Monday, April 30, 2007

Hypocrite Series: John Edwards Proposes Form 1

In a podcast on his site, John Edwards talks about his Form 1 proposal. Form 1 effectively replaces the 1040 EZ filled out by a large number of tax payers. Instead, Edwards would have the IRS use information already in its possession to prepare Form 1 and send it to taxpayers for review, signature, and payment/refund. In this way, he alleviates what he calls 7 hours of work preparing the form.

On its face, this really doesn't seem like that bad an idea. I found myself listening to him and thinking it made quite a bit of sense, but the leap you have to take is believing that the taxes themselves are good. If you do, this is a great plan for those who qualify to use the 1040 EZ.

By focusing on the forms and process, Edwards has implied he approves of the current tax system. I happen to believe the current tax system goes against the ideals of the founders of our country and should be abolished. Nevertheless, the government needs money to operate, and a more acceptable scheme in my opinion is a national sales tax.

This proposal also makes me wonder if Edwards would like taxes out of sight, out of mind, so to speak. With most of those who qualify for the 1040 EZ, exposure to taxes is pretty minimal except for filling out the form once a year. If the IRS fills out the form, and all they have to do is sign to get their big refund check, it's unlikely that demographic will object to tax increases.

That would seem to play into Democrats' hands who believe they know better how to spend our money than we do. Ah, who am I kidding...the Republicans want to spend all of our money, too.

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Hypocrite Series: Useless Blogs

In a mere two days, I've discovered that blogs for the 2008 Presidential Campaign are largely worthless for doing the kind of in depth issue analysis I was hoping to do. Their only benefit seems to be judging the candidates by the attitudes of their hired guns. A while back, Edwards ran into some problems with a couple of his bloggers, and judging by what I read today, he has replaced them with at least one equally extreme nutjob. Oh well, I'd rather not see him become President so it's fine with me if he shoots himself in the foot.

Anyway, back to the point. I'm now digging around the campaign sites and looking for news articles and interviews as an alternative to the blogs. That digging is producing a little more material but probably not as much as I would like. It's amazing how little is said in so many words by so many candidates, but I'll try make the best of it.

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Friday, April 27, 2007

Bravo Utah


I'm a Hypocrite

I'm sure most of us could make that statement about something in our lives. To the point of this article, though, I'm talking about United States politics. You see, I tend to follow politics and elections and harbor strong feelings about policies and outcomes. Yet, when it comes right down to it, I've only voted during an election once in my life. In fact, I haven't even been registered to vote in the last 15 years. The truth of the matter is that I'm so cynical toward the players and the process that I see no reason to vote. Going further, I've never seen a candidate remotely close to me on enough issues to be worth voting for, and in my estimation, so many are crooks and liars that voting for the "best person" means picking the lesser of all evils.

There's an old movie starring Richard Pryor called Brewster's Millions in which Brewster, played by Pryor, runs a campaign to vote None of the Above. It seemed preposterous when the movie was released, but is it really preposterous today? Is that perhaps what others like me are doing when they consciously choose not to vote?

To delve a little into my somewhat divergent political opinions, I'm going to write a series of articles related to posts I find on major presidential candidate blogs. Those will include Obama, Clinton, Edwards, Giuliani, McCain, and Romney. If he enters the field, it will be expanded to include Fred Thompson and any other lesser candidate who gains momentum against the current front-runners. It will be a longer running series in which readers will hopefully see why someone like me tends to vote None of the Above.

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Saturday, April 21, 2007

Weinsteins and Blockbuster Screw Consumers

What the hell is the deal with exclusivity arrangements? I've been supportive of Grindhouse both financially and around the Internet, and what do I find out at Blockbuster last week? The Weinsteins have given Blockbuster an exclusive rental arrangement on all of their films. Of course, as you probably noticed, I was in Blockbuster so I am a customer, but I'm only a customer when I have a weekend where I want to watch several movies (very rare). Netflix is my normal rental company, and before you ask, I don't like them much better than Blockbuster. You can read more here:

So how is this bad for me? Or the Weinsteins? Or Blockbuster?

