Archive for August, 2011

The 13th annual Sidewalk Film Festival will take place next weekend in Birmingham.  Always love spending the weekend downtown gorging myself on independent films.  I always have a blast!  Looking at this year’s schedule, here are the films that interest me the most:

Friday Night:

  • The Innkeepers – Alabama Theater – 8pm – Film is about a couple of hotel clerks that hope to launch a ghost hunter website based on paranormal activity at the hotel.  Co-stars Kelly McGillis of Top Gun fame.  Directed by Ti West, who also directed House Of The Devil which won Best Narrative at Sidewalk in 2009.  I saw that film and wasn’t as impressed.  But this sounds like it could be fun.

Saturday:

  • American Decaf – Red Mountain Cabaret Theater – 10:15am – The premise is simple.  A day without coffee.  So much potential.  It’s a dramedy, but apparently more comedy than drama, which is a good thing.
  • Leaving Selma – Carver Theater – 10:20am – Documentary chronicling the peaceful demonstrators that were attacked and beaten by Alabama state troopers during the Selma to Montgomery Civil Rights march in 1965.  An ugly time in this state.
  • Holy Rollers:  The True Story Of Card Counting Christians – Red Mountain Cabaret Theater – 12:30pm – Documentary featuring a team of Christians who use card counting to win big at casinos in blackjack.  Apparently they see the casinos as evil, so if they take them to the cleaners, good wins.  Of course, casinos frown on card counting, so it’s hard to get a seat at the table if they know you practice that.  That’s why they resort to disguises.
  • The Greater Good – Hill Event Center – 2:55pm – Documentary examining the children immunization “debate”.  May watch this for kicks, as it appears to have been made from the anti-immunization crackpots point of view.
  • Vacation! – Red Mountain Cabaret Theater – 4:55pm – Four ex-college girlfriends reunite for a beach trip that takes a “dark turn” and things get a “little crazy”.  Sounds like a cheesy thriller.  Also, they are promising a blender scene that “you will not soon forget”.  Color me intrigued!
  • You’ve Been Trumped – Hill Event Center – 5:00pm – Documentary that reveals that Donald Trump is a jackass.  Not exactly groundbreaking.  Apparently in this case, Trump has bought some environmentally sensitive land in Scotland so that he can turn them until hotels and golf courses which will fail (ok, I added the part about failing, but that is what Trump projects do).  Some residents try to fight back, which brings out Trump’s full jackassery (it doesn’t take much).
  • Helldriver – Carver Theater – 7:30pm- Japanese horror featuring a girl armed with a chainsaw sword who must defeat the Zombie Queen and her zombie subjects from taking over Tokyo.  This one is produced by Sushi Typhoon, which also produce Mutant Girls Squad which was shown at last year’s Sidewalk.  I originally planned on watching that one last year, but decided on Dogtooth instead.  I wished I had stuck to the original plan (though Dogtooth went on to be nominated for a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, it was way too disturbing for my tastes).
  • Goonies – Sidewalk Central – 8:45pm – Free Outdoor Screening – Obviously not an independent film, but it’s the Goonies!  That’s awesome!  Truffle Shuffle anyone?  I said do it!

Sunday:

  • Sahkanaga – Alabama Power – 12:30pm – Based on the true story of the discovery of hundreds of bodies at a Georgia crematory.  Filmed entirely in Walker County in Alabama.
  • Senna – Alabama Theater – 3:40pm – Documentary about Formula-1 racing legend Ayrton Senna.  I’ve seen the critics raving about this one, supposedly it’s worth watching even if you are not a racing fan.
  • Wuss – Alabama Power – 7:15pm – C’mon, it’s a movie actually called “Wuss”.  I have to see this!  Described as a movie about a substitute teacher who lives with his mother and plays Dungeons and Dragons in his spare time.  He apparently has a run-in with a thug named “Re-up” and things get “crazy”.  Also says it’s a “darkly hilarious drama-action-comedy”.  Seems like my kind of film!

This is just a few of the over 200 movies that will be screening over the weekend.  Plus you have live musical entertainment at Sidewalk Central.  And the free Family Film Festival at the McWane Center.  Plus you have the Birmingham Shout Gay & Lesbian Film Festival going on at the same time using the same venues.  So I’m pretty sure they have everyone covered.  If you live are will be in the Birmingham area next weekend, I highly recommend hitting this event up!

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Also, I think he just might use product on his hair.

