I finally saw Lincoln tonight. It’s been in theaters for more than two full months and I’ve wanted to see it since it came out, but work, the holidays and other movies kept coming up and I kept putting it off. But finally, tonight, I saw it, and it was worth the wait. And even though the movie is two months old and most people are done talking about it, I haven’t written in a while and it seems pretty relevant in this climate of political divide and identity crisis. Fair warning: I’ll be writing about a movie you may not have seen. While the plot isn’t much of a mystery, you might prefer to be surprised by the director’s and actors’ interpretations. If that describes you, read with caution.
It’s been one week since an unthinkable tragedy occurred in Newtown, Connecticut. It’s one of those events that seems to transcend the normal rules of space and time: the emotional wounds are still fresh and raw, like it just happened yesterday, but at the same time, it’s hard to remember what normal American life was like before it happened. I’ve been in a funk since last Friday, unable to think about anything for long without my thoughts drifting towards Newtown. I’ve been searching for words to say, to write, but I keep coming back to “what is there to say?” So as a fair warning, I probably don’t have anything new or profound to add to the discussion. But I think it’ll help me to write some of these thoughts down.
Why Mike Bloomberg actually does know what's good for you
On September 13, 2012, the New York City Board of Health approved legislation that banned the sale of large sugary soft drinks at restaurants. Spearheaded by Mayor Mike Bloomberg, the move was predictably met with some controversy. While one side claimed that the ban of soft drinks was the first step on the road to the Fascist States of America, the other claimed that desperate times called for desperate measures. (I can’t find a quote, but I guarantee you someone used the phrase “with great power, comes great responsibility” at some point.) The controversy was even spoofed on an episode of Parks and Recreation. And in fact, if it weren’t for the cancelled New York Marathon that almost wasn’t, this would have probably been Bloomberg’s most controversial action all year.
This story isn’t new. What is new (or at least, newer) is the cover story in the November 2012 issue of The Atlantic. Mike Bloomberg is on the cover, with a grimace reminiscent my dentist looks at me when I tell him I don’t floss every day, with a caption of “Mike Bloomberg knows what’s good for you”. And for me, it’s a lot like the smoking ban laws passed in several states (including Ohio): I think Bloomberg might be on to something.
The state of the 2012 campaigns
It’s interesting to me that exactly one year ago today, Michelle Bachmann, while far from a shoo-in, looked a lot closer to the White House than Mitt Romney. On August 13, 2011, Congresswoman Bachmann won the Ames Straw Poll, an unofficial kickoff to the primary season and an interesting look at what Republicans think of the field.
Needless to say, times changed. Michelle Bachmann barely made it past the Iowa caucus, as she suspended her campaign the day after a disappointing finish there. Other candidates like Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, and Rick Santorum had their time in the drivers seat, but eventually faded. Whether or not the Republican primary was a war of attrition probably depends on who you ask. But whatever it was, Mitt Romney endured and at the end of this month, will become the Republican nominee for President.
On Saturday, Romney announced that Paul Ryan would be his running mate, which ended a bad week on an extreme upswing. Many analysts have stated, and I agree with them, that Ryan’s entry represents a fresh start to the campaign for Romney, and should really reboot the campaign as a whole.
One year ago today, under the cover of darkness, a Navy SEAL team stormed a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, with intelligence that the man responsible for the September 11th attacks was inside. Less than an hour later, their mission was accomplished: Osama bin Laden was dead. In the days and weeks after, it was revealed that the operation wasn’t an easy one; in fact, there was great risk. As more and more details revealed the mission was more and more treacherous, Americans everywhere expressed gratitude and admiration primarily towards the SEALs who carried out the mission.
President Obama also got some of the credit and some of the gratitude, in the form of an approval ratings boost and a solid (to say the least) foreign policy credential to use in his reelection campaign. But even though the killing of Osama bin Laden was easily his best political victory in over a year, President Obama made sure to raise his voice over the celebrating crowds to caution that “we don’t need to spike the football.”
