TV & DVD Review: The Moneychangers (NBC)

The Moneychangers, a four-part 1976-1977 winter miniseries that aired on NBC, is based on the bestselling novel by Arthur Hailey, who also wrote Airport and Hotel. The miniseries has a varied broadcast history as it’s been re-broadcast in a few incarnations, having been split into shorter or longer segments of varying lengths. I watched the approximately eight-hour series on DVD.

The television drama is better than I’d expected. Combining subplots that feed into the history, conflict and survival of an American bank, which is what makes this miniseries appealing, The Moneychangers shows how general consumer banking works. How many TV series, then or now, revolve around the boardroom discourse, daily operations and profitability of a bank? I’ve never read the novel, though I’ve read some of Hailey’s fiction, which I’ve enjoyed as light industrial or business-themed entertainment.

Buy the DVD

The Moneychangers, produced by Ross Hunter, who’d previously adapted Hailey’s Airport into one of Hollywood’s first major blockbusters in 1970, makes me want to read the novel. With a musical score by Henry Mancini (The Pink Panther, “Moon River” from Breakfast at Tiffany’s), a cameo by Marla Gibbs (Florence on The Jeffersons), a radical, anti-profit Elizabeth Warren-type character and leading performances from Christopher Plummer (The Sound of Music) and Kirk Douglas (Paths of Glory) as two bankers competing for the bank’s top executive position, the miniseries has potential.

The Moneychangers bundles its variety, potential and possibility for good drama, or at least melodrama. Especially with pre-Dynasty Joan Collins as an upscale prostitute on a crooked banker’s (post-Bonanza Lorne Greene) payroll. Look for Robert Loggia (The Jagged Edge), Stan Shaw (Scared Straight) and Patrick O’Neal (The Doris Day Show) as a crime boss, young black activist and advertising crony.

Timothy Bottoms (The Last Picture Show) plays a handsome young bank employee who embezzles the bank, gets caught, tried and convicted. He then serves time in prison. After he’s gang raped, he succumbs to an interracial same-sex relationship for protection. Later, upon his release from prison, the bank gives him an opportunity for a fresh start but it involves going underground to bust a counterfeit ring, with help from a single Latina mother and bank teller with whom he falls in love.

So, this is not typical mid-Seventies network television programming. Anne Baxter (All About Eve) co-stars as a top notch bank executive. Hayden Rorke (Dr. Bellows on I Dream of Jeannie) and Ralph Bellamy (Roots) also star in key roles. Look for Helen Hayes (the Boeing 707 stowaway in Airport) as an empathetic doctor.

The central plot involves the contentious rise of the two bankers seeking the bank’s top position after a grandson of the bank’s founder announces that he’s been diagnosed with terminal cancer. Add to this a run on the bank, the “social justice” warrior (Susan Flannery), class and racial strife, a terrorist bombing, a mentally incapacitated spouse, suicide and a crime syndicate and The Moneychangers moves briskly with a sense of purpose. Unfortunately, the theme’s not an endorsement of capitalism. But, for a pre-high technology, pre-mergers and acquisitions showcase of banking, as with Airport and Hotel, I found the dramatization of the industry fairly accurate, relevant and absorbing.

Kirk Douglas is relatively subdued for a change, not hamming up every scene, gritting teeth and overacting, though he does show off his muscles. This is some of Douglas’s best acting. Plummer strongly plays a Puritanical second-hander and pulls off a powerful climax. The late Percy Rodrigues, in the best acting performance and role of his enduring career, plays the bank’s security chief. He catches the Bottoms character in crime and serves one of the The Moneychangers’ best performances and subplots. Anyone who works in banking or wonders what’s involved (or was in the mid-70s) in money-making, saving and changing will probably find something here to appreciate and enjoy, even if half-naked Collins and some of the cast are cheesy in that melodramatic acting style.

The Moneychangers does not depict high finance. But it entertains.

 

TV Review: Chernobyl (HBO)

Craig Mazin’s Chernobyl, directed by Johan Renck, who’s known for music videos, and starring the ubiquitous and talented Stellan Skarsgård (Avengers: Age of Ultron, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Mamma Mia!, Mamma Mia 2: Here We Go Again, Cinderella, Thor) dramatizes the collapse of Soviet Russia.

Buy the Miniseries

As gray, bleak and lifeless as a honest series about socialism and its more consistent altruist-collectivist application, Communism, in practice must be, the five-part miniseries for AT&T-owned Home Box Office (HBO) stands out for depicting bureaucracy as a deathtrap. Chernobyl taps the Soviet and Russian sense of life, which is essentially anti-life.

