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Liberal Democracy

Liberal Democracy
The Free State

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Hoover Institution: Opinion: Edward Paul Lazear: How to Energize a Lackluster Recovery: The Benefits of the Consumption Tax Over the Income Tax

Hoover Institution: Opinion: Edward Paul Lazear: How to Energize a Lackluster Recovery

This post was originally posted at The New Democrat on Blogger  

The U.S. income tax is now the biggest book ever written in the history of the world, at least as far as I know, standing at over one-million pages.  How would you like that for a book review homework assignment?  This system is in drastic need of reform.  I propose a National Progressive Consumption Tax or NPCT.

This eliminates, perhaps,  the biggest book  in world history and tells Americans that what they make and earn is legally and officially theirs but Uncle Sam will take a percentage of what they spend to provide the needed services that only the Federal Government can.  This system eliminates a lot of taxpayer funded subsidies to businesses and wealthy individuals.  No one would be able to avoid the NPCT except the working poor who would receive a scale of exemptions to replace the Earned Income Tax Credit.  They would be eligible for other subsidies to help them move up the economic ladder simply by reporting their annual income to the IRS.  The NPCT would be progressive because low-income people spend almost all of their money on the basic necessities of life which would be taxed at a lower rate than luxury goods.

The NPCT would be good for economic growth.  Taxes on capital gains and business incomes could be reduced.  Basic necessities would be taxed at low rates.  Food, housing, and non-luxury transportation will be consumed because people have to have those things.  The wealthy would continue to spend money on their play toys even if those things are taxed more highly.

Savings will be encouraged, resulting in less consumer debt.  In the next recession, people would have the means to continue supporting themselves and we would have less need for public assistance. 

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Commentary Magazine: Opinion: Jonathan S. Tobin: Dems Realizing Hillary's Record Matters: The Road to Winning the Democratic Nomination For President

Commentary Magazine: Opinion: Jonathan S. Tobin: Dems Realizing Hillary's Record Matters

As far back as early 2006, it was not only clear that Democrats would win back Congress that year, at least the House of Representativeswith, perhaps, a 50-50 split in the Senate, but that then Senator Hillary Clinton would not only win the Democratic nomination for president in 2008 but probably win the general election as well unless the Republican Party was smart enough to nominate Rudy Guliani,  Senator John McCain, or someone else on the Right but who could win Independents and also beat Senator Clinton in the swing states.

Well Democrats did win back Congress in 2006, both the House and Senate, and Senator Clinton served in the majority party in the 110th Congress of 2007-08. But last time I checked, she's not the President of the United States, wasn't on the ballot at all in 2012 and served as Secretary of State in the first Obama Administration. Why is that?  Well,  she lost to then freshmen Senator Barack Obama for the Democratic nomination for president.  Before his great keynote address for Senator John Kerry at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, most Americans had never heard of him.

As late as late 2007, then Senator Obama didn't seem to have much of a shot at winning the Democratic nomination for president. It was his great speech at the Thomas Jefferson dinner in Iowa in December of 07 that made him a major player and perhaps carried the Iowa Caucus for him that year.  He was  able to inspire people to get behind a cause for the society as a whole.  This was his theme for president in 2007-08.

I'm not sure if the Clinton presidential campaign was expecting a cakewalk to the Democratic nomination for president but they weren't expecting a major challenger either.  Quite frankly, most of the Democratic Party, including me, as well as most of the national media weren't expecting a strong challenge to Hillary for the Democratic nomination.  At the time, the possibility of being the first female President of the United States, the Democrat who was the most electable, and what people saw as a strong resume seemed to be enough for Hillary Clinton to be President.

I have a prediction for 2015-16. If the Hillary campaign believes the same strategy for winning the nomination and the presidency will work in 2016 even though it failed in 2008, they'll lose and, perhaps, lose big. Not the presidency itself, because, as Newt Gingrich has acknowledged, there isn't a Republican standing who can beat her right now, almost regardless of the campaign she runs, if she avoids major mistakes and nothing emerges from her record that could seriously damage her.  Her lack of a presidential vision and theme provides the opening that Brian Schweitzer, Martin O'Malley or Andrew Cuomo could exploit to defeat her for the Democratic nomination.  Any of those three would have that vision and theme to use against her.

