CAT | Politics
Note: This is my weekly op-ed.
“What are you talking about?” (I hear you say.) “All we do is argue these days. About gun control, abortion, Obamacare…”
No, we don’t argue about these things at all. Or at best, only one side argues.
“What? Doesn’t it take two to argue? Or fight, make up, or tango?”
Let me back up a bit.
I’m using “argument” in the formal sense used in logic. You have a set of statements, one of which is the conclusion. You’re claiming if all the other statements are true, the conclusion has to be true.
I thought of this a few nights ago when a teacher friend of mine was venting about an exchange he had in the teachers’ lounge.
The issue was gun control legislation, but it could have been anything.
What frustrated him was another teacher making assertions about what he should or should not be legally allowed to have, based on feelings, uninformed opinions, and flat-out assertions of what is or isn’t freedom.
“Is this what passes for argument among these people?” he said.
I’ve run into the exact same phenomenon. And what’s worrisome is, an awful lot among academics. You know, those people who are preparing our children to deal with the world?
I have an acquaintance I’ve known for well over 30 years who teaches history in an eastern college.
He vents a lot on Facebook, and recently something struck me.
In more than 30 years I have never heard him construct an argument. What he does is attack the sources he disagrees with. Sometimes he asserts dark and shady secrets in their past, having nothing to do with their opinions or positions. But lately it’s been simple name-calling: “idiots,” “fools” etc.
I hear this a lot, from a lot of different people. What passes as argument takes the form of an attack, not on the opinion but the person holding the opinion.
In formal logic this is called the ad hominem (“to the man”) fallacy, and can take few different forms.
The one I see quite often in political arguments starts with assuming the conclusion, then claiming if you disagree you are a terrible person.
I’ll use the example of Obamacare. If you are in favor of Obamacare, please remember I’m criticizing what passes for the argument – not the conclusion. That’s the first elementary mistake students make in freshman logic.
“Obamacare will bring down medical costs and make health insurance available to all the uninsured people. People against Obamacare want medical costs to go higher and poor people to have no insurance. That’s because right-wingers are heartless.”
Hold it! Agree or disagree, the argument is not that the claimed benefits are undesirable, but that Obamacare won’t produce them. That it will in fact drive costs higher and make medical care less available.
Secondly, it asserts an ulterior motive for holding a contrary opinion. (The argumentum ad hominem circumstantial.)
May I point out that motive is one thing we cannot know for sure, because it resides in people’s heads, and is what we are most likely to lie about, even to ourselves.
I believe that this inability to argue is more common on the left, though certainly not unknown on the right.
Why? For one, the so-called “conservative” movement is more intellectually diverse than what’s called “liberalism.” (I put liberalism in quotes because I’m old enough to remember when “liberal” meant something far closer to some kinds of conservatism these days, as it still does in Europe.)
Conservatism is in fact at least three or four “movements” in a loose alliance. The opposite ends of that alliance, libertarians and social conservatives positively loathe each other. Consequently, they argue a lot.
For another, establishment liberalism dominates media and the social sciences and humanities in universities.
The result is, right-wingers have to defend their opinion a lot more often than left-wingers, even among themselves. Left-wingers spend most of their time with people who agree with them.
They don’t learn to argue, because they don’t get their daily exercise defending their position.
An old journalist, Frank Meyer once said, “We find comfort among those we agree with, growth among those we disagree with.”
Note: Cross-posted from my professional blog at The Marshall Independent.
This morning I saw something on Facebook that almost made me lose my breakfast.
It was under a label “Take Back Socialism” and posted by someone I’ve known for 30 years – who I know for a fact has never visited any of the countries he has held up as exemplars of socialism. Not a one. Nor has he ever visited any of the former Eastern Bloc countries – though I personally urged him to visit Poland as my guest.
Quoted in full.
“I love socialism.
I love socialism because I love having a post office that will deliver my mail.
I love socialism because I love having roads to drive on, bridges to drive over and sidewalks to walk on.
I love socialism because I love having national parks to visit.
I love socialism because I love having libraries where I can borrow books to learn about new topics.