But it does so strictly and only in minuscule measure. Upon a young technology co-worker’s recommendation, I bought and watched this series. I find Chernobyl’s excellent acting, visual and production values completely immersive and engrossing. You probably will, too. It’s striking for both its implicit and explicit honesty about socialism. This is so true that it is tempting to evaluate HBO’s series as a breakthrough.

Chernobyl is not quite that good. Socialism is spreading in the United States as a dishonest socialist presidential candidate exploits America’s workers’ fears into believing that a wealthy, old New Englander can loot the wealthy and spread the loot to give everyone clean air, good medicine and a college education. So, it’s refreshing to watch and reassuring to know that a major miniseries counters the fraudulent pseudo-curmedgeon with a dramatization of the truth that socialism, like radiation poisoning, destroys the individual and, left untended, kills everyone.

If you know about the spring 1986 nuclear disaster in Communist Russia — the only major nuclear meltdown in history  then you’ll enjoy Chernobyl more. If you don’t, as my young colleague did not, you may be inclined to think that the truth-based Chernobyl’s a work of pure fiction. This is especially so if you’ve come of age post-Earth Day. If so, you’re part of generations that’ve been subjected to nearly 50 years of relentless environmentalist propaganda falsely blaming the wealthy, business, capitalism, America and industry for mass death, disease, pollution and natural disaster.

With key roles in strong performances, Chernobyl shows otherwise. The scientists whose knowledge under the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics is powerless, to invert the meaning of Francis Bacon’s famous quote, try in vain to contain, alleviate and convey the damage after a nuclear plant explosion caused by incompetence, bureaucracy and faith in the welfare state. Emily Watson (War Horse, Angela’s Ashes, Anna Karenina) and Jared Harris (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Notorious Bettie Page, General Ulysses Grant in Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln) excel in these roles. There’s also a fireman and his wife, various Communist Party thugs, from idiotic plant chiefs to security goons, and Skarsgård as a top Communist Party thug.

As is evident everyday in Hong Kong, North Korea, Venezuela, Cuba and China, any one who’s a member of the Communist Party is what amounts to a thug, so I’m going with that term because it is true. And part of the problem with Chernobyl, as shocking as this may sound to fans and admirers of Chernobyl, is that Chernobyl doesn’t fully account for this fact.

In ways large and small, the series shows what it means to be a Communist or socialist, often with precise and profound attention to detail. The nuclear power plant known as Chernobyl was, in fact, the Vladimir I. (for Ilyitch) Lenin nuclear power plant. As if to remind the audience that the horror movie-like story of Chernobyl begins with the monster who promoted self-sacrifice and socialism, Lenin’s portrait, depicting the evil philosopher whose ideas made possible the bloodiest dictatorship on earth, looms over every episode of Chernobyl.

But those who mindlessly carry out his mission of monstrosity don’t get called out. Certainly, they get implicated, and this includes, again, refreshingly, the chief Communist of the Eighties, the dreadfully overpraised New Left hero, Soviet premier Mikhail Gorbachev, who appears in Chernobyl in key scenes marking the dictatorship’s errant, slow, delayed, deliberate and utterly horrifying response to the nuclear meltdown. Gorbachev, darling of the left, the press and everyone in the West, including to some degree unfortunately Thatcher, during and after the collapse of Soviet Communism, was a Communist. To his credit, he noticed that Communism was collapsing under his dictatorship. But Gorbachev was a Communist dictator. Like a janitor who’s the only one left in the building to mop up the mess of a Department of Water and Power system failure, Gorbachev merely managed the end of a dictatorship. Chernobyl shows this, demonstrating that Gorbachev was merely more calculating and publicity-savvy. That this Communist dictator knew he’d be better regarded by avoiding total loss of life, stature and decency is rightly regarded as secondary.

Chernobyl does not put Gorbachev or any of the Soviet Communists in their place, however. For its taut drama, suspense and spot-on portrayal of the insidious philosophical and existential poisoning of an entire country, Chernobyl not only doesn’t get around to rendering moral judgment of the union of concerned scientists and Soviet socialists — it barely scratches the surface of Soviet mass murder, coming closest in a scene with a woman milking a cow — Chernobyl makes the dictatorship’s moral premise, altruism — the idea that the individual exists to serve Others — a source of heroism.

