They Don’t Like the Bill of Rights

Friday, April 28, AD 2017

 

Last night I watched The FBI Story (1959) starring Jimmy Stewart as FBI agent Chip Hardesty.  Through the story of his career the history of the FBI was told.  A somewhat sanitized version to be sure but accurate as far as it went.  Go here to read some background on the film.  From an entertainment standpoint it is a great film, full of humor and drama, Jimmy Stewart and Vera Miles doing a good job of making you care about Chip Hardesty and his wife.  In one moving scene Hardesty and his wife learn that their only son was killed in the first assault wave on Iwo Jima.  As the black tide of grief washes over them as it does almost all parents who lose a child, Stewart seemed to be actually experiencing that sorrow.  A decorated Colonel in the Eighth Air Force who flew bomber missions during the War, I expect that Stewart while filming that scene was recalling the many young men he had known who had died in the units he commanded, and the letters he wrote to their parents and wives.  A good film, but that is not why I am writing this post.

 

In a clash with the Ku Klux Klan Hardesty describes it as follows:

The next day, Sam and I were sent down South with five other agents.  We were given simple instructions:  To check on a group of terrorists known as the Ku Klux Klan.  They had one minor complaint:  They didn’t like the Bill of Rights.  They said so in speeches.  They said so  in a lot of different ways.  They ransacked homes……and defiled ancient devotions.  It was a secret organization……that was so powerful it didn’t have to be secret.

This struck home to me because in this country we see the growing influence on the left of groups that also do not like the Bill of Rights.  To their credit some leftists are beginning to speak out against these groups, including Senators Warren and Sanders, Professor Cornell West and talk show host Bill Maher.  It is a frightening movement that bodes ill for civic peace.  Here is a current example of what these groups are accomplishing:

 

 

For years, the 82nd Avenue of the Roses parade has kicked off Portland’s annual Rose Festival and marked beginning of the Oregon city’s parade season.

But after a threatening email was sent to parade organizers – singling out members of the Multnomah County Republican Party (MCRP) who were planning to take part – officials have decided to cancel the family-friendly procession in an effort to avoid any clashes between protesters and marchers.

“This would have been the 11th year of the parade. This is culturally enriched community that has grown very diverse over the years,” Rick Jarvis, a spokesman for the Rose Festival Foundation, told Fox News. “The association has worked very hard to get everyone together in one common are and the parade helped served in that function.”

Local media reported that the email was sent from “[email protected],” and said that if members of the MCRP marched on Saturday they planned to have “two hundred or more people rush into the parade into the middle and drag and push them out.”

“You have seen how much power we have downtown and that the police cannot stop us from shutting down roads so please consider your decision wisely,” the anonymous email said, in reference to the violent riots that broke out in Portland after the 2016 presidential election, reported the Oregonian. “This is non-negotiable.”

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4 Responses to They Don’t Like the Bill of Rights

  • “We have met the enemy and he is us.” Pogo, Walt Kelly, 1970.

    Herein I demonstrate my firm grasp of the obvious. Antifa and KKK thugs are the same.

    One problem is that the elites and lying media (redundant) do not have a tenuous grasp of the obvious.

  • The 2d incarnation of the Ku Klux Klan evaporated quite rapidly after 1930 and was all but defunct during the war. (That’s what made Robert Byrd’s Klan organizing so odd, rather like someone organizing War Bond rallies in 1963. He was trying to assemble an organization which was completely passe in a state with few minorities of any description; post-war, the West Virginia congressional delegation was generally friendly to the interests of blacks – with one notable exception). The Klan dissolved in 1944, was refoundeded in 1946, and broke up into klanlets in 1949. Even during the civil rights era, the klanlets were consequential in only about four states.

    What’s notable about the postwar klan is that it was run by unimportant people, who, with very few exceptions, neither recruited nor suborned local officials. (The Neshoba County, Miss. Sheriff’s department was the most salient exception). The antifa types do not have a murderous aspect to them as yet, but they are executing institutional policy in places like Berkeley.

  • “’You have seen how much power we have downtown and that the police cannot stop us from shutting down roads so please consider your decision wisely,’ the anonymous email said, in reference to the violent riots that broke out in Portland after the 2016 presidential election, reported the Oregonian. ‘This is non-negotiable.'”

    There are young millennial spoiled brat college grads in their mid and late 20s in my Oregonian company who believe in first marginalizing and then silencing conservatives. Even from management the disgust for conservatives and Republicans is palpable. The irony is that my company is a nuclear one and Oregon – bastion of godless eco-wacko enviro-nazi anti-nuclear liberalism – would never permit building a nuclear power plant in its Soviet Socialist sodomite rights, baby murdering Republik on the left coast.

  • If any person dies because medical help cannot reach him, those who shut the roadways down have bloodguilt on their hands. Any disruption that brings hardship to any other person is criminal and a violation of peaceable assembly, good will for the common good and disenfranchises the evil doer to the degree of the murder, mischief and mayhem they bring about and God will punish, even in this life.

Video Clips Worth Watching: Wayne v. Marvin

Friday, February 17, AD 2017

 

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962), perhaps the greatest of Westerns, contains this gem of a scene with John Wayne, Lee Marvin, Jimmy Stewart, Strother Marvin, Lee Van Cleef and Woody Strode.  Marvin as Liberty Valance is the archetypal mercenary gunslinger, his days, and the days of his kind, about to come to an end.  Wayne as Tom Doniphon, rancher, is the obverse of Marvin, a man just as tough as Valance, if not tougher, but no bully.  However, his time is also closing.  Their destroyer?   The almost clown like figure of Ransom Stoddard, portrayed by Jimmy Stewart.  He knows nothing about guns, but he knows a lot about law, and law and civilization are fast coming to the range.  This is John Ford’s eulogy to the Old West, and to this type of Western.

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3 Responses to Video Clips Worth Watching: Wayne v. Marvin

  • This is an excellent post. The “Frontier Thesis” was abroad in which many believed that the end of the frontier represented the beginning of a new stage in American life and that the United States.

    An artist’s requiem to the “Old West” can be seen in the works of Frederick Remington – his paintings and sculptures.

  • “Marvin as Liberty Valance is the archetypal mercenary gunslinger, his days, and the days of his kind are about to come to an end.”
    No disrespect here. It occurred to me that the gunslingers and bullies of yesterday have only traded iron for text. Today’s full of the Liberty Valances of yesterday. Some use iron. Cop killers use iron. Berkeley thugs use gasoline and rocks. To me these hateslingers are made from the same mud as Liberty. Different times, same bullies.

George Washington, Howard Roark and George Bailey

Friday, December 26, AD 2014

[34] But the Pharisees hearing that he had silenced the Sadducees, came together:

[35] And one of them, a doctor of the law, asking him, tempting him:

[36] Master, which is the greatest commandment in the law?

[37] Jesus said to him: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind.

[38] This is the greatest and the first commandment.

[39] And the second is like to this: Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

[40] On these two commandments dependeth the whole law and the prophets.

Matthew 22: 34-40

(I originally posted this on December 26, 2012.  It seems like a good post for the day after Christmas, so here it is again.)

