Friday, October 31, 2008

Top Five Most Important Elections--#3, 1896

3. 1896 Election. William McKinley (R) v. William Jennings Bryan (D)

In my opinion the 1896 election is the third most important election. In 1896 Grover Cleveland was the incumbent president finishing his second term. McKinley would run on the Republican ticket and was expected to win considering the Republicans had been in power since 1860 with one exception. Like most of his predecessors, McKinley was a Civil War veteran, which was an important aspect in winning elections in the period after the Civil War known politically as the Gilded Age. More importantly for this story, McKinley was an old school Gilded Age politician. It is difficult to see many differences between the Republicans and Democrats in the Gilded Age, mainly because neither party did much. The idea of government actually helping the people was a foreign concept; Gilded Age politicians would be shocked and confused to hear about our recent economic bailout. The biggest difference between the two parties was Republicans believed in a high tariff, while Democrats wanted to keep the tariff low. I challenge anyone today to tell me what the current tariff rate is, but in 1896 bringing up the tariff was bound to get you into a fight. For those who may not know, tariffs are taxes placed on imported goods. One benefit is to make money, but the more important reason is to support American business. If we tax items that America also makes it forces foreign competitors to charge more for their goods and we can under sell them. The other minor difference was that the Republicans believed in big government (just the opposite from today), but high tariffs were about as big as they got. The only other thing the federal did to help people was sell cheap land and give Union soldiers pensions. Most of the support for the Republicans came from New England and mostly Protestants who wanted moral reform (anti-drinking leagues). The Democratic party wanted a government that did nothing, hence low tariffs. White Southerners who wanted the federal government to leave them alone so they could continue to build on white supremacy mostly supported them. In the North their support came from catholic immigrants who did not think the government should have a say in their personal lives, but insisted that was the job of the church. So voters in the Gilded Age did have a choice in parties, if not in major ideology.

All that began to change in the 1890s when farmers (who made up the majority of the population) came to the realization that neither party cared much about their welfare. In states like Kansas, Texas, and Nebraska farmers began to come together to create a third party to assist the plight of farmers known as the Populists party. The Populists party is by far the most powerful third party in American history; they elected US Senators and Governors. What makes the Populists stand out from the other mainstream parties was that they believed that the government had a responsibility to help them, they would cheer the economic bailout. They wanted the government to give them low interests loans, build them warehouses to store their crops, and even tell railroads how much they could charge to ship crops. The Populists number one issue was called free silver. We were still on the gold standard in the 1890s, and the Populists were hopeful to add silver to the currency to allow for more money into the system to cause inflation which would weaken the dollar and make it easier for debt ridden farmers to pay back their loans. Ideas like the government telling private business how much to charge and government interfering with the economy were extremely radical ideas, but from their growth in such a short time, must have been appealing.

In 1892 the Populists ran their first presidential candidate, James Weaver. He came in third place but did carry a respectable five states, which is good for a first time party. If nothing else they made the other parties take notice. Over the next 4 years the party continued to grow and put their trust behind their newly appointed leader: William Jennings Bryant. Bryant was the ultimate politician. He was an extremely capable leader and was dripping with charisma, kind of cross between Clinton, Kennedy, and Lincoln when it came to giving speeches.

In 1896 the Democrats were at a loss. In every election they had been close to victory but would always fall a bit short. The Democratic leaders decided they needed to do something radical to win. They realized if they could capture the Populist voters they could win, but in order to win over Populists they had to make drastic changes to their party beliefs. Remember Democrats were the party of small government, but in 1896 they ran a platform of government involvement. To guarantee that Populists took them seriously, they asked William Jennings Bryan to run on their ticket, to which he agreed. Following Bryan’s beliefs, the principle issue for the Democrats in the election was free silver. The reason why this is the third most important election is that for the first time a major party would decide it had a responsibility to help the American people, and we have never looked back. The Democrats would lose this election, but their Populists influence will not wear down. In fact even the Republicans would be forced to move over closer to the Democratic point of view, and just a few years later the Republicans would elect Teddy Roosevelt in 1804 who will do more to increase the size and power of government more than any other president.

