July 29, 2011 archive

My Commentary on “The Town”:

I’m pretty much a lonely voice in the wilderness here, as I feel differently about The Town than many, if not most people do. For starters, I read Chuck Hogan’s novel, Prince of Thieves, on which The Town was based, and I liked the book far better than the movie, which seemed like an extended made-for-TV and very cartoon-like film.

The Town had the potential for being a good, wholesome film, or even one of the all-time greats regarding movies, but fell woefully short of that potential for the following reasons:

A) The scenes in the North End and Fenway Park were grossly overblown, with too much exploding on the screen, and the most unrealistic-looking car chases and car crashes and shoot-outs. Nobody could realistically survive those car crashes and shoot-outs.

B) The fact that Ben Affleck and his assistant producer(s) wanted to cut the film down from four hours is totally understandable, but too much slip-shod, slap-happy editing was done, cutting too much out of the film and leaving too many unconnected dots, which, had they been connected, might’ve made this film more credible.

C) The Boston accents, particularly on the part of Ben Affleck, were extremely overdone.

D) The characters, overall, were paper-thin, and the chemistry between Affleck and Hall, was paltry, at best, and rather forced.

E) The scene where Doug and Jem break into a housing project apartment where a couple of punks who’d thrown bottles at Claire as she was walking through the housing project to work resided, beat up and permanently crippled both of them, was not in the book, and it was an unnecessary scene, to boot. Roughing the two punks up a little bit would’ve been understandable, maybe, but Doug and Jem went too far when they permanently crippled them both, and then ordered them to “get out of Charlestown.”

F) The ending of the movie, was rather saccharine..and phony, to boot. It would’ve been better if the ending had been different; Doug being caught and sent to prison, where he belonged, and Claire being criminally prosecuted, or put on some sort of probation herself for having abetted Doug and helped him get away.

I also might add that I’m somewhat bothered by the message that The Town seems to send; that it’s OK to rob banks and armored cars, terrorize and endanger the lives and safety of innocent bank employees and customers at gunpoint, to abet these kinds of actions and behaviors, and to make total dupes of law enforcement officials who are trying their best to do what they’ve been assigned to do; bring guys like Doug MacRay and his men to justice.

I also might add that the movie could’ve done with far less of the Doug/Claire romance, and further developed the characters and the bank heists. Too much emphasis was placed on the Doug/Claire romance, and not enough on the heists. I liked the beginning of the film and the first heist, but after that, it began to rapidly go downhill for me.

One is supposed to sympathize with and root for Doug because he managed to get away, and for Claire for having abetted Doug and helped him escape justice in this film, but I feel that I really cannot do so. Imo, Claire should’ve been more on her guard and not readily accepted a date from a perfect stranger, especially after being traumatized enough by the robbery and abduction to quit her job as a bank manager.

Claire was also wrong to continue to have contact with Doug and to abet him in his crimes even after learning the truth about him, and after the Feds learned of the Doug/Claire relationship through a recorded phone conversation between them, and for keeping the duffel bag full of stolen money that Doug left for her, instead of turning it into the police, at least anonymously. My opinion of The Town was formed after watching it several times-a couple of times in the theatres, and then afew more times, on DVD.

The idea of a professional armed robber who’s also a wanted fugitive falling in love with, and defending a poor, scared, vulnerable female bank manager that he and his men robbed at gunpoint and then took as a hostage, from thugs who threw bottles at her is highly, highly implausible to me. That would never, ever happen in real life. I know the film is fiction, but come on…there’s got to be some reality in there, which seemed to be totally lacking in this film.

Today on The Stars Hollow Gazette

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This is an Open Thread

Part II – “!No Pasaran!” – The Abraham Lincoln Brigade and the Fight against Fascism in Spain

Crossposted at Daily Kos

What You Missed in Part I of This Diary

Spain has been etched in the hearts of our generation… and carried around like a terrible wound.  Spain gave us our first taste of defeat, and because of her we discovered with an enduring shock that one can be right and still be defeated, that sheer force can trample the human spirit underfoot, and that there are times when courage goes unrewarded.  Without a doubt, this explains why so many people the world over have experienced the Spanish drama as their own personal tragedy.