Joe Carter at Catholic Education Resource Center has a wonderful post entitled The Fountainhead of Bedford Falls, which compares the fictional characters Howard Roark and George Bailey:

Not surprisingly, Roark has become something of a cult figure, especially among young nerdy males entering post-adolescence. Although Roark is artistically gifted and technically brilliant, he prefers to take a job breaking rocks in a quarry than sell out to The Man. He provides a model for the underemployed, misunderstood, twenty-something misfit by choice. These see themselves in the uncompromising sulker, believing it better to vandalize and destroy than allow society to co-opt their dreams.

Rand herself would have certainly envisioned things differently. She would have sneered in disgust at the idea that Roark was anything like the slacker working at Starbucks the populists marching at Tea Parties. Her hero was a cross between the modernist architect Frank Lloyd Wright and the serial killer and child rapist William Hickman. Rand’s ideal was the nonconformist who exhibited sociopathic tendencies. She dreamed of the minority of brilliant, atheistic ubermensch who would “eventually trample society under its feet.” The vast majority of the people who read The Fountainhead might admire Roark, but they’d never emulate him.

Similarly, Capra’s audience flatters themselves by believing the message of Wonderful Life is that their own lives are just as worthy, just as noble, and just as wonderful’ as George Bailey’s. In a way, they are as delusional as the Randian Roark-worshippers. Despite the fact that they left their small-town communities for the city, put their parents in an assisted living facility and don’t know the names of their next door neighbors, they truly believe they are just like Capra’s hero.

Such delusions are the reason these characters have remained two of the most dominant archetypes of American individualism in pop culture. The pendulum of popularity is swinging back toward Rand but it’s Capra’s creation that should be our model for inspiration.

Roark is nihilistic, narrow-minded, and something of a bore. Bailey is far darker, more complex, and infinitely more interesting.

What makes George Bailey one of the most inspiring, emotionally complex characters in modern popular culture is that he continually chooses the needs of his family and community over his own self-interested ambitions and desires – and suffers immensely and repeatedly for his sacrifices.  

 Although sentimental, Capra’s movie is not a simplistic morality play. It’s true that the movie ends on a happy note late on Christmas Eve, when George is saved from ruin. But on Christmas Day he’ll wake to find that his life is not so different than it was when he wanted to commit suicide.

 He will remain a frustrated artist who is scraping by on a meager salary and living in a drafty old house in a one-stoplight town. All that has really changed is that he has gained a deeper appreciation of the value of faith, friends, and community – and that this is worth more than his worldly ambitions. Capra’s underlying message is thus radically subversive: It is by serving our fellow man, even to the point of subordinating our dreams and ambitions, that we achieve both true greatness and lasting happiness.

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8 Responses to George Washington, Howard Roark and George Bailey

  • I’ve enjoyed this look into the soul of man. Many thanks. When pondering on the concept of, made in the likeness and image of God, it is precisely this self-sacrifice that George Bailey (reluctantly at times) finds himself. The “loosing of oneself.” It is in this loosing that our true identity is revealed…the one in which we see an image and likeness of divinity itself. The death of self is the beginning of a life that surpasses expectations, the skyscrapers bridges and grandiose accomplishments are manifested in the depth of Georges heart…in the servitude to the people around him. They ARE the great works and George is helping to build them.

  • The Church in America was given the choice to sell out to The Man and, alas, her bishops took it. Inviting in the smoke that materialized as Obamacare was not the first such sell out and hasn’t been the last. (Heard a bishop thunder from the pulpit about casting a vote with an informed conscience during the election year? I haven’t. Been hit up for a handout to the Catholic Campaign for Obam-alinsky Development? I have.)

    So I must ask: if the Church’s bishops had chosen more wisely and not sold out, would that have made them cult-figure sociopaths too?

  • Thank you The power of movies and stories as parables is profound, i think, because when a parable is told, whether by Rand or Capra or by Jesus, we get to observe and consider that parable more or less remotely; detached enough that we can draw conclusions and learn lessons without having to fight through the fog of defensiveness. it is happening in someone else’s life, but we can relate.
    .
    “but even here on earth it is not that uncommon to see that our actions do have consequences, for ill and good. ” We tell stories of noble lives hoping they might help guide young people through — maybe avoid some of those consequences! God bless those film makers who are actively trying to “do Good” with their work.

  • To me, the “best” scene is where young George Bailey declines to deliver the poison Mr. Gour (?) mistakenly mixed (because he had imminently learned of his son’s death). At an early age, George Bailey was tested. Even then, he had the maturity and love to see the good and evil and chose to do the good regardless of the personal cost/risks. Even better, George never said a word to anyone about the mistake. The desultory testing of GB follows throughout the movie.

    .
    We are ever presented with choices: good or evil. love or hate, our desires or the common good, life or death. Sometimes, we need to take a step outside ourselves and dispassionately review what we have done, and decide if we chose good or evil. Go to Confession . . .
    .

    We hear a lot about peace at this time. What is peace? It is simplistically the absence of war/violence. But, for us peace needs to be more. Peace needs to be love for God and for our brothers/sisters. It means that we are not only not about to harm our fellow man, but that we will aid him if he needs it; and forgive him if he harms us. Peace is love. It is not that warm/fuzzy kumbaya stuff, either. Peace oftens involves physical/worldly courage, pain, and sacrifice. The rewards of eternal life (which Christ purchased for us by His life, death and Resurrection) are infinitely more desirable than any temporal good.
    .

    Anyhow, the meditation in my Rosary booklet for the Nativity, the Third Joyful Mystery, is to (I add fiercely) desire to love God. And, to think of how Mary so lovingly accepted poverty as she lay the infant Jesus, Our God and Redeemer, in a manger in the stable in Bethlehem.

    And, none of that is possible without God’s grace. Remember when Peter first told Jesus He is is his Lord and his God? Jesus tells Peter, that God had given him that faith and Peter “picked up the ball and ran with it” albeit with a few “hiccups” along the way.

  • Anzlyne. Agreed. God bless filmmakers and artists that strive to promote goodness trumping the commercial aspect. ($) The public is thirsty for such films.

    T.Shaw. That young George was “born older” as his father told him at the dinning room table. Recall the heroic jump into the icy water to rescue his younger brother. And as you mentioned Mr. Gower’s shame concealed by Georges maturity at such a young age. GRACE for sure.
    God has loved us so much and for so much longer than we have attempted to love him. “Behold the Heart that has loved man so much and has been loved so little in return.” Jesus to St. M.Mary Alacoke…the Sacred Heart appriation

  • ( apparition. ) please excuse me.

  • This is a bit off topic, but to me the best love scene of all time is the phone conversation between George (James Stewart) and Mary (Donna Reed).

  • “the American struggle for independence might well have died in the winter of 1776-1777.”
    .
    The American struggle for independence will live on in every generation. Man is hardwired for independence.

It’s a Wonderful Life: Commie Propaganda?