Which is why I was surprised to find him doing just that for cheap political points.
An overview of the 2012 Republican Presidential candidates
The 2012 Republican presidential race started, for all intents and purposes, on November 5, 2008, the day after Barack Obama was elected. Since then, a lot of partisan bickering, speculation and rumor-mongering, and nearly three years later, we have what looks to be the final Republican field before primary season begins. The field isn’t demographically diverse: only Michelle Bachmann and Herman Cain break the trend of white males. But the diverse backgrounds, ideas and viewpoints among the candidates leave something for just about everyone; everyone, that is, who doesn’t plan on voting for President Obama. My overview of the candidates, after the break.
A retrospective of September 11, 2001
Three thousand, nine hundred eighty-one days ago, on October 17, 2000, a small water craft slammed into the side of the USS Cole, killing seventeen American sailors and injuring thirty-nine. While Americans mourned the loss of their sailors, there’s no way we knew – there’s no way we could have known – that the attack on the Cole was an ominous harbinger of a far more deadly attack to come. Nearly eleven months later, on September 11, 2001, four airliners crashed into the World Trade Center in New York, the Pentagon in Washington, DC, and a remote field in Shanksville, PA. Ten years later, as the country continues the long healing process, seems an appropriate time to reflect. I’m not really sure why I’m writing this: around this time last year I decided I’d try to write it, but I’m not sure anyone else but me will find it useful. Maybe it’ll offer closure. Or maybe it’s so I don’t forget.
I only really started following the Casey Anthony case after the trial started earlier this year. I’m not a lawyer, I’m not a grandfather, I’m not a mother… heck, I’m not even a daughter, so I am in no way qualified to offer judgement on the verdict of “not guilty” that took place today. But being a blogger, I’ll try anyway.
As I reflected on the case this evening, I reflected on how our justice system, despite not being perfect, worked today. Most of us “felt like” Casey Anthony was guilty because she wasn’t “acting right” after the disappearance of her child, or because her father had no motive to cover it up, or even because her lawyer seemed like a sleazeball (I’ll concede that point; he is a sleazeball). Hunches and instincts aren’t and shouldn’t ever be enough to convict anyone of a crime, particularly a capital crime. As the saying goes, “better a hundred guilty men go free than one innocent man be killed”. The evidence simply wasn’t substantial or definitive enough to convict Anthony.
The other thing that came to mind was the penultimate scene of my favorite movie, Saving Private Ryan. In the scene, John Miller (Tom Hanks), dying, is being tended to by James Ryan (Matt Damon) after shooting at a tank with a .45. Ryan, the point of the mission, the point of the movie, a seemingly insignificant soldier given great significance as the majority of a squad of soldiers dies trying to save him, leans in to hear Miller’s last words: “Earn this. Earn it.” The movie skips ahead to the present day, where an aged Ryan asks his wife if he’s been a good man and tries to convince Miller’s grave he did the best he could.
Those are the words I’d say to Casey Anthony today, given the opportunity. By some sort of freak circumstance, the lack of just a minute piece of evidence that would have turned the case towards the prosecution, Casey Anthony will likely walk free within the next year, and will have to figure out how to live the rest of her life knowing that most of the nation thinks she killed her child.
She could retreat into isolation, and try to stay out of trouble for the rest of her life (like O.J. Simpson did, years ago, only he couldn’t figure out how to stay out of trouble). But she could also figure out a way to, at least partially, redeem herself. No one’s going to let her adopt a child, so that’s out. But there’s always ways to give back: thinking small, she could volunteer at a local hospital, or thinking big, she could go around the country speaking to underprivileged teens about her experiences. Michael Vick did this after his dogfighting conviction (became a spokesperson for PETA) and was able to reinvent himself both on and off the field. No one has forgotten what Vick has done, and no one will ever forget what Casey Anthony probably did. Admitting the full details of her crime (assuming she did it) is probably not a great idea, but some level of admission, confession and contrition would certainly help her win, if not affection, at least some sympathy (advice she should have taken during the trial). This doesn’t even mention Casey’s parents, who hurriedly left the courthouse after the verdict today because of the questions they now face. Now that Casey’s been acquitted, how about dispelling the accusations of sexual abuse and trying to repair those bridges?
