Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Unknown Movie Review


Okay, so I’m a sucker for a movie set in Germany in which German is spoken, so I enjoyed Unknown for that reason.  I also enjoy Liam Neeson in pretty much anything.  Unknown is a mystery movie with hints of wanting to be an action movie.   Finding out what is Unknown at the end of the movie is not so difficult as you feel like you have seen this movie before (any of the bourne movies), but it is told in a compelling enough way that you are still drawn in and entertained.  There are the clichéd scenes where the villain gives a full reveal to the main character rather than just killing him, as well as the most ridiculous car chase scenes.  I hate car chase scenes.  There is nothing more predictable in a movie when you have a car chase scene in the middle of the movie.  You know the conclusion before it begins.  I guess a couple of exceptions would be those interestingly enough done by Christopher Nolan in Inception and Batman Dark Knight.  Anyway, Unknown is a movie starring Liam Neeson who suffers a head injury shortly after arriving in Germany with his wife for a Bio Chemistry summit.   After 4 days in a coma, Neeson awakes in a German hospital.  He has lost some of his memory, but knows his name, why he is in Germany and that he loves his wife.    But where is his wife.  Neeson leaves the hospital despite the doctors warning to return to the hotel he and his wife were to stay in.  He has no identification, so he has a hard time getting in.  Once he shows the hotel security his wife, they escort him over to her, but to his surprise, she doesn’t know who he is.   The remainder of the film is Neeson’s struggle to regain his memory.  As it unfolds, it is clear that things aren’t as simple as that.  Ultimately, upon gaining his memory, he is given a choice to remain who he was, or seek redemption through who he has become.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Contrasting the Failure of Bush and Obama: Right or Left?


I often summarize the Bush Presidency as an utter failure.  I blame George Bush for an even bigger failure, the current Obama administration.  When you compare George Bush and Barrack Obama, your gut reaction is to compare the policies of the right with those of the left.  You might also conclude that you can’t win either way.   I do agree that you cannot win with either Bush or Obama.  You will also not win in the 2012 election either re-electing Obama, or electing a Bushalike, Mitt Romney.  So where do you go if neither the right nor left seem to work.  The answer is the right.  If you merely follow the popular media, you would think that George Bush and Karl Rove are a couple of right wing purists.  This is done very intentionally.  The reality is that there is more in common between George Bush and Obama than a true right wing politician.  While the scope of failure for Bush is not as large as Obama’s, they type of failure is very similar.  What did George Bush do right that is from the right.  He cut taxes, including capital gains taxes.  But he couldn’t go all right.  He had to go a little left even in this.  He added refundable tax credits for those that don’t pay taxes.  For the average person, that means he did more redistribution.   He passed the Medicare prescription plan, which was the biggest increase in entitlements since the great society.  He increased the power of the department of education.   He increase deficit spending and he signed the first bailout.  Nothing much from the right in anything that Bush did really.   Now comes Obama.  He holds steady on Bush’s war plans and actually opens up another front.  He passes bigger bailouts and bigger entitlements and more and more unlegislated policies and mandates.  You can summarize Obama’s presidency as Supersize Bush.  Obama blames Bush for everything, and he might be right in that Obama is just following through with more gusto on the Bush plan.
But let’s be honest, Bush’s failure is not a failure of the right because little if anything at all was legislated that is a true right wing initiative.  If you can describe Obama’s policy as an adverb of Bush’s, and Obama is the most left wing President in history, then Bush is just a more moderate flavor of Obama and not a flavor of the right wing at all.   The greatest victory that can be scored from the Obama Presidency is that we will be able to directly point to the failure of left wing policy.  In this coming election, we need to look for the candidate with the most right wing fruit in their life, not the most right wing lip service.  Who has lived fiscally conservative and respected life and liberty, not who speaks about it, but passes government healthcare in their state, or offers special breaks to people that break the law.  All I am saying is give liberty a chance. 
If we had a real conservative candidate, they would call for cutting entitlements, not sustaining them or limiting their growth.  If we had a real conservative, they would be for reforming the entire tax code, not using the tax code to pick winners and losers.  If we had a real conservative, they wouldn’t be talking about different things the department of education or energy or commerce could do, they would be talking about what benefits would be gained by doing without those departments.  If we had a real conservative, they would never entertain the idea of using federal spending as a means of fixing a social ill.  If we had a real conservative with a  real conservative congress, I think it would be a while before we saw leftists again.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Netflix Abandons Qwikster Plan

In my effort to update this blog with all of the biggest Netflix news, I'm happy to announce that Netflix has come to their senses and abandoned plans of splitting the physical dvd and streaming business into two separate website.  Yes, they have learned that their business is built solely around people's ability to use a computer, navigate the internet, and order movies, and because of this, their customer base is capable of going to a single website to process both shipped dvds and streaming movies.  I want to tip my hat to Netflix for finally coming to terms with what makes them profitable.

