Does the Force Awaken or Hit the Snooze Bar?

After over 30 years of waiting, at last there is a sequel to Return of the Jedi. Finally, we have a movie that will drive out the bad taste of all those prequels that we endured, right? Well, not so fast. The following is my brief review of Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

There was a lot riding on this one. Star Wars: The Force Awakens was supposed to be the movie that not only made fists-full of cash (which it is doing quite well), but also served as a springboard for an entire new Star Wars cinematic universe that would include a whole slew of money-making side films complementing  the primary films of Episode VII, Episode VIII, etc.  If such a strategy was successful, it would justify all of the billions of dollars invested by Disney in order to acquire Lucasfilm in the first place. But perhaps more importantly (at least to the movie-going public), SWTFA was going to be a magical film that would thrill millions of fans and bring us all back to a simpler period where we experienced Star Wars for the first time. But let’s be honest, there’s no going home. There are no nostalgia-goggles big enough to recreate the almost perfect circumstance of uniqueness in the cinematic market, the original creative approach to the material, and a Jimmy Carter depression climate (although B.O. is trying) that all add up to equal the same youthful escapism at the theater that we found in watching the original Star Wars. Unrealistic expectations aside, SWTFA is a pretty good film. It’s nice to see the old characters and familiar elements again, the new characters seem O.K. and at least have humanity to them, and the film has pretty good moments of humor. On top of that,  SWTFA has excellent production values, a reluctance to be too political in an overtly and trendy way (I wonder how long that will last?), and quite a few schmaltzy moments that make you remember an earlier age where you lost yourself in a tale of a farm-boy with dreams of adventure.

Now, it’s time for gripes, and I have a few krayt dragon bones to pick with this film in which I will be revealing a few mild, general spoilers. I won’t talk about anything major that will ruin the film for you, but if you want to be completely surprised, you might want to skip to the last paragraph.  I will begin with my biggest issue in that Star Wars: The Force Awakens, in many ways, felt like a reboot/remake of the original Star Wars. That is not to say that there wasn’t any original material in it, there was, but what you had was not just another Star Wars movie, but an almost retelling of that same story of a callow youth from a remote world who goes on a dire mission, and together with new friends, defeats the bad-guys and their planet-destroying thing, all while discovering the power within. Now, some might say that’s just because Star Wars is part of the quest trope, and Joseph Campbell, and blah, blah, blah, and that maybe right, but it was a little disappointing.

Another issue that I had with SWTFA is in its approach to the death of some of its characters. Sometimes a character, played by a distinguished actor, will be introduced only to be abruptly eliminated soon after that introduction, leaving you scratching your head as to why they wasted such talent. I’m reminded of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, where they had to introduce us to new-old-friends for Indy because the original actors had passed on the project or had passed away. In Indy, it didn’t really work, for lack of a good script, but in the case of SWTFA, these new-old-friends were killed off in short order before we had any time to assess if they added to the story or not. Additionally, the film pretends to kill off some of its characters, only to reveal a little later that they hadn’t perished at all. I’m not a fan of “I’m still alive, bro (high-five)!” type storytelling, especially when the death of the characters might have given some graver meaning to the future perils awaiting them. Please understand that I’m not trying to have it both ways (e.g. if you kill them, I’m unhappy, but if you don’t kill them, I’m unhappy). What I believe is that in drama, the death of a character, or the surprise return of a character, should have meaning. Kill them or don’t, but don’t needlessly off them or bring them back in such a way that doesn’t add anything to the story more than offering an easy road to plot complication C.

Furthermore, I got the impression that the script was a bit lazy and predictable. Character development occasionally happened because it was necessary to advance the plot, but didn’t feel very motivated. This is especially true where the force is concerned, with one of the characters discovering their powers because it was required to get them out of a sticky point, but made little sense for it to happen like it did. Additionally, a big deal is made out of the inclusion of a new female enemy, but in the end the character and their gender serve little purpose in the story. That character could have been anyone under that armor; nothing they did was so important that any nameless Stormtrooper couldn’t have done as well. Although the villain looked cool and appeared like she could do some serious damage if given half a chance, ultimately she did almost nothing to justify her existence, nor her unique look. The dramatist A. P. Chekhov observed, “If in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one it should be fired. Otherwise don’t put it there.” * I think this female villain was a needlessly-hung pistol. And lest I forget to mention, in a bit of a disappointment, the emotional climax of the whole movie, that part that everyone’s going to talk about, could have been seen from miles away. And while it may have been fated to happen because of story reasons and actor’s wishes, I really think more of an effort should have been made to make it more of a surprise.

