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By Anna

Few have doubts that the assassination of President John F Kennedy wasn’t a conspiracy, including Director Oliver Stone. But according to Roger Ebert, and I tend to side with him on this, JFK isn’t a film about proving our darkest suspicions. It’s a film “about feelings.”

If you haven’t seen JFK, imagine the scenes of Zodiac, where Robert Graysmith (Gyllenhaal’s character) is losing his family because of his obsession with the unsolved Zodiac murders. New Orleans State’s Attorney Jim Garrison is Graysmith. They are the same man and the story is told in the same way—reflecting true events and stirring the audience’s real emotions they still hold from those true unresolved events.

What’s different between me and Ebert, however, is I wasn’t alive in 1963 when JFK was assassinated by maybe the CIA, the FBI, Castro, the anti-Castro Cubans, the Mafia, the Russians or all of them together.

I don’t remember the feeling of sorrow, anger and frustration Americans felt at the unanswered questions, but I am alive to feel the ramifications of the government distrust because of the conspiracy cover up.

A Canadian told me last week that we in the United States will never be able to have a government like Canada because we would never allow regulation and government control because of events like JFK’s assassination and Watergate. JFK stands for something so much greater than a coup d’état, though that’s pretty damn significant, it stands for that feeling we get as Americans when we realize that fighting for freedom means fighting for individual tyranny—a selfish tyranny that can always be trumped by a more selfish and greater tyranny: Career politicians and, according to Stone, war hawks. After all, as Theologians Stanley Hauerwas and William Willimon put it: States are dependent on wars for moral coherence because war gives us the necessary basis for self-sacrifice so that people who have been taught to pursue self-interest can at times die for one another.

Kennedy died for us. For “moral coherence.”

As I write this pleasantly outraged by the mere idea of a conspiracy surrounding JFK’s death, which the Department of Justice at least admitted to in 1991, I have to recognize Ebert’s truth: My outrage is because of the masterpiece that is JFK—the perfect editing (remember the scene when Garrison and his posse are dining out juxtaposed with the cutting up of the inexplicable Oswald photo? It’s a dance between sleuths and schemers), the apotheosis casting, the discovery of the Zapruder film causing anachronism and shock—every little bit constructs nothing short of “our national state of mind since November 22, 1963” (Ebert).

Quick Reviews from movies I saw this week

Hot Tub Time Machine

It made me laugh, it made me cringe, but most of all it made me glad I was a teen in the otts and not the 80s. Take it or leave it, that’s all I have to say.

Let the Right One In

This is a poignant and mystical film that isn’t really about vampires at all—though that’s what mainstream society wants you to think. This Swedish film, based on a novel by the same name, is being remade here in the United States and due to come out on Friday, but I think the original will be a better use of your time.

The film is about a young boy who befriends a young vampire girl who lives in his apartment building, but it could be any young kid struggling with identity and befriending the society reject. Yes, it’s the vampires that draw us in and freak us out (the ability she has to control and manipulate her prey is eerie), but their situation breaks my heart. I too was there at age 12, struggling to let the right one in. I think the U.S. version could shed a different cultural light on this, but I’m skeptical. So see this first and then move on to a newer interpretation.

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By Adam

It helps to boil things down. Thundering through my life, a lot of details drop through the cracks, and the time to remember all of this shit is theoretical. For me, it’s got to be in terms I understand.

photo from the Telegraph

Take this Israel-Palestine situation, for example. So someone attacked a ship carrying aid and someone is calling someone a terrorist and yadda yadda. You know how I see it? Lowest common denominator, that’s how. The Middle East is like Magic Johnson, and Israel and Palestine are AIDS. Now, you can’t beat AIDS. That’s just science. But like Magic shows us, you can live with it and make a living being the next Charles Barkley. And then, you’ve got people trying to cure the AIDS—I guess that would be Iran?—okay, listen. I’m not sure what I’m advocating here, but it helps to look at things in black and white.

You know how everyone is pissed off at the president for his response (or lack of one) to the oil spill? This is hilarious. What are we expecting here? “Air Force 12—A highly sophisticated shrimping boat codenamed ‘JENAY’—trawls the Gulf, helmed by Captain Barack Obama and his merry crew of cabinet men and one loveable retard, administering soggy justice to the oil and the nefarious British scalawags that market in it.” He’s the president; he’s supposed to wear a suit and sound smart and be every white guy’s “one black guy I know.” Oh, I have another idea! We can use Obama’s white-hot rage at the recovery effort to set the Gulf aflame, saving drunken southerners and Vietnamese people a job. That’s the kind of change I voted for.

And of course, there’s that Detroit pitcher who snatched a one-hitter from the jaws of a perfect game with the help of an umpire. What am I even supposed to say to this? It’s 2010! Who gives a fuck about baseball? If you’re an adult and still follow baseball fervently, you are either an autistic or a fantasy baseball aficionado, and I don’t know which one is worse. At least you can have a conversation with an autistic person.