In dramatizing Soviet divers, miners and Lenin plant workers, and those who love them, to the extent it is possible to love someone while living under a dictatorship, Chernobyl holds sacrifice as the moral ideal, leaving the Chernobyl disaster’s — and Soviet Russia’s— cause perfectly in place. Not a single scene implicates altruism or self-sacrifice as the toxin that poisons the plant and the country. Chernobyl unfolds with adherence to the cold, miserable and vacant representational recreation of Soviet Ukraine and, especially, Moscow. Its soldiers, KGB agents, committee members, lines, housing projects, cars, streets and red star-emblazoned machines reek of an entire population of humans steeped in ignorance, despair and total misery. Mazin’s series demonstrates for the thinking viewer what, how and why socialism makes everyone rotten, corrupt and depraved. This is especially true in an unnerving subplot with Barry Keoghan (Dunkirk, Life’s a Breeze, The Killing of a Sacred Deer) as an innocent soldier who, with two comrades, is assigned to terminate post-disaster contaminated animals and pets in evacuated zones.

Chernobyl can’t come close to fully dramatizing the horror of Soviet Russia. The mass death, including the long, drawn-out, slow, waiting-in-line-to die-slowly-by-radiation-poisoning, which is the perfect metaphor for Soviet Russia, of this socialist state is impossible to fully capture. Tens of millions were slaughtered. The makers of Chernobyl seem to grasp this on some level, with end titles that admit that no one knows how many died from the 1986 nuclear disaster.

Whatever its flaws, this series, which is best seen as an intellectual, fact-based horror miniseries, not as a deeply contemplative TV program, merits serious attention. In an era in which voters in the greatest nation on earth may be on the verge of electing a socialist president who chose not just to visit but to honeymoon and sanction Communist Russia after the Vladimir Lenin nuclear meltdown, Chernobyl rumbles and hums with fact-based foreboding of the horrifying past as chilling prologue.

 

‘King James’ vs. Shaq

The Hong Kong protests are proving to be a catalyst in the conflict between Communist China and the United States. This week, Communist China’s dictator buckled and backed down by canceling the extradition law that sparked the current protest. The Communist puppet running Hong Kong is reportedly being purged by the Communist Party for failing to crush Hong Kong’s resistance. The protesters, who wave American flags, openly defy the dictates and sing songs of liberty from a Broadway musical, are gaining — not losing — support from all over the world.

Meanwhile, Communist China cracks down on its American appeasers, such as Apple, Blizzard, Google, Nike and the National Basketball Association (NBA), which punished professional basketball businessman Daryl Morey for exercising his right to free speech in support of Hong Kong’s protests, pressuring him to apologize for aiding Hong Kong.

The severe contrast between Americans appeasing Communist China by sanctioning dictatorship and Americans opposing Communist China by denouncing dictatorship came to a climax this week in professional athletics — specifically between two Los Angeles Lakers.

Superficially, LeBron James and Shaquille O’Neal share similarities. Both athletes are extremely able, enduring and popular. Both men, who are black, faced serious challenges as boys. Although James is active and O’Neal is not, both sportsmen are Lakers—wealthy, high-profile men of achievement on a historic, dominant team, which originated in Minneapolis decades ago.

I do not follow, patronize or take serious interest in professional basketball. I’ve never been to a Lakers game and have no desire to attend. I’ve been to Staples Center in downtown LA where they play for my work, including covering the 2000 Democratic National Convention, and Kings hockey games, and I recently conducted research and interviews about basketball history for a book about the Munich 1972 Olympics basketball game that came out last month. So I wouldn’t call myself a sports fan. To the degree I follow professional sports, I prefer baseball. That said, I’ve taken an interest in both of these athletes. 

They represent today’s fundamental political choice.

The differences between Shaquille O’Neal and LeBron James reflect each man’s character. Following the controversy surrounding Morey’s single expression of free speech simply stating an individual’s choice to stand with Hong Kong against Communist China in favor of free Hong Kong, I think the gulf between James and O’Neal affords a profound contrast in moral virtue.

Simply put, LeBron James came out for Communist China. He did so plainly and without equivocation. He denounced Morey while traveling during Lakers’ competition in China and thus sanctioned the idea that the individual exists to serve the state.

James’s manner was irritable, frustrated and hostile. His statement was delivered at length without any sense of confidence, rationality or contemplation, let alone inner peace. James did not speak and act as if he had studied the issues and reached his own conclusion. He spoke and acted as though he resented the very idea that any individual should think or speak for himself, let alone about philosophy. In alignment with his self-chosen moniker, “King James”, he acted like a monarch — more exactly, and mirroring his sympathy for China, like an emperor without clothes — who believes he ought not to be bothered by his servants and subjects — as if as king he’s entitled to unearned adoration, any one who speaks that he’s wearing no clothes be damned.