Albert Camus, Algerian-French philosopher and author, Source: Honoring Fascism’s Forgotten Fighters. Sketch Source: Existential Primer.

“!No Pasaran!” – The Abraham Lincoln Brigade and the Spanish Civil War, Part I introduces you to the beginnings of the civil war between the Republicans and the Nationalists; a poignant letter written by Abraham Lincoln Brigade (ALB) volunteer Bill Bailey to his mother in New Jersey; the tense political, economic, and social conditions that existed in pre-war Spain; the response by the American government and its insistence upon assuming a neutral position in this conflict; the personal stories of a few Americans caught between economic depression at home and alarming developments on the international level; what eventually motivated them to secretly travel to and fight in Spain; and the ALB volunteers’ battlefield exploits in Spain.

Link to Part I of This Diary

The story continues below the fold…  

This Week In The Dream Antilles

Your Bloguero this week had an epiphany.  Please.  Your Bloguero heard that all the way over here.  OK, you have a point.  It’s a small one, your Bloguero thinks, but he will concede it.  Maybe, as you say, his insight doesn’t really qualify for such a pompous, grandiloquent noun.  But maybe it does.  What was that?  Nothing? Your Bloguero still hears you snickering.   OK, maybe it’s just another passing, soon to be forgotten, exceedingly minor insight that your Bloguero is trying to palm off as something important.  You’ll be the judge of it, sure.  That’s fine.  Your Bloguero doesn’t mind your having a joke (or a series of them) at your Bloguero’s expense.   He can take a joke.

As your Bloguero was saying before he stepped on the cuff of his own pants because he was distracted by your unsolicited remarks, and stumbled awkwardly toward the gutter, your Bloguero had an insight.  About clouds.  Yes, the clouds you may see overhead, depending on where you are and when you look skyward.  Yes, those clouds.  And particularly the clouds in Patagonia.  Stop that.  Really.  The epiphany was about clouds.  Just give your Bloguero a chance, will you?  OK?  He will explain.

Maybe a quotation from Cesar Aira will help to convey this epiphany in all of its grandeur:

The actual winds, the air masses displaced between difference in pressure, always go toward the same place in the end, and they come together in the Argentinian skies; big winds and little winds, the cosmopolitan oceanic winds as much as the diminutive backward breezes: a funnel of stars gathers them all together, adorned with their velocities and orientations like ribbons in their hair, and brings them to rest in the privileged region of the atmosphere called Patagonia.  That’s why the clouds there are ephemera par excellence, as Leibniz said of objects (“objects are momentary minds”: a chair is exactly like a man who lives for a single instant).  The Patagonian clouds welcome and accommodate all transformations within a single instant, every transformation without exception.  That’s why the instant, which in any other place is as dry and fixed as a click, is fluid and mysterious in Patagonia, fantastic.  Darwin called it: Evolution.  Hudson: Attention.

No, it didn’t help?  Well, it’s not all that easy to convey epiphanies.

Look, it’s about the clouds.  So your Bloguero this week has been looking up.  At the sky.  At the clouds.  A lot.  Why?  This activity, as far as your Bloguero is concerned, is far, far more productive and far less disturbing than watching Congresspeople, all of whom obviously failed Economics 101, argue with each other about, of all things, Economics 101.  They failed it years ago.  They have forgotten whatever parts of it they actually knew back then.  This is really upsetting.  Especially when the primary argument appears to be that killing the economy dead as utterly flattened, unrecognizable road kill, so that nobody at all will be working and interest rates will be even more exorbitant and bank profits will be even more shameful, will prove something.  What will it prove, you ask?  It will prove that petulance is the new politics.  And that stupidity rules in Washington.  And that putting morons in Congress is the equivalent of unleashing weapons of mass destruction on the US.  It’s that simple.  You want to know where the WMD’s are?  Look to your Congress.

