July, Springfield and Lincoln

Wednesday, July 20, AD 2011


Well, it is time again in the McClarey household for our mini three day July vacation.  (We take a week off in June and August.)  Today we make our annual pilgrimage down to Springfield to the Lincoln sites.  We say a prayer at the tomb of Mr. Lincoln for the repose of his soul and the souls of his wife and children.  All of Lincoln’s immediate family are buried there except Robert Lincoln, a Civil War veteran, who is buried in Arlington.

We also go to the Lincoln Museum, which is first rate.  For those of you with time to kill, go here to watch a CSpan two and a half hour (!) tour from 2005 of the Lincoln Museum.

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12 Responses to July, Springfield and Lincoln

  • Hope you have a great time today, Don — but take it easy. The forecast for today: Sunny and hot, high of 98 with heat indexes as high as 116. Time to hunker down in the A/C as much as possible!

  • How true Elaine! Back in the days of the British Raj in India the Brits went on and on about how terrible the summer was in India. I have had Indians tell me that some days in summer in Illinois, with both temperature and humidity soaring, are worse than summer in India!

  • You can blame all the corn for that. Really. Moisture transpiration from all the corn and bean fields is making the humidity worse, but it’s also holding the actual air temperature down a few degrees. Actual triple digit high temps seem to be relatively rare in downstate Illinois. (The last official 100 degree high in Springfield was about 15 years ago.)

  • Ah Illinois, land of temperature extremes. Highest temperature recorded in the state was 117, and the lowest was -36.

  • We’ll be headed to Manassas this weekend to see the 150th anniversary reenactment of where the war almost all went bad for Mr. Lincoln and his picnicking Yankee cohort.

  • I will have commemorative posts for First Bull Run Jay, a name that I have always found more evocative than First Manassas, up both here and at Almost Chosen People. The battle was fascinating for what it predicted about the fighting in the rest of the Civil War.

  • It’s “First Manassas”. You can give the Yankee names to the battles y’all won.


  • Don,
    It is very nice to reflect on the past and all the good that Abe Lincoln did. It makes me think about our present day cowardice on behalf of our Catholic bishops and political leaders and the 1.3 million unborn humans being murdered every year.

  • It is hard to attack a well-established evil in a society that enjoys the support of powerful forces. The only way to win such a struggle is to fight it out until the struggle is won. Never despair, never stop fighting and never stop focusing on the humanity of the unborn. Like the slaves of yesteryear they are people being treated as property. Ultimately, as in the case of slavery, we will win this struggle, no matter how long it takes or how great the cost.

  • It seems to me that many of the political figures whom we end up revering for their honesty and integrity are NOT necessarily those who enjoy “rock star” status or have cults of personality built up around them. More often than not they seem to be second choice or compromise candidates chosen to split the difference between two wings of the party, or to satisfy a desire for “balance” on the national ticket.

    Lincoln wasn’t the front runner for the 1860 Republican nomination; William Seward was, and the convention more or less “settled” on Lincoln because Seward was seen as too radical on slavery. Abolitionists certainly wouldn’t have seen Lincoln as their political savior in 1860. Yet, it was on his watch that the slaves were finally freed (for the most part).

    Likewise I still believe that if Roe is ever overturned or legalized abortion on demand ever comes to an end, it could very well happen on the “watch” of a president who is NOT necessarily a hard core conservative, or a devout Catholic or evangelical Protestant, or even a Republican (he or she could belong to a political party that doesn’t yet exist, just as the Republican Party didn’t yet exist in 1850).

  • “Except for the politicians who infest it, Springfield is a lovely town. Filled with historical sites, it retains a small town feel. You can park on the street at very little cost, and life tends to move at a sedate Central Illinois pace most of the time.”

    I’d have to agree with that, which is one reason why hubby and I have stayed here longer (6 years and counting) than in any other community we have lived in since we got married almost 17 years ago. Actually, you don’t run into too many politicians on a regular basis unless you 1) work for certain state agencies or 2) frequent particular restaurants, hotels, bars and other hangouts favored by the political crowd during legislative session days.

