Politically Incorrectile Dysfunction Newsreel

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Saturday, May 16, 2015

Chief Standing Bear

This morning I was pleased to help celebrate the story and legacy of one of America's earliest civil rights heroes, Chief Standing Bear. His remarkable life's journey is memorialized at the Chief Standing Bear Breakfast, sponsored by the Nebraska Commission on Indian Affairs, the Ponca Tribe, and others.

The United States House of Representatives has passed legislation directing the Secretary of the Interior to conduct a feasibility study for the Chief Standing Bear National Historic Trail. Chief Standing Bear holds a special place in Native American and United States history. Establishing a trail in his name would be an outstanding way to recognize his contributions to our great land. The bill was approved by the House in April and is now awaiting action in the Senate.

Chief Standing Bear was a Ponca chief who prevailed in one of the most important court cases for Native Americans in our nation’s history. In the 1800s, the Ponca tribe made its home in the Niobrara River valley in the area of northeast Nebraska. In 1877, the United States Government pressured the Poncas from their homeland, compelling them to move to Indian Territory in Oklahoma. Not wanting to subject his people to a confrontation with the government, Standing Bear obliged and led them from their homes to the reservation in Oklahoma. The journey was harsh and the new land inhospitable. Nearly a third of the tribe died from starvation, malaria, and other illnesses, including Standing Bear's daughter Prairie Flower, and later, his son Bear Shield.

Standing Bear had promised Bear Shield that he would be buried in his homeland in the Niobrara River Valley. Embarking on the trip north in the winter of 1878, Standing Bear led a group of about 65 Poncas. Upon reaching the Omaha Reservation, the U.S. Army stopped Standing Bear and arrested him for leaving the Oklahoma reservation without permission. He was taken to Fort Omaha and held there to stand trial. In the meantime, Standing Bear's plight attracted the attention of the Omaha Daily Herald, the predecessor of the Omaha World-Herald, and the story became well publicized. At the conclusion of the two-day trial, Standing Bear was allowed to speak for himself. He raised his hand and said:

"That hand is not the color of yours, but if I pierce it, I shall feel pain. If you pierce your hand, you will feel pain. The blood that will flow from mine will be the same color as yours. I am a man. God made us both."

With his profound words on that late spring day in 1879, Chief Standing Bear expressed the most American of sentiments: the belief in the inherent dignity and rights of all persons, no matter their color, no matter their ethnicity. Judge Elmer S. Dundy ruled that Native Americans are persons within the meaning of the law. Remember, this is 1879—the first time Native Americans are considered persons within the meaning of the law.

The story of the Ponca chief is a story of strength, grace, and dignity in the protection of the most basic of human rights. It is a story that needs to be told over and over again.

The establishment of the Chief Standing Bear National Historic Trail would honor both the courage of this brave individual and his great contribution to the freedom and civil liberties of this nation. Our bill is an important first step toward establishing the trail, and hopefully the Senate will take quick action.

About the Author:

JEFF FORTENBERRY has served as the U.S. Representative for Nebraska's 1st congressional district since 2005. He is the Chairperson for the Subcommittee on Department Operations, Oversight, Nutrition and Forestry. Vice Chair of the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health and Human Rights and has a seat on the Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia.

He is a member of the following Caucus groups: Civil War Battlefield Caucus - Congressional Biofuels Caucus - Congressional Farmer Cooperative Caucus - House Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Caucus - International Conservation Caucus - Sportsmen's Caucus. Congressman Fortenberry has become the most knowledgeable representative on Capitol Hill for nuclear security issues.

"Wayward Pines" - A Review

“Wayward Pines” is a new television 10-episode series by director M.Night Shyamalan. He is both famed and infamous. Mr. Shyamalan broke into the Hollywood elite of motion picture creation with two basic unknown features, but it was his third film, “The Sixth Sense” that put him on the road to success. His second big movie starred Samuel L. Jackson, and while “Unbreakable” wasn't quite as well received as “The Sixth Sense” it still showed genuine style and a unique brand of movie making.

Then came a whole string of critical failures that also lacked audience appeal. While the box office receipts were still acceptable for such films as “Signs,” “The Village,” “The Happening,” and so on, that same sense of urgency and imaginativeness seemed to be missing and the critics were quick to respond in the negative, so much in fact that his name sort of became a code word for anyone with a one-hit-wonder film. Many even started calling him Shamalamadingdong.