Thursday, December 27, AD 2012

Hard to believe, but there was an FBI report in 1947 that deemed It’s a Wonderful Life as Communist propaganda:

To: The Director  

D.M. Ladd 

COMMUNIST INFILTRATION OF THE MOTION PICTURE INDUSTRY   (RUNNING MEMORANDUM)

There is submitted herewith the running memorandum concerning Communist infiltration of the motion picture industry which has been brought up to date as of May 26, 1947….   With regard to the picture “It’s a Wonderful Life”, [redacted] stated in substance that the film represented rather obvious attempts to discredit bankers by casting Lionel Barrymore as a “scrooge-type” so that he would be the most hated man in the picture. This, according to these sources, is a common trick used by Communists.

>In addition, [redacted] stated that, in his opinion, this picture deliberately maligned the upper class, attempting to show the people who had money were mean and despicable characters. [redacted] related that if he made this picture portraying the banker, he would have shown this individual to have been following the rules as laid down by the State Bank Examiner in connection with making loans. Further, [redacted] stated that the scene wouldn’t have “suffered at all” in portraying the banker as a man who was protecting funds put in his care by private individuals and adhering to the rules governing the loan of that money rather than portraying the part as it was shown. In summary, [redacted] stated that it was not necessary to make the banker such a mean character and “I would never have done it that way.”   [redacted] recalled that approximately 15 years ago, the picture entitled “The Letter” was made in Russia and was later shown in this country. He recalled that in this Russian picture, an individual who had lost his self-respect as well as that of his friends and neighbors because of drunkenness, was given one last chance to redeem himself by going to the bank to get some money to pay off a debt. The old man was a sympathetic character and was so pleased at his opportunity that he was extremely nervous, inferring he might lose the letter of credit or the money itself. In summary, the old man made the journey of several days duration to the bank and with no mishap until he fell asleep on the homeward journey because of his determination to succeed. On this occasion the package of money dropped out of his pocket. Upon arriving home, the old man was so chagrined he hung himself. The next day someone returned the package of money to his wife saying it had been found. [redacted] draws a parallel of this scene and that of the picture previously discussed, showing that Thomas Mitchell who played the part of the man losing the money in the Capra picture suffered the same consequences as the man in the Russian picture in that Mitchell was too old a man to go out and make money to pay off his debt to the banker.

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8 Responses to It’s a Wonderful Life: Commie Propaganda?

  • Very interesting, Donald. The fourth branch will be the end of this country yet.

    Patrick Daneen also posted on this movie today – see here: http://www.firstthings.com/onthesquare/2012/12/itrsquos-a-destructive-life

    I am curious as to your thoughts on his post.

  • “I am curious as to your thoughts on his post.”

    Overwrought comes to mind. Viewing George Bailey as a modernistic wrecker of Bedford Falls is an imaginative interpretation but not one that I agree with. Bailey is simply attempting to help people get homes of their own. With a growing population that would not be possible with existing housing stock. As a denizen of small towns my entire life, except for my seven years at the U of I, I have never been sympathetic with the impulse that small towns should be preserved in amber. They are not museum pieces for tourists to admire the quaint folkways of the inhabitants, but living communities that will inevitably change over time. Items of value will be lost as a result of the change, but items of value will be gained.

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  • In fact, my commie, ex-twin brother employs (received an email on the topic Christmas Eve) the movie, and its “Potter” caricature, to indict capitalism, in general, and so-called “banksters”, in particular.

    The “Potter” character is not a capitalist or a banker. He is a thief (e.g., the deposit money in the newspaper).

    Likely, George Bailey isn’t a “saint.” The raison d’etre for building and loan associations and Federally-chartered savings and loan associations was to finance residential housing. Such institutions often used commercial banks to clear checks and to finance operations. In general, the bit about Potter calling the loan isn’t how it would have worked. And, from 1933, the Federal Home Loan Bank System served the financing role. Although, their terms were not much better than “Potter’s.”

    I see GB’s actions taken as much as any other motive to preserve the institution to which his father and uncle gave their working lives. It is unlikely that GB advanced a home loan to anyone that did not meet certain credit standards, as in, the ability to repay the loan.

    And, if you place any trust the state, consider this factoid from yesterday’s instapundit, “Frustrated that people continued to consume so much alcohol even after it was banned, federal officials had decided to try a different kind of enforcement. They ordered the poisoning of industrial alcohols manufactured in the United States, products regularly stolen by bootleggers and resold as drinkable spirits. The idea was to scare people into giving up illicit drinking. Instead, by the time Prohibition ended in 1933, the federal poisoning program, by some estimates, had killed at least 10,000 people.”

  • You are right they should not be. The question is what sort of land use attends the additional housing stock. You should have sidewalks, street trees, and proximity to commercial strips. It is also bad form to dig up cemeteries. Deneen does not mention that poor planning of commercial development has been rather more damaging to the urban landscape than suboptimal residential tract development. No hook for that, though, as George Bailey was the proprietor of a savings bank that undertook only home mortgage lending (and a fairly novel and unusual sort of mortgage lending by the standards of 1928).

  • Observant people there in the Forties could not be unaware of a Communist infiltration and conspiracy in the movie industry. as well as in the federal government. Joseph McCarthy was ultimately vindicated. What a pity it was not before he died. I saw this movie when it was first released, and I did not think it was a real threat to anyone.

  • I thought for sure this was an urban legend, but apparently not. Perhaps it was a case of “when you have a hammer everything looks like a nail” — with the Nazi threat gone by 1946 and the Soviets now in the position of World Enemy Number One, anything that appeared to be at all critical of capitalism was suspect.

  • The Red Menance was very real in 1947 abroad as was Communist infiltration in Hollywood. Ronald Reagan, New Deal liberal, began his trek from Left to Right as a result of dealing with Communist dominated unions, often using violent tactics, during his several terms as President of the Screen Actors Guild in the late forties and early fifties. The problem was that the FBI was often as clueless in dealing with internal subverison by Communists as it was in dealing with the Mafia which Hoover at this time steadfastly denied existed.

George Washington, Howard Roark and George Bailey

Wednesday, December 26, AD 2012

[34] But the Pharisees hearing that he had silenced the Sadducees, came together:

[35] And one of them, a doctor of the law, asking him, tempting him:

[36] Master, which is the greatest commandment in the law?

[37] Jesus said to him: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind.

[38] This is the greatest and the first commandment.

[39] And the second is like to this: Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

[40] On these two commandments dependeth the whole law and the prophets.

Matthew 22: 34-40

Joe Carter at Catholic Education Resource Center has a wonderful post entitled The Fountainhead of Bedford Falls, which compares the fictional characters Howard Roark and George Bailey:

Not surprisingly, Roark has become something of a cult figure, especially among young nerdy males entering post-adolescence. Although Roark is artistically gifted and technically brilliant, he prefers to take a job breaking rocks in a quarry than sell out to The Man. He provides a model for the underemployed, misunderstood, twenty-something misfit by choice. These see themselves in the uncompromising sulker, believing it better to vandalize and destroy than allow society to co-opt their dreams.

Rand herself would have certainly envisioned things differently. She would have sneered in disgust at the idea that Roark was anything like the slacker working at Starbucks the populists marching at Tea Parties. Her hero was a cross between the modernist architect Frank Lloyd Wright and the serial killer and child rapist William Hickman. Rand’s ideal was the nonconformist who exhibited sociopathic tendencies. She dreamed of the minority of brilliant, atheistic ubermensch who would “eventually trample society under its feet.” The vast majority of the people who read The Fountainhead might admire Roark, but they’d never emulate him.