Senator Jefferson Smith, the Tea Party and America

Friday, January 21, AD 2011

My colleague Michael Denton has a thought provoking post which may be read here, in which he contends that the film Mr. Smith Goes to Washington does not stand for the ideals of America, but rather that the Christian message of Love Thy Neighbor is what saves Senator Smith.  Michael makes many valid points in his cogent post, but I respectfully disagree that the film is as negative about America as Michael contends, and I think that if the fictional Senator Jefferson Smith were brought to life in our day, he would be a leader of the Tea Party movement.  Here are my reasons for making these statements:

1. The Founding Fathers:  Like the Tea Party movement, Jefferson Smith takes his inspiration and his political principles from the Founding Fathers (with Lincoln thrown in).  We see this clearly in this scene:

Smith is a reminder to a jaded world that, “Great principles don’t get lost once they come to light. They’re right here; you just have to see them again!”

When he momentarily loses his idealism about these principles he is reminded that the principles are true by his formerly cynical secretary Clarissa, stunningly portrayed by Jean Arthur, who he, unbeknownst to himself, has converted to his point of view:

“Your friend, Mr. Lincoln had his Taylors and Paines. So did every other man who ever tried to lift his thought up off the ground. Odds against them didn’t stop those men. They were fools that way. All the good that ever came into this world came from fools with faith like that. You know that, Jeff. You can’t quit now. Not you. They aren’t all Taylors and Paines in Washington. That kind just throw big shadows, that’s all. You didn’t just have faith in Paine or any other living man. You had faith in something bigger than that. You had plain, decent, everyday, common rightness, and this country could use some of that. Yeah, so could the whole cockeyed world, a lot of it. Remember the first day you got here? Remember what you said about Mr. Lincoln? You said he was sitting up there, waiting for someone to come along. You were right. He was waiting for a man who could see his job and sail into it, that’s what he was waiting for. A man who could tear into the Taylors and root them out into the open. I think he was waiting for you, Jeff. He knows you can do it, so do I.”

2.  Faith in the People-This of course is an axiom of democracy.  Democracy makes absolutely no sense unless one believes that most people do wish to do the right thing most of the time, once they are sure of what is right.  Jefferson Smith has this faith as does the Tea Party with its populist appeals.  He believes that once the people of his state know the type of political corruption that controls their state, they will rise up to crush Taylor and his machine.  The villains of the film agree with him:

James Taylor to Senator Paine:  “If he even starts to convince those Senators, you might as well blow your brains out, you know that, don’t ya? This is the works, Joe! Either we’re out of business or we’re bigger than we ever were before. We can’t miss a trick. We can’t stop at anything until we’ve smashed this yokel and buried him so deep…”

Taylor fears the people of his state and that is why he uses gangster tactics to keep the news of what Jefferson Smith is saying on the floor of the Senate from getting to them.

When Smith is confronted with Taylor’s astroturfed messages denouncing him, he refuses to give up, his body giving way, but not his spirit.  Ironically, I think if a vote were cast thereafter in the Senate, Smith would have won.  The Senators are viewed in the film as listening to him intently towards the end of the filibuster and are portrayed in the film as increasingly sympathetic to him:

Senator:  “I didn’t like this boy from the beginning. But most of us feel that no man who wasn’t sincere could stage a fight like this against these impossible odds.”

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17 Responses to Senator Jefferson Smith, the Tea Party and America

  • This works as a feel-good movie and Jimmy Stewart and Jean Arthur are wonderful in this flick, but it’s so far removed from reality as to make it almost parody. There never has been a senator, or U.S. politician in any office for that matter, who remotely resembles the ideas of Jefferson Smith. Can anyone truly imagine ANYONE in either chamber today, or in recent memory, who comes close to expressing the ideals that Smith evoked?

    Sen. Joe Payne (Claude Rains) comes a lot closer to reality — a puppet on a string pulled by the James Taylors of the world, who are the real power wielders.

  • I tend to be cynical about cynicism Joe. There are many politicians who remind me of Jefferson Smith. Rick Santorum for example, who realized that his strong opposition to abortion and his strong support for the war in Iraq were unpopular in blue Pennsylvania, but who stuck to his convictions and lost his Senate seat in 2006. Sarah Palin who rose to the governorship of Alaska by taking on a corrupt old boy network in her state in her own party. Governor Casey of Pennsylvania who suffered the wrath of his party for his pro-life convictions. The late Congressman Henry Hyde, ever the champion of the unborn. Christopher Smith, Congressman from New Jersey, ever a tireless champion of the unborn, although he is from one of the bluest states of the Union.