To finish this election story, the 1896 race was between three parties but only two men. The Republicans ran McKinley, the Democrats ran Bryan, and not to be left out the Populists also ran Bryan but with a different VP. Bryan will do a good job at winning over some Populists to the Democratic party and will win the rural vote but could never make head way into the massive northern industrial cities where they saw him as a back water hick with too much of a religion attitude (catholic immigrants in the cities, though religion, still did not want the government meddling with morality). As for the Populists party, this was their last election, as they will fuse with the Democrats changing the latter forever. As for Bryan he will run for president two more times, but is probably most well known as the guest prosecuting attorney for the Scopes trial that convicted John Scopes for teaching evolution in the 1920s. He will die a couple days after the trial. McKinley will win a second term only to be assassinated by anarchists at the Buffalo Worlds Fair in 1901.

Though McKinley wins the election and quickly passes the Gold Standard Act keeping American on the Gold Standard, the real importance of this election is the change from Government believing it should do the very minimum to the government believing today it should be involved in every aspect of our lives.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Top Five Most Important Elections--#4, 1968

4. 1968 Election. Hubert Humphrey (D) v. Richard Nixon (R)
In the 1968 election Johnson was the incumbent president, and had only served one term, but by 1968 Johnson was also a very unpopular president and had decided not to seek reelection. For those not alive in 1968 it would be like if Bush could run for another term. With his unpopularity over the war, there would be no way he would stand a chance of winning. The same thing was happening with Johnson and the Vietnam War. The Democratic primary came down to three candidates, Humphrey, Eugene McCarthy, and Robert Kennedy. One thing that makes this an important election was that McCarthy and Kennedy represented what is known as the New Left. 1968 is when the modern Democratic party was created from a coalition of liberals, minorities, women’s rights activists, and in 1968 the student movement. The hopes and dreams of the new left were tied to McCarthy and Kennedy. They were not only going to take us out of Vietnam, but launch us into a new world order of liberal reform. Unfortunately for the New Left, right after Kennedy gave a speech in California he was shot and killed. With the death of Kennedy, McCarthy all but stopped campaigning allowing for the more traditional Democrat, Humphrey, to capture the party. Knowing that Humphrey was going to be given the Democratic nomination, thousands of disgruntled students came to Chicago to protest at the Democratic national convention. What occurred in Chicago was a violent mob scene as police clashed with the protestors. All the events were captured on TV, leaving an ugly image for most Americans.

The events in Chicago played right into the hands of the Republican nominee. One of the elements of Nixon’s campaign was having a plan to get out of Vietnam with honor. His plan was similar to plans today of leaving Iraq, turning over control of the safety of Vietnam to the Vietnamese. Even more importantly he ran on a platform of law and order. By 1968 many Americans had become disenchanted with the protests, drugs, sex, hippies, and basic lack of morals and lawlessness. Nixon played up people’s fears and promised to crack down and reestablish morality (I hope you see the humor in this). Just like the new Democratic party, 1968 marked the beginning of the new Republican party. Nixon built a coalition of conservative thinkers, blue-collar workers who were tired of liberal issues like affirmative action, and what then was called the silent majority (today we are calling these people soccer moms and NASCAR dads). The idea behind the silent majority is that these are regular folks who don’t protest, or shout out their support, but they show up and vote. I had a student in 2004 ask how Bush won a second term where all she heard on TV was that everyone hated him. My answer to her was the silent majority.

1968 was the first election with our current constituted parties, in other words the Democratic and Republican parties we know today. Bush, and McCain if he wins, both owe Nixon thanks for putting together a strong party. Nixon’s win and new Republican coalition will once again reverse the political trend. Since 1932 the Democrats had controlled the White House with only one Republican president in the 64 years of Democratic control. But starting in 1968 the Republicans would reclaim the top prize and dominate with only 2 Democratic presidents for the next 44 years. I believe what makes this years election is we might be seeing the next shift. Johnson’s unpopularity and the problems with the Vietnam war helped give power to the Republicans, we will see if the war in Iraq can do the same for the Democrats.