But I digress.  The clouds.  Back to gazing at the clouds.  Because of the abysmal quality of the current national debate about the debt ceiling, your Bloguero this week focused on the clouds.  Your Bloguero loves to look at the clouds.  He did that before, as well.  Last time, the topic was Credit Default Swaps and the alleged necessity for bailing out porcine felines who were too corpulent to push themselves away from the public trough filled with your wealth.  And nobody could move them either.  They had to be fed more and more and more until they nearly exploded. Cue Monty Python.  Now the same topic has morphed into whether grandmothers will end up homeless, eating cat food and being told that they should perform open heart and cataract surgery on themselves.  And find home remedies in the woods instead of getting their prescriptions paid for.  In other words,  different day, same topic, same redistribution of wealth from grandma to exploding porcine felines.  So your Bloguero, who has seen quite enough of this, thank you, looks instead to the clouds.

Cloud Hunter explores your Bloguero’s proposal for funding so that he may travel the world and photograph the clouds with his cell phone.  This occupation draws your Bloguero’s attention and passion.  The crazier the public discourse, the more your Bloguero seeks to emigrate to another place, another way of life.  Is there intelligent life somewhere on this planet?

No doubt the cloud proposal was driven by Counting Down To Default And The End Of The World, a countdown clock, and Today’s Exercise In Participatory Democracy,  a recounting of your Bloguero’s communications with his Republican Congressperson semi-T Bagger Chris Gibson, and Buddy Can You Spare A Dime, your Bloguero’s only serious look at the deficit ceiling debate before turning his attention skyward. .

In all important Futbol news (Futbol is far more important to your Bloguero than partisan politics or voodoo economics, a sign of your Bloguero’s sanity and resilience) your Bloguero noted that US Men’s National Team CoachBob Bradley was finally fired, a sacking for which the US defense and midfield and aging prima ballerina Landon Donovan should take full and ignominious credit,  and an incredible goal scored by Uruguay’s Diego Forlan in the final of the Copa America, which Uruguay won.  Note: Uruguay is a power for World Cup 2012.  They will go to the finals, your Bloguero prognosticates.  

She’s Alive , a remarkable video, notes the martyrdom of environmental advocates.

Newark: Too Darn Hot recollects your Bloguero’s fabled boyhood in the boiling hot Newark of the 1950s and gives you the voice of Ella Fitzgerald who was utterly fantastic.  The piece was inspired by the Eastern US heatwave.

And finally, from the local jail, is this crazy, Benny Hill pursuit of a prisoner by guards, which the authorities don’t think is funny.  But your Bloguero does.

This Week In The Dream Antilles is a weekly digest. Sometimes, like now, it is actually a digest of essays posted in the past week. Your Bloguero always solicits your support. No, not your money. Just leave a comment so that your Bloguero will know that you stopped by. Or, even easier, just click the “Encouragement jar”. Humor him. Your Bloguero likes to know that you’re visiting.


Kiss Me Cat

Eco-Activist Bidder #70 Gets 2 Years In Jail

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

US eco-activist jailed for two years

Campaigners denounce sentence of ‘hero’ Tim DeChristopher for disrupting oil and gas industry auction as excessive

Tim DeChristopher was immediately ordered into custody, and fined $10,000. He had been facing a potential sentence of up to 10 years and a $750,000 fine.


As Bidder No 70, DeChristopher disrupted what was seen as a last giveaway to the oil and gas industry by the Bush administration by bidding $1.8m (£1.1m) he did not have for the right to drill in remote areas of Utah. He was convicted of defrauding the government last March.

In a phone conversation with The Guardian, a day ahead of sentencing, he said he was expecting jail time: “I do think I will serve some time in prison. That is what I think will be the next chapter in my life.”

DeChristopher’s lawyers had argued that his actions in December 2008 were a one-off, and that the judge should show leniency. They argued DeChristopher had not intended to cause harm.

