I am Rich Weinstein

“I really want to stay out of the limelight,” said Rich Weinstein, a Philadelphia investment adviser. “This is not about me.”

“Too late,” say those of us who appreciate Rich Weinstein’s efforts to expose the Jonathon Gruber, “Stupidity” videos. We want you, Rich Weinstein, to know that what you did was a “big (expletive) deal” to some of us. To those of us who have witnessed the media, and later Hollywood, canonize whistle-blowers like Mark Felt (deep throat) and Daniel Ellsberg (Pentagon Papers), we would like to send out our own form of media thank you to you, the citizen journalist from Philly, who reopened –and in some cases opened– the eyes of the public on the revelations you exposed about the behind the scenes machinations involved in the passage of the Affordable Care Act, the ACA, or Obamacare.

Photo by BYKST Kai Stachowiak (Age 47) from Hamburg, Deutschland on Pixabay

The anonymous, concerned citizen named Rich Weinstein

“Rich Weinstein,” characterizes Howard Kurtz of Media Buzz, “Is a slightly obsessed citizen” who was concerned about Obamacare. “He is,” according to Lucy McDermott of Politco, “Just an angry guy from Philly who says he lost his health insurance because of Obamacare.” He is, according to me, simply a frustrated citizen, one of the millions in the country, who opened up a letter one day from his insurance company to find out that he, in fact, would not be able to keep his insurance policy if he wanted, even though he had been promised by all those Democrats that were willing to do whatever it took –and say whatever needed to be said– to pass a bill that the Democrats had been trying to pass in Americans for over sixty years. He is also a concerned and frustrated citizen who found out that if he wanted to have health insurance at all, his premiums would double. He is that guy who answered the call so many have made in their general “Why doesn’t someone do something about this?” complaint. He is anecdotal evidence (unfortunately) of the idea that most apathetic Americans are willing to just sit back and allow Washington to pass whatever they pass, as long as those Americans get their bread and circuses.

Rich Weinstein is simply a concerned citizen, equivalent to the concerned citizen reading an article from a relatively anonymous blogger, and he is equivalent to an anonymous blogger writing an article like this one. He is you. He is me. I am Rich Weinstein, you are Rich Weinstein, and if there were more Rich Weinsteins –who took the idea of active citizenship to the point of watching countless hours of video taken at academic conferences and in other settings of discussions on Obamacare– politicians everywhere might be more concerned about passing legislation that their constituents might hold against them in the next election.

The subject of the video clips Rich Weinstein found, Jonaton Gruber, was not even Rich Weinstein’s initial target, as his initial focus was another administration adviser. After watching these countless hours of video, Mr. Weinstein found a video that had the M.I.T. professor stating that: “ObamaCare subscribers wouldn’t get tax benefits if their states didn’t set up health care exchanges.” Weinstein thought this video was so important that he wanted others to see it, and possibly be more informed on an issue that bothered him.

“That’s when Weinstein used every means he could think of, from Facebook to phone calls, to get the attention of journalists,” writes Howard Kurtz in his Fox News piece. “He (Weinstein) says he tried getting messages to Fox News, Forbes, National Review, Glenn Beck and a network affiliate in Philadelphia where a friend worked. Nobody bit. Nobody called back.

“It was so frustrating,” Weinstein said. “I tried really hard to give this to the media. I had this and couldn’t get it to anybody that knows what to do with it.” All he wanted, Weinstein says, was a train ride to D.C. for him and his lawyer, and “I was going to give them everything for nothing, no money, all I wanted was autographed pictures of the people I was working with to hang on my office wall.”

“It wasn’t until shortly before the midterms that Weinstein found what came to be known as Gruber’s “stupidity” video. He plastered it on his Twitter feed days later, sometimes inserting the names of journalists to try to grab their attention. This time, the news was quickly picked up by Fox, the Daily Caller and other media outlets (but not the broadcast networks or major newspapers).

Rich Weinstein is not a mainstream journalist, he’s not even a journalist. He is not a political operative or professional opposition researcher, and he did not do research on these videos, or release them, for any form of fame. As Howard Kurtz wrote, “Weinstein could not be coaxed into an on-camera interview, or even provide a photograph. He doesn’t want his 15 minutes.” He does not want to become “Rich the Plumber”.” He’s not a guy who lives in his mother’s basement. He does not wear a tinfoil hat. He is simply a man who took an age-old complaint, “Why doesn’t someone do something about this!” complain to heart and decided to do something.

Howard Kurtz excuses his compatriots in the media for not beating Weinstein to the Jonathon Gruber “Stupidity” videos by writing that “the tedium involved in Weinstein’s research is perhaps the best reason why a “Self-described regular guy” was able to unearth what the media could not. Few news organizations could afford to have a reporter spend a long period searching for a needle in an online haystack, especially without a tip that the needle existed at all.” That makes a great deal of sense when one factors in the limited budgets most media outlets are now operating with, until one plays what former CBS reporter Sharyl Atkisson calls the substitution game, and we replace the headline of this particular story: “The behind-the-scenes deception involved in the passage of Obamacare” with the headline “The behind-the-scenes deception involved in the (Republican president’s) passage of a tax cut”. If the latter were the headline of the story that a mainstream reporter pitched to an editor, one can speculate that most editors, of those mainstream media outlets, would bust the budget trying to come up with their own “Gruber in the haystack” video to momentarily humiliate the Republicans involved and potentially diminish the idea of tax cuts for the long haul.

