Saturday, May 19, 2018

Movie Reviews: 12 Strong

12 Strong
directed by Nicolai Fuglsig
Competent but not compelling war movie where Thor has a carbine instead of a hammer.
Some war movies purport to tell it it like it is without taking sides, whether or not they also indulge in the post Saving Private Ryan level of explicit carnage. Other war movies have a high degree of cynicism and anger towards war in general and US foreign policy in particular. In these movies the real bad guys are the high ranking officers who withhold resources and information from brave combat soldiers, greedy corporate managers who couldn't care less how many American soldiers die to make a 3rd world country safe for business, or white supremacists who salivate at the possibility of being able to terrorize, rape or kill non-whites with the legal imprimatur of the United States government. Still other war movies are more interested in the impact of war on the minds and souls of the men who are engaged in it. Other war movies are just excuses to show gore as much as possible.

And then of course there are war movies that uncritically accept American versions of the conflict and rather reactionary right wing versions at that. Most war movies tend towards one of these polarities, even if most also have varying mixes of these styles contained within. 12 Strong is a movie that likes to think it's telling it like it was, with a healthy helping of good old fashioned American heroism, patriotism and masculinity. There aren't any conflicted heroes here or shadowy civilian "agents" with hidden agendas.
 

Saturday, May 12, 2018

The Matt Patricia Situation

First impressions can often be lasting ones. New NFL Detroit Lions Head Coach Matt Patricia, who has barely been on the job for three months, is battling to make sure that his public persona remains the bearded wunderkind coaching phenom rarely found without a pencil behind his ear and not the fraternity guy who skated on rape charges two decades ago.

Patricia, who left the New England Patriots to take the Detroit Lions job, found himself having to explain his 1996 indictment on rape charges and why he had never communicated that to his employers in New England or Detroit. The Detroit News did some digging into Patricia's past and discovered this information.

She told police they met on a Texas beach, fellow college students visiting South Padre Island during spring break 1996. She was a 21-year-old college student at a large university; they were two football players and Theta Chi fraternity brothers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in upstate New York. On the evening of March 15, 1996, the woman told police that two men burst into the upscale hotel room where she was sleeping and took turns violently sexually assaulting her, according to court records and a news account at the time. 

They were arrested, charged and later indicted by a grand jury on one count of aggravated sexual assault — but they never stood trial and were not convicted.  One of the indicted men was 21-year-old Matt Patricia, who was hired as the head coach of the National Football League’s Detroit Lions in February. 

Book Reviews: The Wolves

The Wolves
by Alex Berenson
This older book which I picked up on sale is, given President Trump's recent decision to violate the Iran nuclear deal at both the behest and joy of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, still a timely and very entertaining read. The book can be enjoyed strictly as a modern spy thriller or as a brief against excessive foreign entanglements.  I thought that the bad guy was very well characterized; the good guy was a bit less compelling. This is an installment in a series.

I was unfamiliar with the author before but I will be reading his other works. Don't worry. This book is virtually stand alone. The reader can follow the story without having read previous installments. The author does short judicious information dumps along the way to get the reader up to date and hopefully whet his appetite to read earlier books. So don't think that you can't read this book unless you've read the others. That is so not necessary. 

John Wells is an ex-CIA agent who is still in the game. A storm is on the way. Previously John Wells provided proof that the United States was being manipulated into war with Iran by rabid Zionist, casino billionaire mogul, dual Israeli-American citizen, and Presidential financial backer Aaron Duberman (think a barely fictionalized Sheldon Adelson). 

Wells and a few CIA agents barely prevented a war against Iran based on lies enthusiastically created and spread by Duberman. Duberman viewed Iran as an intolerable threat to Israel. He wanted the United States to attack and invade Iran. Duberman didn't care how many people died in this false flag operation. He thought the cost in lives would have been worth it. Wells went after Duberman but wasn't able to get him. Duberman fled to Israel where he feels he's untouchable. 

