Monday, October 15, 2012

Last Call

Frank Rich takes to New York Magazine to let us know that as the Boomers (like Frank Rich) fully join the ranks of the "keep your government hand of my Medicare/Medicaid!" nation with an overwhelming bloc of voting power, the rest of America is pretty much screwed down the road.

Such is the power of denial that we simply refuse to concede that, by the metric of intractability, at least, conservatives are the cockroaches of the American body politic, poised to outlast us all. And so, after Obama’s victory in 2008, the Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg spoke for sentimental liberal triumphalists everywhere when he concluded that America is now “in a progressive period” and that “the conservative movement brought about by the Gingrich revolution has been crushed.” That progressive period lasted all of a year, giving way to the 2009 gubernatorial victories of the conservatives Bob McDonnell (in the purple state of Virginia) and Chris Christie (in blue New Jersey), as well as that summer’s raucous Obamacare protests. Few Democrats had imagined that the new African-American president would be besieged so quickly by a conservative populist movement whose adherents dressed in 1776 drag and worshipped the frothing-at-the-blackboard Glenn Beck. Or that such a movement would administer a “shellacking” in the midterms.

Should Romney lead another shellacking of the Democrats this year, some liberals may squeeze out a modicum of solace by viewing it as the lesser of two evils: The man from Bain is no radical but a product of the traditional Republican conservative Establishment bankrolled by Wall Street. We are already being sold that story line by “centrist” GOP grandees on the Sunday talk shows and mainstream op-ed pages who repeatedly tell us that Romney is only pretending to be a hard-line ideologue to temporarily placate his party’s unruly base and that the “real” Romney is the center-right pragmatist who suddenly materialized out of nowhere at the first debate.

Should Romney lose in November, a far happier liberal scenario can be entertained: For all their qualms about stimulus spending and Obamacare, perhaps voters still prefer the party of modest government activism to the party of no government. Polls provide support for this view. In the latest Pew survey, the GOP as a whole is almost as unpopular as the tea party: Only 27 percent of Americans describe themselves as Republican (as opposed to 31 percent Democratic and 36 percent Independent).

One can almost write the obituaries for the right that would appear after a Romney defeat right now. Even the millions spent by Karl Rove’s sugar daddies in the post–Citizens United era had failed to sell a far-right GOP to American voters. Once again the republic has been saved from the crazies by good old bipartisan centrist common sense.

Dream on.

Sadly, he's mostly right.  If Romney wins, we get a Tea Party nation.  If Romney loses, the backlash against President Obama will make 2010 look like, well, a child's tea party.  Either America gets fed up with the know-nothing stupidity of the right, or good people will simply give up and stop fighting, eager to simply protect what they have left and slink away into the twilight of giving a damn.

Since the former has basically never happened in American history, Rich has a point.  At some point we will have a Republican president again.  When that happens, it's pretty much over for America. The GOP is lost to reason.  If it gets in power again -- when, rather -- on that day we'll learn just how much America has left in it.

My guess is after 2012, the country will just be too ravaged to rally.  Such begins the decline.

Carrie Remake Emphasizes Modern Approach

There is a remake of Carrie underway, the classic movie originally starring Sissy Spacek and based on the first novel by Stephen King.  In an article on Wired, there is great emphasis on how the story unfolds and how it has been modernized so that young viewers will get the references.  The original is nearly forty years old now, and a bit dated.

I suppose my problem isn't the dated references, that is just window dressing on an amazing story.  My problem is the retelling skips at least two things that made Carrie different.  Her utter isolation, and Carrie herself.  Even King says in his memoir On Writing that he didn't like Carrie White.  He wanted to, he tried to, and in the end he would have been one of the kids throwing tampons and yelling at the big sluggish beast of a girl who had never known a touch of good fortune.  On Writing actually introduces you to the girl who started the idea of the perpetually bullied girl, an interesting story to read.

This let Carrie be an entirely different character.  It's a big creepy that King was able to get into the mind of a teenage girl, but his distaste colored his portrayal so that the reader didn't really like her either.  In that particular setting, that one in a million story that doesn't rely on liking your protagonist, it made a diamond out of the rough.  We wanted to slap Carrie, her mother grossed us out, and we knew it was wrong.  That was the beauty of the story.  That was the point.  We had to confront our inner bullies while we watched Carrie deal with her classmates.  The gorgeous girl playing Carrie tells me this will be lost in the gore and the horror.

If I had to tip my hat to one thing, it would be casting Julianne Moore as Carrie's insane mother, Margaret White.  Moore has the chops to scare us, and the intelligence to see the many layers of the character.  Like anyone, no character is all good or all evil.  Moore can make her scary and keep her human.  It was her simple and twisted humanity that made her so scary to begin with.

Lethal Force Not Necessarily Necessary

A University of South Alabama campus police officer who fatally shot a naked student was carrying pepper spray and a baton at the time, the school said Friday.
University spokesman Keith Ayers said Officer Trevis Austin, a four-year employee in his first police job, was armed with all three weapons when he walked outside the police station with his gun drawn to confront Gil Collar. The 18-year-old college freshman was naked when he banged on police department windows in the pre-dawn hours last Saturday.
It's unclear why Austin went for his gun first, but the sheriff has said the decision was proper.
Authorities said Collar, a 5-foot-7, 140-pound high school wrestler in his first semester of college, was on LSD when he moved aggressively toward the officer in an athletic stance, prompting the shooting. But surveillance video shows the student never tried to grab the officer's weapon or got within 4 or 5 feet of Austin.
A copy of the university's weapons policy, released to The Associated Press in response to an open records request, shows an officer's actions in cases where force is necessary should be based on how much a suspect resists. Deadly force is justified only when a suspect has the intent, ability and opportunity to kill or injure someone else, the policy states.
The policy says that an officer's attempt to control a situation "should match (the) level of resistance then move up or down as resistance changes." But Ayers declined comment on how the guidelines are interpreted when an officer is confronted by someone who doesn't have a weapon, yet could present a threat.
"The university is withholding further comment at this time as the district attorney and sheriff's office have time to conduct a thorough external review," he said.
An attorney for Collar's family, former Alabama Lt. Gov. Jere Beasley, said the university's policy "totally gives support to our position" that the shooting wasn't justified.
"There is no question the required force here was much less than shooting somebody," he said. "He could not say his life was in jeopardy or he was in fear of bodily harm."

The full article expands more on the circumstances.  A few things bother me, and this excerpt catches it.  First, the sheriff calls it a proper shooting when the facts aren't all in yet.  That tells me he is biased and determined to either sweep this under the rug, protect his officer or both.

The policy says his actions should match the level of resistance.  Is an aggressive stance asking to be shot?  I don't think so.  The kid may have been nuts, he may have needed help, we'll never know.  He was killed before getting a chance to be checked out.

The victim was small.  Small enough that most law enforcement officers could have physically restrained him if necessary.  This was not a hulk looking for something to smash.  140 pounds is not generally a big enough person to maim or kill, the level of threat that would seem logical for a lethal response.

PCP is scary stuff.  The cop didn't know that at the time.  He stepped out and shot a young man based on his banging on windows and looking aggressive.  That doesn't cut it for me, and I doubt his family is impressed either.

He was right to go investigate.  He should have had someone accompany him, it's the best way to control a situation without killing someone.  He should have used a nonlethal measure before resorting to killing someone.  Nothing else makes sense, at least to me.

Suspicious? Nah.

A man was found dead in a car, riddled with bullets, and was there for hours before foot patrol discovered him.  He was slumped over the wheel, the car was still running and the windshield wipers still moving long after the rain had moved on.

Gunshots were heard but not reported, which could have led to an earlier discovery.  Police comment that the area has become numb to violence and reports of gunfire are rare.

The man has not been identified, but I expect more to come out when the details are analyzed.  If it wasn't a robbery, it sure looks like a hit to me.

I... Want... My BOOMSTICK!