Shaquille O’Neal is like the child in the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale. He spoke with confidence in his knowledge that Emperor “King James” wears no clothes. In alignment with his self-chosen moniker, Shaq, he spoke and acted as an accessible, thoughtful and intelligent man who presumes to speak only for himself. Shaq did this when he spoke up in defense of Morey’s exercise of free speech. Shaq neither wavered nor equivocated. He chose his words with purpose. He spoke with clarity and emphasis. Shaq did so in a proper context. Contrary to the annoyed demeanor displayed by James, Shaq spoke and acted with precision, eloquence and with the moral absolutism that he knows he’s right.

Life can be difficult and also wonderful and both Shaquille O’Neal and LeBron James have a wealth of experience on both counts. Tragically, Shaquille O’Neal lost his sister, Ayesha, who died of cancer after a three-year struggle at the age of 40 within hours after Shaq’s defense of Americanism. As far as I know, Shaq is in Orlando at this writing in grief with his mother and family.

But the 7-foot basketball star, whose distinguished career is probably best known for the sense of playfulness and joy that he brings to the game and to his perspective on the game, is now also known to be better equipped to cope with life’s greatest challenges. With millions of dollars in deals, opportunities and his job as a sports broadcaster on a network owned by AT&T at stake, when, disgracefully, neither the president nor the speaker of the House chooses to explicitly stand with Hong Kong on the proper principle, individual rights, this moral giant spoke for rights with much at risk to lose.

Shaq spoke as if his words matter — and they do. He exercised his right to free speech, knowing that, at any moment, he could be fired, punished and persecuted and he exercised his First Amendment right anyway. He showed the moral courage that Tim Cook and Apple, Blizzard, Nike, Google and the NBA have not. Shaq spoke like a man who owns himself, his ideas and his expressions.

James, on the other hand, spoke like a man who is owned by Others, the People’s Republic of China, a dictator or any and all of those, any one except himself. There is no single greater contrast I can think of in two men’s moral character than what happened in the last couple of weeks and on the defining political point of the moment — a conflict between what’s on the verge of becoming the most oppressive nation on earth and what remains, as Shaq suggests, the greatest nation on earth. Let there be no doubt that the man, who, as a broadcast journalist, is also an intellectual, who goes by the name Shaq is not merely morally superior to LeBron James.

James chose a course of action which is low, depraved, predictable, common and rotten — James did what most in his position probably would do under the circumstances of traveling in a dictatorship and working under the auspices of a league shackled by its deal with a dictatorship. Shaq chose the lonelier and more courageous, solitary, rational and enlightened course of action. This makes Shaquille O’Neal the greatest American alive right now — at least in terms of moral leadership — whose singular act of heroism, even as those claiming that their purpose on earth is to defend the rights of the individual remain silent, deserves every American’s standing ovation.

These are dark days for America, darker every day. The president, whatever his record, has no real grasp of rights and capitalism. The opposition is a band of socialists and statists who seek total government control of every one’s life and aim to impeach the president for trivial reasons with neither due process nor just cause for the sole sake of lust for power.

With his historic statement against Communist China for the ideal of free speech and the United States of America, Shaq showed a prime example of the highest moral action. Leonard Peikoff once said that to save the world is the simplest thing — all one has to do is think. Shaquille O’Neal did exactly that.

As Shaq once said:

For all my friends in the media who like quotes, mark this quote down. From this day on I’d like to be known as ‘The Big Aristotle’ because Aristotle once said: ‘Excellence is not a singular act; it’s a habit. You are what you repeatedly do.’”

Shaq’s excellence earns my deepest respect. By proclaiming that Houston Rockets businessman Morey is right to stand with Hong Kong for liberty, the Big Aristotle honors America’s philosophical forefather and lives up to his chosen nickname. Shaq’s is a powerful example of the spirit of 1776 when America needs it fast. Though the press wickedly chose not to cover his pathbreaking act of principle, Shaq’s political speech gave Americans the moral clarity and guidance they urgently need. The few who know it, including the protesters in Hong Kong, have reason to be newly invigorated and inspired not to let it go.

 

The 2020 Democrats

This is my first post on the 2020 presidential election, prompted by the Democrats’ debate last night in Ohio. This is an informal forum for my thoughts on ideas, movies and culture, which includes politics from time to time.

Let me stipulate that my entire political philosophy as an Objectivist can be summed up by saying that I’m for capitalism, the proper social system recognizing individual rights. That said, my reporting and commentating about politics goes back decades — to the 1990s, when I started writing guest columns criticizing, for example, First Lady Barbara Bush and President Clinton — and tapered off as America’s politics worsened. 