Texas Governor Rick Perry announced his candidacy for the Presidency over this past weekend.  So who is this guy?  Okay, we’ve just established that he’s Governor of Texas.  Republican governors from Texas have worked out so well for us in the past, right?  But maybe he’s different from that W. guy?  As it turns out, he may well be different, but somehow he manages to make that not be a good thing.  My blog friend Political Munky has a great post chock-full of information about Mr. Perry!  For example, it is becoming clear that Perry is going to establish himself as a sort of job-creating messiah based on what he’s done in Texas.  But Political Munky does a good job exposing that myth:

While Gov. Perry likes to boast about Texas’ low taxes, scant regulation and limited public services, the truth is Perry-jobs are really ‘jobettes,’ offering low pay, no benefits and no upward mobility. In fact, under Rickonomics, Texas has added more minimum wage jobs than all other states combined.  Even as Texas added those “jobettes,” its unemployment rate magically increased to 8 percent from 7.7 percent—and 23 states have a better employment rate than the miraculous Texas.

Perry says he is the best job creator in the race and that low-tax, low-regulation Texas created about 40 percent of all the new jobs generated in the United States over the past two years.  Here’s the truth:  Texas has benefited from the federal government’s expansion of the military and also from the expansion of the oil industry, which was due to international and national factors, not Perry’s policies.

Yay, “jobettes” for everyone!  Really read the whole thing.  It’s worth while.

Along the same lines, economist Paul Krugman wrote an article further debunking the myth that Perry craps out jobs before his morning shower every day.

What Texas shows is that a state offering cheap labor and, less important, weak regulation can attract jobs from other states. I believe that the appropriate response to this insight is “Well, duh.” The point is that arguing from this experience that depressing wages and dismantling regulation in America as a whole would create more jobs — which is, whatever Mr. Perry may say, what Perrynomics amounts to in practice — involves a fallacy of composition: every state can’t lure jobs away from every other state.

So wait a minute, Mr. Smarty-pants Krugman!  You mean to tell me that if Texas gains a job while Oklahoma losses a job, the country’s net gain in jobs is zero?  Are you sure about that math?  I think this is another of those fancy liberal elites trying to pull a fast one over common sense!

Anyway, I don’t think Perry would be good for this country.  However, I’m pretty sure his campaign is going to make good blog fodder in the months to come!

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Full disclosure, I did not watch this live.  Still can’t get that interested in the race this far out from the first primary.  But I did hear about it and it sounded more eventful than the previous debates, as I think the candidates have finally realized that they all don’t get to go against Barack Obama in November.  (Now if the all the candidates who are not Mitt Romney will just realize that Mitt Romney is the front-runner and start actually going after him.)  As such, I decided to read the complete transcript from the debate and post some thoughts:

Mitt Romney:

  • Something he said that I liked:   “And let — and let me tell you — where do I find it in the constitution?  Are you familiar with the Massachusetts constitution?  I am.  And the Massachusetts constitution allows states, for instance, to say that our kids have to go to school.  It has that power.  The question is, is that a good idea or bad idea?  And I understand different people come to different conclusions.”  The Fox News moderators seem to have trouble with the concept that the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution gives states powers that the federal government does not have.  Romney tried to clear that up.
  • Something he said that I didn’t like:  “No.  I don’t believe in raising taxes. And as governor I cut taxes 19 times and didn’t raise taxes.”  We have to get pass this idea that you can only cut taxes, not raise them.  Surely everyone can recognize that it takes SOME revenue to run a government, regardless of how big or how small you think government should be.  What happens if you have cut taxes too much to get that necessary revenue?

Michelle Bachmann:

  • Something she said that I liked:  ” I like Sarah Palin a lot.  We are very good friends. And I think there’s room in the race for Governor Perry, Sarah Palin, or even, Bret, you, too, if you want to throw your hat into the race.”  This was hard, but I really wanted to have a positive for each candidate.  So I will select this ‘I’ll take on all comers” comment.  Though really I don’t expect a candidate to say anything other than that.
  • Something she said that I didn’t like:  “In the last two months, I was leading on the issue of not increasing the debt ceiling.  That turned out to be the right answer.” The right answer?  What?  She said this more than once.  I can only assume that she thinks since Standard & Poor’s downgraded the U.S. debt, it must mean that raising the debt ceiling was the wrong answer.  Way to misread the situation, Mrs. Bachmann!

Ron Paul:

  • Something he said that I liked:  “And people — countries that you put sanctions on, you are more likely to fight them.  I say a policy of peace is free trade.  Stay out of their internal business.  Don’t get involved in these wars.  And just bring our troops home.”  Also, “This is why we still don’t have trade relationships with Cuba.  It’s about time we talked to Cuba and stopped fighting these wars that are about 30 or 40 years old. ”  And “It’s been going on and on because we just plain don’t mind our own business.  That’s our problem.”  I actually like Ron Paul.  I don’t agree with him on everything. He’s a libertarian, and I am not sure a country of pure libertarianism would work, but I respect that he is consistent with his positions.  But I couldn’t agree with him more that a huge problem with this country is that we want to be the world’s puppet master, pulling on all the strings and then we can’t understand why the world might resent that (not to mention how expensive it is to try to control the activities of the world0.
  • Something he said that I didn’t like:  ” Then you go back and you can get growth again by having a better tax structure, lower taxes, invite capital back into this country, get a lot less regulations.  And under those conditions, you can have growth again.” – Once again, how much lower are we going to make taxes?  And a lot less regulations?  Maybe if it is done smartly.  But I believe you have to have some protections in place.  Regulations didn’t come into place because everything was going just hunky-dory with the status quo.