Similarly, Capra’s audience flatters themselves by believing the message of Wonderful Life is that their own lives are just as worthy, just as noble, and just as wonderful’ as George Bailey’s. In a way, they are as delusional as the Randian Roark-worshippers. Despite the fact that they left their small-town communities for the city, put their parents in an assisted living facility and don’t know the names of their next door neighbors, they truly believe they are just like Capra’s hero.

Such delusions are the reason these characters have remained two of the most dominant archetypes of American individualism in pop culture. The pendulum of popularity is swinging back toward Rand but it’s Capra’s creation that should be our model for inspiration.

Roark is nihilistic, narrow-minded, and something of a bore. Bailey is far darker, more complex, and infinitely more interesting.

What makes George Bailey one of the most inspiring, emotionally complex characters in modern popular culture is that he continually chooses the needs of his family and community over his own self-interested ambitions and desires – and suffers immensely and repeatedly for his sacrifices.  

 Although sentimental, Capra’s movie is not a simplistic morality play. It’s true that the movie ends on a happy note late on Christmas Eve, when George is saved from ruin. But on Christmas Day he’ll wake to find that his life is not so different than it was when he wanted to commit suicide.

 He will remain a frustrated artist who is scraping by on a meager salary and living in a drafty old house in a one-stoplight town. All that has really changed is that he has gained a deeper appreciation of the value of faith, friends, and community – and that this is worth more than his worldly ambitions. Capra’s underlying message is thus radically subversive: It is by serving our fellow man, even to the point of subordinating our dreams and ambitions, that we achieve both true greatness and lasting happiness.

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46 Responses to George Washington, Howard Roark and George Bailey

  • “it is interesting how even in this often unjust world we see sin punished and virtue rewarded…”

    Well, not really. As Aristotle, the philosopher of common sense, saw, “the good” must be “our good” and, other things being equal, will lead to our flourishing. St Thomas, who agreed with Aristotle, notes that we only offend God, when we act against our own good [Non enim Deus a nobis offenditur nisi ex eo quod contra nostrum bonum agimus – ScG III. 122] How could it be otherwise?

  • Completely disagree MPS. Acting in a just manner is often short term detrimental. A simple example: a bank teller makes a mistake and gives you a 50 dollar bill instead of a 5 dollar bill. Returning the 50 to the teller is the right thing to do, but it deprives you of a windfall of 45.00. Philosophers often paint beautiful word pictures that often have only a passing resemblance to life.

  • “Virtue is its own reward.”

    As usual, IWL was aired on broadcast NBC on Christmas Eve. My (commie) ex-twin (my wife’s brother-in-law) emailed that the classic movie on TV and added a snide comment about “banksters.” Of course, every conservative and advocate for the private sector is “Mr. Potter.”

    My curt reply included a suggestion to concentrate on, and emulate, Bailey’s virtue and (firm grasp of the obvious) avoid Potter’s caricature evil.

    We are constantly confronted with choices: good or evil, life or death. Choose rightly.

  • 1. George Bailey does not suffer immensely. He has a portfolio of disappointments characteristic of middle-aged men.

    2. George Bailey is not particularly complex, just not unidimensional

    3. The catalyst for his suicide attempt is an act of embezzlement by the nefarious Potter for which he and his uncle are due to be blamed by bank examiners and the public prosecutor. It is actually a very implausible sequence of events, as is the solution. However, there is, in the course of the narrative, a solution, which is to say the problem will not be there in the morning.

    4. Despite George Bailey’s financial anxieties, the Bailey family is the most affluent depicted in the film, bar the bachelor Potter. George Bailey’s parents employ a domestic who appears to be in residence (proportionately much more common in 1928 than today), some amount of foreign travel is feasible on their income (uncharacteristic of the suburban bourgeois of 1968, much less 1928) and some amount of higher education in feasible. Please note, most youngsters between the ages of 14 and 18 were not (in 1928) enrolled in high school, much less have any opportunity for tertiary schooling.

    5. “Bedford Falls” is not a one-stoplight town. It has a taxi service, at least two banks, and specialty merchants. It was putatively inspired by Seneca Falls, N.Y., which is small but about 7x the size of real one-stoplight towns. It is also weirdly affluent by the standards of that time. The local high school has a swimming pool constructed under a gymnasium with a retractable floor.

    6. I have heard of elderly couples buffaloed into entering assisted living facilities by their relatives. I cannot imagine what the family dynamics must be in the situation I know best (bar that the oldest son is absolutely furious about the machinations of his niece and sister-in-law for which his accommodating brother was a conduit). That having been said, assisted living centers in New York, unlike nursing homes, are not places to where hospital patients are discharged either for rehabilitation care or because it is unsafe to send them home. You are not ‘put’ in assisted living. People elect assisted living after considering other alternatives. It is hideously expensive, and the residents therein are not typically gaga (which is to say under guardianship or readily manipulable), just suffering mobility problems. The clientele are the very small minority of the elderly with the retirement income (> $60 k a year) to pay for it or who calculate they will outlive their assets.

  • 1 Cor 13:3-7

    And if I distribute all my goods in order to feed the poor, and if I hand over my body to be burned, yet not have charity, it offers me nothing.
    Charity is patient, is kind. Charity does not envy, does not act wrongly, is not inflated.
    Charity is not ambitious, does not seek for itself, is not provoked to anger, devises no evil.
    Charity does not rejoice over iniquity, but rejoices in truth.
    Charity suffers all, believes all, hopes all, endures all.

    This is my problem with George Bailey. He’s depicted as a guy who does everything right, but he has no love. He has a short temper, he envies, and when he faces a major life challenge, he opts for suicide. I respect his actions, but he is a horrible human being.

    This article says that “if you really want to be happy in this world, and in the next, do good to others”. George Bailey is incredibly unhappy. Why? Take the scene where he nearly takes a job with Potter. He’s torn between two emotions: greed and anger. He wants the riches and power of Potter, but he also hates the man. I get no sense of love of principles, love of the town, desire to do right. The anger is targeted justly, but it doesn’t seem like righteous anger to me.

  • “He has a short temper, he envies,”

    He is also shown as loving, kind, humorous and courageous. In short he is a fairly typical human being with good moments and bad moments intermingled.

    “when he faces a major life challenge, he opts for suicide”

    No, he thinks of suicide. That is brought about by Potter’s statement that he is worth more dead than alive, and his desire to spare his family the shame of seeing him go to prison. (Never a real threat since the prosecution would have to prove embezzlement, not an easy thing to do, but this is overlooked in order to have the plot device to allow Clarence to show George how his life has been a force for good.)

    As for the job offer I think Bailey’s assessment of Potter is entirely accurate and his anger is justified. I suspect that some of the anger is directed at himself for being weak enough to be tempted by the offer without considering the impact on the savings and loan:

    GEORGE
    Well, what about the Building and Loan?

