Friday, April 1, 2016

Superman vs Batman vs the Writers

Face it, you have to see Batman vs Superman, even if it is not a great movie, just because Batman and Superman are comic book legends who solved cases together for more than 50 years. They are the most iconic characters in the history of American comicdom.  I won't spoil the plot for you, but I will tell you that these superheroes are well acted by Ben Afleck and Henry Cavill.  

However, the writing and direction cause the pair to be angry, cynical old men in their mid to late 40s, rather than the dynamic superheroes they used to be.  The tombstone for Bruce Wayne's parents is dated to 1981, meaning that if the movie takes place in the present, Batman must be around 45, about the same age as actor Ben Affleck. Superman has a receding hairline, and Lois Lane (played by 42 year old Amy Adams) is actually matronly.   I guess they figured that the audience for these movies is not 10 year old kids anymore, and they are definitely aiming for fans who are now middle aged.  

  Yet this movie purports to tell the story of the first meaningful interaction between the two heroes.  How can Batman and Superman have had decades long careers of crimefighting without knowing each other?  A movie that seeks to tell the tale of the first major interaction between Superman and Batman should obviously take place with the two heroes at the beginning of their careers, not when they are ready to retire.   The idea that they have never met because Gotham City and Metropolis are too far away is just ridiculous.  

     The depiction of the main characters was very hard to take. Not only are they middle aged, but they wear dark, gloomy costumes and play the part of grim warriors used to meting out violent justice.  They may be still at the top of their game, but they actually look kind of paunchy and they seem to like cloudy, rainy depressing weather. 

     My main complaint is that neither Batman or Superman (nor their alter-egos Bruce Wayne or Clark Kent) are likeable individuals.  Superman is depressed, and Batman is deranged.  They are cynical, angry middle aged men who have no business being superheroes.

Suck in that gut, Batman and Superman. Get your uniforms dry cleaned.   And at least smile when you are hanging out with the likes of Wonder Woman!

Luthor's son is one of the bad guys in this movie, and is mainly an annoying nerd with no substance.  Like the Coyote in Road Runner, he hopes to kill Superman, but it has to be with some kind of crazy harebrained and complicated scheme.  Young Luthor's plans are not brilliant, just complicated and erratic.  

DC comic movies are consistently outdone by Marvel, and for that reason they have tried to add drama by having the heroes lose the trust of the people, and by bickering among themselves.  It's quite a bit like the  Republican Presidential debates, with neither Cruz nor Trump quite making any sense.  It doesn't work for Batman and Superman to misbehave like that.  

Wonder Woman does not appear to be middle aged at all, but we learn that she is actually hundreds of years old, having appeared in World War I. The reason for Wonder Woman's reappearance after 100 years of being retired is unclear.  Perhaps she is like Michael Jordan and just likes to retire and un-retire.  Yet she too prefers to run around in drab and dreary earth tones.  Nevertheless cool drums play whenever she strikes her battle pose, and she is definitely in shape. Woo hoo!

OK, so I've described my reaction to the movie, and not given away any parts of the plot.  That's easy, because I didn't understand it one bit.  Something about Luthor making soup out of Kryptonian body parts, and that's as close as I can get.  Evidently, only criminal masterminds can comprehend what Luthor Jr. is trying to do.

The special effects are excellent, and the battle scenes last long enough to satisfy all but the most bloodthirsty of fans.  That makes it worth watching even if we have no idea who is fighting who, and why.  Batman has a few tricks up his sleeve to make up for his lack of firepower compared to Superman. 

I hope that someday Batman and Superman come out of their respective depressions and work together against common foes.   And the Wonder Woman movie might be worth watching despite her poor fashion sense in this movie.  At least she is not as depressed or deranged as Superman and Batman were in this movie.  



Friday, March 18, 2016

Regime Change: Bush, Obama and our Next President

Hillary Clinton and George Bush have taken turns championing the concept of Regime Change, as a reason to commit the United States to overseas wars.  Bill Clinton and Barck Obama have also endorsed this principle.  