If nothing else, the fact that Rich Weinstein wants to maintain his relative anonymity should prevent the videos he presented to us from being discredited by the cynical media who perpetually declare that anyone that speaks out in such a manner is only doing it with ulterior motives and for personal enrichment. It also allows those of us concerned with the sometimes dubious machinations of Washington –and frustrated with the bread and circuses contingent of our society who don’t seem to care enough to know how their lives are being affected– to identify with a concerned citizen that simply wanted to get the word out.

Rich Weinstein is the man leaning out the window in the movie Network, repeating the Paddy Chayefsky line: “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore!” The difference, of course is that Mr. Weinstein didn’t just engage in this time-honored, relatively inactive, and largely symbolic art of complaining –that seems indigenous to Americans– Mr. Weinstein actually did something about it.

What he did, some have speculated –by providing these “American Stupidity”, Jonathon Gruber videos– may end up doing more than providing other American citizens greater ability to make an informed choice on this specific issue, but it may affect the decisions that Senators, and Congressman, make on the hill. It could also, others have speculated, inform future decisions made by the Supreme Court judges, on the future of Obamacare. It’s also possible that these videos end up amounting to nothing more than filler for certain 24-7 news broadcasts, and radio talk-shows, that have a constant need to fill their news cycles. In the greater sense, as it applies to his desire for fame, Weinstein doesn’t appear to care one way or another.

What should bother Weinstein, and all anonymous researchers performing countless hours of research for the purpose of informing whatever portion of the public that reads their articles, is the general reaction to Rich Weinstein and other citizen journalists. Rich Weinstein is mocked, in some quarters, for being “mad” –a characterization often given, by media types, to any that speak out, or vote against, Democrats. He is depicted as angry, in the manner Travis Bickell (a character from the movie Taxi Driver) was angry; he is angry the angry the way William Foster (Falling Down) was angry, with a vigor that they suggest can only be autobiographical, but his anger could probably best be defined (by the elitist members of the establishment media) in the symbolic and directionless anger expressed by the Howard Beale in the movie Network shouting out his window to simply let out a little bit of steam. What should also bother Richard Weinstein is that the media knows nothing about Rich Weinstein, any more than they know anything about the rest of us, that they throw under the “cuckoo” umbrella as a fallback explanation for a common, concerned citizen suggesting that a Democrat could be wrong, and acting in a deceptive manner, with regards to a specific issue.

Those of us who engage in a “Weinstein” number of hours researching stories, trying to do whatever we can to inform those people that they read our articles, or those of us that fall under the “cuckoo” umbrella, would like to send out a big (expletive) thank you for your efforts Mr. Rich Weinstein, and before you slip back under the cloak of anonymity –that you prefer– let me stick my head out the window for one second and shout “I am Rich Weinstein!”

A Personal St. Vincent

Everyone has had an experience with a Vincent McKenna (played by Bill Murray), a St. Vincent, and very few of them involve any form of redemption. St. Vincents are St. Vincents as a result of the demons that chase them into being the people they are, and those demons are, often, so powerful that they cannot be thwarted.

st-vincent-movie-reviewsAnyone that has read my personal experiences with Ellis Reddick, knows that I’ve had my own experience with a St. Vincent, and that I’ve been affected by his sociopathic tendencies in a subtle manner that I may never entirely shake. Ellis Reddicks, and St. Vincents, are considered ideal characters for horror movies and coming-of-age style redemptive movies. They are often nice people (in the coming-of-age movies) that require a viewing from a non-traditional lens, and it’s in that scope that they often find the redemption that no one ever afforded them before. Having said all that, St. Vincent is a really good movie for its honesty, and it’s all too realistic (for some of us) portrayal of a demon-ridden, lout that tries to take advantage of everyone around him, but as anyone that has watched a movie made in this century (the 21st century) knows, he’s not going to be such a bad guy at the end of this production, and in the version of reality depicted in this particular movie no one really is.