So, that’s my take on what is likely to be the first of many, many films set in the Star Wars universe. Of all the possible measures you can use in determining the value of it, the one real testament of whether a movie of this sort (episodic) is good or not is inherent in the question: “Would you see another one?” As for me, I’m ready for Episode Eight. While in the case of the prequels, I was looking forward to the next one knowing that I was likely to be disappointed, in this case I measuredly foresee good things. My previous gripes notwithstanding, the story of Star Wars: The Force Awakens was pretty good, containing a good amount of warmth, wonder, and excitement. It wasn’t a perfect movie, nor one that sold my childhood back to me in a bottle, but it was well done. Bravo, J. J. Abrams. I rate it a three out of five.

 

-Ryan Thorson

 

 

* https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chekhov%27s_gun

 

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Vegas Nights, Revisited

Well, that does it for the last GOP debate of the year. While I’m sure it won’t sustain us through Christmas quite like visions of sugar plums do, I think it was an interesting mash-up. Here are my thoughts on that Vegas evening.

Jeb Bush – Much like I assumed, Jeb tried to do something spectacular, and failed. Although I can say that he was a little better than last time, making a fair point to Trump that if he so sensitive about people not treating him nice, what does he expect from the world as President? However, his whole interrupt exchange with Trump was still awful to see unfold and played out like a re-run from the previous debate. Jeb Bush was a loser for not convincing anyone that he’s the one. If he continues, it’ll be only as a wraith.

Ben Carson – Predictably, Ben tried hard to prove his foreign policy chops and discussed his threat to leave the GOP because of party boss interference. On the former, I thought his call for Congress to declare war on ISIS, his moment of silence for San Bernardino, and his discussion about his conversations with Syrian refugees and their desire to remain in the Middle East were all well done. On the later, Ben declared that he had reassurances from GOP leadership that no such interference would take place, rather than renewing his threat to leave the GOP, and I think many were pleased to hear this. Ben is still in this thing, but while he did overall better than he has, I’d be really surprised if his poll numbers change radically, because he really didn’t have the watershed moment he needed to get back on top.

Chris Christie – Chris did very well in overall performance, showing himself to be a potential tough leader. His best moment was when he flat-out called the current POTUS a “feckless weakling”, which everybody wanted to hear, but no one had yet said. However, it was also the endcap to his worst moment, for the POTUS insult followed Chris’s declaration he would shoot down Russian planes in a no-fly zone in Syria, an assertion which Senator Paul proceeded to stomp on. Paul correctly pointed out that if the Russians already fly in Syria, you can’t just establish a no-fly zone and shoot them down, unless you want to start World War III. Paul even got in a dig about Chris’s bridge scandal, to which Chris chose to ignore rather than confront. Additionally, Chris probably didn’t help himself by forgetting that King Hussein of Jordan was dead, making it difficult for him to ally with. Chris’s biggest obstacle is that he’s a big-government Republican who champions power and security over individual liberty. However, his performance was strong. Look for his numbers to go up nationally and in New Hampshire.

Ted Cruz – Ted had a good night, but not all was well. He was cheerful, humorous, and his answers were spot-on. In fact, I don’t think that Rubio, his immediate contender, landed a single blow. In fact, it almost seemed like a tag-team with Rand and himself, the two big constitutionalists, taking on Rubio. I almost expected them to switch off, saying something like, “Rand, I got this one.” However, Ted shot himself in the foot when he tried to interrupt another candidate and was repeatedly told by the moderators to stop talking; that was bad. However, overall, he was really good and finished strong. Also, he had the best joke of the night, saying that he would build a wall that works and get Trump to pay for it! In terms of holding ground or helping himself, Cruz was in first or second place. Look for Cruz to go up in the polls.

Carly Fiorina – Carly, as always, had something intelligent to say whenever called on, and that normally would have helped her. However, she really negated her gains with all her interruptions. Whenever two candidates were called on for a little rhetorical pugilism, you could always hear Carly’s voice above it, making some criticism, and it really sounded bad. Additionally, her comments about first-term Senators didn’t go over right. Carly may go down a bit in the polls, and she may even have hurt her viability as a Vice-Presidential Candidate.

John Kasich – John interrupted less this time, but much like Carly or others, his frequent assertion about America not wanting their leaders to bicker failed to land a solitary punch. Furthermore, he kept referring to what his daughter had to say on this matter, which didn’t help him at all. Seriously, if he had mentioned his daughter one more time, I’d be leading a petition to have her replace Kasich as a candidate. By the end of the evening it was clear that John had failed to justify his candidacy.

Rand Paul – If we’re going just on debate performance, Rand was consistently the best debater. However, I’m not sure that his performance will translate into better polling, but I think he did help Cruz’s numbers when he and Cruz fought Marco. Ultimately, the Vegas debate may have been a grand farewell for Rand, but there’s no denying that he did well.