It's bad for me because I don't much like Blockbuster. They're basically a brick and mortar monopoly around here, and they're overpriced and deceptive to the extreme. Netflix isn't much better, but at least it keeps some competition alive. Aside from that, I might not find out about good Weinstein movies because they aren't available at Netflix.

It's bad for the Weinsteins because a lot of their target audience are probably Netflix subscribers. That's a complete guess, but if you're putting out movies like Clerks II and Grindhouse, you might want a more Internet friendly audience.

For Blockbuster...I'm going to do business with them even less now that I know they're using their size and influence to attempt to lock a competitor out of the market.

Now my only problem is figuring out how to watch a couple of the Weinstein movies featured at Blockbuster without rewarding their arrangement...

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The Gun Control Debate

When I wrote my previous post, I had no idea just how loud both sides would become in the gun control debate that has followed the Virginia Tech incident this week. Tonight at CNN, I found an article linked in their Top Stories section that is hopelessly illogical. To CNN's credit, they visibly marked it as an opinion piece and linked to an article by Ted Nugent at both the top and the bottom. Regardless, let's take a quick look at the rubbish put forth by UCLA Professor Tom Plate.

First, the title:

Let's lay down our right to bear arms

Obviously, Professor Plate wanted to stir something up with this title, but the point sinks home. Gun control advocates see the Virginia Tech situation as their end game in the debate. However, why don't we reframe the argument for them? Do they remember the warrantless phone tapping President Bush authorized? Were they the ones who said, "Let's lay down our right to privacy" in the wake of terrorist attacks? In fact, I bet it's the exact opposite. I bet they called for impeachment.

Our nation was founded on a healthy distrust of authority which brought us the Second Amendment. In a year where liberals have chided the President for acting like an authoritarian, how can they possibly want to remove one of the tools that helps keep his power in check?

Moving on...

The use of guns is often the American technique of choice for all kinds of conflict resolution. Our famous Constitution, about which many of us are generally so proud, enshrines -- along with the right to freedom of speech, press, religion and assembly -- the right to own guns. That's an apples and oranges list if there ever was one.

Not all of us are so proud and triumphant about the gun-guarantee clause. The right to free speech, press, religion and assembly and so on seem to be working well, but the gun part, not so much.

Have you ever read anything quite so condescending? Generally so proud? Apples and oranges? How does Professor Plate think the colonists attained the apples? Could it have been with the oranges?

These students were not killed by a Korean, they were killed by a 9 mm handgun and a .22-caliber handgun. need to keep reading. The Professor showed his hand, and there's not much in it. Did the handguns float to Norris Hall and fire off 200 rounds on their own? No, a man who just so happened to be Korean (not sure why Plate is so concerned about race in this article) carried them there and pulled the trigger. If he had used the knife, would we have blamed the knife? The hammer?

What if knives, hammers, and guns were unavailable? Maybe he would have used...I don't know...fertilizer?

The point those like Professor Plate miss is if somebody wants to murder, they will. We can either sentence ourselves to lives in a padded cell, or we can responsibly deter and, if necessary, defend when confronted by evil.


Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Agenda Pushing Ambulance Chasers

As is always the case, we're already seeing the agenda pushing extremists crawl out of the woodwork as 24-hour news channels fight to fill time during their coverage of the Virginia Tech shooting. Some like Jack Thompson are already out blaming video games before we even know if the guy played video games, but the more dangerous crackpots are the news anchors talking about gun control. Even here in the gun-toting Midwest, a local news reporter mentioned Britain's low gun crime rate, a result of draconian gun laws in a surveillance society. But guess what...if you look around, Britain has a little problem with knives.

One thing that few beyond my family know about me is that I have a concealed carry license. Even though I've had it 2 years now, I've never carried a concealed, loaded firearm. Aside from being generally unconcerned about violence when I'm out and about, it's very difficult for me to carry a gun because the laws would put me in jail if I brought it onto school property. Given I drop my son off at school everyday, it's practically impossible for me to carry a gun and not break a law.