I read an article on CNN today about this guy—this executioner—promoting the firing squad as a means of capital punishment in Utah. To this I give a hearty “hell yes.” If you absolutely have to kill someone in front of a crowd of witnesses, go Wild West on them. There’s nothing humane about the lethal injection: it’s fucking boring for everyone. I’d rather watch a documentary about a man that collects championship-related hats than watch a lethal injection. Do you understand this? I’d rather watch an artful tracking shot of rare NFC Championship game loser hats than watch a man fall asleep and then not wake up. It’s a function of entertainment.

Over-thinking things has brought on almost all of the problems now facing the world. Just remember: the end times are now, so let’s just enjoy it. The alternative is painfully boring.

By Erin

Epstein

Epstein

When it comes to the massive failure of an intelligent healthcare debate, I blame the geniuses.  A couple of weeks ago I heard Richard Epstein participate in a debate regarding healthcare.  Professor Epstein, who teaches at NYU School of Law, is of the Chicago school of law and economics, which is to say that he believes in capitalism, or more specifically, in laissez-faire capitalism.  His is the kind of intellect that Ayn Rand fantasized about, and he leads the field in torts, contracts, and health care law.  Basically, if anyone could articulate best why Obama’s plan could fail, it should be Richard Epstein.

And maybe he did.

Unfortunately, the only words I understood were the names he called government employees.  Like listening to Dr. House ridicule his fellows while solving the case, I understood his tone—his general disbelief that people below his I.Q. score can do anything right—but I could not understand his evidence.  Technicalities and jargon riddled his argument which left me wondering whether or not he won the debate.

Now, I don’t necessarily lean populist.  I think the smartest people should work on the country’s toughest problems in order to come up with the best solutions.  But the healthcare debate illuminates the flaws of such a process—in a democratic society, the smartest people need to be able to articulate why their solutions are the best in order for the rest of us to make an informed vote (or, more accurately, in order for the members of Congress to make an informed vote).

I’m not calling for a dumbing down of the geniuses, but I am calling for a new skill set to be developed in the ivory towers.  Communication is key.  Otherwise all we’re left with is name-calling from both the idiots and the intellects.

By Ryan

460523_poker_chipsPeople are interesting.  When it comes to their relationship with other people, they often struggle with commitment, afraid of investing too much of themselves in something that could potentially hurt them later on.  When faced with more abstract ideas, however, many tend to overvalue commitment to the point that it actually fosters a relationship of hurt with the very thing to which they commit.  I’ve done this, but I’m trying to do it less; I’ve found a helpful phrase to express this idea: choosing to not engage with things that don’t engage me.

Take, for example, the area of politics.  I’ve been so sick of politics, politicians, pundits, and the way we choose to talk about politics in 2009 that, frankly, my only experiences in a realm I once enjoyed have been mostly negative.  Almost every time I choose to engage with political ideas, via reading about them or talking about them, the end result is me feeling disappointed with myself and others.  Politics is prime area of interest that forces one to have conversations on the turf of others, refusing to meet the needs or interests of those not highly-attuned to what happens in D.C.

It’s not just politics, though.  I feel the same way about things that are more trivial (to some), like television.  I don’t care how long you’ve watched a series—if it’s bad now, then it’s not worth watching anymore.  People act like they’re “pot-committed” in poker; just because you’ve already put in a lot of money that you’re likely to lose is no reason to stay around and throw more money in the pot.  Furthermore, I can’t tell you how many people rave about certain shows that, upon viewing, I’ve stopped watching after the first episode.  Don’t tell me to “stick with it.”  If The Wire or Mad Men or whatever doesn’t make you want to watch more, then don’t watch more.  In fact, I think it’s kind of silly to watch more if that’s the case.

The same goes for reading a book, watching a movie, listening to music, going on a trip, going to church, etc.  This is your life; if you aren’t being engaged in a way that makes you want to engage, then, by all means, disengage.  There’s no prize for finishing something that you’re doing out of leisure, guilt, or self-assumed responsibility and you’re only hurting yourself to think there’s value in completion.

By Anna

epln132lWhere does my generation stand in the face of protest? The Vietnam peacemakers transitioned the youth of this country from the enlisting patriots of World Wars I and II to global citizens recognizing the greater issues. What the Vietnam protesters of my father’s generation see as a catatonic waste of a young generation, we see as digital intercontinental vilification. Our action takes to the greatest force in the world: the Internet.

Last week, I wrote about the new “surge” campaign for Afghanistan in Bush tradition, which naturally increases the death toll not only for U.S. troops, but Afghan citizens as well. Death is final, yet the military makes a career out of it.

There is a war for every peacemaker. Some will chose to defend the deaths of U.S. citizens abroad, but others choose children in Sudan, teachers in Cambodia (circa 1975), mothers in Rwanda or Japanese in America.

I respect, research and admire those Vietnam protestors, but defend the lack of physical protests of my generation against the quagmires of Iraq and what will be Afghanistan because times change, and the youth adapt the quickest.