I love socialism because I love having a fire department to call if my house is on fire (or to make sure my neighbor’s burning house is saved before it catches mine on fire).
I love socialism because I love having a police department that keeps the streets safe.
I love socialism because I love having a military that keeps the country safe.
I love socialism because I love having water that I can drink straight out of the faucet without worrying about ingesting poisons or parasites.
I love socialism because I love knowing that the food I eat is safe to eat.
I love socialism because I love knowing that the medicine I take has been tested and proven to be safe.
I love socialism because I love knowing that when I get old and retire, I will have Social Security to buy food and housing with and Medicare to pay for my medical expenses.
I love socialism because I love the environment and am glad there are regulations to protect it.
I love socialism because I love knowing that if I get hurt or sick or layed-off, I’ll be able to get assistance in buying food, paying medical bills and paying rent… and that’s why I’m happy to pay taxes towards those things.
I love socialism because I love knowing that there is a minimum wage, a weekend, sick days, holidays, a 40 hour work week and an 8 hour work day, overtime pay and all the other benefits that labor activists have fought and died for.
I love socialism because I love that there are public schools and universities where those who came before me, myself and future generations all will or have learned and I would be more than happy to pay a little extra in taxes if it meant funding them properly.
I love socialism because I love our space program and the thousands of advancements it has brought to everyday life from GPS to freeze-dried ice cream and everything in between.
But most of all:
I love socialism because I love my country and all the people in it and think that everyone deserves a FAIR shot at life, whether we agree on politics or not. The American people deserve better than dog-eat-dog capitalism.
“I lived from 1991 to 2004 in the former Eastern Bloc – none of this describes the socialism I experienced first hand. The post office was inefficient, and mail theft was rampant. Every bureaucrat down to the little old ladies that sold tickets at the railroad stations were petty-minded tyrants whose idea of relaxation was to ruin your day. Medical care was a nightmare.
As for “fair” the Party aristocracy enjoyed access to special shops full of western good ordinary folks could only see in movies. For only one example, a Party member could get a telephone installed reasonably quickly – the average wait for anyone else was 14 years!
I saw it get dramatically better, almost day by day, when this evil system was replaced by a freer market-oriented system.
Medical care in the newly privatized sector became so cheap, my first child was born in St. Sophia hospital, the one in Warsaw patronized by movie stars. The whole 9-month process cost about $1,000 equivalent – and our pediatrician made house calls!
Now tell me about your experience living under socialism.” (Said I dripping sarcasm.)
I could have multiplied examples point-by-point, but you get the point.
Some time back a writer coined the term “xenophilia” for this kind of phenomenon. The conviction among some Americans that it must be better somewhere else, in spite of all evidence that people everywhere else still want to come here, in spite of all our problems.
Twenty-four years after the most disastrous political experiment in the history of the world collapsed, there are still people who want to give it another try.
Sometimes I despair of the human race.
Note: This is a recent syndicated column.
“We find comfort among those who agree with us, growth among those who disagree.”
- Frank Meyer
I have a great many friends I do not agree with on a great many issues.
Once upon a time that statement would have been considered banal, and likely met with a “So what?”
Alas, in this day and age we seem to be self-segregating, not according to race or religion, but opinion. And those opinions are identified with certain professions and sectors of the economy.
For example what would you automatically assume if I told you, “I have a friend who is a sociology (English, liberal arts, humanities) professor”?
Friendships across ideological lines are getting harder to maintain these days, and that’s a pity. When we associate only with people we agree with, our ability to defend our opinions atrophies.
Recently I had a Facebook disagreement with a friend I’ve known since he was a boy. He identifies himself as a “progressive.”
I think he’s wrongheaded, naïve, and having known his parents I can’t conceive of how he got that way.
I think he’s well-meaning in his error – to a point. I also see in him motivations of envy towards “the rich” and an overwhelming desire to be important, which as e.e. cummings noted, is the source of a great deal of the harm in this world.
He’s a “progressive” you see. A position I heartily dislike, as much as I like him.