Tim Pawlenty

  • Something he said that I liked:  “As to Syria, Bashar al-Assad is mowing down and killing his people, up to 2,000 right now.  And the president of the United States, Barack Obama, will not say he should go.  Until recently, he and Hillary Clinton suggested that Bashar Assad was a reformer.  He’s not a reformer; he’s a killer.” I think Pawlenty makes a valid point here, pointing out the inconsistency between our Libyan policy and our Syrian policy.
  • Something he said that I didn’t like:  ” We should stand shoulder to shoulder with Israel.  There should be no daylight between us and the nation of Israel.”  Israel needs to do what’s best for Israel.  The United States should do what is best for the United States.  We have no responsibility to protect Israel’s best interests.  If Pawlenty is concerned about Israel, he should convince them to allow him to run for office there.

Rick Santorum:

  • Something he said that I liked:  ” Of course we have to raise the debt ceiling at some point.  We have — we have — we’re borrowing 42 cents of every dollar, 42 cents of every dollar.  You’re going to cut 42 cents of every dollar?  Just to remind you, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, defense, and interest on the debt is 60 percent.  That means cut everything else and something of those.  That’s showmanship, not leadership.”  – At least somebody in that party recognizes that you can’t instantly balance the budget and remove the debt, so you were going to have to raise the debt ceiling.  And to suggest otherwise is just rhetoric.
  • Something he said that I didn’t like:  “That child is an innocent victim.  To be victimized twice would be a horrible thing.  It is an innocent human life.  It is genetically human from the moment of conception.  And it is a human life.  And we in America should be big enough to try to surround ourselves and help women in those terrible situations who’ve been traumatized already.  To put them through another trauma of an abortion I think is– is too much to ask.  And so I would — I would absolutely stand and say that one violence is enough.”  This is Santorum commenting on his position that no abortions should be allowed, even in cases of rape.  The abortion would be traumatic, but being forced to give birth to the child of the man who raped you wouldn’t be?

Hermain Cain:

  • Something he said that I liked:  “You want me to answer all of those in one minute, Chris?  Pick one.”  The problem with all TV debates, particularly primary debates with several candidates, is the format simply doesn’t allow for real discussion.  The moderators mentioned not wanting talking points.  But how do you get away from talking points when responses have be a minute or less?  Maybe a better way is that instead of trying to squeeze as many topics as you can into a two-hour window, pick a single topic or two and allow for actual in-depth discussion.
  • Something he said that I didn’t like:  “But never will I apologize for saying that Sharia law does not belong in the courts of the United States of America.”  Why on earth does he think there is any risk of that?  Also: “When I talked about lowering the top corporate and personal tax rays to 25%, also taking capital gains rates to zero as well as suspending taxes on the repatriated profits.  And here’s the big one, make them permanent.  Uncertainty is what is killing this company.”  –  Again with the taxes.  Making capital gains tax 0%?  Why should income digging ditches be taxed while income made trading stocks shouldn’t be taxed?  I believe all income should be taxed the same.  Also, how can you completely remove uncertainty?  There is no such thing as making tax rates “permanent”.  Any tax can be increased (or decreased for that matter) through legislative action.  And taxes are far from the only thing that makes the business environment uncertain.  Hell, life itself is uncertain.

Newt Gingrich:

  • Something he said that I liked:  “This coming Saturday is the 30th anniversary of Ronald Reagan signing the Kemp-Roth tax cut which was done with divided government.  I was part of that effort in the House when the Democrats were in control.  He did it by going to the American people with clarity, creating a sense of urgency, bringing pressure to bear on the Democratic congressmen, and building a bipartisan majority.”  Solid point by Gingrich pointing out that you can advance your agenda by taking it to the American people.  In my opinion, President Obama has often not done a very good job of this.  Also: ” Look, I think this super committee is about as dumb an idea as Washington has come up with in my lifetime.   I mean if you look (ph) for a second, I mean I used to run the House of Representatives.  I have some general notion of these things.  The idea that 523 senators and congressmen are going to sit around for four months while 12 brilliant people, mostly picked for political reasons, are going to sit in some room and brilliantly come up with a trillion dollars …..”  I couldn’t agree more.  The process should be done out in the open.  Plus I don’t think there’s much chance these 12 will come up with an agreement, and even less of a chance that any such agreement will actually pass both houses without massive modification, pretty much defeating the point of the super committee in the first place.  I mean, look at the non-results from the so-called “Gang Of Six”.
  • Something he said that I didn’t like:  “Let me suggest — this is a good example of a gotcha question.”  Gingrich has went to the school of Palin regarding “gotcha questions”, which really means they are questions that he just doesn’t like and doesn’t want to answer.  The question regarded Gingrich’s contradictory statements regarding Obama’s Libyan policy, which is valid.