The US is entrenched in its belief that we have the right of "Regime Change."  Briefly, that is the right of the US to use military force to depose military dictators such as Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gaddafi and other despotic rulers, especially in the Middle East.  

Regime Change was codified in 1998 in the Clinton administration, with the Iraq Liberation Act, which stated that the US would encourage the removal of bad boy Saddam Hussein.   It also bears mention that the US bombed the former Yugoslavia, Serbia, Bosnia and Kosovo, and attempting to aid Muslim rebels in the name of Human Rights.  The Serbs--allies of Russia, in part due to their mutual Slavic heritage--were the target. 

Regime Change was put in force in the George W. Bush administration. Initially the second Iraq War was seen as necessitated to put down the nuclear weapons ambitions of Saddam Hussein.  When it was finally realized that Saddam had no significant capability for nuclear war, it was decided that Regime Change was an adequate justification for removing Saddam from power, especially since it had been passed during the previous Democratic administration.   Opponents of the Second Iraq War were few.  The resolution that authorized President Bush to use force in Iraq passed the Senate by a vote of 77 to 23, and the House by 296 to 133.  Hence both Democrats and Republicans were thoroughly on board.  There is no sense in blaming any one individual, as the great majority supported war.  However, it is worth noting that Senator Hillary Clinton was a strong supporter, while junior Senator Barack Obama was against it.  
The eurphoria surrounding the American invasion eventually wore thin as it was realized that conflict in Iraq was not coming to an end.  Barack Obama narrowly defeated the more hawkish John McCain in 2008.    

However, with Hillary Clinton becoming Secretary of State, the new Administration had an advocate for Regime Change. Indeed, President Obama came eventually to embrace Regime Change not only in Afghanistan and Iraq, but also  in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, and Syria with different forms of American support including military aid.   

The total expense of these operations is difficult to estimate, but estimates in Time Magazine (Mark Thompson) peg the range at between 4 and 6 Trillion Dollars.  Remarkably, Americans feel that the American military is weak, and many are willing to support additional spending. According to Gallup, 37% of Americans feel that not enough money is being spent on the military, with another 27% believing that military spending is "about right."  

It seems, then, that Americans are pretty much okay with spending hundreds of billions of dollars each year supporting persons and groups in the Middle East that we know nothing about.  So who are we are supporting with billions or even trillions of American dollars?  Can you name a single person in Syria that commands such respect that we need to invest billions in them?  Do we need to really cause the death of thousands of people to support these unknown revolutionaries?  Is it a good idea to train 100,000 young men to use weapons, in the hope that they will create a peace loving society?    

Most Americans enthusiastically embrace the Regime Change doctrine, and its supporters.  The torch has been passed from Bill Clinton to George Bush, to Barack Obama, and presumably next year it may  go to Hillary Clinton, one of the original proponents of Regime Change and wars of liberation.  

Perhaps there is some movement out there that is so just, so pure and so wonderful that a compelling argument can be made to support it.  However, I'm not aware of it, and I doubt whether you are either, dear Reader.   

My belief is that we simply support our leaders and tacitly endorse the Regime Change principle.  Likely we will simply nod and give our consent to our smiling leaders who need our permission to commit billions of dollars on behalf of unknown persons and groups in the Middle East, hoping that a Pro-American government will somehow emerge in Syria and other countries that we don't like.     
"Regime Change"  will likely be regarded by future historians as one of the most stupid ideas in American history.  Yet is an idea which enjoys great popularity from Republicans and Democrats alike.  


Sunday, March 13, 2016

Manufactured Cheers, Jeers, Boos and Heckles in Corrupt Campaign 2016

    OK I'm calling it.  Earlier in this primary season in facebook rants I called attention to fake sounding cheers for the Republican establishment and fake boos for Donald Trump.  The debate of February 13 was particularly surreal as the audience wildly cheered for innocuous statements by several candidates and especially Jeb Bush.  To me, it sounded like American Idol type cheering rather than political applause, a kind of "WOOO!" signifying a brilliant artistic triumph rather than a well made political point.  Meanwhile they booed Donald Trump lustily.   Both were completely manufactured, as is all the more evident realizing by now that few voters actually supported Mr. Bush, while support for Mr. Trump ran much deeper than anyone believed. 