Why should that surprise anyone? Arch-conservative Winston Churchill maintained a long friendship with George Bernard Shaw, a socialist and one-time ardent admirer of both Hitler and Stalin. When Shaw died, Churchill genuinely mourned the passing of one of the few men who could match him in repartee.
What I owe my friend is, that he makes me think more deeply about why I believe what I do. He forces me to refine my argument. Not to convince him, but to clarify it for myself.
To being with, “progressives” – aren’t. They’re living in the past.
There is nothing progressive about the philosophy expressed by those who sail under that label.
Progressivism is a grab bag of very old ideas that have been tried many times before, and caused untold misery.
Progressives believe society must be directed from a head, that society is broken and needs to be fixed – by them.
Progressives believe in the rule of the wise. They have no concept of distributed knowledge, that the world works best when everybody is free to manage his or her little piece of it.
Thus progressives favor the government sector, fear and loathe the private sector.
Progressives see fortunes made from the production of concrete goods and services as tainted, evil. They see money made in sports, entertainment, information technology, law, and government connections as good, worthy, and well-deserved.
Progressives see nature as good, and mankind as separate from nature. A weaver bird building a nest is natural. A couple building a house is not.
Progressives would do anything for the working class – except join it.
It is very difficult to sustain the idea that the world owes you a living when you make your own living from the strength of your arm and the skill of your hands. You might wish it were so, but the aches in your muscles and the dirt under your fingernails tell you differently.
Progressives trust logic over experience. With logic, you can start with certain assumptions and reason to a conclusion that must be true – if your assumptions are correct. Experience is what puts those assumptions to the test.
This leads progressives to assume a conclusion, that a proposed program will achieve the results they say it will: cheap universal health care, high-quality education for all, world peace, etc.
But if the assumption is true, then any disagreement means you oppose the wonderful results.
If you argue a government takeover of medical care will result in poorer quality, less available, and more expensive medical care – they hear it as, “I oppose good quality, readily available, and cheaper medical care.”
And here we get to the heart of it. Progressives believe if you disagree, you’re not just wrong, you’re evil.
Note: Cross-posted on my professional blog at The Marshall Independent.
In my post on recommended reading for anyone whose interest in Cold War history has been piqued by the FX series, “The Americans” I provided a reading list of sources which have been authenticated to a reasonable degree.
There’s something else I’d like to mention, but this is in the realm of pure speculation.
One of the sources I found when researching my review said there are estimates of “as many as 50 couples” like the couple portrayed in the series, in place in the U.S.
I have no idea how they got that figure or what it’s worth. But some years back I heard a very intriguing rumor.
According to this, the United States was never able to put agents in place within the Soviet Union. Among other reasons, their society isn’t as mobile as ours. They don’t habitually move around the country looking for work, or just because they think they might like someplace else better. Most people grow up among people they’ve known all their lives.
For another, functioning in their society required a lot of documentation, official permissions etc that presented an almost insurmountable barrier to passing as a native.
What U.S. intelligence did was to have American handlers recruit locals to pass information with the promise that they and their families would eventually be extracted and taken to live in the U.S., as Col. Kuklinski’s family was.
The Soviets on the other hand, had little trouble putting agents in place in our country. Constructing an identity is not terribly difficult. I understand it starts with touring cemeteries, looking for someone who died in childhood who would have been about your own age. You then write to the county records office and say, “I’m so-and-so and I’d like a copy of my birth certificate.”
With the birth certificate you generate all the other documents you need. It won’t pass a background check of the degree of thoroughness required to get a job with the FBI, but that’s not the point. You can settle in a part of the country that’s rich in information, and blend into society, hoping to cultivate the acquaintance of people who do have access to useful information.
No here’s the rumor I heard. The Soviets could do that – but they tended to lose people.
Agents in place, like the couple in the series, would realize, “Life is good here. Life is not good back home.”
If you’ve generated one identity, it’s no trick to generate another and move somewhere else in this vast and varied country of ours.
So why not just defect? Turn yourself in.
Well, there’s another rumor, and it’s an ugly one.