Occupy Wall Street: A Protest in Ignorance.

The success of failure of the Occupy Wall Street movement hinges on the ignorance of those watching the over the top coverage of these limited protests.   It is billed as our version of the Arab spring that ushered in a new set of radicals to replace old despots across the middle east.   The problem with this comparison is that the radical is already in power.  The protestors are a façade.  It would be like Quadafi funding his own revolution against him if we are to believe their authenticity.   The truth is that these “protestors” are being organized and funded by leftist organizations, such as the Billionaire funded moveon.org.  In the same breath that these people speak out against capitalism as the reason for the world’s ills, they take in sustenance provided for them from a billionaire’s pocket book.  I would feel like such a lemming.   A true point of irony I find is that so many of these people are supposed to be college educated intellectuals, you know, the people that go to school so they will know how to run your life.   All I have to do is listen to a single interview from one of these protestors and I can figure out why our education system is broken. 
Another aspect of difference between these protestors and the arab spring radicals is that there is no way they would support the removal of Obama from office.  Think about it, a “grassroots” protest against the system, but the current leader of the system is exempt from their criticism.  I have never ever heard of such a thing.  If this were real, it wouldn’t matter who was in office.  These “discontents” would speak out against the President of any party.   And as a sure sign of the alignment between Obama and the occupiers is that he has stated that they are just good intentioned folks with legit anxieties about our financial institutions.  Contrast this with his views on the tea partiers.  Tea party folk are mostly employed middle class people that are tired of being squeezed by taxes, squeezed by growing deficits, and squeezed by increasing regulation.  They are people that are just trying to live the American dream without the government getting in the way.  Obama and his administration view these folks as domestic terrorists and racists.   The occupiers close down bridges, threaten to hack wall street, and get arrested for other unrest.  Their numbers are in the mere hundreds at locations outside of Wall Street.  The Tea party have rallies in the thousands with no unrest.  The occupiers call out a “jew” conspiracy of bankers.  Andrew Breitbart has offered a reward of 100k dollars to anyone providing evidence of racism at the Obamacare Pelosi walk, a reward that has gone uncollected.   
You must suspend all sense of rationality to believe in the authenticity of the occupy movement.  Really, the only occupier movement we need to be concerned about is the one taking place in the White House.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Dune: Extended Edition Movie Review

I've seen David Lynch's Dune many times.  Twenty years ago, I remember seeing the super long extended version of Dune on the Sci-fi channel.  I always wondered why the original release wasn't the longer version since it had more in it.  Flash forward 20 years to this week, and I rented the extended version.  It made me question where my head was when I was 15, because this extended version is horrible.  Maybe I wasn't such a movie making critic and could look past the horrible editing and sound.  David Lynch was very smart to have his name removed from the extended version.  The only parts that play out with any degree of quality are the scenes untouched by Alan Smithee.  And when I say untouched, I mean sound too.  There is so much to be said for proper film making, from editing and sound to acting and score.  As much as a fan of Dune as I am, I have to say in my more seasoned age, I hope to never see this version again.  For those of you who don't know Dune, aside from a pile of sand, it is the greatest sci-fi novel ever written.  It is the sci-fi equivalent to the Lord of the Rings.  Dune tells the galactic story of politics and intrigue in a very distant future (approximately 20,000 years if you piece it together from the prequel novels).  At the center of the story is young Paul Atreides, who could be a prescient super being created through 90 generations of breeding, who loses his father and fiefdom to his sworn enemies, the Harkonnens.  He befriends the local inhabitants of the planet Arrakis, the fremen, and together, they work to defeat the Emperor of the known universe and place themselves and their desert planet as the center of the Universe.  The fremen culture as created by Frank Herbert is one of the most interesting parts of the novels, which brings me back to the movie.  The movie does a horrible part under developing these fierce warriors that take over all power.   Dune is a great novel and its depth of character, description, and intrigue ruined me for most other novels.  I give the book 12 thumbs up, and the original movie 2 thumbs up, and the extended version of the movie 12 thumbs down.

