Mike Kueber's Blog

June 27, 2011

The myth of Michelle Bachmann

My regular drinking buddy KB is a quintessential conservative who fashions himself a libertarian.  His patron saint of politics is Michelle Bachmann, and he never tires of reminding people that she was a tax attorney who raised 23 kids before getting into the dirty, corrupt world of politics.  By way of contrast, the evil Barack Obama had a mysterious academic existence that sandwiched his brief stint as a community organizer.

Earlier this week, I read part of an article by muckraker Matt Taibbi in Rolling Stone magazine that fleshed out Bachmann’s biography.  According to Taibbi, Bachman  graduated from a fourth-tier law school before working for the IRS for five years before deciding to stay at home with her four kids.  Then she decided to be a foster parent for  young girls, being limited to no more than three girls at a time.  According to Taibbi, the current pay for such services in $47 a day per child.

Although Bachmann’s biography is unquestionably noteworthy, it appears to have been embellished.  Literally, she was a tax attorney, but she appears to have worked as an  underling at the IRS.  After graduation from UT law school in 1979, I considered applying to work for the IRS (where I had worked as a file clerk for two years during law school), but didn’t apply because they indicated that they want applicants who were in the top 25% of their class or female or minority.  I’m not sure which qualified Michelle.  Wouldn’t it be ironic if she were an affirmative-action beneficiary, like Obama.

Regarding the kids, Taibbi reports that Michelle had her foster kids for as little as a few months to as long as more than a year.  This makes it questionable whether she “raised them,” as she asserts.

At the end of the move, “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance,” a reporter states that when the legend conflicts with the facts, print the legend.  I suspect Michelle is counting  on that, but in the world of modern politics, that is no longer true.  Barack Obama did work as a community organizer, and in the scheme of things, that is more impressive than Michelle Bachmann working as a tax lawyer working for the IRS.  She has no real-life business experience and is ill-prepared to lead this country.

January 4, 2011

Saturday Night at the Movies review #1 – The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

I recently blogged about an unusual common denominator in four of my favorite movies – i.e., the good guy doesn’t get the girl in Shane, GWTW, Casablanca, and Liberty Valance.  My son Bobby mentioned he had never seen Liberty, so I bought him the DVD for Christmas.  Tonight he surprised me by sending the following review in which he suggested that the good guy did get the girl:

So I finished “The Man who shot Liberty Valance”.  You are right – Doniphon (John Wayne) definitely dies an unsung hero.  But I think you down-played the role of Rance (Jimmy Stuart).  You made him sound almost like the bad guy for taking credit for something he didn’t do.  I think that even though Rance did not display the traditional heroic qualities, he was still the overarching hero of the movie.  He took a stand against Liberty and the other ranchers the only way he knew how.  He was not a gunfighter, but he was a lawyer, teacher, and leader.  He educated the locals about the roles and laws of government, and in the end stood up to Liberty Valance even though he did not have the physical ability to beat him.

Doniphon also stood up to Valance in the diner, but it almost seemed more about proving his own dominance that really helping anyone in the long run.  He stood up for Rance, but it seemed like he only did it to prove the point that Rance could not stand up for himself.

Doniphon was an interesting character.  He definitely cared a great deal for Hallie (Vera Miles).  That was demonstrated by the way he brought her flowers and was building that addition to his house for her.  I think his greatest demonstration of caring for her was when he saved Rance from Valance because he wanted Hallie to be happy, and she did not want to lose Rance.  He did so knowing that it would ultimately cause him to lose her in the end.  He was definitely the traditional “All American Hero” of the movie.

Rance on the other hand was in some ways the exact opposite of Doniphon.  He was not strong or well adapted to the “wild west,” but he did stand up for those around him from the beginning on the stage coach to his stand-off with Liberty to his run for office.  He worked hard and tried to better everyone around him.  He was the leader that the community needed to bring them into the civilized age.

Also, you can’t really over-romanticize Doniphon’s role in killing Liberty.  He could have put a stop to Liberty’s treachery at any time.  He didn’t call him out in the streets or face him at high noon.  In the end he shot him with a rifle from a dark ally.  It was clearly justified and long overdue, but I don’t think it was as grand of an act as you made it sound.

In the end it took both kinds of Hero to bring peace and prosperity to that small town of Shinbone.  It was sad the way Doniphon died anonymously and alone.  He definitely deserved better.  But I think that the greater good was ultimately served as Rance went on to do great things for the town, territory, and state.  He also took good care of Hallie and seemed to make her happy.  I think that even Doniphon realized this when he talked Rance into taking the nomination.  The only real “bad guy” in this movie died in the streets as he should.

Bobby and I obviously saw the movie from different perspectives.  I saw John Wayne as a man’s man and Jimmy Stewart as a lady’s man.  A man’s man talks softly and carries a big stick, like Tom Doniphon.  A lady’s man like Rance Stoddard is all hat and no cattle; someone who can’t back up his highfalutin talk – just like in Casablanca where the effeminate Victor Laszlo was about to be stomped out by the Gestapo’s Major Strasser in a singing scene until the manly Rick Blaine saved the day, all while remaining in the background.  Or just like Rhett Butler and Ashley Wilkes in GWTW; or Shane and Joe Starrett in Shane.

I agree that Doniphon and Stoddard had vastly different skill sets.  Doniphon thrived on the frontier where actions spoke louder than words, whereas Stoddard could only survive in an urban area where he could rely almost exclusively on his communications skills.  I concede that Stoddard also had personal skills, while Doniphon didn’t.   

Of course, Hallie preferred Stoddard because he was a lady’s man with highfalutin words.  And Stoddard could take care of her fine as long as there were people like Doniphon who dealt with the really bad guys.

 I’d be interested to know if any other people thought Ransom Stoddard was the hero of Liberty Valance.

November 24, 2010

My favorite John Wayne story

As I was growing up, my five favorite movies were Casablanca, Gone with the Wind, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, Shane, and Centennial.  A few years ago, I realized that the storyline with all five movies shared a remarkable similarity.  While you think about that, I will tell you my favorite John Wayne story. 

When John Wayne was a young actor, he was being interviewed by a producer for a movie.  The producer had heard that Wayne was a big drinker and was concerned that this vice might interfere with the production of the movie.  Instead of beating around the bush, the producer spoke directly, “Duke, I’ve heard that you’re a big drinker.  Is that true?”  The Duke responded modestly, “Yes, I don’t like to brag, but I can hold my own with most men.” 

Those were the days when men were men (i.e., hunters and chest beaters).  Speaking of which, my brother Kelly formed the charter D.A.M.M. society in Fargo, N.D.  The acronym stands for Drunks Against Mad Mothers.

Getting back to my five favorite movies – the similarity in their storylines is that the heroic, individualistic, all-American man is rejected by the woman of his dreams in favor of a more civilized, political, and often effeminate man.  In Casablanca, Ilsa Lund chose Victor Laszlo over Rich Blaine; in Gone with the Wind, Scarlett O’Hara chose Ashley Wilkes over Rhett Butler; in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, Hallie Ericson chose Rance Stoddard over Tom Doniphon; in Shane, Marian Starrett chose Joe Starrett over Shane; and finally in Centennial, Clay Basket chose (sort of) Alexander McKeag over Pasquinel.

This storyline suggests:

  • The American hero has difficulty maintaining a relationship with the opposite sex.
  • Everything that is really great and inspiring is created by an individual who can labour in freedom – Albert Einstein. 

All of this helps to explain why those of us who hero-worship John Wayne are lousy at knowing how to treat a woman.  We have been brought up to see the lady’s man as the villian.