The U.S. government did not in fact welcome all potential defectors with open arms. The reasoning is that unless they came with valuable information or skills, it was better to leave malcontents in place within Soviet society where they were a potentially disruptive influence.
We know defectors have been turned away. Vasilli Mitrokhin was, that’s how the British got the KGB archives first.
There is a rumor that defectors who didn’t have sufficiently valuable information were sometimes traded back. (I was told this by an Air Force noncom with a hobby interest in political and military history.)
So, blend in, lie low, and never tell your children.
I wonder about this. Are there living among us people who appear like any other of our countrymen, who were born half a world away?
I wonder if we’ll ever know.
Note: This is my weekly syndicated column.
Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has announced that women are necessary to our military’s success, that they are willing to fight and die alongside men, and “The time has come for our policies to recognize that reality.”
And of course, the sky is falling.
Opponents have pointed out, quite correctly, that the function of the military is not social engineering, but the defense of the nation.
“While their focus must remain on winning the battles and protecting their troops, they will now have the distraction of having to provide some separation of the genders during fast-moving and deadly situations,” said Jerry Boykin, executive vice president of the Family Research Council and a retired Army lieutenant general.
The move seems to be supported mostly by men who are not veterans and women who don’t personally intend to make a career of the infantry.
I have to ask, is this going to make any difference at all?
I notice that Panetta has left himself an out. He said physical standards will not be lowered, and admitted few women can meet them, but “everyone is entitled to a chance.”
That sounds like, “Hey, you’re welcome to try, so don’t blame me if you can’t pass the test.”
In my younger days I worked as a garbage man in a town which had yard service. Meaning we went into the yards, emptied the cans into our containers, and toted them to the truck on our backs – an average of 65 pounds and often much more. Not distributed as well as a backpack either. We worked in all weathers, including Oklahoma summers when the temperature regularly got above 100.
There was nothing to prevent women from applying for the job, but in six years total I remember two woman who actually tried it on for size and stuck with it for a few months. Nobody complained about their ability to do the work, there just weren’t many like them.
Oh yes, and one was fired along with a male colleague for hanky-panky on the job.
The argument from some female officers is there are women at the high end of that bell curve of strength and stamina who can outperform men at the low end.
This is not news. The question is, is it worthwhile for the military to make some fairly expensive and troublesome accommodations for a statistically tiny minority of women who can meet the physical standards required of an infantryman?
Panneta said standards won’t be lowered, but in fact they have been in a number of cases. There are also reports of serious problems of unit cohesion in Army units and on Navy ships.
My father, a retired Naval officer, put it bluntly that women at sea doesn’t work unless everybody gets one. Anything else is asking for trouble.
The gender equality crowd usually responds with, “Men have to change.”
OK, so what if the changes, if possible at all, result in men who don’t make good soldiers and sailors anymore?
On the other hand… there are plenty of women in combat positions that aren’t infantry. There are helicopter pilots, I believe at least one door gunner, and women qualified to be fighter pilots.
On average women have physical characteristics such as smaller average size, resistance to G-forces, quick reflexes, etc that might make them as good or better than men in the cockpit of a fighter jet.
Lots of women drive trucks and operate heavy equipment and do all the 20-odd support tasks that enable the military to put one combat soldier in the field.
Russian woman served as snipers in WWII and racked up impressive kill records.
Army and Navy nurses have been near enough to the front lines to be killed or captured since World War II.
Israeli women serve in the IDF, making it one of the most attractive as well as most kick-butt armies in the world.
The role of female Israeli soldiers has been overstated though. Israel does not by choice put women into combat. They receive thorough training in arms because in Israel there are no rear areas, and their enemies do not recognize non-combatant status.
I suspect this is going to sort itself out eventually, after a lot of trouble, expense, and scandal no doubt. But that’s the way we do things these days.
Note: This is an op-ed from my syndicated column. New revelations are coming to light so rapidly, it may be outdated by this evening.
The Kissinger Lesson, “That which will be revealed eventually, must be revealed immediately.”
This past week, two weeks before the election, may be remembered as the week it ceased to matter whether a sitting president was re-elected or not.