I understand all the yearnings to have the first female President of the United States.  If the best candidate for president is a woman or Hillary wins the Democratic nomination, I'll vote for her. But running for the presidency of the U.S. is applying for the most important job in the world.  To win that job you not only have to beat out all of the other applicants but you also have to show the country why you are the best applicant and what you intend to do after you are hired.  Hillary hasn't done that yet.  She's still playing it safe as if it were 2007-08 all over again. 

The American Spectator: Opinion: Jeffrey Lord: 11 Principles of a Reagan Conservative

The American Spectator: Opinion: Jeffrey Lord: 11 Principles of a Reagan Conservative

This post was originally posted at The New Democrat on Blogger

1964 is a big year  in 2014, for several reasons.  There are a few huge fifty-year anniversaries coming up, the 1964 Civil Rights Act, Barry Goldwater winning the Republican nomination for president and Ronald Reagan coming on the national political scene. The third one is the main point of this post because Ron Reagan is far and away the most popular Republican President in modern American history.

This is why Republicans are always quoting Reagan or calling themselves "Reagan Conservatives" whether they are or not. There are Republicans who call themselves "Reagan Conservatives" and then there are actual Reagan Conservatives or Goldwater Republicans who actually practice what they claim to be their political philosophy.  They are for limited government and individual freedom, not big government intrusion into our personal lives.

John McCain, Jeff Flake, Rand Paul, and dMike Lee are all current U.S. Senators who are Reagan Conservatives because they stand by the key Reagan principles of limited government, individual freedom, peace through strength, and individual rights.  Then, there are Republicans who falsely claim to be Reagan Conservatives in order to get elected such as Michelle Bachmann, Rick Santorum, and Governor Rick Scott of Florida.  They claim to be against big government except when they want Big Brother in our homes and bedrooms.  They associate themselves with Reagan to gain political power.  It is up to voters to validate their claims. 

Friday, April 25, 2014

Townhall: Opinion: Jacob Sullum: Pot, Poker, Prohibition: Do Republicans Really Want to be the Party of Unprincipled Killjoys?

Townhall: Opinion: Jacob Sullum: Pot, Poker and Prohibitionism: Do Republicans Really Want to be the Party of Unprincipled Killjoys?

This post was originally posted at The New Democrat on Blogger  

Yesterday, Matt Welch had a column in the libertarian magazine, Reason, talking about big government paternalists on the Left.  He said that Progressives not only want to manage American's economic lives but their personal lives, as well.  Links to that article and to a post byThe New Democrat will be on this blog.  Welch was basically talking about what he sees as paternalistic and prohibitionist Progressives, people who want to outlaw fun things for Americans' own good.

Today, Jacob Sullum, an editor at Reason, had a column in Townhall talking about prohibitionist, big government, statist Republicans.  They want Uncle Sam to outlaw things that think are dangerous and deny Americans and the states the right to make these decisions for themselves.  Today's Tea Party Republicans like to talk about principles and standing by them.

Before you can stand by your principles you have to have some and you can't abandon them every time  somebody in the private sector or at the state level gets involved in activities that you personally do not like.  If you invoke a Federal solution in such cases, you are putting yourself in the position of some kind of god or something that has the moral judgement and authority to make such decisions for the entire country.  Except for Rand Paul and Rick Perry, you don't see a lot of Federalists in the Republican Party, right now.  

The paternalistic statists on the Left  want to outlaw, at the Federal level, hate speech, gambling, soft drinks, firearms, tobacco, and, perhaps, alcohol.  Some of them want to continue marijuana prohibition and, even, outlaw right-wing media. This statist wing of the Left definitely exists and is the farthest left that the left wing gets, while still believing in some form of democracy.

There are paternalistic statists on the Right as well.  If the crews of Rick Santorum and Michelle Bachmann ever had their way, pornography, gambling, same-sex-marriage and, perhaps, homosexuality would all be illegal at the Federal level with no provisions for options at the state level.  And, of course, marijuana would remain illegal.