Monday, October 3, 2011

President Obama: The New Watchmen Vigilante


No, this isn’t another George Lucas video game inspired by Star Wars.  Unfortunately, this is about yet another power grab by the executive branch under the Obama administration.  President Obama began, without legislative approval, to grant the executive additional powers through the open and sanctioned non enforcement of laws, such as the defense of marriage act and various immigration laws.  He has gone against the precedent he railed about during his campaign, regarding congressional approval for military action when the country is not facing an imminent threat.  Not to mention the overly aggressive use of the umbrella of congressional approval to use various regulatory agencies to circumvent congress in enacting tougher restrictions, as seen through the EPA.  Those acts of extending power are scary enough, but now the President has taken it upon himself to become the judge, jury and executioner of an American Citizen.  How did he do it.
You see, if you are going to do something bad and try to get by with it, you want people to get used to the idea first.   I believe he took his inspiration from “the Watchmen” movie.  In the Watchmen, you have a group of just regular folks that get sick of the crime, so they decide to take matters into their own hands, kind of like batman.  Because they are targeting what society views as the slime of the earth, they are able to get by with their blatant disregard for due process.    Instead of arresting people and offering lawyers, they can beat or even kill suspects.  In the court of public opinion, they had it coming to them.  The problem is that with this implied power, came abuse.  It was an ends justifies the means method of justice whereas our country is based on a means justifies the ends standard of law.  As you saw in the Watchmen, the Comedian took full advantage of his implied mandate.  If it meant innocent people were harmed, who cared.  He delivered results.   The people became angry and the watchmen were eventually outlawed, but only after almost 60 years of being above the law. 
So now Obama, sitting in the White House after having just screened this movie, thought he could do the same and hopefully sway an election.  He dawns his costume alter-ego, the agitator, and got down to work.   Who could he kill first with his new power, just to see if the people would flinch.  Then it came to him, why not kill an well-known terrorist, that happens to be an American Citizen.   Using the technology at his disposal, he launches a drone strike and kills the Citizen in Yemen.   Everyone cheers.  On the surface, it is just another victory for the President that got the number one enemy just months earlier.   
My own knee jerk reaction was to be excited.  If fighting the war on terror alone was the ends to justify all means, then I would say way to go Obama.  But, ours is a country of liberty and freedom, from each other, and our government.  Indeed, our governments true function is to secure those liberties.  While we may want to conduct a war on terror, it cannot come at the cost of our liberties, such as intrusive airport screenings, or domestic surveillance. 
Before I became too knee jerk in my reaction to criticize the President, I had to take a good amount of time and digest what just happened.  I had to remove the individual holding the office and think about whether I would want anyone in that office to have such power.   I set aside my disgust with the blatant hypocrisy demonstrated by Obama in his elimination of due process for a citizen while advocating for it for non-citizens and I came to my conclusion.
I believe that Obama’s decision to unilaterally kill a US citizen is gross abuse of power and must be stopped.  Such an offense my even rise to a high crime and misdemeanor.  Today, the target is a despicable terrorist linked to thousands of deaths, but who will be his ‘terrorist” be tomorrow.  Early in his administration, he put out a memo that said returning vets are a great security to the US.  If he killed one person without due process, why not kill more.  As a citizen, we are innocent until proven guilty.  We have a right to our day in court and to face our accuser.   We have the right to legal counsel and we have the right against cruel and unusual punishment.  What did this terrorist do.  Did he physically, kill all of the people or did he incite people to do it.   Really, he can only be said he was suspected of being a terrorist.    Do you realize how grave of an act this is.  One man, President Obama, has set aside our entire judicial system and the rights granted under the constitution to kill a person he felt was a threat.  While I do not mourn the terrorist death, I do mourn the death  blow to liberty that was delivered through this decision. 
In the name of transparency, the Obama administration drafted a memo stating their legal justification for the strike.  They consulted one another and drafted this memo, but the memo has been classified and will not be released.  Think about that.  Imagine you’re at your next tea party event and you get clipped by a drone.  Your family asks on what authority was this done and all you get was a “that’s classified” response from the administration, and the sound of crickets from the media.  Is this the path you want your country to go down for the death of one terrorist, we all now have targets on our back.