An analysis of “The ides of march”

The ides of march, directed by George Clooney, tells the story of Stephen Meyers (played by Ryan Gosling), the junior campaign manager for the aspiring presidential candidate, governor Mike Morris (played by Clooney).

The film depicts the cut-throat nature of high-end politics through the eyes of a relatively low-standing member of the process. This is an ideal role for the main character however, as it lets the movie explore the struggles of both the candidate their self, as well as their staff.

A persistent theme in the movie is that of loyalty, and the lack of it. This is a concept perfectly expressed by arguably the most important side character in the story, Paul Zara. His role in the narrative is as the primary campaign manager, and Stephens mentor. Thematically, he symbolises the peak of loyalty. One sees this in his actions, as he fires Stephen due to him meeting with a rival candidate’s manager, Tom Duffy, and failing to inform Paul in time. His reasoning is doubting Stephens loyalty to their own campaign and suspecting him of trying to ache out a better deal for himself with Tom. Later, when Stephen blackmails Mike to make him fire Paul, and give the now available job to Stephen, Paul seemingly accepts his fate, rather than trying to retaliate. This shows the clear contrast between him and his previous underling, who tried to sell out Mikes dirty secrets to Tom after originally losing his job, both as revenge and in a futile attempt to get a new job.

The films name, the ides of march, is a reference to the roman date corresponding to March 15th. The ides of each month were celebrations dedicated to the head god of the roman pantheon, Jupiter. In addition to several rituals, the ides were often seen as the deadline to repay a debt. The most famous occurrence on this date, however, is the assassination of Julius Cesar. Knowing the historical contest certainly makes the metaphor easier to see. In the movie, Mike can be seen as a Cesar like figure. Much have been made about Cesar, both as a politician, and as a military tactician, but no matter his armies or wit, he could not prevent every internal struggle, and that was what would eventually kill him. I a similar, if slightly less dramatic, the seemingly flawless Mike steals the hearts of voters and the viewer alike. It is not before the final third of the movie that it is revealed that he impregnated one of his staff members, and it is even implied he raped her. In the end, this is used against him by Stephen, whom had previously been working under him, and someone who was somewhat close with him compared to most of Mikes staff. Here, Stephen acts as an analogy to Brutus. Through these metaphors and references, this purely fictional story can be made to feel more real than even reports and stories the movie has used as inspiration, such as Bill Clintons own sex-scandal.

When Paul claims that one is nothing without their loyalty, in the context of high-end politics, there might be something to that statement. The consequences of distrust and paranoia is most clearly presented through the ever-shifting relationship between Stephen, Mike and Paul. In the movie, the conflict stems from the distrust, sown by Pauls distrust to Stephens motives for meeting with a rival campaign manager. From here, no one in the story can really trust each other, as doubt has originally been sown, which disrupts the political machine that builds up a presidential candidate. In the end though, the viewer is left asking themselves what constitutes loyalty, and at what point it crosses over to blind obedience.

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The butchery of the 13th amendment

The documentary “the 13th amendment” concerns the treatment of blacks throughout American history. It begins by explaining the emergence of slave-importation from Africa, and where, and what, they were used for. A quick summary would be that they were taken to the south to work on cotton farms. The form of racism blacks experienced has evolved ever since. In the beginning, a focus would be put on dehumanizing the slaves, while the slaves desperately clung to their humanity.

When the 13th amendment was signed in 1864, it outlawed conventional slavery as it had been organized until that point, but it included a clause that it only prohibited the enslavement of free citizens. Therefore, prisoners could still be exploited just as the slaves had been before. This, in junction with the ongoing racism and subsequent harsher sentences of blacks, resulted in disturbingly little actually being achieved by passing this law.

Not only were blacks generally looked down upon, there were still many laws that separated them from the rest of the population. It was not before the civil rights act of 1964 was passed that the legal segregation of blacks was abolished. However, just because there are no overtly racist laws, does not mean that the culture of the past was suddenly wiped from people’s memory. The Klu Klux Klan still stood strong, and the southern strategy demonstrated how effective appealing to racism still was. Even today, black people are overly represented in prisons, making up 40, 2 percent of the USs total prisoner count, despite making up a mere 12,5 percent of the nation’s total population. This happens through a combination of them facing higher aggression from police, and an incentive for prisons to keep as many people locked up as possible. This is due to private prisons often receiving compensation from the government per inmate. Therefore, they may also lobby politicians to make them vote in favour of harsher sentencing, exactly because this will net them even more profit.

As we see when studying the ironically nicknamed land of the free, racism may have diminished over time, but it is far from eradicated, even if it is less apparent today.