One of the major shifts that occurred in 1968 was a demographic shift. Since the Civil War all southern states always voted Democratic, giving us the term the Solid South. The major reason for white southerners voting Democratic was that the party represented white supremacy (blacks were not voting in the south). 1948 was the first year that any southern state voted against the Democrats. Southerners upset that their party seemed to be moving away from their long time belief of white supremacy created a new party called the Dixiecrats that would continue to support their beliefs. But with the failure of the Dixiecrats, in 1952 southerners could not bring themselves to vote Republican, so went back to their party and voted Democratic. Then in 1964 southerners broke rank again and voted for Goldwater after Kennedy pushed for civil rights laws. 1968 was the first year that no southern state, except Texas, voted for the Democratic party (the deep south voted for George Wallace). Then beginning after 1968 the south would return to the solid south, just this time voting Republican. The only times that any southern state would vote Democratic again was for Carter and Clinton, both southern governors.

To me 1968 is the 4th most important election because it was the first election with our current Republican and Democratic elections. It marked a major shift in ideology in both parties. It redrew the modern demographics with the south now voting for the Republican party. Lastly it marked the end of Democratic control and swung the power back to the Republicans until today.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Top Five Most Important Elections-#5, 1932

I think the upcoming election may become one of the most important elections in American history, and no matter what it will be historical. So with only five days until the election I thought I would do a top five count down of the most important elections we have had so far. So starting today and for the next 5 days I will highlight the top five elections

5. 1932 Election-Herbert Hoover (R) v. Franklin D. Roosevelt (D). In 1932 Hoover was the incumbent president, but more importantly America was in the grips of the Great Depression. This is a time when 25% of American families were without a wage earner and those who were employed were limited in hours and pay. Families struggled more that ever before for basic securities like food and shelter and families had to come together and share one house or apartment with several other families. During this time, some looked to the government for help, but found nothing. For one, unlike today, most never expected the Government to help. Why should it when it never had before. Hoover has taken some undue criticism for his approach to solving the economic issue. Hoover, based on advice from all his economic advisors, did nothing. Hoover’s advisors believed the best way to help the economy was to allow the free market system to fix the problems. This had been sound economic policy since Adam Smith first wrote about the invisible hand’s ability to solve market issues. The idea was that the business cycle was a pattern of peeks and valleys, with sometimes the valleys being very low. However, the business cycle had always rallied and fixed its own problems . What Hoover’s advisors told the president was that if the government inserted itself into the market they might break it or make it worse. In many ways this is similar to the Republican approach to today’s crisis. Some conservative thinkers have disagreed with the bailout, stating that market forces should be allowed to work without government interference. So I do not blame Hoover for the depression, he honestly did what he thought was best, yet at the same time he did not do things to help himself. Hoover made statements like, “nobody is actually starving,” and our hobos have never been better off. The problem was people were actually starving. Hoover just kept asking people to be patient and just around the corner things would get better, yet they never seemed to.

But in 1932 Roosevelt ran for the presidency promising that the government would do everything in its power to fix the problem. Like Obama, Roosevelt ran on a platform of hope, and hope was something the nation desperately needed by 1932. Between 1860 and 1932 the Republicans dominated the White House with only two Democratic presidents over the 72 years. This 1932 election and Roosevelt’s promise of a “New Deal” was the turning point that would allow the Democrats to began their long run of presidential control that would last until 1968 with only one Republican president during the 36 years. With Roosevelt’s popularity, many people that had traditionally voted Republican had switched their votes during FDR’s four terms as president, but later many would switch back. The most important switch in 1931 was a racial one. Beginning with the 15th Amendment when blacks were given the right to vote, blacks voted something like 95% for the Republican party, after all it was the party of Lincoln. But beginning in 1932 black Americans for the first time began voting Democratic and would never again abandon the party. FDR was not a champion of civil rights, but he did believe in helping the poor, and blacks were some of the poorest people in the nation (as a side note Mrs. Roosevelt was a supporter of civil rights and did help in her husbands popularity amongst black voters). The capturing of the minority vote has become a staple in the Democratic party and was one of the reasons for their long run beginning in 1932, and will be a major reason for Obama winning if he does next week.