That was the week the hastily thrown together official story of the attack on the American consulate and CIA annex at Benghazi on the historically significant date of Sept. 11, totally fell apart.
Here’s what we know to a reasonable degree of certainty. On Sept. 11, men armed with automatic rifles and RPGs, supported by mortars, began to take positions around the American consulate. They apparently recruited locals off the street and directed them to “demonstrate,” possibly using an obscure YouTube video allegedly insulting Islam to inflame them.
The video was not the motive of the attack. As of several days after the attack the video still had hits in the low hundreds.
During the attack on the consulate, Ambassador Chris Stevens and Sean Smith, Foreign Service Information Management Officer, were killed.
Consulate personnel were rescued and Smith’s body recovered by security officers Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty, both former Navy SEALS, who allegedly disobeyed instructions not to leave the CIA annex. They were both killed by mortar fire when the annex came under attack.
Stevens’ body somehow wound up at a local hospital, after being dragged through the streets, allegedly desecrated, and photographed by members of the mob.
The administration’s public statements have been confused, contradictory, and sometimes outright bizarre.
Though Obama claimed in debate that he did in fact call the attack a “terrorist incident” (backstopped by moderator Candy Crowley) the video shows he made a vague statement that about not being intimidated by “acts of terrorism” not clearly connected to the attack. Five days later UN Ambassador Susan Rice was still trying to connect the act to the anti-Mohammed video.
Then on Friday, Fox News reported that it “learned from sources who were on the ground in Benghazi that an urgent request from the CIA annex for military back-up during the attack on the U.S. consulate and subsequent attack several hours later on the annex itself was denied by the CIA chain of command…”
FOX said it’s sources claimed CIA operators were told twice to “stand down.”
The attack was observed and videoed by a Predator drone in real time, and possibly by an AC-130 gunship as well, if reports the former SEALs were lighting up the mortar that killed them with a GLD (Ground Laser Designator) are accurate. At all times help was never more than two hours away, likely much sooner.
The administration, though Vice-President Biden, attempted to throw the intelligence community under the bus, claiming they acted (or failed to) according to the information they had at the time.
Intelligence refused to go gently into that good night, and is very possibly the source of subsequent leaks.
A CIA spokesman said, ”No one at any level in the CIA told anybody not to help those in need; claims to the contrary are simply inaccurate. ”
And does anyone believe that CIA Director Gen. David Petraeus would give a “stand down” order with the lives of men holding an untenable position at stake?
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton fell on her sword the American way, “OK, it’s my fault, now can we stop talking about it?” (As opposed to the Japanese way of accepting responsibility, which involves resigning in disgrace and possibly hara-kiri.)
Obama was caught off-guard in friendly territory by KUSA-TV reporter Kyle Clark, a Denver affiliate of NBC. He refused to answer a direct question about personally denying the requests for help, and responded with boilerplate about “bringing those responsible to justice.”
OK, so what everybody is wondering is, is this going to affect the election? Is this the October surprise that destroys Obama’s chance of a second term?
Doesn’t matter. If Obama is re-elected, like Nixon was after Watergate, Benghazi-gate is not going away. He will preside over a crippled administration propped up by a totally discredited media.
Note: This appeared in the print-only version of The Marshall Independent TV Guide.
“2016: Obama’s America” is an electioneering movie modeled on Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 9/11” and made for the same purpose, to influence the course of an upcoming presidential election.
The film is based on two books by D’Souza: “The Roots of Obama’s Rage,” and “Obama’s America: Unmaking the American Dream.”
This movie will probably not be seen by Obama supporters in any great numbers, and is unlikely to persuade anybody who’s mind is made up. Co-writer and director Dinesh D’Souza most likely made it to sway independent voters, and rally the conservative troops.
The tagline of “2016: Obama’s America,” “Love him or hate him, you don’t know him,” is eminently true. Surprisingly little is known about the life of the current occupant of the White House, arguably less than is known about the life of George Washington in total.
However, the end line of the documentary, “Love him or hate him, now you know him,” is far less defensible.
