciting incident that like the Smoot-Hawley Tariff sparked all the problems in the system to come to fruition.  These were structural problems that for the most part existed for all of his predecessors as well, but only he brought out the worst in this situation.  He didn’t inherit a mess, he created one.  He took an unstable situation and was the very thing needed to make bad, worse.  Yes others others, many others, are to blame for creating the structural problems (Bush included for being so weak willed and liberal in his attitude to the economy), but that doesn’t change the fact that Obama is the touchstone that set the whole mess aflame.  And as we’ll see it was Obama who took this bad situation and made it much, much worse.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now I know I still have to deal with his claims that that he prevented us from falling into another Great Depression, or that we can’t go back to the failed policies of the past as if he wasn’t already instituting the failed policies that are actually to blame…but this blog is already 4 pages long and the most common complaint I get is that these blogs are too long…so I’ll deal with them in follow up blogs.

 

 

 

*Nowadays the Fed has gone to the other idiotic extremes and instead of providing limited amounts of short term funds to help get through the emotion driven lows, they’re pumping money in by the boat load which is as disastrous and idiotic as pulling back.

**And when I say Democrats I’m including RINOs who will always turn on their supposed conservative beliefs just to get their own pork projects…Ron Paul and John McCain come to mind.

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Movies that show the rich as good #6 Pretty Woman

Vivian: Tell me one person who it’s worked out for.
Kit: What, you want me to name someone? You want like a name? Oh, God, the pressure of a name… I got it. Cinda-fuckin’-rella

We’re going to deviate from the star of the film and focus on the rich people in this film for just a minute (after all that’s what this series of blog is about).

This movie is a little odd in that it actually shows two rich people (arguably three if you count Morse’s grandson, but he doesn’t really play that much of a part aside from being likable) who are decent human beings.

Let’s deal with the minor characters first. James Morse, played by lifetime character actor Ralph Bellamy, is the owner of the shipyard which brings our main rich character, Edward Lewis, to L.A. His shipyard which he has clearly built from scratch through his own genius, effort, blood and sweat, is on the financial ropes (the movie was made shortly after the crash of the late ‘80’s when a lot of industries were on the chopping block for creative destruction…which is actually one of the fundamental principles of a functioning capitalist system.) However, Morse’s company is not so flawed that it is as easy a kill as it first looked. And this is where we see the character of Morse. He is not the kind of man who whines about it being unfair—his first reaction to Lewis’ statement that he intends to dismantle his company is “I’ll buy your stock back.” He deals with Lewis fairly and offers to make him a fair deal that says ‘I’m sorry that you didn’t feel your investment in my company has not paid off. I believe in my company, I won’t bother you with emotional outbursts, I’ll deal with you as an adult and offer you a fair exchange.” His next inclination is to fight for his company and put his own money where his mouth is, like any man of character would. And finally when he sees that he facing insurmountable odds he seeks to cut a deal that will leave those who have been loyal to him in a safe position.

“Mr. Lewis and I are going to build ships together, great big ships.”

Seldom do you see Hollywood portray any of these traits. Often they are depicted as whining, willing to use other’s money and in the end really only caring for themselves. (And sometimes that first trait is viewed as a virtue).

Now onto the movie’s other rich guy, Edward Lewis.* Our first impression of Lewis is that he has problems with his personal relationships, but given the brief but very happy reunion with an ex-girlfriend, who seems to remember him fondly, it is clear that while not a master of personal relationships, he is a very well liked human being. Further at all points when he is honest and blunt with people (except when bluffing about stopping Morse’s defense contracts, but as in all games bluffing is expected).

Now some would claim that being the kind of businessman who engages in hostile takeovers to break up the pieces and sell them off is heartless and evil…of course this ignores the basic fact that by doing so, by engaging in what economists call creative destruction—weak companies die or are taken over before death, their products sold cheap their workers tend to find jobs in the same industries which have been revitalized with new supplies and workers. (Or you can go with the despair of “too big to fail”…yeah tell me how that brings prosperity). But even this claim is far fetched with Edward Lewis. The contrast comes in with two statements he makes, the first is in reference to Morse saying he would destroy Lewis, “I look forward to it sir.” And the second is in critiquing of his slimy lawyer (do lawyers come in any other form?) when, after giving him the beating he so richly deserves, he points out “It’s the kill you love” as an insult of Stucky’s character. Lewis’ character is shown by these two points (as well of a lot of smaller moves) that what he loves is not the destruction of another’s business, as those who obsessively hate the rich might suggest, but rather the challenge his job presents. Like most people who are very good at what they do, Lewis is constantly seeking a challenge, something to push himself even further. And it just so happens that he finds an even greater challenge worthy of his skill in rebuilding a business rather than simply taking it over, which is why he cuts a deal with Morse at the end of the film to help revitalize the business.

But, I will admit it is clearly Vivian Ward who helps him get out of the rut of just taking over characters. Lewis was not able to do it completely on his own. He was getting lost in his habits, and overly influenced by his sleazy lawyer, and it was Robert’s character that broke him out of his trance. But this does bring up a tangential point I would like to bring up. Several people I know hate this film because they think it’s derogatory to women because Ward states “I want the fairy tale.” As if that somehow is sexist and degrading to women. They apparently missed both the nature of the movie where Lewis needs Ward to survive and be happy and be not just a good person, but a great one. The character of Vivian Ward needed 3 grand, a week’s worth of nice clothes (yeah they show her trying on a lot, but she leaves with only a couple of garment bags that she can carry by herself…granted the Rodeo Drive stores probably knock the price tag up to $20,000-$30,000, but really she walked out with a week’s worth of clothes and that’s it). So it took at most $33,000* for her to get her life together, it is clear that while she might not have been as happy, she would have been just fine and done quite well for herself on her own. Edward Lewis needed her. She didn’t need him; it was just an added perk. Everyone forgets, that’s how her fairy tale (and I think the one all sane people have) goes:

“What happens after he climbs the tower and rescues her?”
“She rescues him right back.”

*I’m really going to ignore the ethics of picking up a prostitute. Sexual mores are extremely personal and seldom based on unbiased reasoning (and that goes for people on all sides of these arguments). In the end everything that occurs is between consenting adults and we’re going to leave it at that.
*And before you try to make that out to be a huge sum, keep in mind the clothes have limited value beyond opening more doors than her previous attire. I could give lots of people I’ve known 33 grand in cash and they wouldn’t be able to significantly improve their life. The character of Vivian Ward is the kind who can use whatever she has to make the most of her life, which is why she was never overly impressed or awed by Lewis’ money.

Everybody comes here; this is Hollywood, land of dreams. Some dreams come true, some don’t; but keep on dreamin’ – this is Hollywood. Always time to dream, so keep on dreamin’.

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