October 13th, 2011

Politics, October 2011

1. Re: "Class Warfare". The first time this term started being flung around recently was back during the Bush2 administration, at which time I said,
"Right. When the rich start trying to warn people off of 'class warfare', what that means is that the war's already begun, and that this time it's the rich making war on the middle class, not the poor on the rich."

It's truer now than it ever was. Those with power and wealth have evidently decided that America doesn't need a middle class, and have stepped up programs that have the effect of doing away with family-supporting jobs, home ownership, reasonable access to medical care, and retirement security of any kind (not just talking about Social Security, here--erosion of pension benefits, where they even exist, in private industry has been slow but steady--). It's not so much that this is a coherent plan, it's just that this is a side effect of the super-rich being hell-bent on heading off anything that they see as a risk to their enormous fortunes, however small. This is ultimately short-sighted, since the middle class drives the US economy. However, I'm afraid that international corporations and financiers only really care about the US as a relatively secure base of operations, while the real money will be made in economies with more room to grow, like China and India.

Why are people like the Koch Brothers, worth an estimated forty BILLION dollars each, spending their money in order to squash the aspirations of people who make maybe forty thousand a year? Partly, I think, it's about power--just because they can--but also, plain greed. I recall a southern saying about a man who was "so stingy, he would chase a mouse to hell for a pumpkinseed." I think that's part of what's going on here, too. The greed is so great they can't bear to part with any of their hoard to pay mere taxes, so they are willing to wreck the nation and the lives of anyone less rich than themselves to keep their pelf.

The brazenness of it is shocking. The Wall Street bankers and others now smarting under deserved criticism from protesters, have had the gall, in the wake of the worst financial meltdown since the Great Drepression, to argue that no new regulation is needed. In other words, having nearly wrecked the economy and ruining millions while filling their own pockets, they demand to be allowed the license to do it again in the future, and have commanded their tame running dogs in the Republican party to make it so.

As you may gather, I support the "Occupy Wall Street" protests, and I hope that more will be done to discomfort the presently comfortable.

2. The Rise of Newspeak: I've been ironically amused by the gaffes thrown out by the Republican debaters, in particular Bachmann and Perry. What they seem to be doing is "duckspeak," as defined by George Orwell: Duckspeak is a Newspeak term meaning literally to quack like a duck or to speak without thinking. Duckspeak can be either good or "ungood" (bad), depending on who is speaking, and whether what they are saying is in following with the ideals of Big Brother. To speak rubbish and lies may be ungood, but to speak rubbish and lies for the good of "The Party" may be good. (Wikipedia). When Perry, for example, states the absolute lie that the Federal government has had no involvement with border control (what, no Customs and Immigration, no Border Patrol, no National Guard) he is blurting out what he reflexively assumes the faithful want to hear, with no consideration as to whether it is factual or not. While this may play well at Tea Party rallies, it has so far done less well in more open forums. Fortunately, there are still "Oldspeakers" in the press to point these things out.

3. Anwar al-Awlaki. Civil libertarians have been questioning the appropriateness of the drone-strike killing of al-Awlaki, who was born in the United States and apparently possessed both U.S. and Yemeni citizenship.
While I consider myself a civil libertarian as well, I would like to suggest to my fellows that, in this case, they sit down and shut up. If Al-Awlaki was a U.S. citizen, then he was also a traitor if anyone ever was, advocating war against the United States, giving aid and comfort to its enemies, and being involved in taking up arms against the USA and its people.

It's all very well to say that terrorists should be tried. I agree with that, where practicable. But I also think that Al-Awlaki was no less an enemy and a danger than Osama Bin Laden, and I see no reason why we allow these foes to continue their careers of violence just because we can't take them alive. They knew the job was dangerous when they took it.

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Captain America: The First Avenger

After the glut of summer action films, we finally caught up to Marvel Studios' "Captain America: The First Avenger" at the budget cinemas. We liked it. As with "Iron Man," the film stayed very close to the comics origin of the character, and, since it happened during World War II, didn't need to be updated like Iron Man's did (from Vietnam to Afghanistan).

There were some very impressive effects in the movie, but, in my opinion, the best one was the subtly integrated and flawless CGI that turned strapping Chris Evans into a 90-pound weakling for the first part of the film. It really is amazing when you think about it, but it looks perfectly natural.

Evans gives a very nice and low-key performance as the Brooklyn boy whose bound and determined to get into the war against Hitler despite his feeble physique. He's well supported by Stanley Tucci as Dr. Erskine, the inventor of the super-soldier formula, and Hayley Atwell as Agent Carter, the British representative on the Allies Strategic Science Reserve.

The bad guys are lead by Hugo Weaving as Johann Schmidt, a.k.a. "The Red Skull," who, in this version, instead of being an Abwher agent, heads Hydra, a scientific satrapy within the Third Reich which combines aspects of the S.S. and a technically advanced Organization Todt.

"Steve Rogers'" journey from being a 4-F recruit reject to heading a special unit tasked with destroying the Hydra operations, and to direct and deadly conflict with the Red Skull, is the plot of the movie, and works out well in the context. The movie has a high "cool stuff" factor, ranging from tricked-out motorcycles, giant German bombers, and the Skull's supercharged automobile, which looks like an updated and militarized version of the one used in "League of Extraordinary Gentlemen."

Cool also are the many Marvel references, ranging from the introductory shot of Arnim Zola (Toby Jones) to the fact that "Dum-Dum Dugan", "Gabe Jones," and "Percy Pinkerton" of Marvel's "Howling Commandos" are among the prisoners Cap frees from a Hydra compound, although they aren't named as such in the script. (Given that, I was surprised that Tommy Lee Jones' crusty Colonel Phillips wasn't named Sam Sawyer, after the Commandos C.O. in the comics--.)

The movie has a nice balance of action, adventure, and character development, with some genuine suspense and pathos thrown in. One of the best of the Marvel franchise in my opinion.

And I'm still surprised at the number of people who don't stay through the credits--you'd think word would have gotten around. This time, the "Easter Egg" was a teaser trailer for next summer's "The Avengers" movie. Looks good!

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