“2016” presents a theory of motive. Obama’s motives for what he has done in office. According to D’Souza, other right-wing theories of Obama’s motives: he’s a socialist, he’s a secret Muslim, etc, are unsatisfactory explanations.
D’Souza presents his thesis that Obama is motivated by the Third World anti-colonialist vision inherited from his Kenyan father, Barack Obama Senior.
The problem with attribution of motive is, you can claim you know someone else’s motive all you like, and simply dismiss all counter-claims. Motive is impossible to know for sure, because it resides in people’s heads, is most often mixed and ambiguous, and is what people are most likely to lie about, even to themselves.
The only way to get a reasonably confident take on someone’s motives is to examine how well it explains their actions, and by ruthlessly honest introspection. If you can see the same motives in yourself under similar circumstances, you might be on the right track.
D’Souza takes this tack and presents his own background as being very similar to Obama’s. Both are mixed-race scions of families from countries colonized by Britain. Obama’s father was from Kenya, D’Souza’s family is from India, or former Portuguese Goa to be exact. Both were steeped in the anti-colonialist traditions of their respective families that explain essentially all of the Third World’s misery as the result of ruthless exploitation by the Western colonial powers.
According to D’Souza, the whole thrust of Obama’s presidency has been to weaken the West in general and the United States in particular, and transfer huge amounts of its wealth to the Third World.
D’Souza introduces Obama’s intellectual mentors: African-American poet and Communist Party member Frank Marshall Davis, Palestinian anti-colonialist Professor Edward Said, former Weather Underground terrorist William Ayres, etc.
It’s an intriguing hypothesis, one that might even strengthen Obama’s waning appeal among hard leftist who share their anti-colonialist views. But to be accepted as viable, a theory must not only explain but rule out other explanations.
To his credit, D’Souza has interviewed a number of people the media has never bothered to: friends from Hawaii, Obama’s mother’s PhD advisor, and a real coup, Obama’s half-brother George, who surprisingly argues the British should have stayed longer in Kenya.
D’Souza interviewed historian Shelby Steele, who also has a mixed-race background and presents some very interesting speculation about Obama’s appeal to white voters as a non-threatening African-American they can feel good about supporting.
And he presents the testimony of Obama himself, from the audiobook of his autobiography, “Dreams from My Father.”
But he interviewed precisely one psychologist on the influence of absent fathers, and none with alternative opinions. He glosses over another possible explanation, that any possible anti-colonialist views came directly from his mother. Which actually seems more likely from the evidence presented in the film.
And he ignores data that contradict his thesis entirely.
If Obama’s natural sympathies lie with Third World Muslims against the United States, then why has he been killing them with Predator drone attacks at a rate four-five times greater than George Bush ever did? Why has he not followed up on his promise to close Guantanamo? Why has he continued to wage war in Afghanistan?
If Obama sees himself as a transformative president, impatient or outright hostile to constitutional constraints on his power, it is unnecessary to invoke a non-American mindset. Of our two other most transformative presidents, Franklin Roosevelt was patrician Dutch-American, and Woodrow Wilson was a southerner (also racist and ardent segregationist.) Both were as American as apple pie. And bottom line, there are plenty of Americans with no overseas background who share the same views.
Love him or hate him, I’d still say go see it. You’ll learn a lot of interesting things you didn’t know. But as for D’Souza’s theory, I’d say interesting but unproven.
Note: This appeared in the print-only edition of the TV Guide published by The Marshall Independent.
It’s not that this movie isn’t funny, it is in spots. It’s just that you have to wonder why it isn’t funnier given the subject matter.
“The Campaign” has a few things going for it. There are a couple of great belly laughs in the early part of the movie but you’ve probably already seen them in the trailer.
Cam Brady (Will Ferrell) is a Democratic North Carolina congressman who has been in office forever. He’s got a beautiful, albeit cold and ruthless wife (Katherine LaNasa,) two attractive children, and a lot of action on the side. He has such a lock on the job he usually runs unopposed.
Cam is such a klutz he accidental sends a sexually explicit phone call intended for his girlfriend to the answering machine of a stereotypically uptight Christian family. Oops!