The shutdown that holds the nation hostage

When summing up the current US government shutdown, one ought to start with explaining the causes and effects of one. A shutdown may occur when the government is unable to reach an agreement on the national budget. This may come from general disagreement between the two political parties people actually know exist, or due to a specific policy.

During a shutdown, many of the problems arise as a result of a lack of funds being allocated to sufficiently preform the different tasks the government has. This lack of funds can affect almost any part of the public sector, excluding the essential tasks. Food regulation will for example be getting funding to undertake the most important health-checks.

The lack of funds often manifests through being unable to pay salaries of those employed in the public sector. This is not an excuse for not working however, as those workers will be expected to show up to work as usual. This is a terrible situation in in of itself, but the problem is exacerbated by the group this mainly affects, the middle and lower class. According to the guardian, nearly 80 percent of the American people live pay check to pay check. The quite dire consequences are somewhat obvious. It would leave a great number of Americans unable to support themselves or their families.

I mentioned earlier the possible reasons for a government shutdown. This one falls under the latter possibility. It began due to disagreements concerning the infamous border wall. While the president was ready to spend billions of dollars to finance the border wall, the elected democrats are trying their best to stall the project. At this point, a large part of the “debates” has devolved into accusations of holding the American people hostage. One should note that while the politicians play their great game, Flint Michigan hasn’t had clean water since 2014.

Of Mice and Men and the Great Depression

The great depression is the term used to refer to the stock market crash, and subsequent decade-long economic crisis, lasting from 1929 to 1939. Like many of the greatest economic disasters, the great depression was predicated by a period of great growth within the economy. In the period dubbed “the Roaring Twenties”, Americas wealth had nearly doubled. This period of prosperity lead people from all walks in life to invest unreasonable amounts of money in stocks, money they could not support themselves without.

In October of 1929, up to several million stocks were traded daily, continuing to lower investor confidence. This permeated in the infamous October 29, often referred to as “Black Tuesday”, where 16 million stocks were sold.

This failing economy resulted in a peak unemployment rate in the US of 24, 9 percent in 1933. This is the setting for Mice and Men.

Written towards the end of the great depression, Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck tells the story of George and Lennie, two homeless men taking on jobs on ranches around California. The story starts with them having to walk about ten miles due to miscommunication with a bus driver. It is quickly established that the duo follows a classic theme in fiction. George is the smaller, more intelligent “leader”, while Lennie is the team’s muscle.

After establishing their dynamic, they reach their next job, meeting the rest of the cast as well. The two most notable side characters are Curley, the ranch-owners son, and his wife. Steinbeck is not subtle when he introduces them, as he clearly wants the reader to understand that this angry little man will cause some sort of conflict later on, and that his wife would be involved. As previously stated, Curley’s main character trait is anger. He wastes no time to establish that he is willing to fight anyone over anything, especially those who speak to his wife, as soon as we meet him. This is revealed to have made her feel extremely lonely. She constantly tries to interact with the ranch workers and even reveals that she doesn’t even love Curley. This of course what instigates the final act of the story. When she finally manages to have a conversation (more of a monologue really, seeing as how preoccupied Lennie is with rabbits), she is scared by the muscled brute, and he accidentally snaps her neck. This is probably where the novel got its name, as the murder of Curley’s wife parallels how Lennie accidentally killed several mice by petting them too hard.

It is reiterated at several occasions that George is somewhat bitter about having to watch over the child-like Lennie, claiming that he would have a house and family if not for Lennie constantly getting them in trouble. These sentiments are often communicated through outbursts directed at Lennie. This may be a source of conflict later in the novel.

One can easily see why the book managed to reach the success it has, as a wide range of people could probably see themselves in the characters we follow, especially under the Great Depression itself. Even today, it is indeed a quite enjoyable read, even though it might be to gloomy for some. This is in my mind however, one of its greatest strengths, as it does not portray a period where millions suffered due to the stock market crash as a slightly sad period. Steinbeck instead looks at the worst off in society, and their struggles in a far more realistic fashion than most writers have the gall to do.

I would argue the story’s main theme is belonging. This a conclusion I did not reach before the very last page. This is due to how George’s emotional state develops as the story progresses. First, one could assume him, and Lennie seeks financial stability and a sense of “decency”, and that they hope to accomplish this by owning a ranch of their own. Another reason I first assumed this was George’s main goal was his previously mentioned bitterness directed at Lennie. He clearly blamed his only friend for his continued vagrancy, something that seems to have changed in the end. To me, it felt like George realized that he would not be content with owning a ranch without Lennie by his side. In a way, one could say they were each other’s home.