FDR will go on to change politics forever; our recent bailout can be traced to FDR’s influence. Roosevelt will build up the size and power of the federal government and will create a government that would put thousands of people to work on government programs, as well as create systems like social security that was meant as a government cradle to the grave protection. Our modern ideas of a welfare state can trace back to FDR’s influence. So with the change from Republican to Democratic control, with the switch of black voters to the Democratic party, and change from Laissez Faire government to a welfare state are all the reasons the 1932 is the 5th most important election in American history.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Gas Prices and the benifits of living here

It has come to my attention this past week that we have one great advantage living here in south Texas. We are right now only paying $1.95 for gas. I know the economy is hard on people right now, but the way I see it for us, as long as we remain employed, the down turn in the economy is good for us. When the economy was good we could not afford food or gas, now we are paying gas prices from years ago.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Movie Review-"W"

This will sound strange but I want to write a quick movie review of the movie W. The strange part of this review is that I have not seen the movie and have no intention of ever seeing it. I have two major problems with this movie. The first is the subject matter. I know I may be in the minority here, but I do not see a negative movie about our sitting president as appropriate. I understand our first amendment rights, and I am not suggesting we censor this movie, I just think it is classless and would go as far as unpatriotic. I am not one of those conservatives that go around calling liberals unpatriotic for everything they do, but in this case I believe the label fits. It is not unpatriotic to criticize the president, but making this movie crosses a line for me. I am of the opinion that if you do not like the man, fine, but respect the office he holds. Stone is not making a movie about Bush, he is making a movie about my President. I did not have a problem several years ago when Stone made Nixon, I disagreed with the context, but not the idea. If this movie came out in ten years I would not even have a problem with the idea of it, but Bush is our sitting president. I am not preaching a double standard here, with all the controversy surrounding the Clinton presidency; I would have disagreed with a movie being made about him (as if Hollywood would make a negative movie about Clinton). Even as a conservative, I encouraged my students here to go see both Obama and Hilary Clinton when they visited our campus during the primaries. I said one may become our next president, and you may never again have a chance to see and listen to a president. When Ex-President Clinton came to the University of Arkansas while I attended there, I went to hear him, not because I am a Clinton fan, but because he was my president. We may not like the man running our country, but he was voted in fairly and deserves some level of respect

The fact that this movie is based on real events is my other concern. Based on real events is Hollywood code for completely fiction. This movie is an Oliver Stone film, and Stone has a proven tract record when it comes to historical films, he does not let little things like facts or truth get in the way of him telling a story. Every historical movie Stone has ever made are full of falsehoods. I dread every year teaching about the Kennedy assassination, because at least one student wants to challenge me on the facts that they got from Stone’s JFK. What I have to explain is that the facts that are presented in the movie are not facts. Stone used creative license to make up facts to make his story better or to make the conspiracy bigger. Stone’s purpose of making historical film is not to educate but to entertain. “W” is not a biography of the life and presidency of Bush meant to educate the public, but just another partisan bash of a president that Stone does not like because he disagrees with his conservative policies. It is even more an attempt to make lots of money playing up on peoples dislike for Bush and in the process put one last nail in our president’s coffin. If Stone thinks it’s important to inform the public about the problems in the White House, where was his movie about the Clintons? Have we forgotten scandal after scandal occurring in the Clinton administration? This is a partisan attempt at defaming, and I for one find it appalling. I just hope more Americans agree with me, and do not give Stone your money so he can continue to attack an already wounded president and nation.

Monday, October 20, 2008

No Encouragement From Recent Debates—And What Can JFK Tell Us About Future Difficulties