Generally, at least in today’s market, someone with the kind of early success of M. Night would have released scores of hit movies after nearly 17-years since the first one. However, this wasn't to be for this director. After “The Sixth Sense” he only has seven completed films to his credit and not one had the critical success of that first.

Now M. Night has turned his attention to the small screen with a TV miniseries that boasts of some big award winning names including Matt Dillon, Carla Gugino, Toby Jones, Reed Diamond, Juliette Lewis, Melissa Leo and the hottest commodity on the big and small screen today Mr. Terrence Howard (Empire).

Within the first 10-minutes of the first episode of “Wayward Pines” it looked like M. Night was falling back into his old bag of tricks and bad habits, and thought I was perhaps watching just a more 21st Century take on his movie “The Village.” However, after a half-hour I recognized that this was going to be something wholly different from anything the director had attempted before on any size screen. While the premise isn't really anything new -- Man haunted by personal demons enters strange small town under extreme circumstances, finds the people secretive, and finds no exits or way to escape. That has been done before yet this time it has a freshness to it.

Once I settled in to that familiar concept and began looking at the artful direction, the brilliant acting from the cast, especially Howard and Leo’s roles, I was swept-in like this was something altogether new and a story I had never seen the likes of before. The photography and location is outstanding as is how M. Night lighted the scenes to bring in max effect. It is dirty, gritty and yet retains an ornate facade of normalcy in its presentation. By the end of that premiere episode I found myself wanting to watch more and wished it was a Netflix production instead of a network show so I could binge watch the entire series in one sitting. I hurriedly and excitingly want to know what was going to happen to Dillon’s character next. That isn't something I have felt from a Shyamalan product in a long, long time and it was a good emotion.

I will certainly not miss any of the other 9-episodes left on the docket and highly recommend “Wayward Pines” for your Must See TV list.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Priorities: What's Wrong With This Picture?

It says a lot about our screwed up priorities in America when we hold Tom Brady, a football player, to a higher standard of conduct than we do a former Senator, former Secretary of State and would-be presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Trade

Warren Buffett recently commented that Central America grows bananas better than we do in Nebraska. He has a point. Our state has many unique agricultural advantages; bananas are not one of them. People in different areas of the world cultivate different talents, possess different resources, and create unique items that can benefit others. Connecting persons in a system of fair economic exchange can expand the wellbeing of many peoples.

This is called trade theory, in academic terms. It sounds good on paper. But theories rarely translate to perfect outcomes. In the real world, free trade does not exist. Some countries cheat, manipulating their currencies to make exports cheaper. They subsidize certain businesses to create rigged systems and an uneven playing field. They do not employ the same standards for protecting the environment, worker safety, and consumer products. The United States has a substantially open economy, along with reasonable environmental and labor standards. In trade terms, this can often put us at a disadvantage.

America continues to struggle with an anemic economic recovery. Income inequality is climbing, and opportunity inequality prevents many persons from working hard to get ahead. From downward social mobility to stagnant wages and an increased cost of living, many American families are confronting serious financial challenges. The reasons for these difficulties are myriad, including social fracturing and the decline of small business—the space where most new jobs are created. Trade arguably can provide benefits to us, but we should take a close look at whether the dynamics of trade contributed to the decline of certain sectors in the marketplace, namely manufacturing.

The United States once took great pride as a global leader in manufacturing, building and exporting cars, appliances, and other goods around the world. Not too long ago one major American retailer advertised that the majority of its products were proudly “Made in the USA.” The company no longer runs that advertisement. Finding a non-“Made in China” label is not as easy as in decades past. Significant portions of our manufacturing architecture—along with many jobs—have traveled overseas. In spite of some positive trends like reshoring, our current economy is fraught with a feeling that the deck is stacked against smaller players in favor of large transnational corporations and conglomerates.