My last major coverage was an interview series for print media cited on NBC’s Meet the Press of each major candidate for president in 2000. I was the only credentialed freelance writer to cover both national conventions in Philadelphia and Los Angeles during that campaign. I also wrote my observations about Arianna Huffington — when I first noticed her authoritarianism — for the San Francisco Chronicle’s Sunday edition.

Politics and government in the U.S. is rotten. With this in mind, in no particular sequence, here goes.

Biden

Leonard Peikoff once compared him to comic relief. There’s a clownishness about the former vice president. There’s also an affability about him. His congeniality as an elder statesman is one of the reasons Obama chose him as his running mate in 2008. His policy positions, to the extent he holds them, amount to middle of the road pablum, tilting left including slavery reparations — an inhuman idea — and his plan to force Americans to subsidize the manufacture of electrical cars, another awful idea. Biden at his best served on the judiciary committee in the United States Senate during the Robert Bork hearings. Biden at his worst instigated a plagiarism scandal when he stole a speech written by a British Labor Party leader and was caught and, worst of all, he pushed what is arguably America’s worst law in history, ObamaCare. He had started to defend his personal habits until he was attacked by the Puritanical anti-sex Me, Too movement. Since then, he’s been neutralized. I think he’s one of the weakest Democratic Party frontrunners in decades. He’s leaning so far to the left that he makes Trump look almost rational, statesmanlike and pro-capitalist by comparison. If Biden comes back from the whiff of nepotism surrounding Democrats’ attempt to impeach Trump and survives his pandering to leftists, he will be harder to differentiate from Trump which makes it easier for Trump to persuade voters to vote for him because Trump is the pragmatist who “gets stuff done”. Getting stuff done is the new theme of Biden’s post-Ukraine campaign. It might work, though I doubt it. Either way, Biden’s probably going to lose to Trump, if Trump’s the GOP nominee, in the general election; if Biden runs to the left, he’s another leftist loon. If Biden stays in the middle of the road, he’s a tamer version of vulgar, old, white male Trump. Either way, he’s vulnerable to the truth of Trump’s crude claim that Biden was essentially a Yes-Man to Barack Obama.

Yang

This candidate comes across as sincere. He expresses the energy and ethos of the modern technology businessman — combining confidence in his knowledge and a flippant bravado that’s not convincing that he’s oriented to reality. It’s important to keep in mind that this is someone who seriously proposes a guaranteed income for every American and a giant solar shield in space based on his belief that global apocalypse is coming due to a change in the earth’s climate. Like most leftists, he combines this dogmatism with traditionalism in his constant citation of his procreative housewife. If returning to the notion of a woman staying at home to raise children is considered progressive and a proper vision of the future, this Democrat’s delusions may go viral. 

Castro

The radical leftist Democrat who touts his bloodline, including his twin brotherhood and ethnicity, gave one of the better answers to the last question about Ellen DeGeneres attending an athletic event with former President George W. Bush. He stressed the need to differentiate political opposition from amity. But he represents the worst type of politician: one who sees himself primarily based on characteristics beyond his control.

Klobuchar

The senator from Minnesota did her best to differentiate herself as a middle of the road politician. She made a point to personalize some of her positions. She held frontrunner Senator Warren accountable, which no one else really did. Yet Klobuchar is clearly neither a serious thinker nor a serious presidential candidate. Her entire value proposition amounts to the fact that she thinks working hard to compromise with others is a virtue. It isn’t. She has no coherent political philosophy. To the extent she does, it’s bad to mixed. To whatever extent she’s decent, she will be annihilated in the Democratic Party primary. To whatever degree she’s awful, she undercuts her own value proposition. Either way, I think she’s likely to lose the election.

O’Rourke

This tall politician appeals to cuteness. That’s it, really. His candidacy has no other reason to exist. He’s a former congressman. He ran for the United States Senate in one of the country’s largest states and lost — decisively. No one who likes him seems to be able to articulate what he stands for. He says preposterous things about the government coming to seize guns, which is not going to help him win the state he’s from, where the Second Amendment is popular. He appeals to the worst in American voters; the fact that he’s a cute, tall man who seems like someone you could laugh and have a beer with goes to the worst inclinations and predispositions of the American voter — that they go by the cult of personality, not the substance of a man’s character or policy positions. This candidate is as ridiculous as the sound of his first and last name.