     This is not necessarily illegal, just packing the house with supporters of a savvy candidate in attempt to sway TV viewers with booing and cheering in the places that they picked.   

     Any number of commentators, including this one, noticed that the cheers and boos sounded manufactured.  

      Now, just days before the Ohio, Missouri, North Carolina, and Florida primaries, there is an upsurge in violent protest, mainly at Trump primaries.  Am I wrong to think that it looks manufactured?  

      Any PAC with an interest in a brokered convention might seek to tip Ohio to Governor John Kasich's favor by making Trump look bad.  It would be easy to do, by funding left-wing PACs with an interest in disrupting Trump rallies, perhaps with a few helpful suggestions via anonymous helpers. It's very corrupt, but possibly not illegal if done properly.    

    Who would do such a thing?  Despite the obviousness of Bernie Sanders, he probably has other things to worry about, especially since last I heard he is running against Hillary Clinton and not Donald Trump.  I would think that PACs supporting potential "brokered convention candidates" for the Republicans might smile upon such an idea, with a lower probability that someone still in the race might do it.   Let's not mention any names, since this is conjecture. 

      My suspicions are further heightened by ads I have heard in the past 24 hours that are anti-Trump, telling horror stories of his supposedly sordid past, but not advocating some other candidate.  What's the point of that?  
    But we've already had fake boos and cheers in the debates.  It's not much of a leap to imagine that someone is paying for fake heckling as well.  It may not be illegal, but it stinks.  

Is Bernie Sanders paying his followers to attend Trump Rallies and protest?  I doubt it, but someone with an interest in tipping Tuesday's elections might give money to groups interested in heckling.  

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Has Mitt Romney Lost His Mind?

      What next?   Mitt Romney goes on national TV to blast the Republican candidate--not the Democrat--and propose that the candidates conspire to deny votes from Donald Trump: 

Say what?   Everyone is supposed to vote to stop Trump instead of voting their consciences?

"Given the current delegate selection process, this means that I would vote for Marco Rubio in Florida, for John Kasich in Ohio and for Ted Cruz or whichever one of the other two contenders has the best chance of beating Mr. Trump in a given state,"  (Source:  Associated Press).   

The idea is that they can deny Trump the nomination, and then come up with a compromise candidate at the convention (Romney?).   

I can't imagine that this wild scheme can possibly work.  I don't see why Republicans are crying, as Trump has recruited more newcomers to the Party than ever before.  

The Republican hierarchy can just not accept that voters are fed up with their failed policies of supporting the super rich with more tax cuts and obstructing all legislation.  I think the average voter is disappointed to see Republican Senators literally quaking in fear of President Obama, unwilling to even hold hearings for a Supreme Court Justice nominee.  They can't pass any major legislation, can't offer any constructive modifications to Obamacare, can't negotiate anything with the President.  They cry over their powerlessness to rectifiy a 400 billion dollar deficit, while boldly talking of new tax cuts aimed at the wealthiest Americans.   

Is it just me, or do the Republics appear to be terrified to engage the Democrats on issues like selecting a Supreme Court Justice?

      The party insiders thought the candidate would be Jeb Bush.   But who wants to return to an era with a mistaken war against Iraq, ballooning federal debt, collapse and bailout of the banking system and major economic recession?  Gosh, I just couldn't wait to vote for more of that!

      Romney made himself look very foolish indeed, taking blind swings at Trump while hoping for a deadlocked convention.   It looks like he is desperate to not let go of his own thwarted dreams for the presidency. Dude, you are looking ridiculous.  

    The successful candidates this year have been outsiders, including Trump, Ben Carson, and Tea Partiers Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio.  I don't think the people want to go back to the traditional agenda.  

     The attraction of Trump is that he knows how to communicate and to win, especially given the "reality TV" format encouraged by the networks. He's not scared to negotiate with Democrats and can not be cowed into inaction. He may be the most erratic candidate in history, but perhaps voters believe that that is better than electing an establishment candidate. 