The point is no longer that Casey Anthony has managed to evade justice. The point is that the least she can do, in memory of her daughter, is to try to earn the second chance most convicts never receive, the second life that her daughter never received.
On September 11, 2001, four airliners crashed into the World Trade Center, Pentagon and a rural field in Pennsylvania. The coordinated terrorist attack resulted in the collapse of the twin towers of the World Trade Center, irreparably changing the skyline of New York and the world forever. Within hours of the attack, Muslim extremists were suspected, and by less than a month later, the FBI released the names and photos of the attackers: Muslim extremists, working for Osama bin Laden.
On July 4, 1776, 56 British rebels signed the most important document in American history: the Declaration of Independence. As we all know, the Founding Fathers documented many of the injustices that the tyrant King George III had imposed on the American colonies, and concluded that (National Treasure reference coming up here) not only was it their right to seek out a new government, it was their duty. And before we all look back on this moment through rose-colored glasses, let’s not forget that at the time, rebelling against the British was not only unpopular amongst the colonists, it was an act of treason against the British crown.
The newly formed United States won the Revolutionary War, and signed the Treaty of Paris on November 25, 1783. At the time, the United States was governed by the Articles of Confederation, a highly decentralized and federated government system created by new Americans who were understandably weary of a strong federal government.
But in the early years of the Confederacy, problems arose. The lack of a federal currency led to an economic depression, and events like Shays’ Rebellion and the increasing fear of a British counterattack made it clear that the American government was too weak to survive.
So in 1787, the Second Continental Congress met to recreate a government that wasn’t even 10 years old. Economist and federalist Alexander Hamilton led the charge for a stronger federal government while Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and George Washington contributed to the Constitution, the backbone of our government that has only been amended 27 times in over 200 years.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock the last couple days, you’ve heard the news that the House of Representatives passed the health care bill originally drafted by the Senate, making it all but inevitable that Barack Obama’s sweeping healthcare reform will become law. My feelings on the bill itself were documented last summer, before Scott Brown was elected and changed the entire nature of the debate, and before the bill was modified and culled to the point where it’d be passed.
Maybe, given that, you were expecting this post to be something more along these lines:
(I’d include a selection of Facebook and Twitter postings to further illustrate this point, but I’ll trust you too have a multitude of friends with similar feelings, so you know what those look like.)
Ultimately, I’m still not a huge fan of this health care bill. I’m not a huge fan of the way it was passed. But I think everyone, no matter your party, position or stature, agrees that this bill isn’t perfect. I think everyone, no matter your party, position or stature, agrees that the health care industry ranges from “fatally flawed” to “could use some improvement”.
That being said, did you wake up today and do anything different? Did you not wake up, shower, drive to work, work, eat some lunch, work some more, and come home? Was today radically different than last Friday? I know this legislation will eventually make some pretty dramatic changes, but for the most part (in general), your day-to-day life won’t change.
Here’s the thing: if cancer is cured in the next couple of years, or if diabetes is cured, or something changes in the healthcare environment, the laws will change. If it’s found that people still can’t pay for healthcare, or that parents still aren’t able to take care of their sick kids, the laws will change. It’s unfortunate that sometimes there’s no better way to institute change than trying something and seeing how it works, but that’s how it is, and it’s the beauty of democracy that it’s easy to change.
So what’s my point? If you’re conservative, maybe you didn’t get everything you wanted in this healthcare bill. But instead of planning your exodus, remember that you live in the greatest country in the world where the will of the people is always the rule of the day. This country isn’t dying; far from it, and the fact that one of our biggest national problems is how to deal modern nationwide healthcare coverage, while other countries are decimated by diseases that are a century obsolete here, is a sobering reminder that things could be far worse.