One could extrapolate a related message as well. If there is a message presented in the book, it is most certainly that one will find far more joy in one’s friends and family than material possessions could ever provide.

Republicans on Obamacare

Obamacare, the healthcare plan that mandated health insurance may be one of the most controversial topics in recent American politics. That is at least what it would seem like considering how adamant republicans have been when it comes to repealing it. In reality, the plan that currently aids 20 million people with affording coverage is supported by more than 53 percent of the nation, according to business insider.

Obamacare works through a synergy with Medicaid. While Obamacare mandates health insurance, Medicaid gives economic support to those who cannot afford it on their own. This maximises the number of insured citizens while avoiding burdening them with a fee they are unable to pay (in most cases at least). In addition to this, people may be eligible for free contraceptives, while senior citizens pay less for prescription drugs. Considering the country’s severe obesity epidemic, free cholesterol checks doesn’t exactly hurt either. These are just some of the numerous benefits brought by Obamacare.

This does not mean Obamacare is perfect though. Unlike Canada, the US government has little to no say in the prices medicine is sold for by private corporations, they are free to charge whatever they want for simple surgeries. According to a 2013 CNBC study, medical bills were the no. 1 reason for bankruptcy in the US. This was three years after Obamacare was instigated, and while Obama was still in power.

Ever since the proposition of Obamacare was made, most republicans have vehemently opposed it and promised to repeal it if they take office. In October, senate majority leader Mitch McConnel confirmed that is the republicans got a majority in the senate, they’d once more try to repeal the entire affordable care act. What they will do now remains to be seen.

Does Britain regret Brexit?

In 2016 the UK decided that they’re leaving the European Union. A referendum was held and the vote for leaving the EU won by 51,9% to 48,1%. They’re expecting to leave by the end of March 2019. The outcome of this referendum was called Brexit. However, do the Brits still want to leave? Have they changed their mind? And could they make Britain stay?

According to the BBC, the british people’s faith in their politicians has drastically decreased. A study from the ICM shows that the number of people who believe Brexit will have a negative impact on their economy has only slightly increased, from 43 percent a year and a half ago to 44 percent now. Similarly, the number of those who expect a positive outcome vary between 22 and 17 percent. Where the numbers have shifted is when it comes to what side people would take in a second referendum.

A polling analysis suggests that the Brits would vote to stay in the EU if a new referendum were held. Peter Kellner, former president of YouGov, states that up to one million Labour supporters who voted leave in 2016 are now having second thoughts. He also points out that YouGov has launched 14 polls this year asking people if the UK was right or wrong about Brexit. 13 out of 14 polls has shown a slightly higher ‘wrong’ than ‘right’ vote. Kellners beliefs stems from data showing that mainly elderly voted leave whereas the youngest voters wanted to stay. He quite harshly said, “Bluntly, older, mainly Leave, voters are dying – and younger, mainly Remain, voters are joining the electorate.” Since the referendum 1.2 million voters have died, while 1.4 million have entered voting age. According to Kellner demography has reduced the ‘leave’ lead by more than half.

Now to conclude, there might have been a change of heart in the UK but a second referendum has been rejected by Downing Street. So if the UK now would vote to stay in the EU, we would never know.

 

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The US midterms

The midterms, the election that only gets half the votes of a typical presidential election. We may not get to see people doing country-spanning tours for a year and a half before the climactic day, but the results surely are important nonetheless. It is in this election the seats for the house and senate are decides. The party with the majority in one or both of these branches can either empower the president by passing whatever law he proposes or slow the progress of the opposing party’s president to a halt.

The question of which party benefitted the most from the 2018 midterms does in a way remain unanswered. With these kinds of results, the answer is vague enough that both democrats and republicans can say with certainty in their voices “my side won”. In a way they are both right. But to explain this extremely unsatisfactory statement one need to look at the power balance before the voters cast their votes.,

The last two years has been quite good for the republicans. With a majority in both the house and senate, Donald Trump has faced little opposition when trying to pass laws. This was expected to change however, as a party-majority in the entire legislative branch rarely survives a midterm election if that party also holds the presidency.

Before the election, the predictions were that the democrats would secure 20-50 seats in the house. The result was 20 new democratic seats, giving them the majority, while the senate remained republican. This outcome has resulted in both sides claiming that the outcome favoured their side. Many districts have for the first time had black women as their democratic nominees. As stated before, the result of the democrats taking the house, is that they are now able to potentially hinder proposed laws. This may also give them a bargaining chip, letting them negotiate more agreeable legislations.