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Why Bernie Sanders Would Be the Most Fiscally Conservative Candidate

    I'll bet you think it's crazy to suggest the Sanders Administration would shrink the deficit more than any other potential candidate's administration.   But it's blatantly obvious.  

     Although Republican Obama-phobes would have you believe that the President can unilaterally enact new spending programs and that Congress is helpless to oppose it , America is still a a democracy, and increasing the budget is simply not possible without a vote from the House and Senate.   Both of these are solidly in Republican control and would likely remain in Republican control in an unpopular Presidency.  Certainly Sanders might ask for a new bill to provide free tuition, say, but there is no way that the Republicans would vote for such a bill.  It is simply a fantasy from both sides that Sanders can increase spending by himself.  

     On the other hand, what he might do is to disengage the military from its current role as enforcer in Middle Eastern political systems and reduce operational military expenses.   That might reduce spending a little.  

     Conversely, Hillary Clinton embraced American intervention as Secretary of State, and the Republicans hope to prove their manhood by doing even more.  That means more spending for military operations.  

     As far as taxes are concerned, Bernie might like to carry out punitive taxation on the rich, but here again, the Republican majority would never permit it.  Perhaps, some token tax increase might get through, but that's about it.  

     Conversely, if a Republican President gets in, he will ask for and receive from Congress a bill with additional unnecessary tax cuts.  Trump, Rubio, Cruz, Kasich and Carson are all on record as favoring big juicy tax cuts despite the fact that the deficit is currently 400 billion dollars per year. A six year old can figure out that the Republicans will definitely increase the deficit if they get their guy in the White House plus control both Houses of the Legislature.   

     Hence it is obvious that if you want to control spending, the best way to do that would be to elect Bernie Sanders and to maintain Republican control in both the House and Senate.
      Okay, it's a stretch to call Sanders a fiscal conservative. But his Administration will be forced to restrict spending growth whether he likes it or not.  

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Trump's Popularity Explained to Those on the Left

The Village Elliot says Mr. Trump's popularity is not so hard to understand.   

Why is Donald Trump so popular?  Some of my friends on the left are astonished, and others are horrified by the success of Donald Trump.   All along I've said that Donald Trump has a realistic chance to win the White House, and that appears to be the case.   

I'm not saying that Donald Trump is a great candidate or my favorite candidate even among Republicans.  For the record, I am a registered Democrat and will vote for Bernie Sanders in the Ohio primary.  I am not an expert on measuring political sentiment, but I think I do understand the sentiment for Trump and I admit that in some ways I sympathize with it.    
   I believe that the center of American Politics has become corrupt in some important ways, and many Americans would like an outsider to come in and fix it. The Republican center in particular has become the party of Obamaphobia, too terrified of President Obama to participate in politics, and now totally devoted to simply opposing Obama on everything.   This does not sit well with many Republicans any more than it does with Democrats.  

     The last time a Republican President was elected, he created a depression and two wars, went from a slight surplus to an enormous deficit and increased both non-defenses and defense spending across the board.   True, many Republicans celebrate that style of government, but not all do.  Many Republicans genuinely believe the government should limit its role in the economy and that moreover there need to be limits on taxation.  Centrist candidates like Jeb Bush (the Republican centerfold at the beginning of the election) do not have much appeal for true economic conservatives.  

     The party bosses support perpetual war in the Middle East (hopefully at an even higher level than the Democrats), are okay with 400 billion dollar deficits and are willing to muddle through the immigration situation without resolving anything. Not all Republicans are happy with this. Many Republics do in fact want to see an end to war sometime, and they want to see some real spending cuts because they think that the current situation is unsustainable.  They are also afraid of tax hikes, because the Democrats can mobilize millions of have-nots to vote to take away all the hard-earned money that the middle and upper class have saved for themselves.  

Trump has loudly stated the obvious, that going into Iraq was a mistake, not a stroke of genius as Jeb and others would have us believe.   If you want to have policy shifts, increased levels of deportations, spending cuts, you're going to have to have a tough guy who is willing to accept criticism. 

