We hope everyone has a great Fourth of July weekend. God willing, you have great weather and great people to spend it with. It is cliche to say, but people are what make your life and this country great. America is not an "idea" as Joe Biden insists. America is a people, a place, and an institution forged upon the bedrock of individual empowerment and general distrust of government overreach.
There's a great book a friend gave me as a gift in college called Two Cheers for Anarchism by James C. Scott (who is not an anarchist). It's a series of vignettes from the writer's life and, mostly, a tongue-in-cheek nod to anarchy as a sensibility and a playful rejoinder to a world that's more and more comfortable cuddling with totalitarian ideas. At one point, Scott talks about his time living in Germany as a youth. While waiting for the train every weekend to take him into the city, he'd observe a quiet intersection by the station that would hum steadily with cars during the day, but be completely absent them at night. Pedestrians in the area would cross from the train station into the town and locals would stroll the sidewalks, mostly in the evening. Citizens followed the walking signals religiously. Even in the complete absence of car traffic late at night, pedestrians would still wait dutifully for the walk signal before crossing. Anytime someone crossed against the signs, they'd receive a harsh admonishment from the others waiting.
It seemed unnatural to Scott to wait for the light when it was clearly safe to cross. He becomes inflamed with desire to cross against the will of the people who righteously follow the traffic signs. Rehearsing what he might say if reprimanded for doing so and were his German good enough to express it properly, Scott writes:
“You know, you and especially your grandparents could have used more of a spirit of lawbreaking. One day you will be called on to break a big law in the name of justice and rationality. Everything will depend on it. You have to be ready. How are you going to prepare for that day when it really matters? You have to stay ‘in shape’ so that when the big day comes you will be ready. What you need is anarchist calisthenics. Every day or so break some trivial law that makes no sense, even if it’s only jaywalking. Use your own head to judge whether a law is just or reasonable. That way, you’ll keep trim—and when the big day comes, you’ll be ready.”
Practice some anarchist calisthenics this long weekend. Keep yourself in shape.
We're joined again today by Jerod Hollyfield who takes us on a tour of Frank Capra's classic Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and the American ideals it advocates.
Thanks for reading.
☀️ Summertime and the Living is Easy
In NYC, Mayor Bill de Blasio urged citizens to turn off their air conditioners to preserve power in the midst of a heatwave as the high wattage billboards of Times Square continued to shine. If there's a greater expression of the American government's prioritization of the almighty dollar over its own citizens, let us know.
People keep blaming global warming for the NYC brownouts, but how about blaming embattled Gov. Andrew Cuomo who shut down the last of the three nuclear facilities in Indian Point last month? During a seven-day heatwave in 2013, Indian Point provided 15% of the power.
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and the Evergreen Ills of American Politics
Frank Capra’s legacy primarily hinges on the holiday stature of It’s a Wonderful Life, but the director’s collaboration with Jimmy Stewart seven years before on Mr. Smith Goes to Washington still serves as a touchstone for lazy editorial-page writers who make reference to its famous filibuster sequence every time a piece of legislation comes before a divided Senate. Beyond those contexts, Capra remains a pariah with Capraesque now a pejorative reserved for the likes of Hallmark movies or critically reviled rom-coms.
Curiously, in “these polarized times”™ Mr. Smith has undergone an allusion renaissance. Boston Globe film critic Ty Burr penned a bizarre open letter to the Republican Senate majority last fall urging senators to abdicate their duty to confirm a successor to Ruth Bader Ginsburg in an election year because, despite his assessment of the film as“corny” and “wish fulfillment,” it serves as a model of finding one’s conscience. Hollywood trade Deadline followed suit last April in a piece that purportedly traces the film’s influence on Americans’ understanding of the filibuster, but is really a veiled admonition against Senator Joe Manchin that deems the movie a “relic.” Although the film has become the go-to shorthand for cornfed patriotism in political circles, references to it must remain couched in designations that it is a stodgy and simplistic artifact of long-abandoned American ideals. Containing it in such terms is in the interests of the well-watched upper crust’s members because the views of America that Capra clearly expresses in Mr. Smith are the greatest threat to their cultural dominance.