Marco Rubio – Marco was eloquent and pithy, but ultimately a failure. What he needed to do was take out Ted Cruz and promote himself… he did neither. Additionally, Rubio failed to properly deal with his stances on amnesty and his favoring of the bulk-collection of American’s phone metadata. Truthfully, Cruz cleaned his clock. A lot of pundits are claiming that this race will become a three or four way race very soon, and that may be, but if Rubio’s performance in Vegas is any indication, that race may not include him. Rubio’s poll numbers will probably take a hit.

Donald Trump – If in terms of mostly holding his own, the Don was the big winner. Frankly, that’s the only way Trump can win something like this. He can’t win on substance or clarity, but he’s definitely got style. Contrary to my prediction, he was reserved and only attacked when confronted or interrupted. This is definitely a point in his corner. However, Trump also made nice with the GOP establishment by complimenting them and renewing his pledge to run only as a Republican, a point that might go down hard with his supporters that are pro-Trump only as much as they are anti-establishment. Additionally, Trump took back his “maniac” comment about Ted Cruz, probably because he realizes as Cruz does that neither has much to gain from mutual attacks, but when it comes to making a compliment sound like an insult, no one on that stage is better than Trump. His lowest point came at the hand of Rand Paul, when Paul correctly criticized the Don’s intention to control the internet and kill the families of terrorists, requiring the repeal of the first amendment of the Constitution and also our withdrawal from the Geneva Convention. Expect Cruz to be the beneficiary of former Trump supporters who just figured out that Trump is not a conservative, but also expect Trump to stay on top for the time being.

 

– Ryan Thorson

Why is the Evil Empire “EVIL”?

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Not all change is good change!

As of writing this, it is December 17, 2015, and that means preview night for The Force Awakens! And much like many of you, later today I will be at a local theater watching the latest Star Wars movie! Eventually I will do a non-spoiler review on it, but first I thought I’d dust off an essay that I wrote a few years ago that examines the moral ambiguity forced on the original films with the addition of the ill-famed prequel trilogy. And so if you’re game (warning: it’s a bit dry), in celebration of the release of The Force Awakens, and with tongue somewhat planted in cheek, I give you a unique moral/political treatise on Star Wars in, Why is the Evil Empire “Evil”?

(Click on the link below.)

WhyIsTheEvilEmpireEvil

Debate Night, Vegas Style

Tomorrow night, the GOP candidates for President face off in another debate, this time from Las Vegas, which will be focused on foreign policy and terrorism. Before the big night, I thought I’d share my brief thoughts and predictions for the candidates who will participate on the main stage.

Jeb Bush – Is he still here? The establishment’s lost hope continues to hang in there, though not much else. Since the last debate, he’s spent quite a lot of money attacking his rivals, but that hasn’t translated into better polling numbers. Expect Jeb to try to do something dramatic to bring the focus to himself, but don’t expect it to work.

Ben Carson – At the last debate, Ben was the lead candidate in some polls, now much of his support has drifted to other candidates in the wake of recent terrorist attacks. Ben will try very hard to show off that he does indeed have foreign policy chops in an attempt to gain back some of his previous losses. You may even hear him take the GOP establishment to task on their rumored primary interference intending to prevent Trump, Cruz, or other perceived anti-establishment candidates from taking the nomination.

Chris Christie – After a very impressive show at the kiddie table last time, Chris is back to have another crack at seeming like a relevant candidate. With the NH primary approaching, Christie will try to make a big enough splash that will carry him to victory in New Hampshire, although he has a tough road ahead of him if he wants to convince conservatives that he’s one of them, and that they should just forgive or forget his past misadventures such as his post-hurricane seeming endorsement of Obama, his shaky history with the second amendment, or his adversarial relationship to the coal industry.

Ted Cruz – Ted returns, second only to Trump, and his numbers continue to rise. Right now, he’s favored to win the Iowa Caucuses in February, with a few points over Trump. Look to Ted to continue to play a disciplined debate game and not to go after any candidate, even as they will try to goad him to do so. He’ll try to keep his attacks to the administration, Hillary, and the terrorists, and if he has to answer a charge against himself from another candidate, he’ll try to be as general as possible, knowing that by attacking candidates directly he runs the risk that their supporters will take it personally. Ted will continue to position himself to be the beneficiary of disillusioned supporters of Trump, Carson, or Rubio.

Carly Fiorina – Carly has had a lot of trouble trying to recapture some of that lightning that she had in the first couple of debates. She’s not much on running negative, but she might be OK at doing this with Trump because of the history that they have together. Expect her to predict Trump attacks and be ready with something biting.

John Kasich – Expect John to interrupt a lot and make himself as much of a stench in the nostrils of as many potential voters as possible in his desperate attempt to save a candidacy that really has no purpose. This should be fun to see. Kasich is likely to drop out soon, but he may wait and see if he makes more than a blip on the NH primary radar, hoping for some East Coast good-will for a former Ohio governor.