Now that the debates are finally over, it is very discouraging to know that we will not have a good leader to help us through these troubling times. I was so unimpressed with the three presidential debates. They said a lot without saying anything. This has been a difficult election for me, because I am a conservative, yet I am not impressed by the Republican choice. I am not a basher of President Bush, but under his leadership things have not gone the way they should. I do not blame the President for all the problems, I do not have a problem with the war, but feel his leadership in the financial crisis has been lacking. Again not all his problems were his fault, but he could have done more. As a strong conservative, this is difficult to say, but I was fine with a Democrat winning. I think things are bad right now and maybe a shake up in the White House might be the answer. We need to do things like fix health care, it is a joke that we can not afford. I have insurance from work, but still can not afford to go to the doctor or dentist. I do not believe the Democrats are capable of fixing the problems, but the Republicans have not succeeded so far, so I believe let the Democrats try. If they fix the economy, fix the war, than great. My little family is far from rich, but work hard, so if the Democrats have something that can help us, while keeping taxes low and not hurting small business then all the power to them. What I mean is if they can fix things then the Democrats should be in power for awhile, if not than the American people can see that the problems are not the Republicans fault. The Democrats have claimed they have all the answers, let them put their money where their mouth is, and then shut up when they fail.

The problem is I do not trust Obama. If Joe Biden was running as the president, I might even vote for him. I was impressed with him in the debate. I do not agree with everything he believes in, but he is trustworthy and will not get us into trouble. Obama’s extreme liberal views are scary and dangerous. Mostly I am scared of his foreign policy beliefs. If you read my post a few weeks ago, it is not his lack of experience that bothers me, he has as much as Reagan, it is his rhetoric of defeat. I believe things will be very calm in the Middle East for the next month, the terrorists do not want to help McCain. They will wait until Obama becomes the president and then all hell will let break loose in Iraq in hopes of Obama labeling it a failure and pulling out our troops. The terrorists will push Obama, it is in their best interest. What has made Obama so popular is this promise to end the war and bring our boys home. With Obama as president, nations like Iran are bound to test his strength. They know if they get a bomb now, we will attack. But they have to think Obama will be slow to act, if he acts at all. Escalating any kind of war in the Middle East will look very bad for Obama.

Historically I see Obama’s situation similar to when JFK took over. Under the Ike regime the Russians were held in check. The Russian leader Nikita Khrushchev knew Ike was a warrior and was not a man to play with. In fact Ike had threatened to use nukes in the next engagement. Then in 1960 a very young and inexperienced man took over and Khrushchev felt he had a president he could take advantage of, and for the first year Khrushchev was right. Kennedy had some growing pains to work out. In April of 1861 Kennedy launched the ill fated Bay of Pigs invasion in which 2,000 anti-Castro Cubans wadded ashore the island of Cuba with the intent of removing Castro from power. Kennedy had been told that the Cuban people hated Castro and would join the invaders in overthrowing their leader. Instead the invasion was a disaster from the start. First there was no popular uprising, and second Castro’s troops were seasoned soldiers from years of fighting and cut our men down. All that Kennedy accomplished was pushing the Cubans closer to the Russians. Kennedy did the stand up thing and took all the blame and apologized to the American people (I have always felt like Bush should have followed his example, Americans forgave Kennedy because they felt like he was honest with them, this mistake and apology helped Kennedy’s popularity.)

Following Kennedy’s failure in Cuba, Khrushchev agreed to meet the young President at Vienna for a summit. The Russian leader decided to take a hard line with this new young inexperienced President. Kennedy found himself outwitted by the politically savvy Khrushchev. In private he tongue tied Kennedy and in public treated him like a nice little boy. It was right after the summit that the Russians resumed nuclear testing and closed down the border between East and West Berlin. The Russians built the most lasting symbol of the Cold War, the Berlin Wall. Kennedy critics wanted the President to stop the wall, bulldoze it if necessary, but Kennedy did nothing. It was looking as if Russia was gaining the edge over the Americans

By October 1862 Khrushchev felt he could do anything he wanted and made one more aggressive move. The Russians built installations in Cuba to hold nuclear missiles. When the Americans became aware of the weapons being sent to Cuba, we panicked. Some Kennedy advisors wanted to order a strike against Cuba, but Kennedy followed the advice of his brother and ordered a naval blockade of the island. Kennedy told the Russians that if they attempted to breach the blockade, he would see it as an act of war. This was a tense several days for the President and the American people as we waited to see what the Russians would do and if we might have a nuclear war. One of Kennedy’s advisors, Dean Rusk, said “we’re eyeball to eyeball … I think the other fellow just blinked.” The Russians turned their ships around and war was avoided.