Buttigieg

This is a serious candidate who could win the presidency. His political philosophy, to the extent he makes it known, is extremely bad — an amalgamation of the worst bromides of McCain and Obama, especially the notion that one has a moral duty to serve the state and others. His explicit endorsement last night of national service is especially wicked. As president, Buttigieg is likely to do it. He has no-nonsense, Midwestern sensibility, which is engaging. That he downplays the fact that he’s gay while using it as a springboard to discussing how he’s formed his character is savvy. In this sense, he’s like Obama, playing his personal background to the hilt. It will be extremely difficult for President Trump to counter the mayor of South Bend, Indiana. Additionally, Mayor Buttigieg is the only major presidential candidate in the Democratic Party to show any regard for the sanctity of the nation’s economic system. He is also the only major presidential candidate, in either party as far as I know, who shows an explicit recognition that the individual ought to be free to choose his own health care, though this is very conditional, mixed and poisoned by his own policy position for government control of medicine. But, as far as Democrats are concerned, he may be the only candidate who can beat Trump. As president, I think he would be a disaster, perhaps less a disaster than others in the field, but that’s not saying much. Make note of his views on religion — he’s walked his comments back, but he says he’s religious and this could mean that he wants more religion in government and bigger government in religion. 

Sanders

The old, white male socialist is running for president again as the adorable curmudgeon who wants the government to control your life. There isn’t much more to say about this horrendous senator from Vermont, who recently had a heart attack, which he concealed. Sanders ignored the role of the doctor in saving his life. Horrifyingly, Sanders exploited the fact that doctors saved his life by explicitly advocating that doctors be stripped — further stripped — of individual rights. The selling of this socialist, who once exercised his free will to honeymoon in Moscow while it was ruled by Soviet Russia, as a kindly old man is a new twist on the Big Lie. Sanders — fittingly known as Bernie to sell his brand of statism as folksy — is a cunning fraud. That he has finagled members of The Squad — a cabal of female totalitarians, including an eco-fascist from New York City and an Islamic congresswoman — for endorsements indicates that he knows exactly who stands to gain from him becoming President of the United States.

Warren

For too many reasons to mention here, this candidate is an awful American government official. I’m surprised that anyone is fooled by this former Republican, a New England Democratic senator who seeks total government control of people’s lives. Senator Warren displays a frantic, manic energy that to me suggests the character of someone who is nearly unhinged, at least neurotic, possibly unstable — and, in any case, she makes a conscious point of appealing to others purely based on emotionalism. This legislator combines the worst stereotypes of the “hysterical female” with the worst policy positions of the 20th century and she takes them to the extreme. I think this is what stimulates her most vicious supporters. What makes her dangerous is that she names a partial truth about American life; that it’s getting worse, blanking out on the fact that her ideals and premises are the cause of the nation’s demise. If nominated, Warren will make the contest with Trump, if Trump is the Republican nominee, clear and obvious. If elected president, I fear she will finish the destruction of the United States of America that Obama started. Or go down trying. Elizabeth Warren is that tenacious and serious but make no mistake; her primary goal is the government totally controlling your life.

Booker

The only candidate during last night’s debate to earn the low distinction of both explicitly praising and denouncing individualism in the same comment is probably the candidate most sincerely concerned with Americans’ welfare. His policy positions and proposals are awful, to be sure. And I don’t think the senator from New Jersey is eminently qualified to be president of the United States. But he does display a sense of purpose and seriousness about governance, if not much else.

Harris

Like Castro, her entire candidacy is based on blood. She invoked it again last night in the debate. She takes a kind of perverse pride in being racially mixed, which, in terms of political philosophy, is bad. The fact that she does this to the exclusion of staking out clear, concise policy positions except to the extent she’s explicitly anti-capitalist is alarming. She appears to be going nowhere fast but these are Democrats, so you never know. This is a woman who was elected California’s attorney general and United States senator, without any enthusiasm in the nation’s largest state. She’s proof that the most mediocre politician can rise and rise based on nothing.

Steyer 

The billionaire populist seems exactly that — someone who wants the collective to atone for his guilt in having or making money. He seems to seek redemption in the herd — or, worse, in leading the flock to the Promised Land of primitivism and deprivation.

Gabbard

I like that Gabbard spoke in personal terms about former congressman Trey Gowdy. But there’s much that’s unknown about this Hawaiian legislator. She touts military service, about which I don’t know, and sometimes says things that sound reasonable. I’ve noticed that she’s purposefully vague in some answers and disturbingly specific in other answers. For example, on the issue of abortion last night, she explicitly stated without explaining why that she opposes third trimester abortions. The fact that she would as president outlaw a woman’s right to an abortion at any stage of pregnancy underscores that this mysterious congresswoman has no grasp or regard for individual rights.