The local Powers that Be, the Motch brothers Glenn (John Lithgow) and Wade (Dan Aykroyd) decide it’s time for a change and co-opt a lesser power broker Raymond Huggins (Brian Cox) to run his son Marty (Zach Galifianakis) on the Republican ticket.
What they want is a congressman who will smooth their way to selling the district to the Chinese, who will bring sweatshops staffed by 50 cents an hour labor producing cheap junk.
Marty is their guy because he’s kind of dumb. He’s also a disappointment to his father, who is so into the trappings of power he makes his Chinese housekeeper Mrs. Yao (Karen Maruyama) affect a black “Mammy” accent straight out of “Gone with the Wind” because it “reminds him of the good old days.”
Marty, to put it kindly, is kind of weird. He’s got effeminate mannerisms and an air of innocence which comes off sweet but idiotic. His wife Mitzi (Sarah Baker) is plump and cute, and his kids look like the boys who get bullied on the playground.
He starts out getting creamed by Cam who makes him look like the weirdo he is. But then a combination of sweetness, honesty, plus the ruthless machinations of his new campaign manager Tim Wattley (Dylan McDermott) starts to push him ahead in the polls.
And of course you know this means war. And war has collateral damage. But who could imagine seeing a baby get punched could be so hilarious?
The middle of the film is all about the dirty tricks the two play on each other. And I mean dirty, even by the standards of politics. Marty, with Wattley’s help, discovers his inner mensch, but also discovers his mean streak.
So what’s right with the movie?
Well to begin with, it’s not shilling for either party. It shows them as the Evil Party and the Stupid Party, and you can take you pick as to which is which depending on your own inclinations. It shows the corrupting influence of power, and that big money has no party preference, only a flag of convenience.
What’s wrong with it?
It’s vulgar. Worse, the vulgarity has no point. Worse still it’s not funny.
There are some odd misfires when it tries to be dramatic. Cam comes over to Marty’s place drunk and wanting to make friends. He gets drunker and leaves.
Tim comes out of the shadows and tells Marty, “You know what to do.”
Marty calls the police to report a drunk driver. This is presented as despicable.
No it’s not!
Yes it would have been better to convince Cam to give Marty the car keys and sleep on the couch. But it is not a bad thing to report a dangerously intoxicated driver.
The problem is, politicians have become so self-parodying it’s getting very, very hard to parody them.
Cam’s public gaffes inevitably remind one of Bill Clinton’s zipper problems, Joe Biden’s logorrhea, and Rep. Todd Akin’s (R-Mo.) “legitimate rape” gaffe. I see allusions to former Rep. Anthony Wiener (D-NY,) and possibly former Sen. David Boren’s (D-Okla.) “broom brigade” that was going to “clean up” Washington. (In 1979. How’d that work out?)
In the end Marty rediscovers his idealism and honesty, inspires Cam to rediscover his, they unite against the bad buys and all is made right with the world.
I like fairly tales too. Just don’t take your kids to this one.
I have often said that your belief in freedom and your respect for human rights is tested by your willingness to defend the freedom and support the rights of people you just flat despise.
This will tend to put one in uncomfortable and embarrassing situations from time to time. If you for example, defend the free speech rights of neo-Nazis, you know people are going to accuse you of being one.
Legendary journalist and uncompromising defender of freedom H.L. Mencken said, “The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one’s time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all.”
I don’t think you find much of that kind of integrity around these days. There seem to be an awful lot of people in public life who condemn the same actions of people they dislike, that they excuse or actively justify in people they like.
We all remember the story of the Boston Massacre from our American History classes. The incident in 1750 when British soldiers fired on a mob, killing five men. The incident was used as propaganda by the pro-independence party to raise the tensions that led to the outbreak of revolution five years later.
I wonder how many people remember that the soldiers were defended on murder charges by John Adams, a fierce patriot and later first vice-president and second president of the United States?
Adams won the acquittal of six of the soldiers and succeeded in getting the sentence of two reduced to manslaughter, punished by a branding on the hand.