What the media likes to downplay are cases like Pearl, Mississippi, where an assistant principal retrieved a firearm from his car (parked off-campus mind you) and subdued the assailant. What if he could have carried the gun? What if he could have left it in a car parked on campus? Would the death toll have been different?

What if just one person in Norris Hall had a gun?

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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Movie Review: The Reaping

Starring Hilary Swank, The Reaping tells the story of a Christian minister who lost her faith and now debunks miracles for a living. In a small Louisiana town, her faith in science is challenged when confronted with what appear to be the Biblical plagues.

Swank and Elba deliver solid performances, and if you close your eyes at the right time, you might think Liam Neeson was playing Doug, the town's science teacher. It seems David Morrissey conjured Neeson's Nell performance or something when preparing for the roll.

It's not all that scary, but it has a few moments. Swank's character's lack of belief actually justifies some of the silly things horror movie characters do so that was unique. And then at the end, we do get a bit of a twist. Beyond that, though, there's nothing much to say. Signs by M. Night Shyamalan might be a better choice if you're looking for a story about belief and faith.

You can see the trailer below:


Friday, April 06, 2007

Movie Review: Grindhouse

It's been only 2 hours since I emerged from the first Grindhouse matinee of the day. Only a few minutes ago, someone said to me they heard Bruce Willis and Kurt Russell were in a movie so bad it was good. At least, that's what the local newspaper review led them to believe. Apparently the reviewer was out of the loop because this work is so good, it's incredible.

If you don't know, Grindhouse is Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez's homage to the B-movie, drive-in double-feature of the 70's. This includes Rodriguez's Planet Terror and Tarantino's Death Proof. Adding to the authenticity, they were nice enough to scratch the film, lose some scenes, and even break the projector here and there. That wasn't enough, though. They took it a step further and gave us throwback commercials, fake trailers, and even some blurry credits. The entire package is designed with one goal in mind...entertainment. And to that end, it delivers.

First up at the Grindhouse, the fake trailer for Machete. Rodriguez staples Danny Trejo and Cheech Marin deliver the best looking trailer of the bunch. Trejo walks some familiar territory as Rodriguez filmed one scene almost straight from Desperado. The end result is so good I wanted to see the movie, and based on some of the comments around the web, that just might happen.

After some antique ratings and feature presentation banners, we get the first full-length movie, Planet Terror. Rodriguez hauled out the fake blood and body parts by the truckloads, and with tongue fixed squarely in cheek gives us lines like "I never miss," in a classic zombie romp. The missing reel was timed so beautifully that the audience groaned audibly in disappointment, but it wasn't long before Cherry (Rose McGowan) had a machine gun for a leg replacing disappointment with laughter. If you took Planet Terror seriously, you would think it was absurd, but knowing the intent, it's genius.

At intermission, Grindhouse gave us some fake food commercial along with 3 more trailers. Unfortunately, the facilities beckoned so I really only saw the fake trailer Werewolf Women of the SS. The cameo (can you call an appearance in a fake trailer a cameo???) toward the end is the payoff and had the audience in stitches. Eli Roth and Edgar Wright deliver the other two trailers which I'll leave alone since I didn't see them in context.

Moving on...we finally get Quentin Tarantino's Death Proof. Make no mistake...this is a Quentin Tarantino movie even if it's also paying tribute to a genre. What does that mean? It means the movie might seem to be moving slow because he's building characters through dialog. But make no mistake, there will be a payoff in the end.

Death Proof is about Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell) and his "death proof" stunt car. To say more might spoil it for you so I'll leave it at that. You can infer more from the trailer, but it would be great to go into this one knowing nothing about it. Again, we get hit with a missing reel at a key moment eleciting another set of groans from the mostly male audience. One can only hope they find all of them for the DVD release...

The real focus, though, is the car chase. Tarantino wanted to make a great car chase without CGI, and he did just that. Casting a real stuntwoman (Zoe Bell) as herself in the movie was genius, and lets Tarantino get away with whatever camera work he wanted during the car chase as he's not trying to hide anyone's face. The chase was so good, the entire audience applauded...something I haven't seen here in a theater for years.

My recommendation is get out and see Grindhouse. It's quite an experience. You can watch the trailer below: