Sunday, May 4, 2014

Last Call For The Webs We Weave

Got a chance to see Amazing Spider-Man 2 this afternoon, and I have to say that it's definitely better than the first Andrew Garfield outing as Peter Parker.

Having said that, it's still nowhere near as good as 2004's Spider-Man 2 with Tobey Maguire as the web-slinger and Alfred Molina as his most awesome nemesis, Doc Ock.  It's a lot to live up to, but ASM2 does give it a shot (and it's still better than 2007's Spider-Man 3 to boot.)

Garfield reprises his role as Peter Parker, still somehow dating Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone, reprising her role) and living with his Aunt May (still the excellent Sally Field).  Graduating with Gwen, she's trying to get into Oxford, he's trying to juggle all this with his responsibilities as Spider-Man, defending New York City from bad guys big and small.  Things are going pretty well for Spidey, less well for Peter, but he's managing his promise to keep Gwen safe at the cost of his relationship with her.

All that goes to hell when an old friend, Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan), shows up back in Peter's life, wanting to know why his father Norman (Chris Cooper), the head of tech giant Oscorp Industries, was so interested in Peter's dad and the research he was working on.  Peter too has a lot of questions concerning his missing parents and what kind of research his father was doing for Oscorp at the time. Each of the two digging into their respective father's past eventually leads to a collision.

That collision plays out in the life of Max Dillion (Jamie Foxx), a nerdy Oscorp electrical engineer and Spidey fanboy who ends up in a freak accident involving, of all things, electric eel powered bio-batteries, turning him into the lightning-powered villain Electro.  A big theme in any Spider-man story is the web-slinger taking on bad guys way above his weight class, and Electro is no exception. When Harry starts to figure out that his old buddy Peter may be the man behind Spidey's mask and that he may be the key to curing the genetic disease that affected both father and son, he eventually takes matters into his own hands as the Green Goblin, giving Spidey seemingly well more than he can handle.

If "With great power comes great responsibility" was the theme of the first ASM, the sequel is "With great decisions come great consequences", a far more applicable lesson to the rest of us not able to swing from webs and crawl up walls.  It seems like everyone in the film has made some sort of momentous choice, and have to now live with the consequences of that choice, both good and bad. Seeing all this play out on the screen does get a little stale in the movie's 2:21 running time, but the action and special effects (particularly with Foxx's Electro) help move the film along to a conclusion that Spider-Man fans should expect, knowing Gwen Stacy's role in Spidey's universe.

Not as good as last month's Captain America: the Winter Soldier, but still a good matinee comic book popcorn flick.  Your next Sony Marvel flick:  X-Men: Days of Future Past in three weeks (stick around for the ASM2 end credits stinger for more on that one!)

Make Mine Marvel, as they say...

Dear America

"As a white male college freshman at Princeton, your assumption that my race or gender provides me with any advantages is the racist and misandrist proof that I'm really at a massive disadvantage compared to women and minorities.  Also I'm Jewish, so that must mean you're anti-Semitic as well.  But I don't apologize for being a rich white Jewish kid because I need that leg up in order to balance out how awful it is being a white man on a college campus in 2014, so the rest of you need to get over your jealousy already and maybe someday you'll be as awesome as I am.  YOLO, you sad bitches. YOLO."

-- Tal Fortgang, TIME Magazine

Bonus Verbatim Stupid:

Behind every success, large or small, there is a story, and it isn’t always told by sex or skin color. My appearance certainly doesn’t tell the whole story, and to assume that it does and that I should apologize for it is insulting. While I haven’t done everything for myself up to this point in my life, someone sacrificed themselves so that I can lead a better life. But that is a legacy I am proud of.

I have checked my privilege. And I apologize for nothing.
I got mine.  Screw the rest of you.  Right, Tal?

Everyone's A Constitutional Law Expert These Days

Take WaPo columnist George Will for instance.  He's boldly predicting Obamacare is doomed as doomed can be and that it will be struck down any day now over the "origination clause" in the Constitution that states a bill must originate in the House:

In October 2009, the House passed a bill that would have modified a tax credit for members of the armed forces and some other federal employees who were first-time home buyers — a bill that had nothing to do with health care. Two months later the Senate “amended” this bill by obliterating it. The Senate renamed it and completely erased its contents, replacing them with the ACA’s contents.

Case law establishes that for a Senate action to qualify as a genuine “amendment” to a House-passed revenue bill, it must be “germane to the subject matter of the [House] bill.” The Senate’s shell game — gutting and replacing the House bill — created the ACA from scratch. The ACA obviously flunks the germaneness test, without which the House’s constitutional power of originating revenue bills would be nullified.

Case law establishes that the origination clause does not apply to two kinds of bills. One creates “a particular governmental program and . . . raises revenue to support only that program.” The second creates taxes that are “analogous to fines” in that they are designed to enforce compliance with a statute passed under one of the Constitution’s enumerated powers of Congress other than the taxing power. The ACA’s tax, which the Supreme Court repeatedly said is not an enforcement penalty, and hence is not analogous to a fine, fits neither exception to the origination clause.

The ACA’s defenders say its tax is somehow not quite a tax because it is not primarily for raising revenue but for encouraging certain behavior (buying insurance). But the origination clause, a judicially enforceable limit on the taxing power, would be effectively erased from the Constitution if any tax with any regulatory — behavior-changing — purpose or effect were exempt from the clause.

Will argues that the individual mandate being a tax violates this principle and that there's no way the ACA can survive the Supreme Court.  At least one challenge to the law on this was waived by the DC Circuit court back in March.  But the lower courts have ruled in favor of the ACA.

Senate rules don't trump the Constitution, obviously; the bottom line is what the Constitution means when it says the Senate has the power to "propose or concur with amendments" on House revenue bills "as on other bills." If the Senate's power to amend revenue bills is no different from its power to amend any other bill, where does the germaneness requirement for tax measures come from? Because you won't find it in the text of the Constitution.

The lower court disagreed with the foundation's reasoning, ruling against Sissel in June. It held that the Affordable Care Act didn't violate the origination clause because that provision applied only to measures whose purpose was to raise revenue. And even if the origination clause applied, the court held, the Affordable Care Act satisfied it because HR 3590 started in the House.

So the question is will the Supreme Court eventually kill the ACA on a technicality some five or six years after the law was passed?  Having already survived at least one Supreme Court challenge, I would have to think that the answer would be another 5-4 ruling in the ACA's favor.

But that's well down the road. 

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