Jon Hunstman:

  • Something he said that I liked:  “No Child Left Behind hasn’t worked for this country.  It ought to be done away with.  We need to take education to the local level, where parents and local elected officials can determine the destiny of these schools.  Nobody wants their schools to succeed more than local elected officials and their parents.”  I fully agree with him regarding “No Child Left Behind” and pretty much agree that education should largely be decided at the local level.  Also:  “We all need prayers, and I hope he offers a whole lot for everybody here on this stage.  But you know what?  Aside from that, we also need jobs in this country.”  This was in response to Rick Perry’s entrance into the race.  I agree, nothing wrong with prayer.  But God is not going to step in and resolve this country’s issues.
  • Something he said that I didn’t like:  “But let me tell you the real problem of what we’re up against.  If you want to build a facility in the United States, you can’t because of the EPA’s regulatory reign of terror.”  Reign of terror?  Hyperbole much?  Now there are probably adjustments that could be made to the regulations.  But the environment that we live in does need protections, as that ultimately protects us as well.

Now for some general comments.  I am not all that pleased with President Obama’s performance so my vote is there for the taking.  But it concerns me how much to the right the GOP candidates are having to run right now.  I think I could vote for a reasonable GOP candidate.  But I won’t vote for crazy.  This was perhaps demonstrated best when a moderator asked everyone if they would step away from a deal that included 10-to-1 spending cuts to revenue increases.  Every one of them said yes, they would step away from that.  That’s insane.  Will the candidate that emerges be able to come back to the center from the far right of the political spectrum?

Also, since the debate, Iowa had a straw poll that Michelle Bachmann won.  But this straw poll is not that predictive of future results (for goodness sake, Pat Robertson won the Iowa straw poll one year).  Still, Tim Pawlenty was so disappointed with his performance that he’s dropped out.  Also, Rick Perry is now officially in.  From the sound of things, he may become the defacto main challenger to Mitt Romney, but we shall see.

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Yes, President Obama’s approval rating has fallen with the whole debt ceiling debacle (though really it has pretty much just returned to pre-killing Bin Laden levels).  However, Congress would be overjoyed to have Obama-like approval numbers right now.  The approval for Congress is at its lowest level ever (at least since they started measuring such things).  I actually would love to know what part of the Congressional performance that the 14% is approving.  So Congress finally pushed through a bill to raise the debt ceiling.  But don’t worry Congress, no one is under the mistaken believe that you’ve actually accomplished anything.  Your reputation of being worthless is secure!

  • The “crisis” was totally of Washington’s own making.  The debt ceiling only serves as an obstacle to borrowing for spending already approved by Congress.  So Congress is telling the executive branch it must spend money on certain things, but it can’t borrow money to spend that money even if you don’t have the money.  So either way, not raising the debt ceiling means a violation of law one way or the other.
  • They were trying to avoid a downgrade in the country’s credit rating.  Friday, Standard & Poor’s downgraded this country’s credit rating anyway.  (Though given Standard & Poor’s own role in this economic mess with their triple-A rating credit default swaps, I’m not sure how much credibility Standard & Poor’s should have.)
  • The debt ceiling deal has zero, zilch, nada, a big fat goose egg of things in it that will create jobs and help the economy.  This is our most immediate need, and yet we are doing nothing.
  • Not only this, but the current political environment leaves us with almost no options for the government to implement policy that can help create jobs.  Stimulus spending is not politically viable right now.  Most other options include simply extending tax cuts we already have that don’t seem to be working.
  • We also don’t have an environment that will allow this country to actually solve the long-term issue of the debt.  Think after this whole mess that both sides are going to actually sit down and put together a plan that will thoughtfully find ways to increase revenue and reform entitlements?

You know, I have heard people say that government is “broken” for a long time.  I am not sure that’s been true in the past.  It has certainly been inefficient and messy.  But things did use to get done.  It looks like we may have reached that point now that government really can’t solve anything.  Not even partially.  It is truly broken.  At least until we start electing representatives that realize that reasonable people can disagree, compromise is not a dirty word, and that slogans, mottoes, and pledges are not the best way to govern.

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