Labels and principles have real meanings.  If you are going to call yourself a Federalist and a believer in individual freedom, you should know what those words mean and realize that you live in a liberal democracy where other people have the freedom to do things of which you personally do not approve. You should know, as well, that we are a Federal Republic with the police powers reserved to the fifty states by the U.S.Constitution.  If you don't, then when you put labels on yourself, you are just calling yourself names. 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Federalist: Opinion: David Corbin & Matt Parks: New York, New York: "What a Progressive City Looks Like": What is Modern Progressivism?

The Federalist: Opinion: David Corbin & Matt Parks: New York, New York: What A Progressive City Looks Like

This post was originally posted at The New Democrat on Blogger

This blog talks a lot about political labels, for good reason.  They have real meaning, when they are used correctly, and are a good way to analyze political philosophy.  However they are mis-used so much in American political discourse, especially by people who know as much about liberalism and conservatism as fish know about auto racing, that I want to set out a scheme for separating the schools of  political thought.

I'm thinking of something like a billboard of all of the great ideological politicians in American history, from the far-left to the far-right.  Norman Thomas the great former Socialist Party presidential candidate would represent the Socialists.  President Lyndon Johnson would represent the Progressives.  President Thomas Jefferson or two-time Republican presidential nominee Wendell Willkie, who was actually to the left of President Franklin Roosevelt on civil liberties, individual freedom and civil rights, or President John Kennedy could represent the Liberals.

Mr. Conservative himself, Senator Barry Goldwater, could  represent the conservatives. Of course, Ron Paul could represent the Libertarians and Ross Perot, the Independents, people who are not far enough left or right to be Democrats or Republicans, or sufficiently conscious, politically, to know where they are.

It's interesting to see how these labels play out in the real world.  New York City is an interesting political laboratory.  It is stereotyped as one of the most the leftist cities in America.  People who live there will tell you that it's a very far-left, big government, high-taxing, nanny city where jumbo soda and junk food bans can get passed without politicians having to worry about losing their jobs.  How else could someone as far to the left as Bill De Blasio be elected mayor? 

New York City has moved to the left of FDR's  progressive New York toward a socialist utopia where government is responsible for improving people's lives instead of the people having the freedom to do so for themselves, when provided the necessary opportunities by government.  Progressives abhor a government that tries to run people's lives for them.

Real Progressives believe that government must provide or protect certain services and legal rights that are necessary for fully civilized life, e.g., public safety, civil liberties, public health, health care, education, public transportation, physical infrastructure,  economic support for the unable, etc. 

Government should not be involved in the management of the lives of individuals who are capable of succeeding on their own.  This philosophy precludes  government involvement in religion and personal decision-making across the board that doesn't involve individuals hurting innocent people. Like medical decision making, i.e., religious observances, the voluntary ending of life for the infirm elderly, termination of unwanted pregnancy, etc. 

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Townhall: Opinion: John C. Goodman: A Republican Vision For Health Care Reform: Its About Time

Townhall: Opinion: John C. Goodman: A Republican Vision For Health Care Reform

This post was originally posted at The New Democrat on Blogger  

The thing about the Republican critique of the Affordable Care Act or ObamaCare, especially from the Tea Party, that has probably annoyed me the most, is the fact that they've never been able to present an alternative of their own. Even when they took back control of the House of Representatives in 2011, they offered nothing but but repeal and cut. "We'll get rid of ObamaCare or, at least try to, knowing that the Democratic Senate will block it and then we'll start over and do it again (50 times and counting)."  The Keystone Cops were not that dumb. They probably would have stopped at 10.  The GOP message seemed to be. "Let's go back to the old health insurance system, pre-2010, that left roughly fifty-million Americans without coverage and then maybe we'll come up with something better later (Please hold your breath).

Its is now 2014, another election year, with a new Congress and still the same players in charge. A Republican House and a Democratic Senate and over three years later still waiting to see the House Republican Leadership articulate an alternative to the Affordable Care Act.  Had they had that alternative, gee I don't know, maybe back in 2009-10 when they were completely out of power, when voters were saying we don't like ObamaCare yet but we don't like the old system either the  Republicans could have said, "We understand both your concerns and this is the alternative we would offer if we had the power to do it."