Kennedy was successful in stopping the Russian aggression; the question will be can Obama follow? Kennedy ran his campaign as a cold warrior saying, “Freedom and Communism are in deadly embrace; the World cannot exist half slave and half free.” Obama has run his campaign on American was wrong getting involved in Iraq. Like Kennedy, Obama will be tested. The terrorists have to know that Obama has promised to take troops out of Iraq, and that he has very little experience in national security. Our enemies need to take our threats seriously for them to have any effect. I am not saying Obama will fail, I am just saying I am fearful of what may happen while Obama is learning. Also the learning curve may be much more difficult for Obama, Khrushchev was a cold hard man, but not crazy, he did not want war any more than we did. Islamic terrorist will not have the same reservations as the Russians. If they get a bomb, they will use it. I just hope Obama is able to remain strong and rely on advice of others, like Biden, who hopefully will guide him properly, that American needs to be strong. Peace is the best, but sometimes we need to act.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Movie Review-HBO's John Adams

Once again HBO has come through with another quality mini-series. If you read this blog then you might remember a post I wrote about how HBO has recently put out better movies than what most of Hollywood is doing. Band of Brothers is the best WWII drama I have ever seen and Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee is just as excellent. This time HBO has taken on the long overdue bio-pic of John Adams. Even before I saw the movie I was happy by the subject. John Adams is one of the most important founding fathers, yet is largely overlooked and forgotten. From personal experience in the class room, around 7 out of 10 students say that Jefferson was the second president. With so much talk about Washington, Franklin, Madison, and Jefferson, everyone forgets Adams came before Jefferson. One reason for this omission is possibly because Adams was not a great president, but when his career is taken as a whole it rivals, and I would argue possibly surpass, the accomplishment of Jefferson. Jefferson may have been the mouth behind the revolution, but Adams was the brains.

As for the movie, it was based on David McCullough biography of Adams, and he served as an advisor to the film. McCullough’s book was an excellent read and gave great detail on our second president (maybe if we are lucky HBO and McCullough will continue their partnership and make a movie about Truman). With McCullough as advisor, the film gave a very accurate depiction of Adams, though they did not make him out to be a very sympathetic character. From what I know of Adams, this was the case. However McCullough in his book made an interesting comment of how Adams was not as hated in Congress as he made himself out to be in later years. He seemed to love to be portrayed as the bad guy and yet according to McCullough he was not. Yet in the movie he was portrayed exactly in that negative light, as a hard man to like. My take is that Adams may have wanted to be the martyr, knowing that he would be forgotten, as he said in the film, all credit for the Revolution would be given to Franklin and Jefferson. I also found the portrayals of other characters as interesting, showing how the filmmakers saw different men. Washington and Franklin were the great sages. Jefferson was shown in an interesting light, most of it positive, until the end of the saga when you discover it was Jefferson leading the negative attacks against his friend. They kept their most bitter portrayal for Alexander Hamilton. I find I like Hamilton, probably because no one else does, then or today. One character I think they could have done more with was Adams’ son, John Quincy. It is just my own personal preferences, but I think John Quincy may have been one of our all time greatest leaders, maybe one day someone will do a show on him (if you have seen the movie Amistad then you saw one version of the president),

As for the themes of the movie, I was happy with their choices. They began by showing the character of Adams when he defends the British troops from the Boston Massacre. That was the perfect beginning to establish who Adams was, a man who would defend those he disagreed with out of principle. Also, even though he was a revolutionary, he was not a radical. They used his cousin Sam Adams to demonstrate the differences. There is a good argument that states that the Sons of Liberty were created to keep the colonial mobs in check, that on their own they would have created more havoc and violence as portrayed in the movie. The most important parts of the movie were the scenes dealing with the Congress. We call these men the founding fathers and give them reverence, but in reality they were a mess of squabbling children. The congress was in such chaos during most of their sessions that in the middle of the war Benedict Arnold switched sides thinking we would be better off remaining with the British than to be governed buy such men.