  • My cynicism — more skepticism and realism — stems from more than 30 years in journalism, often with a front row seat to political chicanery at all levels, from the town supervisor to the POTUS.

    I would not disabuse you of your choices — although none would make my list (particularly the adulterer and hypocrite Hyde), which is otherwise countable on the fingers of one hand after a bad lawn mower accident of those who merit standing in the pantheon of political heroes. Lincoln for starters.

    If memory serves — and I have a good one — let us recall the 2008 “financial coup d’etat,” as some have called it, engineered by BOTH PARTIES, in which $700 million in taxpayer money was used to bail out Goldman, Sachs, et al. First defeated in Congress after 70% of the American people vehemently objected, it was passed 3 days later, thanks to Hank Paulson and his Goldman pals crafting a 3-page bill that eliminated any possible challenge by the courts. Your government and mine at work. Part credit goes to Machiavelli and John Maynard Keynes for the inspiration to the gang of crooks that run Washington. Lloyd Blankfein, Goldman CEO, was at Obama’s Chinese dinner the other night. A million-dollar “political contribution” buys you a lot of friends.

    Harsh words, but there are so many other examples of political corruption and misrepresentative democracy (Prop 8, Obamacare, ad nauseum) that one wonders how you can find any nobility or honesty in, collectively, a venal bunch, then and now.

    I no longer, though I once did, share your idealist view — it is admirable and one that I held many years ago, but since have discarded despite hopes that notions of honesty, fairness and justice might prevail in the conduct of the people’s business. Lincoln warned that this nation could only be defeated “by the vandals within.” Nearly century earlier, jefferson, Madison & Co. sounded similar jeremiads about veering from the Founding principles. Also, a little H.L. Mencken wouldn’t hurt to keep from taking it all too seriously.

    God bless.

  • Whoops, make that $700 BILLION.

  • Hyde was not a hyprocrite Joe, and I am surprised that you fell for the Clintons digging up an affair from the sixties to attempt to discredit one of the true heroes of Congress of our time. Whatever damage that Hyde’s adultery did to his marriage did not destroy it, his wife and he staying together for 47 years until her death in 92, and to dig it up was simply the type of petty cruelty associated with the Clintons. Hyde, in the face of this, successfully completed his task of having the House vote to impeach the worst man ever to sit in the White House, another reason I honor his memory.

    In regard to the bailout swindle of 2008, there were a fair number of Congressmen and 25 Senators who kept their heads and did not panic in a situation of crisis, when they were told that the economic system was near collapse. I think those who voted for the bailout were gravely in error, but I do not think that most of those who voted for it did so out of bad faith.

    As for H.L. Mencken, he was a good writer, but as a human being he deserved only a punch in the nose.

  • ‘As for H.L. Mencken, he was a good writer, but as a human being he deserved only a punch in the nose.’

    Perhaps, but that could apply to many good writers. : )

    That I am a regular followers of TAC suggests I am not totally jaded.
    There’s a sliver of the idealist left in me.

  • The Tea Party is the mob George Washington and the Founding Fathers feared.

  • Why of course they are John! Why didn’t I see that. The Founding Fathers regarded as a “mob”, assemblages of citizens, peacefully petitioning the government for redress of grievances, exercising their freedom of speech and voting for candidates who reflect their views. How terrifyingly “mob-like”. That of course is why the Founding Fathers in the Bill of Non-rights denied freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and the right of the people to petition for redress of grievances. Thank you much John. That is also why the Constitution begins “We the Elite”. Now I understand!

  • The January 2007 edition of Godspy had an article by Bod Bennet about Frank Capra’s vision that explains his work. I extracted the key sections here

    This is why Frank Capra, contrary to popular opinion, is one of the most challenging of all filmmakers and in some ways the most disturbing. Most “serious films”—the “hard-hitting” “uncompromising” films—ask us only to accept, for example, that poverty is bad, relationships are hard, that politics is corrupt. In short, their “challenge” consists precisely in asking us to accept ideas that we already accept anyway, even if we struggle to know just what to do about them. In these comedies, Capra asks us to accept that the old-fashioned American ideals are still good, that David really can whip Goliath, that our prayers do not go unheard, that the meek shall inherit the earth. In other words, he asks us to accept things about which we have grave, grave doubts. And he is uncompromising in his asking: he doesn’t ask us to accept these propositions as nice or inspirational or comforting or helpful—he asks us to accept them as true. That, my friend, is a challenging filmmaker. That is serious, avant-garde cinema, if you will.