We have seen proposals from different Republican groups. including the Heritage Foundation and The American Enterprise Institute but without Speaker Boehner and Leader Cantor in the House saying,  "This is the way we should go.  Lets assign that bill to the proper committees, have hearings, and even mark it up and maybe we'll get some House Democrats, who are worried about reelection because of ObamaCare, to join us."  But, we're still waiting for the Republican congressional leadership to articulate a health care reform plan. 

Friday, April 18, 2014

Commentary Magazine: Opinion: Tom Wilson: Leftist Fascism on the March: What the Far Left Doesn't Like About Free Speech

Commentary Magazine: Opinion: Tom Wilson: Leftist Fascism on the March

This post was originally posted at The New Democrat on Blogger

Anyone who thinks that fascism is only a thing of the right, or even just the far-right, is not familiar with the communist republics around the world today or back in the day in Eastern Europe, especially in the slavic states. There are big government fascist states on the left in Latin America such as Cuba, Venezuela, Peru, and some in Central America.  Of course there are rightist fascist states in Arabia and the broader Middle East such as Syria, and Iran, as well as developing democracies such as Libya and Iraq.

Fascists deny the right of political opposition to exist.  They deny the right of people to speak out  against their government.  We see this in the Republican Party today with the Tea Party and their less than brilliant notion that you are either with them one hundred percent or you are a RINO (Republican in Name Only).  You either believe in our notion of a traditional American family or you are Un-American.

I don't agree with Commentary's Tom Wilson's original title of his piece, "Liberalism Ends at Home." He suggests that Liberals are fascists and against free speech with which they disagree and believe it should be outlawed.  The whole notion of freedom of speech and thought is the core of liberalism.  The founders of America were liberals rebelling against the thought and speech control policies of the British monarchy.  If you support governmental activity to block free speech you are not a liberal.  The idea that government, or your political faction,  always knows best and cannot permit political opposition is an anti-liberal idea.

There's nothing liberal about fascism or statism, the idea that people are generally stupid and need government to protect them, even from themselves. These far-left and far-right big government  politics have nothing to do with either liberalism or conservatism, in its classical sense.  The modern Republican Party has perverted the idea of conservatism.  The English Conservative Party offers an enlightening contrast which current Republicans are probably too stupid to perceive.

Free speech and freedom of thought are exactly that and don't imply agreement with any particular political position. We live in a liberal democracy with the right to speak and believe as we please, even if we offend other people.  That also means having to hear speech with which we disagree.

Statists on the far-left are against free speech and hate speech with which they disagree if it offends groups that they care about. They have a major lack of consistency, as Bill Maher has said on his show (hardly a conservative by the way).  They condone making fun of fundamentalist Christians, especially if they are Anglo-Saxon, southern and rural but condemn making fun of Muslims and fundamentalist Muslims.

I'm a proud liberal, always have been and always will be.  I take it as a compliment when someone calls me a liberal, even if they don't mean it as such.  I have a problem when partisan rightists throw out the word, "liberal" to put people down, as if it is a bad word.  It is clear that they are ignorant of the fact that the U.S.A. was founded by liberals as a liberal nation.

They are either liars or don't have a damn clue about what the hell they are talking about.  Free speech, even hate speech, is a perfect example of that.  Liberals believe that all people have inalienable rights to their own opinions and expressions. 

Monday, April 14, 2014

Hoover Institution: Defining Ideas: Bruce Thornton: "Illiberal Liberalism": Give me a Break

Hoover Institution: Defining Ideas: Bruce Thornton: Illiberal Liberalism

Reading right-wingers about people they call "elitist Democrats," or wine and cheese Democrats, people whom I call wine and cheese progressives, the wing of the Democratic Party that believes that anyone who didn't graduate from an Ivy League, other Northeastern university or a school on the west coast is not real bright and needs big government to take care of them, is a little difficult, if I were to take their arguments seriously (good luck with that).  On the other hand, I can just enjoy the unintentional humor and hypocrisy of it and think to myself, "Damn, these guys (including Ann Coulter) have a serious set of balls, balls that you could use to play basketball."  If you've ever been hit in the head with a basketball, you know that it it hurts like hell.  It's like getting punched by a world heavyweight champion boxer.  I would only recommend it for my worst enemy.