Joy Reid and the Big Lie

MSNBC host Joy Reid was recently at the center of a minor brouhaha which was indicative of why many people hold the establishment media in low esteem. Before Reid was the eye rolling Madame Defarge of the anti-Trump Resistance she was a radio talk show host, political columnist and a blogger. Few people paid attention to everything that Reid was writing on her blog from 2006 to 2010. Reid wasn't big time then. Her blog was aimed at a different audience than she reaches with her 2018 television show. The political and cultural environment was different a decade ago. President Obama was elected in 2008 claiming opposition to same sex marriage. Likely, some assumed that it wasn't a very strident opposition, that Obama was lying, or that he was just cautious about coming out in favor of gay marriage. 

But even then it was at the very least bad form, rude and callous if not "homophobic" for a straight person to publicly question people's sexuality, mock people by calling them gay, or claim ostentatious disgust at the idea of gay intimacy. Reid did all of that. People found Reid's old blog posts, many of which claimed that then Florida Republican governor Charlie Crist was gay. Reid apologized and said she was a different person back then. This was no big deal to me. The rain falls on good and evil alike. Many people have made nasty statements about those they consider other. 

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Can Trump Voters Be Reached?

Clinton lost the 2016 Presidential election for a million different reasons. And she will explain in detail to you that almost none of them were her fault. But a major reason for the shocking Clinton loss was that voters in the upper Midwest and interior east didn't vote for Clinton. States such as Iowa, Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, and Pennsylvania that had given their electoral votes to Obama in 2012 switched to Trump in 2016. These states are less diverse than the U.S. as a whole, certainly less cosmopolitan than California or New York. There were enough white voters who had voted for Obama in 2012 but switched to Trump in 2016 to put Trump over the top. Some of these voters are having second thoughts about their 2016 decision; others are not.

RITTMAN, Ohio — In the daily race that is her life, Sharla Baker does not think about politics very much. She rises early, drives to the gas station to buy coffee, feeds her baby, dresses her two other children, ages 3 and 2, and hustles them all off to day care. By 9:30 a.m. she pulls into a hair salon 45 minutes away, where she is training to be a cosmetologist. She waxes and cuts all day long, making only the money she earns in tips, which on a recent day last month was $8.41.

But Ms. Baker does vote. She picked Barack Obama for president in 2008 and 2012. He seemed sincere and looked like a happy family man. But most important, he was a Democrat. Her great-grandmother, who grew up poor in Pennsylvania, always said that Democrats look out for the poor people. In 2016, though, she voted for Donald J. Trump. Yes, he was rich and seemed mean on his TV show, “The Apprentice.” But she liked how he talked about jobs and wages and people being left out of the economy.

Now, more than a year later, she is wavering. “I voted for Trump because I wanted some change going on,” said Ms. Baker, 28. “But then again, maybe he’s going to do the wrong change.” The swing of Obama voters to Mr. Trump proved a decisive factor in the 2016 presidential election. Of the more than 650 counties that chose Mr. Obama twice, about a third flipped to Mr. Trump. Many were in states critical to Mr. Trump’s win, like Iowa, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin.


Movie Reviews: 10 x10

10 x 10
directed by Suzi Ewing
This was an effective little thriller that plays around with the viewer's expectations. You initially think it's another generic woman in peril film but it's not. Unfortunately it does use some cliches during the later portion of the movie while leaving more questions unanswered but overall this movie was worthwhile. The lead actor and actress are well known but I wouldn't call them superstars. I found it easy to fall into the film and flow into the world it created. At times the film might have stalled a little too long or been a little too cute in its bait and switch but no one is perfect. This was a good not great film. It's not something that you're going to remember for a long time. I thought the director missed the opportunity to really make you care about the two lead characters. This was not anything bad that the actors did. They were good.

Part of this was inherent in the setup. It's essential that the viewer not know certain things at the beginning. But later, I thought the director could have done a little more table setting, put things more in context so that the "good" and "evil" characters were a little better defined. But at just over ninety minutes this film didn't overstay its welcome. And Ewing and the screenwriter Noel Clarke do an excellent job of building tension and teasing viewer interest in the first part of the movie.