Capra released his autobiography in 1971 as an outsider, a reluctant retiree from Hollywood with an unchallenged stint as the 1930s’ greatest director. However, his relegation to the realm of the unfashionable did not dilute his patriotism or populism. “Someone should keep reminding Mr. Average Man that he was born free, divine, strong; uncrushable by fate, society, or hell itself; and that he is a child of God, equal heir to all the bounties of God; and that goodness is riches, kindness is power, and freedom is glory,” Capra wrote in a time when the spectre of paranoid pessimism governed the industry’s greatest works from The Godfather to Rosemary’s Baby. He had plenty of reason to be bitter. Once a director who transcended his roots as an Italian immigrant to win three Oscars in six years and become the marquee draw for Columbia Pictures throughout the New Deal Era, he sacrificed his career for the war effort, helming the documentary series Why We Fight as a way to bolster morale. Unfortunately, upon his return, the famed chronicler of American idealism failed to regain a foothold in a country so restored by victory it no longer needed him as an anecdote to the Great Depression’s desolation. He made It’s a Wonderful Life as a catalyst to work through the postwar trauma he shared with Jimmy Stewart before falling into an endless cycle of misfires in the wake of that now-classic’s initial box-office failure.
However, even in decline, Capra espoused a fundamental belief in America’s principles in the face of adversity that made Mr. Smith such a resonant work. Released during Hollywood’s Golden Year of 1939 alongside The Wizard of Oz, Gone with the Wind, Stagecoach, and Wuthering Heights, the film features Stewart as Jefferson Smith, a yeoman scoutmaster for the Boy Rangers. In the aftermath of a sitting senator’s death, the state’s political boss, Jim Taylor, attempts to shore up an existing sweetheart land deal also involving the renowned Senator Joseph Paine (Claude Rains) and the deceased. When the governor acquiesces to public opinion and appoints Smith over the machine’s objections, Taylor and Paine initially perceive the junior senator as a manageable rube. But Smith possesses both a reverence for the Founders’ ideals and a desire to honor those he represents as he works to found a national boys’ camp while serving as a good steward of his constituents’ tax dollars (his proposal is not a new government program, but a federal property lease boys would repay with coins over time). As Taylor and Paine realize the proposed site includes the land central to their scheme, they set out to destroy Smith’s reputation at home and in Congress. Left with no support beyond the unwavering allegiance of his scouts and the encouragement of his formerly cynical chief of staff turned love interest, Clarissa Saunders (Jean Arthur), Smith fights to the point of exhaustion with the filibuster as his only weapon.
Though it exudes an insider knowledge of Congress’s workings, the film remains vague about the state Smith represents, the party he belongs to, and the specifics of Roosevelt politics. Contemporary political films assign moral authority to leftist agendas with abandon, but Capra is far more concerned with exposing the easy corruption and compromised ideals of the American ruling class. In a time when the New Deal’s advocates deified it as the solution to all of the country’s ills, Mr. Smith depicts a government that has created most problems itself and is willing to destroy the very people it claims to protect if they stand in the way of public service as a bipartisan path to enrichment. It took a 1992 biography to out Capra as a lifelong Republican who vehemently opposed Roosevelt, but the director was adept at crafting a populist ethic rooted in humanism on display in the other two films in his America Trilogy—the Gary Cooper vehicles Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936) and Meet John Doe (1941)—as well as It’s a Wonderful Life.
Capra’s antipathy for opportunistic elites aside, Mr. Smith remains generous toward wayward politicos from Saunders and her rediscovery of civic duty to Paine and the scruples he eventually develops. At the same time, Capra constructs the film around a ruthless depiction of a media establishment fueled by grasps at celebrity and kickbacks from Taylor in its relentless pursuit of Smith’s destruction. While the filibuster sequence has entered the realm of the canonical, the film’s most impressive moments come when Smith’s scout troop circulates the truth via its Boy Rangers newspaper as Taylor’s goons resort to theft, assault, and attempted vehicular manslaughter to prevent a challenge to the machine’s media hegemony. In a year after the legacy press demonized contrary discourse on COVID origins, vaccine safety, and the Trump administration’s pandemic policy as conspiracy theory before tacitly admitting such possibilities or retconning headlines, one only wishes more current filmmakers possessed Capra’s clarity or at least demonstrated a working knowledge of history—cinematic or otherwise. Upon Mr. Smith’s release, Congress and the National Press Club pleaded with Hollywood to ban the film before engaging in a smear campaign to paint Capra as a communist. Weeks later, it became the last Hollywood film France’s Vichy government allowed to screen during the Nazi Occupation, cementing its antiauthoritarian appeal. Although his career faltered soon after and his public perception has devolved into little more than a guilty pleasure for jaded hipsters, Capra’s artistic heights remain unassailable. As Mr. Smith reveals, he provoked without spite and inspired without sacrificing the darkness—aspirations far beyond the grasp of our current cinema of safe spaces and quotas.