 

Impeaching Trump and Faith in the Status Quo

Last night’s impending impeachment compounds other recent lessons affirming my contention that America is dwindling, slipping into a culture of faith, not reason. I think it’s an insidious decline because America coasts on the Industrial Revolution’s aftereffects and its progressive byproduct, today’s technology with advancement in medicine, aeronautics, science, robotics and artificial intelligence.

Yet regression is real.

Two recent cases in point come from CBS News, press that I’ve praised (read my post here). The first instance involves two anchors for the CBS News streaming app, Vladimir Duthiers and Anne-Marie Green, both of whom thoroughly and feverishly endorsed the concept, if it can be called that, of divine intervention after reporting on a child’s brave attempt to survive her father’s suicide and attempted murder.

After the man jumped with his daughter in his arms in front of a New York City subway train, the girl survived, apparently by lying down between tracks. After the deadly leap, someone jumped down and assisted in rescuing the child by guiding her out of danger, instructing her not to look at the dead father and, instead, to “crawl like a puppy”, treating the child as a child, encouraging her to come out from underneath the train. Green and Duthiers raved instead about what Green calls “divine intervention”, trivializing the girl’s intelligence and the heroism. It’s an instance of irrelevant, inappropriate and improper editorializing, really proselytizing for faith, during what should have been a somber report on suicide and an act of heroism.

Also on CBS News, billionaire media titan Oprah and bestselling author Ta-Nehisi Coates appeared with Gayle King, Tony Dokoupil and Anthony Mason on CBS This Morning to discuss a new novel being promoted by Oprah in partnership with Apple Books via Oprah’s book club. The hosts were interested in knowing whether Oprah’s running for president. There was one line during the entire segment about the novel. The author was reduced to fragments.

Here, faith lies in the cult of a woman’s personality, in this case Oprah. As I’ve written before, the cult of Oprah Winfrey is entirely based on Oprah Winfrey. She is the ultimate narcissist. Everything she does is centered upon herself in crass, vulgar and undignified ways and means. That most of her musings appear in superficial bursts on self-improvement makes her narcissism more insidious.

Consider her appearance on CBS This Morning. Rather than invite the author of a potential new bestseller to appear on the program to answer informed and intelligent questions about the plot, characters and theme, the trio, declining to disclose that one of the hosts maintains an intimate personal relationship with Oprah Winfrey, proceeded to defer to Oprah — strictly on the grounds that she’d bestowed attention upon a new novel, whose author sat silently and obediently by her side. Coates was asked to speak once or twice. Though this is presumably done for the sake of “diversity and inclusion”, note that the intellectual was sidelined and excluded.

The religion for this particular application of faith is multiculturalism. The audience learned next to nothing about the book; not the price, not the publisher, not the publication date, certainly not the characters, plot or meaning — really, nothing was learned in any substantial sense. However, the audience did learn that Oprah read the book twice and that her friend Gayle is in the middle of reading it, too, and that Gayle called Oprah to find out what’s going to happen next.

This is the culture of belief in the superficial; facts and analysis matter less than faith in personalities, small talk, impressions, what others think because others think it and trends.

Greta Thunberg is another example. I call this braided girl the anti-child. The teenaged environmentalist and activist is clearly disturbed. Her faith that the world will end in 12 years based on apocalyptic preachings is apparently encouraged by her environmentalist-activist parents. I can think of few transgressions worse than exploiting a child for religious purposes. The new religionists tout environmentalism, feminism, multiculturalism, statism and total government control or totalitarianism and they are wildly irrational and overzealous. Propagandizing this delusional, hostile, wayward child became a media sensation.

That a child on an internationally sponsored press tour preaching alarmist rhetoric gets more press at the expense of examining the fact that millions of Americans suffer and struggle to pay for unaffordable health care after nearly 10 years of the monstrosity known as ObamaCare, enacted as the preposterously named Affordable Care Act, or that rebels launched a historic protest against Communism in Hong Kong or that the Islamic dictatorship of Iran escalates acts of war against the West is an unmistakable sign of regression.

I’ve encountered everyday signs, too. During a recent airport ride with a Lyft driver, I observed the danger of religious zealotry.