The demons that chased Ellis Reddick are the same that presumably drove Vincent throughout his life, except for the alcohol and the stripper. The demeanor, the overall outlook, and the need for vices are all the same. Vincent McKenna is an alcoholic that frequents the track, and spends some of his day and most of his nights with a stripper in a seemingly asexual relationship. He tries to take advantage of everyone around him, including a banker, and a recently divorced single mother to fund his loutish behavior. With the banker, Vincent finds out that the money he’s received thus far from the bank, as a result of a reverse mortgage, has been completely tapped. The banker tries to explain the process of a reverse mortgage, and the idea that as far as the process is concerned, the bank can no longer afford to finance Vincent McKenna’s lifestyle. Anyone that understands this process, understands what the banker is saying, but Vincent (and thus the audience) believes that the banker could find a way to continue to fund Vincent’s lifestyle, and the fact that he doesn’t makes the banker a tool. The banker then becomes, in a limited manner that only characterizes Vincent’s current plight further, a bad guy. There is some struggle at this point, however, in totally believing that the banker is a bad guy. He looks at Vincent with confusion in a manner that suggests that his hands are tied, but the sympathy for the main character cannot be shaken. There is no struggle with the story of Vincent taking advantage of the single mother’s situation however. That is more blatant and –in an odd way that makes the audience uncomfortable– kind of funny.

The John Nolte, November 14, 1014 review for Breitbart.com, suggests that the movie, St. Vincent, is basically trope-less, or as he describes it, “It isn’t a tropey-trope.” I’m guessing that Nolte is stating that this movie isn’t so loaded with tropes that it’s totally derivative, and thus unwatchable. If this is what he’s saying, he’s right, but it’s still loaded with so many tropes that any serious review would probably have to mention the word to be taken seriously, even when they are attempting to dismiss the adjective. The primary reason to watch this movie, as with any movie Bill Murray is involved in is Bill Murray.

Bill Murray pulls his role off with the inexplicable, characteristic ease he pulls off every role. As Steve Martin once said of Bill Murray: “It can’t be that easy for him. It just can’t!” Inherent in Martin’s consternation is the consternation that Hollywood, the critics’, and most Americans display with their inability to understand why he is popular, and why they love him too. The consternation also suggests that there has to be some underlying philosophy, or effort to it all, that no one can see. If it were any other actor, most people would accuse Bill Murray of sleepwalking through most of the movies he’s done. He doesn’t appear to care about all that, and we love him for it. I love him for it. It may have something to do with what Bill Murray said, “I knew from the moment I finished reading the script for Ghostbusters that we would all be able to be late for the rest of our lives.” It may have something to do with, as Truman Capote once said, “All an author needs is one truly great book.” It may have been his years on Saturday Night Live, the movies What about Bob? or Groundhog Day, or the stories of “citizen” Bill Murray that have made their way into the zeitgeist, but one gets the feeling that if St. Vincent were his first movie, we would all love his performance without knowing why.

If it’s true, as political philosopher Hannah Arendt says that “To think critically is always to be hostile,” then the reader could regard this review as hostile. Most critical thinkers prefer to think of a critical review as an honest review. Some critical thinkers rip apart commercials and cartoons. They may enjoy these vehicles, but they can’t shut that critical portion of their brain off, no matter how much they enjoy the presentation before them. Some may view critical thinking as negative thinking, or cynical thinking, and some may take critical thinking a step too far. The latter tend to think that the audience of that criticism can’t help but think that they are striving for the cachet that critical thinking can gain a person.

Having said all that, Theodore Melfi’s directorial debut of his screenplay is very good. The primary reason for this, as I’ve stated, is that Melfi and Murray combined to characterize this Vincent McKenna character in a manner that recalled the Vincent McKennas I’ve known throughout my life. That alone, in my opinion, makes the movie worthwhile. As the movie moves through this methodical characterization, we only love to hate Vincent McKenna more. Prior to the redemptive phase of the movie, the trope that we all have to suspect in a modern well-rounded movie, I was reminded of all of the St. Vincents I’ve known, as I worked my way through the confusing aspects of youth –looking for a hero to imitate or emulate– I found them all falling so far short that the St. Vincent redemption eventuality seemed both inevitable and incorrect to my experience with this type of person.

Other than the fact that this curmudgeon, this Vincent McKenna, doesn’t have a tropey-trope-like, Scrooge-style redemption at the end, but all the surrounding characters do, I would point out that just about everything else in this movie has been done, ad nauseum, before. The most pervasive trope in this movie, and that which seems so pervasive in modern cinema, is that “there are no good guys, there are no bad guys. There’s only you and me babe, and we just can’t agree”. And if there are bad guys, they may be bad guys to traditional thinkers, but once viewed through a non-traditional lens, they can be something more, something better. The lens of this movie is, of course, provided by a child, the neighbor’s son, named Oliver. Another “bad guy” Oliver’s bully becomes a good guy after a more traditionally-minded style of beating. The audience’s focus then shifts to the villainous divorced Dad of Oliver. As the movie plays out, the audience realize he’s not such a bad guy after all either.

The St. Vincent’s I’ve known were not Vietnam Veterans, and they weren’t retirees that had already lived a life when I knew them. When I knew them, they were fully immersed in the depths of their failure, so it may be unfair to equate St. Vincent with the curmudgeons and louts I’ve known throughout my life, but (again to the credit of the movie) they reminded me so much of some of the awful characters that have littered my life that I couldn’t help but feel cheated by the happy, redemptive ending. When it involves Bull Murray though, it’s impossible to leave angry.