    POTTER
    Oh, confound it, man, are you afraid of success? I’m offering you
    a three year contract at twenty thousand dollars a year, starting
    today. Is it a deal or
    isn’t it?

    GEORGE
    Well, Mr. Potter, I . . . I . . . I know I ought to jump at the
    chance, but I . . . I just . . . I wonder if it would be possible
    for you to give me twenty-four
    hours to think it over?

    POTTER
    Sure, sure, sure. You go on home and talk about it to your wife.

    GEORGE
    I’d like to do that.

    POTTER
    In the meantime, I’ll draw up the papers.

    GEORGE
    All right, sir.

    POTTER (offers hand)
    Okay, George?

    GEORGE (taking his hand)
    Okay, Mr. Potter.

    As they shake hands, George feels a physical revulsion. Potter’s
    hand feels like a cold mackerel to him. In that moment of
    physical contact he knows he
    could never be associated with this man. George drops his hand
    with a shudder. He peers intently into Potter’s face.

    GEORGE (cont’d –– vehemently)
    No . . . no . . . no . . . no, now wait a minute, here! I don’t
    have to talk to anybody! I know right now, and the answer is no!
    NO! Doggone it!
    (getting madder all the time)
    You sit around here and you spin your little webs and you think
    the whole world revolves around you and your money. Well, it
    doesn’t, Mr. Potter! In the . . . in the
    whole vast configuration of things, I’d say you were nothing but
    a scurvy little spider. You . . .

    He turns and shouts at the goon, impassive as ever beside
    Potter’s wheelchair.

  • He has a short temper, he envies, and when he faces a major life challenge, he opts for suicide. I respect his actions, but he is a horrible human being.

    Pinky, if that character as portrayed manifests your idea of a ‘short temper’, you have lived a very sheltered existence. He is dissatisfied with his own situation, but he envies no one. People threatened with immanent personal disasters sometimes contemplate suicide. It is unserious, verging on demented, to view this character as a ‘horrible human being’.

  • Art, it’s been a while since I watched it, and I could be off-base. Maybe there were scenes depicting him as a caring person that I’ve forgotten. My impression of the character was entirely negative. And wasn’t he envious of his brother? Didn’t he snap at his wife, his daughter, his uncle?

  • And wasn’t he envious of his brother?

    No. The only envious figure is Potter.

    Didn’t he snap at his wife, his daughter, his uncle?

    Husbands, fathers, and nephews have been known to snap at the people they live and work with. Again, can that possibly be your idea of a ‘horrible person’?

  • Perhaps I should have said “horrible man”. There are two traits that are most despicable in a man: self-pity and bullying. I see the entire movie (except for the last ten minutes) as a documentation of self-pity. When Bailey yells at his wife and daughter, he becomes a bully.

    I’m reminded of Kipling’s “If”. Bailey fails Kipling’s standards of being a man across the board, but fails no test more than this: “and lose, and start again at your beginnings / and never breathe a word about your loss”. I promised myself that I’d get through the Christmas season without getting into another anti-Bailey rant, but it jsut drives me crazy to see him treated as someone worth emulation.

  • #39 love thy neighbor as thyself.

    George was witness to his fathers deep love for neighbor. He told George; “you were born older.” Possibly an acknowledgment of the sons wisdom in matters of “deeper” things, like self sacrifice, and love of neighbor; brothers near drowning & wrong pills to pharmacist client.
    I believe George is portrayed as a struggling suffering servant, and I for one love his humanity, fallibility included.

  • “When Bailey yells at his wife and daughter, he becomes a bully.”

    No, he is a man confronting what he views as financial ruin and disgrace for his family and not knowing what to do. I have snapped at my wife and kids for far less, and apologized later for such outbursts. I do not regard myself as either a horrible man or a bully for such failings, but rather a man possessed of a temper which I do my best to control, usually successfully, but sometimes not. As for self pity, the next person I meet who has not engaged in that at some point in their life will likely be the first. We aren’t all born as paragons of virtue and gifted with iron self control, but the important thing is that we learn from our sins and mistakes, engage in contrition and do our best to amend our lives.

  • The very end is precious.

    …no man is a failure who has friends.

    Georges friends are born of respect for the man. The undeniably presence of a man with true conviction to see the poor as brothers, even to the point of protecting a feeble uncle.

    George has friends, more friends than acquaintances…..chumps?…not at all. Good will to men….indeed.

  • I have never read Fountainhead or watched the movie. I watch Its a Wonderful Life with my kids every Christmas. George is human (he has strengths and weakness, conflicting desires and emotions, just as we all do) and if his one outburst in 28 plus years makes him a horrible person then I am ten times more horrible. And will pay for it in purgatory or hell as God deems appropriate. It is a movie and uses plot devices that are not accurate but . . . my take away is that with God’s help all will work out for the best.

  • I love the post and the connection between George W and George B. I have never read Fountainhead; lots of info right in the Gary Cooper clip. (A while back I ordered and enjoyed the Gary Cooper movie about Sgt York because of your post)
    I agree with Michael PS, Augustine and St Thomas…and I don’t think they think of good as long or short term : ) but eschatologically.
    There may be another example that makes your point but Denying yourself a random windfall (much less one that was predicated on the mistake of another person that may negatively cost that other person…. A windfall that never really belonged to you is not really sacrificing anything that was was personally yours or really detrimental to your condition. Remaining at status quo while not getting an advance is not the same as a loss.
    I always learn so much from the discourse on this blog. Thank you Mr. McClarey and all the regulars!

  • Thank you for your interesting and thought-provoking piece, Mr. McClarey. Ironically, over at First Things, Patrick Deneen recently posted a piece interpreting ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ from a different angle. Deneen, no doubt, agrees with your thesis — love of God and neighbor is the ultimate ingredient for a good life — but challenges our common notions of ‘success’ and ‘ambitions’, as well as our (unfortunate) disdain of ‘small’ towns and human scale lives.

    I agree with Deneen and his ilk (read Frontporchrepublic.com for a more thorough idea of their view of a ‘good life’). If you’ve time to read First Things today, I’d be interested in your take.

    Regardless of whether you find time or are even interested in doing so, I think this is an opportune time to thank you (and all the contributors of this blog) for your time, energy and thoughts that are needed to sustain a blog. Although, of course, I don’t agree with every viewpoint expressed here, I find the discourse and wisdom imparted here encouraging and enlightening.

    God bless you and yours during this holy season!

    http://www.firstthings.com/onthesquare/2012/12/itrsquos-a-destructive-life

  • “but challenges our common notions of ‘success’ and ‘ambitions’, as well as our (unfortunate) disdain of ‘small’ towns and human scale lives.”

    I agree that success comes in many shapes and sizes Justin, and having been raised in a town of 10,000 and having lived now in a village of 4,000 for 27 years and counting, I have a keen appreciation for the virtues of small town life while not being blind to the vices.

  • I agree with Deneen and his ilk (read Frontporchrepublic.com for a more thorough idea of their view of a ‘good life’). If you’ve time to read First Things today, I’d be interested in your take.