Seriously, these are the people who run the country.  They have the money to do it or they serve and are in business to protect the people who do it.  They get on Democrats for elitism when they are constantly putting down organized labor, government workers, and blue collar workers, trying to transfer wealth from the middle class to the upper class and looking for ways to increase taxes on low-income Americans.

You have elitist Democrats like the Kennedy Family and others and you have elitist Republicans like the Bush Family and many others.  You know what they have in common.  They all have a hell of a lot of money and have a hard time communicating with working class people who aren't Ivy League educated, who drink beer, eat chicken wings, hot dogs and french fries.  And go bowling, which I guess is a sin amongst yuppy snobs and elitists on both sides of the isle.  They have a hard time communicating with people who work very hard for a living and spend their free time doing working class activities like going to ball games.

Hearing someone like Bruce Thornton, who may or may not be a right-wing snob himself, using the same language that other right-wingers use when they talk about elitist Democrats, is like trying to swallow a mouth full of horse shit.  It's a little tough to swallow, even if you had to in order to survive because there was nothing else to eat, that is if you take them seriously.  If you don't, you can just laugh it off and make fun of them. 

Friday, April 11, 2014

Liberty Pen: John Stossel- Technically That's Illegal: Rules and Regulations That do Not Make Sense

Source: Liberty Pen- Amy Sattley-
Source: This piece was originally posted at The New Democrat 

Good rule for government: Don't propose new rules unless you actually understand your current rules and are able to enforce them.  That might seem obvious but, in a lot of cases, that's what makes government inefficient.  The rule books are not understandable, even by the people whom taxpayers pay to enforce them.  There are so many rules that some of them are unenforced because of lack of resources, or the rules are poorly written, or unnecessary. Another good rule would be don't outlaw things that don't involve one person hurting another innocent person. Instead concentrate regulations to protect the innocent from predators. Not protecting people from themselves. Tobacco is a dangerous product, but unless someone is being forced to smoke, or face worst consequences like being physically hurt, or killed, don't outlaw tobacco. And instead regulate it. And that would just be one example of a possible overregulation. 

The Obama Administration gets stereotyped as a proponent of big government, overtaxation, and over regulation, but they've decided, led by Attorney General Eric Holder, that they aren't going to enforce marijuana prohibition on using and possessing small amounts.  They are going to enforce the prohibition on selling marijuana only in states where it is illegal.  They are doing this to conserve resources for use in higher priority areas of law enforcement. Now I think the Federal Government shouldn't outlaw marijuana anywhere (for adults that is). But if the Obama Administration were really big government over regulators, (lets say) then they would enforce current Federal marijuana as is. Instead of using their right to prioritize how they enforce Federal narcotics laws. And the reason why they've weakened marijuana enforcement, is because they're responsible for so many more other Federal regulations. And decided that arresting adults simply for using, or possessing marijuana, shouldn't be a high priority. 

The U.S. tax code is another great example of runaway regulation. Through things like corporate welfare, special breaks for the wealthy that allow for them to essentially not pay Federal income taxes. As well as Congress not supplying the IRS with resources to enforce this bloated tax code.  I'm not looking to increase the size of the Internal Revenue Service but they are only human and there's a limit to what they can do. So if you are in government, make sure that you understand your proposed new rules and that the people who'll have to enforce them understand them as well. Again we just need to use basic commonsense here. Are we writing laws to discourage individual decision-making and thinking and trying to make individual decisions for individuals? In other words attempting to protect people from themselves. Or are we writing and enforcing laws to protect the innocent from predators that would hurt them. If it's the ladder than those laws might make sense and be useful. But if it's the former than those laws will probably be wasteful, because they're unnecessary. 
Liberty Pen: John Stossel- Technically That's Illegal

Tvalex Crewson: Prime Minister's Margaret Thatcher's First Speech at the White House 12/17/79

This post was originally posted at The New Democrat

This speech was given about three weeks after the Iranian hostage crisis in which Iranian Islamists took fifty Americans, working at the U.S. embassy in Tehran, hostage in November of 1979.  This was Thatcher's first visit to Washington after becoming Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, about three months earlier. She ran on a platform of completely changing Britain's Democratic Socialist ways and moving past a welfare state that tried take complete care of all citizens.