However, Judge Dee Benson said DeChristopher’s political beliefs did not excuse his actions.

Is this justice? Chris in Paris at AMERICAblog thinks this sentence raises questions about the fairness of criminal justice system considering the slap on the wrist the Wall St., Haliburton, and the oil and gas industries have received. DeChristopher, in an opinion article at Common Dreams, asks not for mercy but that we stand with him to protect the environment and our right to challenge the government through non-violent protest.

I’m not saying any of this to ask you for mercy, but to ask you to join me.  If you side with Mr Huber (the prosecuting US Attorney) and believe that your role is to discourage citizens from holding their government accountable, then you should follow his recommendations and lock me away.  I certainly don’t want that.  I have no desire to go to prison, and any assertion that I want to be even a temporary martyr is false.  I want you to join me in standing up for the right and responsibility of citizens to challenge their government.  I want you to join me in valuing this country’s rich history of nonviolent civil disobedience.  If you share those values but think my tactics are mistaken, you have the power to redirect them.  You can sentence me to a wide range of community service efforts that would point my commitment to a healthy and just world down a different path.  You can have me work with troubled teens, as I spent most of my career doing.  You can have me help disadvantaged communities or even just pull weeds for the BLM.  You can steer that commitment if you agree with it, but you can’t kill it.  This is not going away.   At this point of unimaginable threats on the horizon, this is what hope looks like.  In these times of a morally bankrupt government that has sold out its principles, this is what patriotism looks like.  With countless lives on the line, this is what love looks like, and it will only grow.  The choice you are making today is what side are you on.

Not much of a secret

I really hate to direct your attention to Tweety because I think he’s a pompous peacock, a self delusional liar, and a constantly wrong moron.  Still a lot of people are talking about this and eyes are getting opened about Obama’s policies and actions.


You already know this of course, and it’s mostly an indicator that the message is finally beginning to sink in among the dim witted Beltway Bootlickers.

An official MSNBC transcript below.

On This Day In History July 29

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

Click on images to enlarge

July 29 is the 210th day of the year (211th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 155 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1858, the Harris Treaty was signed between the United States and Japan was signed at the Ryosen-ji in Shimoda.  Also known as the Treaty of Amity and Commerce, it opened the ports of  Edo and four other Japanese cities to American trade and granted extraterritoriality to foreigners, among other stipulations.

The treaty followed the 1854 Convention of Kanagawa, which granted coaling rights for U.S. ships and allowed for a U.S. Consul in Shimoda. Although Commodore Matthew Perry secured fuel for U.S. ships and protection, he left the important matter of trading rights to Townsend Harris, another U.S. envoy who negotiated with the Tokugawa Shogunate; the treaty is therefore often referred to as the Harris Treaty. It took two years to break down Japanese resistance, but with the threat of looming British demands for similar privileges, the Tokugawa government eventually capitulated.

Treaties of Amity and Commerce between Japan and Holland, England, France, Russia and the United States, 1858.

The most important points were:

   * exchange of diplomatic agents

   * Edo, Kobe, Nagasaki, Niigata, and Yokohama‘s opening to foreign trade as ports

   * ability of United States citizens to live and trade in those ports

   * a system of phttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extraterritoriality extraterritoriality] that provided for the subjugation of foreign residents to the laws of their own consular courts instead of the Japanese law system

   * fixed low import-export duties, subject to international control

The agreement served as a model for similar treaties signed by Japan with other foreign countries in the ensuing weeks. These Unequal Treaties curtailed Japanese sovereignty for the first time in its history; more importantly, it revealed Japan’s growing weakness, and was seen by the West as a pretext for possible colonisation of Japan. The recovery of national status and strength became an overarching priority for the Japanese, with the treaty’s domestic consequences being the end of Bakufu (Shogun) control and the establishment of a new imperial government.

Infrastructure and Alternative Energy = Good Strong Growth

No money for infrastructure? Get ready to crumble! July 28: Ed Rendell, former governor of Pennsylvania, talks with TRMS guest host Melissa Harris-Perry about the litany of benefits that would come with more investment in US infrastructure and the certain disaster if Republicans succeed in slashing government spending.