    You did not ask for mine, but I will give it to you anyway. Deneen’s thesis is overstated. Bailey’s real estate development does not ‘destroy’ the town. It is an appendage to the town that has a mix of agreeable and disagreeable features. You can schlep around small towns in Upstate New York and see the same deal: a marked contrast between pre-war and post-war development. It is much more manifest in commercial real estate than in residential housing, however, and the older housing stock is still there. Post-war urban planning has been a failure, by and large. Deneen might have explored why such development was attractive to producer and consumer alike. That sort of inquiry would be incongruent with striking attitudes (which seems to be the main purpose of Front Porch Republic).

  • Deneen, no doubt, agrees with your thesis — love of God and neighbor is the ultimate ingredient for a good life — but challenges our common notions of ‘success’ and ‘ambitions’, as well as our (unfortunate) disdain of ‘small’ towns and human scale lives.

    You have confounded Deneen with Wendell Berry.

  • Pinky, I think you need to put the 19th c. verse aside and work on appreciating ordinary people. Just my $0.02.

  • Thank you for your response, Mr. McClarey and Mr. Deco.

    Mr. Deco: From my readings, Mr. Berry and Dr. Deneen are more similar than different — do you not agree?

  • If I recall correctly, First Things has had quite a few articles about city planning. It’s always nice to read an article that accuses George Bailey of things that even I wouldn’t, though.

    Art, we disagree about the movie.

  • Um, no, Pinky. We disagree about the propriety of certain emotional states. In the course of common-and-garden domestic life, people have words. Husbands and fathers who do not, on occasion, snarl and their wife or children are very unusual (or have very unusual children). And the notion that someone facing unjust criminal charges, civil liability, the loss of his livelihood, and social disgrace is ‘despicable’ for being in a state of distress about it is beyond flabbergasting. You were the one who made a to do about Sarah Palin’s ‘affect’ and now you are complaining that fictional character has any affect at all. What do you expect George Bailey to do, sing “Put on a Happy Face” and dance around the room with royal blue chickens, like one of the felt characters on Sesame Street?

  • Mr. Deco: From my readings, Mr. Berry and Dr. Deneen are more similar than different — do you not agree?

    Yes and no. Wendell Berry had a tour in academe, but he has spent the bulk of his adult life farming in Kentucky. He da man in a way Dr. Deneen can never be. (I think Berry is wrong to the degree he argues agrarian life is economically and socially viable for aught but a small minority given contemporary technology, but that is a different issue). I would be more impressed with the Front Porch crew if they were not so self-conscious about differentiating themselves from ‘them’ (that would be folk like Messrs. McClarey, Zummo, &c.), not so fixated on anyone within three-degrees-of-separation of William Kristol, were willing to knock-it off with chuffering about ’empire’, and actually concerned themselves vociferously with the true injuries to place (bad urban planning), limits (sexual misconduct and the misuse of divorce courts), and liberty (the mundane abuses of public prosecutors and family court judges). Not holdin’ my breath.

  • Art, we all have moments of self-pity. But that doesn’t make it any less pathetic. Bailey was beaten by a bully, and he fell into self-pity and bullying himself. Don’t expect me to laud it. Palin was beaten by a bully, and her supporters fell into self-pity and bullying. Don’t expect me to laud that either. Part of life is taking a punch. If you hire an incompetent uncle or run for VP with only two years of high-level experience, you’re going to get hit. Don’t feign surprise at it.

  • “and dance around the room with royal blue chickens, like one of the felt characters on Sesame Street?”

    Comment of the month Art!

  • Art, we all have moments of self-pity. But that doesn’t make it any less pathetic. Bailey was beaten by a bully, and he fell into self-pity and bullying himself. Don’t expect me to laud it.

    Pinky, you used terms like ‘horrible’ and ‘despicable’ to describe a man in quite unremarkable emotional states while facing unusual threats.

    Palin was beaten by a bully, and her supporters fell into self-pity and bullying.

    Who? You need to be able to distinguish between ‘self-pity’ and disgust or exasperation. You need to distinguish between argument, complaint, and ‘bullying’? You do not.

    Don’t expect me to laud that either. Part of life is taking a punch. If you hire an incompetent uncle or run for VP with only two years of high-level experience, you’re going to get hit. Don’t feign surprise at it.

    Actually, Gov. Palin’s background (11 years as a public executive) compared favorably with that of Barack Obama, Joseph Biden, John Edwards, and John Kerry (collective executive experience = zero). The following national candidates have put in comparable time (or more time) as a line administrator than Gov. Palin (summing time in public and private sector posts): Richard Cheney, George W. Bush, Ross Perot, James Stockdale, Lloyd Bentsen, George H. W. Bush, Sargent Shriver, Dwight Eisenhower, Earl Warren, John Bricker. That is no where near a majority of those who have run in the last 70 years. You are free to offer opinions on the weight of public sector experience v. private sector experience and of experience at various levels and with various quanta of people working under you. It is a bit rich though, for someone like Charles Fried to argue that Palin was so unprepared it justified a ballot for Barack Obama, whose work as an executive consisted of running the Chicago Annenberg Challenge into the ground. Of course, Fried could have argued she needed to have been a federal official to earn his vote (Obama’s two and a half years as an undistinguished working Senator being so valuable), though had he done so he would also have to explain why he accepted a post in the Reagan Administration, given that Mr. Reagan’s preparation for the office was strictly in Sacramento. Fried is a law professor. He argues for a living. At least that’s what I’ve heard. (Was the foregoing paragraph ‘self-pitying’ or ‘bullying’, btw?

  • By the way, Pinky, the name of the firm in the film is “Bailey Brothers Building and Loan”. Although the company was formally incorporated, it was founded by the uncle. (btw, there are people in this world who have performance problems but who can still be valuable).

  • I was never going to comment here again, but something Philip wrote struck me: “The very end is precious….no man is a failure who has friends.”

    Authentic Christians have friends.

    Liberals, progressives, libertarians, Ayn Rand objectivists, dope smoking legalizers, anti-nuclear activists, etc. – do they have friends?

    I used to read Ayn Rand. But it affected my thinking. So I stopped reading her works. I watched the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” many times. I never read anything into it other than a wonderful moral theme, just the opposite of the selfish individualism of liberalism, libertarianism and objectivism that glorifies ego and the right to choose ahead of everything, including God, one’s neighbors, personal responsibility and integrity.

  • “Authentic Christians have friends.

    Liberals, progressives, libertarians, Ayn Rand objectivists, dope smoking legalizers, anti-nuclear activists, etc. – do they have friends?”

    Of course not, Paul. None of them have any friends, and they all hate their families too. And none of them could possibly be Authentic Christians either! You have to be a registered Republican to earn that distinction.

  • Check-Check, JL.

    Christians love those that hate them and pray for those that persecute them. I think PWP was communicating that.

    And, he was being charitable in performing Spiritual Works of Mercy: “Admonish the sinner” and “Instruct the ignorant.”

    In his way, PWP is trying to save souls. That is charity.

  • JL,

    I am not a registered Republican. I joined the Constitution Party because its platform more closely conforms to Church teaching than that of any other.

    http://www.constitutionparty.com/Portals/0/Images/National%20Platform%20Full%20Version.pdf

    Thank you, T. Shaw, for the support.