Prime Minister Thatcher wanted to create an opportunity and entrepreneurial society where Brits would be able to take care of themselves.  She did not want the British government to be running major sectors of the economy.  She wanted energy and aviation to be run by the private sector.  She was certainly not a socialist  nor even a liberal, conservative, or even a libertarian in the American sense.  By American standards, the best way to describe her would be as an economic progressive.

Prime Minster Thatcher didn't want to eliminate the welfare state in Britain but she didn't want the welfare state to take care of people who could take care of themselves if they just had a good job.  She thought that the government should not try to run people's lives and that Brits should be permitted to manage their own economic affairs.  The results, in terms of where Britain was economically when she took over in 1979 and when she left office in 1989, show that she was very successful.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Marijuana Policy Project: Blog: Morgan Fox: Maryland House Votes to Decriminalize Marijuana in Surprising Move

Marijuana Policy Project: Blog: Morgan Fox: Maryland House Votes to Decriminalize Marijuana in Surprise Turnaround

This post was originally posted at The New Democrat on Blogger

This is a good first step. I would've voted for it, if I were a member of the Maryland Assembly, House or Senate.  Both chambers of the Assembly have passed decriminalization of marijuana and, surprisingly, Governor Martin O'Malley announced late this Monday afternoon that he will sign the bill when it comes to his desk. Surprisingly, because previously in this Assembly session he had said that he was against decriminalization of marijuana.

I twice voted for O'Malley for governor and I'm proud I did so.  I'm not implying that he doesn't support this bill but, politically, if he wants to run a credible presidential campaign in 2016, he's going to need to get to the Left of Hillary Clinton and appeal to young voters.  Then, he can portray her as someone without a strong political core who is running on her name and just wants  to be the first female President of the United States.

Favoring decriminalization of marijuana at the state level gives him that opening.  He could say to young liberals (hopefully I still count as one, age wise) that the War on Drugs has failed and we need a new approach to dealing with narcotics.   For starters, we stop arresting people for simple marijuana possession or use. I believe in this and Secretary Clinton is either a drug warrior she or won't take a strong stance on the issue.

The bill, itself, is a strong first step but the country needs to go further and so does Maryland.  Use and possession of small amounts of  marijuana should be legal for everyone in the state who's 21 and over and not currently incarcerated.  This drug should be regulated like alcohol because they have similar side-effects and, if anything, marijuana is less dangerous.  We should save our precious prison spaces for real-life criminals who are a threat to Marylanders and other Americans. 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Dino Forever: The Dean Martin Show- Rodney Dangerfield 1973 Standup: No Respect?

Source: Dino Forever- Comedian Rodney Dangerfield-
Source: This piece was originally posted at The New Democrat

I never really got the Rodney Dangerfield no respect routine, I mean, I get it, but I guess I don't agree with it. Rod is seen as a working class hero's comedian with a very quick wit, a great sense of humor and a talent for  one-liners.  That is his background.  He is not Dean Martin,  Sammy Davis,  George Carlin, Richard Pryor, Johnny Carson or any of the other great comedians who have both great wit and  quick intelligence.  They kept up with current affairs and were always able to find the funny side in them.

Rod is sort of the king of the one-liners.  They are mostly about his own life.  A central theme is his perceived lack of respect from others.  He used that routine to make a hell of a career for himself but he's not in the same league as Johnny Carson and the others I listed above.  He's simply step or two below them.  I would compare him to someone like Andrew Dice Clay or maybe a Nick DiPaulo.  Dice, I believe, was inspired by Rodney.  They have similar routines. 

Bill Cosby is a perfect example of a superstar comedian who's at the top of heap, a so-called A-List  comedian.  At that next level, are comedians who are very funny and can always make you laugh but  the topics they cover, like everyday life or their own lives, put them a step or two behind the comedians who can make fun of entertainers, politicians, athletes, and or other celebrities because they keep up with those people and are very knowledgable about those subjects.