Upon activating the ride, I had pre-designated the destination airline. But the driver asked which airline when she arrived to give me a ride to the airport. I told her the airline. The driver would ask again — and again — which airline. The most disturbing part of the trip involved her explicit proclamations of belief that God is in control of life on earth. As the driver of the vehicle, she was in control of mine. Accordingly, I remained silent. Upon each mention of God, I diverted the conversation from her belief in a supernatural being. At one point, she explained that she believes God controls her every action. In that moment, she struck me as mentally unstable. As we came closer to the airport, and she asked again which airline, she slowed to five miles an hour — a rate of speed she maintained for the trip’s duration — as I sat in silence. She rambled about speed, God and what she called the need to believe in obedience.

This calls to mind Starbucks’ new Sirens blend, another example of belief without evidence — in feminism.

Starbucks introduced the blend this week in an email professing the company’s commitment to women. I have never heard of a coffee blend being produced on the basis of discriminating on behalf of one’s sex. Starbucks, which claims it’ll donate some of the blend’s revenue to women’s groups, broke the mold by singling out a single sex, excluding the opposite sex, with charity toward women because they’re women. This act sanctions feminism’s premise that identity is based on sex. Early advocates of what was once called women’s liberation promoted feminism as a means of achieving equality with men. Today’s feminists have dropped this pretense. Big business takes this offshoot of egalitarianism, which at once segregates and blurs the two sexes, on faith.

Last night’s announcement that America’s Speaker of the House supports an inquiry into impeaching the American president over a telephone call with a foreign leader is the ultimate profession, however, of faith. She literally declared an inquiry into impeaching the president without evidence.

I was an early Trump critic long before it was considered acceptable, let alone hip or “trending”. I argued against Trump on my blog. I did so repeatedly and on principle. I did so after Trump was elected president. But Trump’s supporters, whatever their faults and errors, are right to dub the Democrats’ delusional opposition as Trump Derangement Syndrome. The opposition to this president is worse in its irrationalism than the opposition to the previous president (which includes mine).

Today, President Trump released a transcript of his conversation with the president of the Ukraine — the supposed flashpoint for the Democrats’ grounds for impeachment. If and when the Democrats pursue impeachment on these flimsy grounds, the contrast between a president who takes America and its interests seriously — and, whatever his vulgarity, stupidity and errors, Trump does — and the party that wants the government to control every aspect of every individual’s life will be inescapable to the most disinterested, apathetic and asinine American voter.

“The House must impeach,” 2020’s Democratic Party presidential frontrunner Sen. Elizabeth Warren posted yesterday on Twitter. “It must start today.”

In fact, in accordance with frontrunner Warren’s wishes, impeachment did. Senator Warren is the matriarch of a new Inquisition. With her radical environmentalism and feminism, vehement opposition to capitalism in favor of statism, attempts to rationalize explicitly fraudulent multiculturalism, redounding to her authoritarianism, Sen. Warren is the ideal preacher for today’s faith in the statist — and regressive — status quo. America’s been dwindling from decades of welfare statism. The United States is dimmer after 50 years of Earth Day and poorer after 10 years of ObamaCare. As Americans strive to live better, facing the scowl of an anti-child, the congregation of brash believers gathers, chants and peddles influence, preparing to strike in a grab for power.

 

 

China, Asia and ‘The Last Emperor’

My recent post on Communist China, Hong Kong, Trump and the 2020 Democrats was on the cover of Capitalism Magazine. Though I do not endorse tariffs and I explicitly declined to do so or go into detail on trade, military and foreign policy, I credit the American president for ending 50 years of unchecked sanction and appeasement of Communist China. I also contrast the president with the 2020 Democrats in this context.

The impetus for writing my first and only positive Trump post since the pragmatist announced he was running for president four years ago is the realization that, for the first time in recent history, the U.S. government explicitly and actively challenges Communist China’s power, if not with consistency, let alone on principle.

This is thanks to Trump. I think opposing China is a mark of American progress. Read my post about Trump, Democrats and China on Capitalism Magazine here.

Capitalism Magazine also asked to reprint an excerpt from my review of Ken Burns’s PBS miniseries, The Vietnam War. Read the excerpt here. This is part of my recent series of Asian-themed posts, including a review of the Vietnam War-themed Broadway musical now touring, Miss Saigon.

I’ve also written a new movie review. Oscar’s Best Picture winner for 1987, Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Last Emperor, has been on my list of movies to watch for many years.

Encouraged and emboldened by the protests for democracy and individual rights in Hong Kong, the pro-Western city now protesting control by Communist China, a cosmopolitan city which once welcomed American whistleblower and hero Edward Snowden, granting him sanctuary from the oppressive Obama administration, I recently watched the movie with China and its rich history in mind. Read my review of The Last Emperor, featured on the cover of The New Romanticist, here.