  • Of course not, Paul. None of them have any friends, and they all hate their families too. And none of them could possibly be Authentic Christians either!

    Do you have hobbies other than maladroit sarcasm?

    Actually, if you read accounts of the dynamics of the social circle around Ayn Rand prior to its implosion in 1968, you can see the question of whether or not they could at that point form and maintain non-pathological friendships is a serious one. People whose lives revolve around drug use generally socialize with fellow addicts as well (and they exploit each other for their next fix).

    You have to be a registered Republican to earn that distinction.

    Falls kinda flat. A number of the regulars here have been contending for years with seamless-garment / peace-and-justice hucksters who have been maintaining just the converse or twisting themselves into knots to excuse the Democratic Party.

  • Paul,

    Apologies for the errant assumption. I think the point still sticks, namely that a particular party affiliation, or lack thereof, is not necessarily the best indicator of “Christian Authenticity.”

    Art,

    I play the banjo, too. But that’s basically it. Sarcasm and bluegrass.

    Of course objectivists are a messed up bunch, but not sure how te others are indicted as incapable of maintaining friendships. And not everyone who is for the legalization of drugs makes drug use the central pillar of their life, so I reject that mischaracterization.

    And I think the point does NOT fall flat. Being a Republican does not make you a good Christian. Not being a Republican does not make you a good Christian. Being a good Christian makes you a good Christian.

  • And I think the point does NOT fall flat. Being a Republican does not make you a good Christian. Not being a Republican does not make you a good Christian. Being a good Christian makes you a good Christian.

    Since you are criticizing something no one asserted implicitly or explicitly, the point falls flat.

    A generation ago, John LaFalce could get about a quarter of the House Democratic Caucus to sign a pro-life petition of sorts. Three years ago, Bart Stupak rounded up a grand total of 5% of the House Democratic Caucus for an interim period of resistance to an extension of public provision of abortion. Outside of Pennsylvania and Rhode Island, the Democratic Party is rotten all the way down. Too bad, but that’s the deal. Recognizing that forecloses some political stances (stances preferred by the peace-and-justice poseurs, the “Catholic” higher education establishment, and sundry Church-o-crats). It does not require other stances. I will cast a ballot for members of my local Democratic caucus if they are tasked with making decisions about land use plans or the fire department budget; if their preferred candidates are tasked with decisions about Medicaid expenditure or matrimonial law, forget it.

  • I mostly agree with JL. However, people who put their personal freedom to choose first – for example, the overwhelming majority of objectivists, libertarians, liberals, progressives and Democrats – are by definition NOT Christian. Given the pro-abortion platform of the Libertarian and Democratic Parties, one wonders how a person can be either Libertarian or Democrat and have a legitimate claim to being authentically Christian. To get back to the point of the post, Ayn Rand’s heroes are selfish SOBs full of intellectual arrogance. But “It’s A Wonderful Life” shows a very opposite attitude of humility and gratitude. Those virtues, very Christian indeed, have never been the hallmark of any objectivist, libertarian, liberal, progressive or Democrat. I will concede that few Republicans possess them either, but overall they have a better chance. That being said, “Being a good Christian makes you a good Christian.”

  • Paul-

    If it’s on a bumper sticker……
    “Pro- Woman, Pro-Choice & Pro-Family.”
    ……..then it must be true.

    When it comes right down to it, I am so very happy that we will be judged by God. Could you imagine being judged by man?

    God knows the heart of man. Our witness to love and our imperfect applications to serve our neighbor including our intent, will speak volumes on that great and terrible day. I too like the movie, and the heart of an imperfect George Baily.

  • Perhaps you are correct, Philip, nevertheless I am reminded of the admonition of Hebrews 10:30-31 – “30 For we know Him who said, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord. And again, ‘The Lord will judge His people.’ 31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”

  • Paul-
    Prov. 8:17; “I love them that love me: and they that in the morning early watch for me, shall find me.”

    As for me, I will continue to grope for him, and continue on this path knowing full well that the more I decrease the more He may increase in me and that Anything that is good and holy from me is not mine, for His works are good, His are Holy, and not mine.

    T.Merton; “Perhaps if I only realized that I do not admire what many admire I would begin to Live afterall. I would be liberated from the painful duty of saying things I do not think, and acting in ways that betrays Gods truth and the integrity of my own soul.”

    Living simply and trying to walk humbly.
    May all of our walks lead to eternal rest in The Sacred Heart.
    I’m glad your back Paul. I enjoy reading the many learned insights you and many other participants bring to TAC.

  • Thanks, Philip. I have to continuous learn your motto:

    “Living simply and trying to walk humbly,” along with steering clear of anti-nuclear activists. 😉

    Somebody reminded me today that God is so awesomely holy that we should be on flat on our face prostrate in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament. What you said applies: “As for me, I will continue to grope for him, and continue on this path knowing full well that the more I decrease the more He may increase in me and that Anything that is good and holy from me is not mine, for His works are good, His are Holy, and not mine.”

    PS, I love TAC, but loathe anti-nuclearism almost as much as I do liberalism.

  • Your welcome Paul.
    All of us have our “anti-nuclear” challenges.
    For some it’s the acceptance of others that flaunt their sin publicly. The acceptance that they we’re made in Gods image, and we must accept them as Gods handiwork, however never accepting their lifestyle, or sin.
    All of life on Earth is testing ground.
    Praise Jesus.

  • Paul,

    I’m curious what you mean when you say “anti-nuclearism.” Could you expand?

  • JL, I am referring to “anti-nuclear energy”. I have worked in commercial nuclear power for 30+ years as a submarine reactor operator, an instrumentation and controls technician, a radiation monitoring systems engineer, a digital design engineer, an engineering training instructor, and a software QA specialist. I have taught Pressurized and Boiling Water Reactor Systems training as well as a variety of instrumentation and controls training courses. Nuclear energy is safe, clean and cheap, even including Fukushima where only 6 people died compared with 1700 lives lost in a nearby dam collapse from the earthquake. A blogger here at TAC would not accept reasoned arguments with backup from reputable sources such as the IAEA, the US NRC, NEI, WANO, etc. He denigrated me as some nit wit on the Internet, and defaulted to that vaunted excess of liberal anti-nuclear intelligentsia called Academia which in practice knows nothing about this complex subject. The facts that coal fired power plant pollution (that he supports) releases more radiation in the form of radium, uranium and thorium meant nothing to him. The fact that coal pollution kills 30000 people annually in the US from air pollution was irrelevant to him. He could not be reasoned with and all the web links to reputable scientific sources were useless. I can’t abide stuff like that. I know what happened at Fukushima, Chernobyl, TMI and Windscale. I teach training courses on those accidents, and they pale in comparison to the tens of thousands of lives lost from dam collapses and fossil fuel pollution. Logic and science mean nothing to either libertarian or liberal. They are so full of their intellectual self-confidence that they will reject any authority because by goodness, they are so darned smart! Ok, you asked, JL, And that’s my answer. BTW, if you want to know who I am, look me up on LinkedIn. There are not too many Paul Primaveras over there who work in nuclear. My critic here, decrying me as just another net bot, went by a pseudonym, not even his real name, refusing to divulge who he really is. Well, you can easily find out who I am and verify that I am not lying. I believe in science the same way that I believe in the Bible. Because it’s true. It’s that simple.