📈 Inflation Watch
- Despite the inflation news, the White House Twitter account claims the cost of a 4th of July cookout is down $0.16 from last year (Twitter)
- Next thing you know, you'll be classified as a domestic terrorist for mentioning inflation
- Ford to Idle or Curb Output at More Plants Because of Chip Shortage (WSJ)
- Car Market Is Expected to Cool Amid Dearth of Vehicles on Lots (WSJ)
- For Many Jobs, Signing Bonuses of $1,000—and Up—Are the New Norm (WSJ)
- Nearly 20% of all jobs posted on job search site ZipRecruiter in June offer a signing bonus. Even Burger King offers signing bonuses.
- The effectiveness of ending unemployment benefits early will not be known until August or September.
- General Mills Warns of Inflation, Readies for Shifting Consumer Behavior, Raises Prices (WSJ)
- Cost of production rose by roughly 7% for General Mills
- Your Next Round of Drinks Might Be More Expensive (WSJ)
🔮 The Future of Combat
- Israel used world's first AI-guided combat drone swarm in Gaza attacks (New Scientist)
- Physics Gets a Vote: No Starcruisers for Space Force (War on the Rocks)
🌈 TODAY IN: Woke News
- UNC Grants Nikole Hannah-Jones Tenure after 1619 Project Backlash (NR)
- ...after initially denying it to her.
- Canada to Make Online Hate Speech a Crime Punishable by $16,000 Fine (Gizmodo)
- Criticize Muslims, gays -- get a $16K fine for "hate"
- Advocate ending white people -- get tenure for doing "social science"
- Passport Applicants Will Be Able to Choose Their Gender, State Department Says (WSJ)
- An update on the state of vaccine passports from MIT (MIT)
- Conservatives want to ban transgender athletes from girl's sports. Their evidence is shaky (USA Today)
- No, it isn't.
- Gates Foundation Pledges $2.1 Billion for Gender Equality (WSJ)
- Gates Foundation priorities now range from eradicating Polio to eradicating the mythical, Big-Foot-like "gender paygap"
- Poll finds GOP voters happy with GOP in Tenn (TNJ)
- Hagerty Raises Red Flags over Migrant Children Relocated to Tennessee (Star)
- Protesters confront Tennessee education commissioner over claims of critical race theory in curriculum (Chalkbeat)
- A fight over bus routes, an awkward budget hearing and growing skepticism over Metro’s new NDOT (Lookout)
- Tennessee's no-bid COVID spending to end, governor says (Channel 5)
- This Is How Much Tennessee Spends on Your Health (Center Square)
- Additional laws that went into effect yesterday (Read)
- After Securing A Major Raise, Nashville Teachers Still Weigh What Kind Of Difference It Will Make (WPLN)
- You can't win with these people. It's never enough.
- It's not that Vanderbilt lost in College World Series final. It's that it wasn't competitive (Tennessean
- How Roy Acuff’s Fiddle Made It From WWII Germany To Nashville’s Country Music Hall Of Fame (WPLN)
- 'Permitless carry' law takes effect yesterday in Tennesse (WSMV)
- Exit/In, Hurry Back buildings sell for nearly $6.5M (Post)
- Amedisys paying $250M for Contessa (Post)
- NYC-based fashion retailer to open in 12South (Post)
- Thermo Fisher Scientific opening major operations hub next to Nashville Superspeedway (Biz Journal)
- Nashville residential rental rates continue to climb (Biz Journal)
- The median Nashville rent reached $1,390, up 5.5% year-over-year
- The median national rent reached $1,527, up 5.5% ($79) year-over-year.
- In terms of median rents, topping the list is San Jose ($2,795), followed by San Francisco ($2,715), Los Angeles ($2,581) and Boston and New York City ($2,400 each).
⛩ Photos show China's most surreal tourist spot— a fake Instagram-worthy town full of pretend farmers and phony fishermen (See)
For Your Consideration
Biden Highlight Reel
Words of Wisdom
With malice towards none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan—to do all which may achieve and cherish a just, and a lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.
Abraham Lincoln, Second Inaugural Address, 1865
Have a great Fourth of July Weekend!
We'll be taking Monday off, so see you on Tuesday.