On the other hand, Nebraska has certainly benefited from free trade arrangements. From 2004 to 2013, trade-related employment grew 3.8 times the rate of our total statewide employment. We exported $9.9 billion in goods and $2.1 billion in services in 2013—and we remain America’s seventh largest agricultural exporter. Smaller businesses constitute 83% of exporters. Our farmers and livestock producers compete very well. We create products that are needed on the world stage, helping fight poverty and feeding the hungry. Trade can also strengthen our state through vibrant cultural programs, with many of our social institutions receiving international visitors.

But there is no one size fits all trade policy in America. Let’s look at an example. Three years ago we signed a trade deal with South Korea. Before the deal, our trade deficit with that country was $2.4 billion. Now it’s $13.3 billion. A member of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers told me that these troubling numbers result from a declining South Korean economy, which has weaker import demand, and that they should improve over time. No one has explained how much time. It is unlikely that other countries sign trade deals with America to decrease their competitiveness with our country. In the global marketplace, not everyone wins all the time, and not every sector in a given country stands to gain. There are winners and losers, and this is a painful reality.

Trade is all the rage in Washington these days, especially given a proposal to “fast track” a trans-Asian Pacific trade arrangement. Importantly, the legislation aims to set trade standards among 12 countries, including Japan and Australia, to counter China’s growing influence. Although the argument is reasonable, Congress must scrutinize whether these standards will be enforced in countries with problematic human rights records, such as Vietnam. This is a complex agreement that goes way beyond tariffs and quotas to encompass many other rules and regulations. Any trade negotiation must avoid a situation similar to the one we faced with China, which for years manipulated its currency to our detriment, and which continues to run an economy where state subsidies are the norm, contributing to corrupt and unfair competition.

Supporters of fast track trade want to minimize Congressional involvement in trade deals. The fight now is over how to appropriately include Congress in overseeing any negotiation. I have suggested that trade negotiations should be phased so that Congress can review developments at intervals, appropriately assessing strengths and weaknesses and proposing improvements. That idea has been rejected. But the answer to fast track should be: “slow down.”

About the Author:

JEFF FORTENBERRY has served as the U.S. Representative for Nebraska's 1st congressional district since 2005. He is the Chairperson for the Subcommittee on Department Operations, Oversight, Nutrition and Forestry. Vice Chair of the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health and Human Rights and has a seat on the Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia.

He is a member of the following Caucus groups: Civil War Battlefield Caucus - Congressional Biofuels Caucus - Congressional Farmer Cooperative Caucus - House Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Caucus - International Conservation Caucus - Sportsmen's Caucus. Congressman Fortenberry has become the most knowledgeable representative on Capitol Hill for nuclear security issues.

Hathaway's Godzilla Mind Trip

What do you get when you mix actress Anne Hathaway (Les Miserables), screenwriter Nacho Vigalondo (Timecrimes) and producer Nahikari Ipiña (Extraterrestrial)? A “Colossal” mind-freak!

Hathaway has just signed to play a young lady named Gloria whose life is turning sideways, upside down and completely out of kilter. She just lost her dream job and her handsome fiancé. Packs up her suitcase to make an impromptu escape to the safety of her hometown and just when it seems her life is beginning to regain some semblance of normalcy - telepathic communications with a giant lizard that is destroying Tokyo, Japan starts invading her mind.

Gloria finds herself drawn to the Godzilla-like lizard and is haunted by the fact that somehow her insignificant life may hold the fate of the world.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Black Panther Joins "Captain America: Civil War"

The next Captain America film subtitled “Civil War” is beginning to look more like another Avengers feature instead of a stand-alone Cap movie.

We already know that Iron Man will be a part of the film and it is rumored there will be a showdown between the Captain and Tony Stark, aka Iron Man, thus the title.

Now it looks like a few other supers have signed on as well. Paul Rudd’s “Ant-Man” is on, and making his debut will be Black Panther (actor Chadwick Boseman), as well as a bevy of Avengers including Black Widow, Falcon, Hawkeye, War Machine and Scarlet Witch.

Academy Award winner William Hurt will reprise his role of General Thaddeus ‘Thunderbolt’ Ross. Hurt did the voice for Ross for “The Incredible Hulk” video game. In “Civil War” he will appear in the flesh. Paul Bettany will return as The Vision and the Oscar winning actor Morgan Freeman has joined the cast but his role is being kept under wraps for now.

Principal shooting has already begun. Look for “Captain America: Civil War” to be in theaters on May 6, 2016.