All these reasons add up to a great desire to support a political outsider this year.  The same logic applies to someone like Bernie Sanders for the Democrats.   The center of the Democratic Party likewise may be on unstable footing and people are not happy with it.  Is Sanders the answer?  I don't know but he's the only alternative out there.  

Moreover, the rules for winning have changed in the Internet age.  To cite one example, it used to be that televised debates were not allowed to show the reaction of the audience.   Now the media rules favor candidates that can draw cheers and applause with snappy sound bites, and even slinging insults and interruptions.  Trump has realized this and he is playing the game the way that it needs to be played in order to win.  So, to some extent if we don't like Trump's sound bites, a lot of it has to do with the way that the Media has set things up.  This is the what the rules favor.  At the beginning of primary season, I thought that his experience in his chaotic reality TV “boardroom” would serve him well.   

In view of the media preference for shouting, interruption and sound bites, I think it would be very very difficult for Hilary Clinton to beat Donald Trump one on one.  Hillary will say smart things, Trump will say a few dumb things, and a lot of outrageous things, and that will probably work well for him.  

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Primary Season is Upon Us!

What season is it?  Why, it's primary season!

   Today (Feb 9) is the New Hampshire primary, and the election gets into full swing.  I'm both excited by it and repulsed.   

     I'm repulsed by the normally sensible center of American politics which has learned to embrace huge deficits, perpetual war in the Middle East, out of control immigration and several other huge problems as the norm.   

    Not surprisingly, then, we have serious challenges being mounted by relative outsiders to the political process such as Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Ben Carson.  The Republican inside man, Jeb Bush has already been thoroughly routed whereas the erstwhile Democrat juggernaut, Hillary Clinton, has been hit hard by a 74 year old socialist named Bernie Sanders. 

    At this point, nine months before the election there is plenty of time to pick which party to support.  I think it is good to look at both sides, just like when you go to buy a new car you're better off to look at more than one brand of car.

    In my humble opinion, if you can't differentiate between candidates from the "other" party (say, you're a Democrat and you see no difference between Donald Trump and Jeb Bush), you're in danger of becoming a partisan ideologue. There are huge differences between the nine or so Republicans duking it out, and even the two Democrats are sharply divided on most issues.  

   The Democratic National Committee has done a good job of eliminating potential candidacies of people like Elizabeth Warren who is young enough and bright enough to make a difference.  Hillary Clinton is their annointed candidate, with only Bernie Sanders to challenge her.  Bernie is apparently too naughty to obey the memo.  The Republican primary is kind of like the clown car in the circus, with all sorts of zany characters along for the ride.  I think there may be a good one in there someplace, but I'm not sure.  

    I don't know who it I'm going to vote for for President, but I know it won't be Hillary Clinton, or Ted Cruz.   Clinton is addicted to war in the Middle East, in my opinion.  I believe as Scretary of State she hoped American would lead an extended Arab Spring revolution to "liberate" Arab peoples via the "Regime Change" policy, in which the US is allowed to take down foreign governments as kind of a public service to the inhabitants, but which instead is dragging down the US economy and nobody seems to much like us in the Middle East despite our wonderful intentions.  This is simply a disaster, compounding the mistakes of the Bush Administration, and I can't accept it or even make sense of it. Why in the world are we intervening in a Civil War in Syria while not supporting either of the two warring parties?  Cruz on the other hand, appears to be incapable of accepting a compromise, and moreover tried via filibustering to cause the US government to default on the Federal Deficit in order to destroy the banking system.  I'm not sure how either of these two got to the point of being so highly respected as politicians.     

Can somebody please do better than these two, I hope?  

     If the major parties diverge too far from reality, might a third party candidacy take hold? Michael Bloomberg may be leaning that way.  

    Earlier, I offered the opinion that a third party might emerge this year for a number of reasons.  Perhaps even someone with some common sense might be needed if the major parties veer too far from the sensible center.  We're hearing now that Michael Bloomberg is strongly considering a run.  That might be a good thing.