  • And PS, the best nuclear weapon is one whose uranium or plutonium is being recycled as fuel in a commercial nuclear reactor, forever making it unavailable for weapons use!

  • Paul, rest assured that at least one contributor here very much appreciates your reason and knowledge when it comes to nuclear energy.

  • Thank you, Paul Z. I know that you and Donald and many of the rest are among the best. And I like this post of Donald’s, how it contrasts the hubris of objectivism and libertarianism with the humility and gratitude of old fashion Americana, which is how I feel about “It’s A Wonderful Life.”

Mr. Smith and Lost Causes

Monday, July 5, AD 2010

When the film Mr. Smith Goes to Washington appeared in 1939, many intelligent observers were predicting that the age of Democracy was at an end and that the age of Fascism and Communism was dawning.  Democracy, perhaps, was a lost cause.    In the face of a tide of totalitarianism that seemed to be destined to engulf the globe, Frank Capra made this film celebrating Democracy.

It is a very odd sort of celebration.  The film starkly presents one of the key problems in any Democracy:  the political corruption that mocks the ability of the people to rule themselves.

Jefferson Smith, portrayed by Jimmy Stewart in his first leading man role, is a grown-up boy scout.  He has never surrendered his belief in this country and its ideals, because he has always lived in a sort of never-never land that he has created.  He is the head of the Boy Rangers  (the Boy Scouts foolishly refused to allow their name to be used in the film), and he looks at the world with the idealism of a boy who simply wants to do what is right.  One of the senators from his state, Sam Foley, dies in office.  The governor of his state, an indecisive man, decides to appoint Smith to the Senate based upon the recommendation of his children and because he realizes that he will not be criticized for appointing this do-gooder.  The man who actually controls the state, political boss Jim Taylor, unforgettably portrayed by Edward Arnold, goes along with the choice after being assured that Smith is a babe in the woods and will be easy to manipulate.

The senior senator from the state, Joseph Paine, is surprised to learn that Smith is the son of an old friend of his, a crusading small town newspaper editor, who was murdered in the course of one of his crusades.  Paine was a crusading attorney, but he has long since sold his soul to Jim Taylor:  a senate seat in exchange for Paine serving as Taylor’s man in Washington.

Jefferson Smith does seem initially to be a very poor choice to fill a spot in the Senate.  He is filled with idealism, but has almost no knowledge about what a senator does.   He does have one big goal however:  the establishment of a camp in his state where the Boy Rangers may have a camp.  He drafts a bill to this effect with the help of his secretary, Clarissa Saunders, played by Jean Arthur in her finest role.  Saunders is in many ways the opposite of Smith.  She is a paid agent of the Taylor machine, and is filled with endless cynicism.  However, she is also filled with practical knowledge about how the Senate operates.  She finds herself, against her will, falling in love with Smith and his idealism.

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One Percent/End the Fed (Nader-Paul, Paul-Nader American Presidency!)

Sunday, May 16, AD 2010
I just watched the documentary “One Percent” with my wife and I have been reading Ron Paul’s book – End the Fed. Very interesting points of contact and dissonance between the two viewpoints.
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3 Responses to One Percent/End the Fed (Nader-Paul, Paul-Nader American Presidency!)

  • The little guy is getting shafted by the World Bank?

    Today’s little guy will usually be the least prepared to weather economic changes. Tomorrow’s little guy has the most to gain but he doesn’t know it yet. Thus, the appeal of protectionism. It’s better to aid the adversely affected than to shield them.

    Lots of little guys depend on big banks and multinationals.

    Both Nader and Paul are experts at proposing the wrong solutions to the right problems. I was swept up in the Ron Paul Revolution in 2008 but I’ve recovered. My biggest issue with him is that, to my knowledge, he’s never articulated how he expects to pay for anything.

  • So the very wealthy investor class member has found a way to get government to print up money to cover the biggest of losses, and enough extra money is spread around giving people some unemployment bail out monies, dubious temporary stimulus paychecks, and other little social service type funds- so that no one wants to completely overturn the current establishment.

    For the record, the folks receiving ‘bailouts’ thus far are as follows:

    1. The Federal National Mortgage Association and the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp.

    2. Citigroup and the Bank of America.

    3. Chrysler and General Motors

    4. The American International Group.

    5. Miscellaneous finance and insurance companies who received access to the soft loan windows opened by the Treasury department and the Federal Reserve.

    The last were ancillary beneficiaries. The shareholders of the American International Group saw their stake in the company diluted to the tune of 80%. It was the creditors of AIG who were bailed out. That would be institutions like Citigroup who bought credit default swaps from Mr. Cassano’s outfit, and miscellaneous others.

    The shareholders of Citigroup saw the value of their holdings fall by more than 90%, and those of Bank of America more than 60%. Who got paid in full were the owners of bank bonds. Bank bonds are owned by insurance companies and pension funds, whose clientele may be affluent as a rule, but far from ‘very wealthy’.

    The shareholders and owners of mortgage backed securities issued by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac likely are an affluent crew, maybe even ‘very wealthy’. Commercial banks held about a quarter of the outstanding Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac debt, and commercial banks have depositors. Sovereign wealth funds held another large bloc, so defaulting would likely create a political problem with the Far East. Please recall that these are leftover New Deal programs and that efforts by the Bush Administration to reform their accounting practices and increase their capital cushions were sabotaged by Barney Frank, whose boy toy was a Fannie Mae official. Frank ‘cares’ about housing, dont’cha know.

    The Chrysler and General Motors deals were a gift bestowed upon the United Auto Workers, whose clientele are certainly better off than the average American, but not ‘very wealthy’.

    The folks who were bailed out were those whose defaults might generate systemic problems and those who had connections. The latter are not the generically wealthy, ‘very’ or not.

    They are both very good at identifying the wastefulness of most of the wars that now seem to be perpetual,

    Identify for me a bloc of years prior to 1940 when there was not armed conflict in progress somewhere on the globe.

    If you are speaking about the United States in particular, we have not been subject to a general mobilization since 1945. In the intervening 64 years, we were at war for 3 years in Korea, 8 years in Indo-China, < 1 year over Kuwait, and 8 years in Iraq and Afghanistan. That would be about a third of the time, which falls short of 'perpetual'. The wars in Korea, Kuwait, and Afghanistan were initiatives of the other party without qualification and none of our opponents in any of these wars were of the character of the Hapsburg or Hohenzollern empires.

    and they both see that the little guys in this country and around the world are basically getting shafted by the global econom

    Yeah, they are being shafted by reductions in excise taxes on imports.

  • I certainly agree with both men in the video. Both parties are owned by the same people behind the scenes. It is easy for us to fall in lockstep with that idea because we hear that American Electorate process is so civil and gives the people real choices.

    The more I learn what it means to be Catholic, the more I reject our broken political process. I really can’t believe my choices last year were John McCain and Obama just like people were forced to choose between Bush and Gore. Believe what you will, but they are all the same people. They are basically owned.