  • Your comment is way off topic Adrian, and I have removed it.

  • Did you ban Adrian Wainer from posting in this site simply because he posted a posting in the wrong thread by accident ?

  • He isn’t banned, and I believe he intended the comment for this thread. I simply removed the comment because it was off topic.

  • Are you sure about that Mr McClarey, that he is not banned ?

  • Positive. I did precisely what I said I did.

  • Genuinely I was confused as there are two articles which reference to the film.

  • By the way, Charles was right in so far as I genuinely could not post. But Mr Donald R. McClarey I accept you are being perfectly honest as does Charles. Sometimes, there are additional features built in to software, which are not explained to users and there could be a lock which kicks in when a posting is deleted which stops a poster from posting for a couple of hours as an auto-spam protection, so that could be an explanation.

  • I only saw one comment which mentioned the ground zero mosque. I agree with you in regard to the mosque but I didn’t want the thread going off on that tanget. I didn’t see another comment by you on this thread. Sometimes akismet can get cranky and for no apparent reason toss a comment into the spam file, but I saw nothing there either.

Election Day

Monday, November 15, AD 2010

Don’t worry!  We are done with elections for a while!  I am not going to start writing about 2012 already!  However, as annoying as the election commercials, mendacious politicians and all the assorted insults to our intelligence that are part and parcel of political campaigns are, we sometimes forget how truly remarkable a process it is in the history of our planet.

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8 Responses to Election Day

  • Wish I could be as sanguine about our “democracy,” but, based on presidents, legislatures and judges governing against the will of the people, I’d have to say the system is irretrievably broken. When one set of bums gets thrown out, another set replaces them. Politics in America is all about money. The more you raise the better chance you have to win. “Campaign contributions” are a euphemism for bribery and backroom deals. Corruption is rife, mendacity rules and the people, content with their bread and circuses, are not really concerned about their loss of freedoms.

    This comes after 68 years of careful observation, and is not some knee-jerk cynicism. I’m glad to be checking out soon. I don’t want to be around when America implodes from total decay and depravity.

  • Joe, every last thing you wrote, and I mean every last thing, could have been lifted word for word from newspaper editorials written in the 1790s. Your pessimism about the prospects for our experiment in self-rule go back to the very beginnings of the Republic, as does my optimism. Time, as it always does, will tell.

  • I doubt the US will disappear any time soon. It will, like many (most, all?) political systems go on and slowly decay, like some ancient ruin. Certain vestiges of self rule will remain, but those will be as unrecognizable to us as our current ones would be to our founding fathers (just look how far we’ve decayed in a short 200 years). But something will remain – whether it’s worth keeping will depend largely upon what the rest of the world (and hence, available alternatives) look like.

  • “It is said an Eastern monarch once charged his wise men to invent him a sentence, to be ever in view, and which should be true and appropriate in all times and situations. They presented him the words: “And this, too, shall pass away.” How much it expresses! How chastening in the hour of pride! — how consoling in the depths of affliction! “And this, too, shall pass away.” And yet let us hope it is not quite true. Let us hope, rather, that by the best cultivation of the physical world, beneath and around us; and the intellectual and moral world within us, we shall secure an individual, social, and political prosperity and happiness, whose course shall be onward and upward, and which, while the earth endures, shall not pass away.”

    Abraham Lincoln, September 30, 1859

  • I had thouhght that phrase (This too shall pass) is in the Gospels. Not so.

    Mark 9:29-36 “… Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my word shall not pass away …”

  • Donald, I’ve been reading too much Schopenhauer lately. I would like to try your rose-colored glasses for a day or two. Anything to cheer up this old misanthrope.

  • Schopenhauer would depress a laughing hyena Joe. I prefer Doctor Franklin:

    “Whilst the last members were signing it [i.e., the Constitution] Doct FRANKLIN looking towards the Presidents Chair, at the back of which a rising sun happened to be painted, observed to a few members near him, that Painters had found it difficult to distinguish in their art a rising from a setting sun. I have said he, often and often in the course of the Session, and the vicissitudes of my hopes and fears as to its issue, looked at that behind the President without being able to tell whether it was rising or setting: But now at length I have the happiness to know that it is a rising and not a setting Sun.”

    James Madison

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.