The most boring parts of the movie were the scenes in France, yet they are important to the story. As shown in the movie, Adams struggled in France, he did not have the personality to deal with foreign emissaries, yet his brilliance in the Treaty of Versailles can not be overlooked. Adams and John Jay quickly realized after the war, that their best chance for a prosperous America would be to connect themselves politically with England and to leave their ally France out of the negations. It was shrewd political maneuvering to pull off what Adams did.

As I said earlier, Adam’s presidency was not a remarkable one. He was not a good politician, and struggled when asked to compromise his beliefs. In order to compromise he had to admit someone else had a valid point, and he always believed he was right. At the same time, he had his beliefs and standards and would not budge on his principles. He might have won a second term had he only declared an official war on the French. Jefferson was politically tied with the French and it would have hurt Jefferson’s campaign had the US been actively engaged with the French on the battleground. Yet Jefferson would not go against his principles, even when it meant hurting his political career, some thing we should respect. Also Jefferson would not have done. As shown in the movie Adams presidency was scared by a struggle with France and his passing of the Alien and Sedation Acts.

I did enjoy the love story of the movie. Because Adams and his wife, Abigail, were apart so often they were forced to write letters, and fortunately for us those letters have survived. When you read the correspondence between the two, you can see how much Adams loved and depended on his wife. His confrontational personality was softened by his very strong and patient wife. She is one of the most remarkable first ladies, and brought strength to Adam’s lack self confidence that he experienced in private. The most touching moment came with the death of his beloved wife, Melissa and I found ourselves very choked up. A fascinating aspect of the movie was contrasting Adam’s affection for his wife that seemed to be absent for his children. He was hard on his family, and drove some of his children away, yet at the same time raised at least one who was exceptional. One area they could have explained a bit more was how Adams came from a Puritan background. His rigidness was a product of his time in New England, and would not have stood out to his peers from the same up bringing. Even the bedroom scene where John and Abigail were intimate without disrobing would have been normal; they would have practiced modesty even amongst themselves. But that behavior was only common among the New England Puritans, and not the other founders. The movie contrasted Adams behavior with the personality of Franklin who was a playboy. They could have helped viewers to understand Adams more by discussing his religious background.

I did enjoy some of the cultural and social history thrown in amongst the politics. They dealt with colonial medicine in a few scenes. Some the treatments were as bad as the problems, especially treatments like bleeding. They also had a scene where Dr. Rush (a very important man in his own right) preformed a mastectomy. As a whole, this was a very family friendly film, but this scene and one at the beginning had nudity. I did find this unfortunate, it was not necessary. Neither time was the nudity sexual, but none the less nudity. One time was the mastectomy, the other was a scene where a man was stripped down and tarred and feathered. I can understand the argument that both were needed to show the harshness of the acts, I understand but do not agree, mainly because outside of those scenes there was nothing in the film that was not PG and you could show your children a film that captured our founding fathers the way no other film has.

As a whole I greatly enjoyed the film and would recommend it. It is very long, and at times does drag, where as Band of Brothers was much longer but you never noticed. This movie can be slow at times, but the slow parts were necessary to get the entire story. I would even go further than just recommending this; I think you should see it. We at times take for granted what others did before us; it was the struggle of men like Adams that have given us our freedoms today. He was a remarkable man, and invaluable man to the revolution, and a forgotten man. I hope more people watch this film and come away with a greater appreciation for this great man.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Job Hunt Revised

Well in the last few weeks the job openings have slowed down some. There are only four jobs left to apply for. There is the chance that this could be all, but hopefully there will be some late arrivals. No matter what happens with this batch, there is always a second round of jobs that will open in the spring, but hopefully by then I will have landed a good one. So here are the last four that I am applying to.

Berea College. They are looking for someone to do early American. Berea is in Kentucky, about an hour south of Lexington. I know the area somewhat from doing research trips there. It is a small but beautiful campus and was founded by John Fee one of the nations leading abolitionists in the 1850s, and someone included in my own research (I hope that gives me an edge). The most interesting part about Berea is that no one pays to go there. Every student has a job instead of paying. The school makes a lot of its money from the arts and crafts the students make at the Appalachian cultural and arts center.