I am one of the not-enthused fans mentioned below.  I do not like remakes, I do not like reboots, I think it's time to raise the bar for creativity in cinema.  The original Evil Dead movies were a brilliant combination of humor and B-movie horror.

It is my understanding that the new Evil Dead will be far scarier and without the humor.  Okay, but why pull on the name of a fabulous and much loved classic?  Why not just make a new movie that gives a nod to a classic?  I love Bruce Campbell and always have.  He won me over with "This... is... my BOOMSTICK!" and has been one of my favorite people ever since.

NEW YORK – Bruce Campbell, the original Ash from The Evil Dead, knows some fans aren’t excited about the 1981 film’s forthcoming reboot. He’s read all about the backlash, but he would like everyone to know they have nothing to worry about.
“We did not screw you over on this movie,” Campbell told the crowd at New York Comic Con, which greeted him with a Springsteen-eque chant of “Bruuuuuuuuce.”
Campbell, who is a producer on the film but not appearing in it, said it was time to do a remake of the original instead of another sequel because, well, the original “Ash” is a little past his prime.
“We realized maybe it’s just too late to strap on the chainsaw one more time.” Campbell said Saturday. “It’s time to give these people what they want.”
“That just scared the shit out of me,” said Jane Levy (Suburgatory), who plays Evil Dead’s female protagonist Mia, after the clip finished.

Perhaps they can salvage a few lines from the movie.  Based on what I see, "Honey, you got real ugly" would be appropriate.

Walla Walla Bing Bang

Well, if Mark Sanford's "throwing spears" comment wasn't bad enough, now we have this story out of New Jersey about a businessmen who has put up a rather offensive display portraying the President as a "witch doctor".

A New Jersey business owner and self-described “political independent” has drawn criticism after setting up a display that includes a picture depicting President Barack Obama as a “witch doctor.”

“Call it what you want, I’m not taking it down,” Bill Skuby told WABC-TV regarding the display, which also has Obama’s picture on a tombstone above the words, “I told you I was sick,” an apparent reference to the Affordable Care Act.

Nice. Oh, this guy is a champ, by the way.

“A lot of people feel the way I feel, but are just afraid to say it,” he told the newspaper. “It always comes down to the race card.”

Skuby also told the newspaper he doesn’t believe he is a racist, on account of his son marrying a woman with a biracial child and raising it as part of their family.

I can't be a racist, because being white, I say I'm not racist.  So we've got this prick being a racist and then assuming white privilege to deny his racism.  He's the victim here, you see.  All of you are so mean and he of course is sorry all of you people are so sensitive.  Geez.  It's just a Halloween display.

I've got a display I'd like to put up on November 7th in response.  Just sayin'.

Now It's Time To Leave The Capsule If You Dare

Ground Control to Felix Baumgartner:  You've really made the grade!

The Austrian daredevil, in fact, rose to the edge of space Sunday -- 128,100 feet, or 24 miles, above the Earth -- before plunging faster than the speed of sound.

Minutes later, he landed in southeastern New Mexico and, dropping to his knees, pumped his fists to the sky.

"He made it -- tears of joy from Mission Control," his support team said.

Dubbed "Fearless Felix," the helicopter pilot and former soldier had parachuted from such landmarks as the Petronas Towers in Malaysia and the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro. And he'd been preparing for his latest feat for five years -- physically, mentally and logistically.

By most accounts, all the hard work paid off. According to preliminary findings cited by Brian Utley, an official observer monitoring the mission, the 43-year-old Baumgartner flew higher than anyone ever in a helium hot air balloon and broke the record for the highest jump.

Still, even Baumgartner seemed taken aback when Utley detailed how fast he had fallen at one point -- 833.9 mph, or Mach 1.24, smashing his goal to break the sound barrier.

And yes.  The guy floated up in a manned balloon capsule.  He depressurized it, opened up the door, and stepped out into space.  I watched this live, along with millions of others worldwide, and it was utterly incredible.

Give it a watch.


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