Adams wanted independence, but genuinely believed the soldiers were innocent of the charges. He was willing to kill them on the field of battle, but would not sully the cause of independence with an injustice, nor corrupt the law to serve an agenda.
But I’ve just found a contemporary example. Rich Lowry, editor of the conservative publication National Review, has an article, “John Edwards: Slimy, not criminal.”
Edwards is currently facing some pretty serious charges of violating campaign finance laws by paying hush money to his mistress and mother of his love child, while his wife was dying of cancer.
In the public sphere he has essentially no defenders. His own party has dropped him like a hot rock, and former friends and aids are testifying against him.
Lowry makes no secret of the fact that he thinks Edwards is a detestable human being. But he also lays out in detail why Edwards’ actions, though morally reprehensible, are not criminal.
“If Edwards were being prosecuted for shameful dereliction of duty as a husband and father, he’d deserve 30 years of hard labor. If he were on trial for extreme oleaginous insincerity, he’d deserve to be sent to the nearest supermax prison. If he could be charged with running two faux-populist presidential campaigns (first in 2004, then in 2008) that were all about stroking his own ego, he’d deserve to hang at dawn.
“None of these things is a criminal offense, though. And neither is paying hush money to your mistress. In the case of United States of America v. Johnny Reid Edwards, it is the United States of America that is out of line…
“The prosecution is a naked exercise in attempting to punish a loathsome man for his loathsomeness. As such, it is an offense against the rule of law, which depends on clear rules and dispassionate judgments. Every wrong — even flagrant wrongs, played out in public and involving mind-boggling deceit — is not a crime. By stretching the laws to try to reach Edwards, the government is creating the precedent for future ambiguous, politicized prosecutions, perhaps of figures much less blameworthy than the reviled man currently in the dock.
“John Edwards belongs under a rock, but not in jail.”
Good for you Lowry! Whether one agrees or disagrees with your politics, that shows integrity and ethical consistency.
And hey, you gotta love a writer who can use phrases like, “oleaginous insincerity.”
Just now I logged on to Facebook and on an irritated whim I commented on a remark posted by a friend who has been somewhat estranged lately for reasons not germane to this.
Or perhaps they are. I often wonder how ideology affects one’s personal loyalty, ethics, etc. I haven’t seen a direct one-to-one relationship, it’s more complicated than that, but still…
At any rate, what this person posted was:
“Unregulated free market capitalism looks suspiciously like China…..”
“Stephen W. Browne: Dumb on so many levels. A free market is not and cannot be “unregulated” by definition. A market systems cannot function without rules: against fraud and force, misrepresentation in advertising, enforcement of contracts,”
Then I hit the ENTER key, which I do often on Facebook. On some sites ENTER gives you a paragraph break. On Facebook it actually enters what you’ve written, and I often forget that. (And by the way, how do you get a paragraph break on Facebook?
So I continued to write:
“Stephen W. Browne: China has moved away from a totalitarian system that outright murdered tens of millions of people and caused mass starvation of similar numbers through the sheer economic idiocy that has resulted from every attempt at centrally planning the economy. And have you seen China? Nor have I, but I have taken the trouble to get to know a fair number of Chinese with first-hand experience of both countries. Some in the context of helping them defect. I have seen and lived in not one, but three countries which were in the process of moving from controlled economies to at least freer markets. In each case I saw first-hand the explosion of prosperity that followed immediately afterwards. I have visited at intervals several more, and seen reliable reports of still more. In contrast as a country, ours in this case, has fallen lower on the economic freedom index maintained by the Canadian think tank Fraser, well we see the results around us. This is so silly that, as one scientist said, “It’s not even wrong.” How China and the U.S. resemble each other is not in being “an unregulated free market” but in us moving towards the kind of crony capitalism of China. One where the government allows a minimal market, but picks the winners and losers through preferential regulation, complicated tax codes, awarding government contracts to favored supporters, and outright subsidies, bailouts etc.”
Then I hit ENTER, and this popped up:
“Sorry, you may not have permission to add this comment or the original post may have been deleted.”