Not only infrastructure but add in alternative energy and new needed grid needs for.  

Muse in the Morning

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Muse in the Morning

Time for a break from poetry…in order to create some art.

She might be without country, without nation, but inside her there was still a being that could exist and be free, that could simply say I am without adding a this, or a that, without saying I am Indian, Guyanese, English, or anything else in the world.

–Sharon Maas

Art Glass 14

Late Night Karaoke

Congressional Game of Chicken: “Super Congress”

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

The bills that have been proposed by Republican and Democratic leadership to raise the debt ceiling putting an an to this wholly manufactured crisis, differ little and both will be devastating to most Americans. One of the commonalities is the creation of a bipartisan commission of 12 that on first glance seems innocuous but on looking closer, it is quite toxic and may even be unconstitutional. This “super committee” will be equally comprised of Democrats and Republicans members of congress. Who and how they will be selected is unclear but considering the current corporate owned, deficit hawk nature of both sides, I suspect it will be their worst conservative “cut spending/no revenue ghouls”.

At first glance, this sounds like the President’s Deficit Commission that couldn’t produce recommendations even 14 of the 18 members could agree. The co-chairs, former Sen. Alan Simpson (R-WY) and former Clinton Chief of Staff and South Carolina businessman, Erskine Bowles wrote there own recommendations and ran it up the flagpole. Needless to say President Obama saluted and embraced the draconian principles that it enshrined, such as decimating Medicare and Medicaid and drastic cuts to Social Security. The “Catfood Commission”, however, had no “teeth”, everything that was suggested would have to be passed as a bill. This new commission is another game and will have the force of law behind it.

Ryan Grimm at Huffington Post has the best description of how this “new congress” will function and just how powerful it will be:

Legislation approved by the Super Congress — which some on Capitol Hill are calling the “super committee” — would then be fast-tracked through both chambers, where it couldn’t be amended by simple, regular lawmakers, who’d have the ability only to cast an up or down vote. With the weight of both leaderships behind it, a product originated by the Super Congress would have a strong chance of moving through the little Congress and quickly becoming law. A Super Congress would be less accountable than the system that exists today, and would find it easier to strip the public of popular benefits. Negotiators are currently considering cutting the mortgage deduction and tax credits for retirement savings, for instance, extremely popular policies that would be difficult to slice up using the traditional legislative process.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has made a Super Congress a central part of his last-minute proposal, multiple news reports and people familiar with his plan say. A picture of Boehner’s proposal began to come into focus Saturday evening: The debt ceiling would be raised for a short-term period and coupled with an equal dollar figure of cuts, somewhere in the vicinity of a trillion dollars over ten years. A second increase in the debt ceiling would be tied to the creation of a Super Congress that would be required to find a minimum amount of spending cuts. Because the elevated panel would need at least one Democratic vote, its plan would presumably include at least some revenue, though if it’s anything like the deals on the table today, it would likely be heavily slanted toward spending cuts.

The tea party Republicans in the House have informed Speaker John Boehner that the commission is totally unacceptable to them. There main objection is they feel it could lead to tax increases. Other critics from the right like Eric Erickson of Red State are opposed mostly because it just ads another costly layer to the bureaucracy that won’t work. From the left, Rep Barney Frank (D-MA) and MoveOn.org expressed concerns that it would cut the big three social safety nets and the idea that it would supersede congress’s parliamentary power.

The ratings agencies have said that the Boehner bill will result in a ratings downgrade since it only raised the debt ceiling by $1 trillion which will require another cap raise in 5 months, creating uncertainty in the bond market. The White House has embraced the Reid version which would move the need raising the ceiling again past 2012 which is more acceptable to the ratings agencies who think the ceiling should just be removed entirely.

This is going to the wire with both sides deadlocked and hamstrung by a small loud and incredibly stupid minority and ineffective leaderchip on both sides.

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