Rodney Dangerfield is at the second level, perhaps not B comedians but B+ or A-.  You can be a Hall of Fame athlete without being one of the top five players, or even in the top five percent of players, who ever played your sport, as long as you were one of the best of your era.  Rodney Dangerfield was a great comedian but not one of of the best all time.  He's not quite in that elite group. 
Dino Forever: The Dean Martin Show- Rodney Dangerfield-9/14/1972

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Movie Clips: Airport 1975- The Best of the Disaster Movies

This post was originally posted at The New Democrat

To understand Airport 1975 you have to understand the times when the movie was made and the 1970s as a whole.  People were into this type of disaster movie.  Disaster movies were popular in this decade.  There's a laundry list of them, including Airport 1970 and its three sequels, including Airport 1975, Airport 1977, and Airport 1979.  Earthquake, also with George Kennedy and Charlton Heston, takes place in Los Angeles.

Americans, then as well as today, liked seeing people pushed to their limits with their lives and health at risk and not knowing if they will survive the experience.  In Airport 1975,  the head stewardess has to fly the plane herself, at one point.  This, and a mid-air transfer of a pilot between planes, are excellent examples of people under pressure pulling off extraordinary things when they have to.

The plot of Airport 1975 is fairly simple.  A 747 is flying through pretty awful rainy weather.  There is a small charter plane nearby that, apparently loses contact with the ground controllers.  These two planes do not know they are in the same area headed right at each other without enough warning to avoid collision. The pilot of the small plane has a heart attack and loses control.  His plane hits the 747 with its five-hundred, or so, passengers.

The collision kills the navigator and co-pilot.  The pilot survives but is blinded and barely conscious. There are no other pilots on the plane but, except for a hole in the cockpit, it is in decent shape and doesn't have to crash if someone can fly it.  The head stewardess (Karen Black)  conveys the situation the situation to the airline's command center.

She, with instructions, from Al Murdock (Charlton Heston) the company's chief aviation instructor,  flies the plane,  including pulling the it up so that it doesn't run into a mountain.  They attempt a mid-air transfer to get an actual pilot in the cockpit into the plane. The first attempt fails with the pilot falling to the ground.   The second attempt succeeds in inserting Murdock into the plane.  He takes over and saves the day, so to speak.

I'm a big fan of Airport 75, even though it is an airplane disaster movie.  It has a very funny cast, Sid Caesar, Jerry Stiller, Conrad Jannis, Normal Fell and others.  It's a well written movie with funny people making the best of a horrible situation, not knowing if they will ever be able to crack jokes on the ground again, and using humor to avoid going crazy in an extremely stressful situation.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Warner Vaduk: Heartbreak Ridge 1986- Turning Boys Into Marines

This post was originally posted at The New Democrat

Heartbreak Ridge is my favorite Clint Eastwood movie and that is saying something because there might be ten of his movies that I love, including Magnum Force, Dirty Harry, The Enforcer, The Gauntlet, Pink Cadillac, Thunderbolt and Lightfoot and a few others.  All of these movies have a few things in common: great stories, great writing, great casts and great quick-witted humor, all at times when you might think, "How could someone joke about that?"

Heartbreak Ridge was made in 1986 but takes place in 1983, about the time of the bombing of the marine barracks in Lebanon. Its about these lazy recon marines who are in the Marines to chill and have a good time.  They are basically still in boot camp, as far as their level of training goes, and are seen by the officers at their base in North Carolina as screw ups, which is putting it mildly.  Assholes would be more accurate.

Sergeant Tom Highway (Eastwood), a thirty year veteran of the Marine Corps who served in both the Korean and Vietnam wars, a distinguished member of the silent generation in this movie and in real life, is brought to this unit to get these assholes in shape and turn them into real marines.  The problem is that Sergeant Highway's superior officer, Major Powers, (Everett McGill) is an old school, by the book, tight ass who wants things done his way or no way.  Highway is not in the Marines to play by anyone else's book, so they clash.

Highway has to make these very young men, late twenties at the oldest, into marines with this tight ass major on his back the whole time and do it without losing his job.  He takes his unit into battle in Granada to rescue some Americans.  There are over two hours of this in the full version of the movie along with a lot of great humor from Eastwood and his crew.  Teenage boys, maturity wise, become good U.S. Marines.