Gonzaga University. They are also looking for someone to do early American. Gonzaga is in Spokane Washington, an area I have never been to, but have heard nice things. Most are familiar with this school, it is an excellent university and probably most famous for its basketball team and the school of John Stockton.

Southern New Hampshire University. Also wanting someone for early America. This is an area that I have never been to and do not know much about the university. It is in a quaint New England town about an hour north of the Boston area. If I get an interview I can write more.

Slippery Rock University. Just like the others, they are looking for an early American historian. Slippery Rock is in western Pennsylvania an hour north of Pittsburg and also in a small university town. I really enjoy these small university towns and like how you can have a relationship with the students and the town.

I would be grateful for a chance to teach at any of these schools. I have now finished applying to all the jobs. It is still too soon to have heard back from most of them. The only job I have given up on so far is BYU. They started doing their search in September, and by now would have started interviewing. I am hopeful that a job will come through this year, I have not prayed so hard for something in a long time.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Savannah's Sleeping Beauty Cake

I can see why cakes are so expensive to buy. I made Savannah a Sleeping Beauty cake for her birthday. It took me around 3 to 4 hours to finish it, and then of coarse only took a few minutes to destroy and eat. It was worth it however, Savannah was very excited, she loves sleeping beauty. I was happy with the final product, this is my third cake, and doing Jake’s R2-D2 cake earlier this year gave me a bit of practice with fondant. For more on our sweet Savannah or her birthday see Melissa’s blog who is going to write a lot more.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Today I wanted to comment on a few books I have read in the past several weeks. Two of them I recommend highly and the other I had a hard time with even though the author is considered one of the best at writing new westerns.

The Western is Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian. I am a fan of the western and was excited to read this book after my good friend Matt suggested it. However, I had a hard time getting into this novel. The main character, simply known as the kid, was difficult to understand and the character development was just not there. I should have known I would like this book when all the reviews compared him to Herman Melville and William Faulkner. I know these are both classic authors, but they are ones that I have never enjoyed reading, and McCarthy reads the way they do. I have always felt I was not smart enough to understand Faulkner, and that is the way I felt like reading this. One top of this McCarthy also wrote All the Pretty Horses, which I have heard was a good book, but it was one of the worst movies I have ever seen. So my conclusion is I did not enjoy the book, but Matt who is very intelligent very much enjoys McCarthy. So as with most things movies and books give them a try.

The other two did not need as much thinking. I read non-fiction all day, so maybe when I read for pleasure I want to turn off my brain. I just finished reading Stewart Mandel’s Bowls, Polls, and Tattered Souls. Mandel is the lead college football writer for and my personal favorite. So when he wrote a full book about college football (one of my favorite pastimes) I had to read it. Mandel explains some of the major controversies dealing with football today including chapters on the BCS, how the ranking system works with college football, why Heisman winners are failing at the next level, the issue of paying coaches too much money and than expecting them to win right away or fans call for their head, why Notre Dame is put on high, how Boston College and Clemson are somehow in the same conference, why there are so many bowl games, and how ever team cheats-expect yours. Basically Mandel loves the game, and you get how much through the book, but at the same time at the top levels it is corrupt and money runs everything. He is a funny writer and gives some very insightful details into the game I love. If you love college football this is a must read book.

The last book, I also highly enjoyed and found it very informative. It is Michael Winder’s Presidents and Prophets. I am very thankful to my grandfather for sending me this book. It is about the relationship between the LDS church and the US presidents. In a very detailed way Winder looks at different presidents views on God and as soon as the Church was founded, their views on this new religion. It begins with the hardships the Church had to face and the discrimination presidents had against this peculiar religion. He discusses the major issues the church had to face; especially polygamy and the Church’s fight for statehood. He also details important LDS leaders such as Reed Smoot who was in the Senate for years and made strong headways into the government understanding and accepting the Church. Finally in the 20th century Winder explores how many prophets and president developed a strong relationship, even including Mormons in high positions, many more that I ever know about. It was fascinating to learn many things I never know and how many prominent Mormons had served in politics. I immensely enjoyed reading this book and would recommend it to any member of the LDS Church who wants to learn more about their history.