Rand Paul – Just squeaking by, Rand avoids being exiled to the lower tier debate. With recent affairs dramatically shifting what voters believe is the most important issue (terrorism), Rand’s foreign policy beliefs put him at a distinct disadvantage. Look for him to attack many of the candidates on stage as being supportive of allowing terrorists into the country by not securing the borders, in an effort to recast his beliefs as strong on foreign policy.

Marco Rubio – Marco had a brief moment where he was occupying a number two or three slot in the polls, but enthusiasm has waned a bit, most likely because it seems that the GOP establishment is grooming him to be their guy since Bush and Kasich are going nowhere. Look for him to deliver a good performance, perhaps take a few shots at Cruz or Trump, but don’t expect his poll numbers to shift significantly unless Bush or another establishment candidate drops out, because in the eyes of many GOP voters, he’s seen as the guy who sold his soul to the devil. Marco is most likely to try to throw down with Cruz and Paul, and their efforts at ending the collection of bulk data from ordinary Americans.

Donald Trump – The Don’s numbers continue to rise, this in spite of the fact that he continues to take reactionary emotive stances and fails to have any detailed proposals of what he intends to do. Yes, I’ve heard of the wall. No one really knows what he wants to do, apart from making America great. No one knows what he believes in, besides Trump. Sure, he doles out a healthy amount of red-meat, but pandering can only go so far, and at some point he’s going to need to show that he really believes this stuff, that he has principles and not just platitudes. Look for the other candidates to attack him here, where he’s weakest. Much like Obama, the less you know about the guy the better he seems. Once his supporters start weighing what he says now against what he’s said in the past, then that may be the end of the Trump show. I anticipate that Trump will not be as reserved as he was last time, resting on his laurels; expect Trump to attack and insert himself as much as possible.

– Ryan Thorson

The Peanuts Movie Review

On Thanksgiving Day of this year, I and my family, having had to make our plans for the day’s observance conform to my work schedule, decided after a turkey dinner at Marie Callendar’s to go and catch a movie. The movie we saw was The Peanuts Movie.  Anyway, I wanted to get my five cents in about this film. So, briefly, this is what I thought of The Peanuts Movie.

This is the story of one Charlie Brown, who lives in a town where he is merely tolerated by most of his friends as the awkward kid that seems irredeemably average. However, this starts to change when the new kid moves in across the street: a pretty red-headed girl. Charlie then begins his mission to make himself standout in order to impress the new kid, but somewhere on his quest to attain likeable uniqueness, he proves that just maybe there was something special in Charlie Brown, all along.

Have you ever gone to the theatre to see the big-screen send-up of a beloved childhood property only to discover that the film-makers merely took its name and hollowed it out to fill with their own tripe and demonstrate their failure to understand what made this property a success in the first place? Well, I have… many, many, times. Peanuts is, thankfully, not that movie. This film got to the real core of the Peanuts comic strips and cartoons and nailed exactly what we like about it: its heart. While it is filled with nostalgic homages to its previous T.V. appearances, it is still original material that nonetheless has a feeling that makes it fit quite well into the continuity of those early specials. I personally applaud the producers for resisting the urge of updating it much, in an attempt at chasing the elusive and mythic animal of relevancy. As a result of letting the story and characters stand on their own merits, the film has a timeless feel to it, and its relevancy is proven in the laughter of the children who were taken to see it. In a wise move, they even have the Vince Guaraldi music in it! Additionally, it’s animation style is inspired, a sort of compromise between classic cell animation and CGI, producing the characters in textured 3-D, but rendering the faces in pencil lines and approximating the frame-rate of the original T.V. specials in how the characters moved, while at the same time using a greater frame-rate for background scaling and tracking.

So if you haven’t already seen it, or you could see it again, I highly recommend The Peanuts Movie. It is remarkably creative, faithful to the source material, and emotionally evocative. Adults will enjoy it, plus, it is a rare thing being a children’s film that is safe for children to see. I give it a four out of five.

Another Day That Will Live in Infamy?

This past week, the American people were confronted with the horrible visage of evil in the form of an American man and his immigrant bride, who in the name of Islam and ISIS decided to murder fourteen Americans in cold blood, and would have killed more but for the intrepid forces of the San Bernardino Police Department who conferred on the couple the martyrdom they sought. Until now, the President hasn’t formally addressed this attack, but because it seems that in the wake of the Jihadi violence that the American people have chosen to believe their own lying eyes rather than the President’s previous comments or media spin, last night Obama decided to adjust the record by finally giving an address concerning the terrorist attack, his own meager efforts in the war on terror (or whatever PC term POTUS uses), and what else he thinks should be done.  After hearing it, I don’t think this latest effort at reality distortion is going to have the effect that he desires, as it was all too naked a ploy to distract from his own imperiousness and his impotence in dealing with America’s enemies.

First of all, the President did the obligatory thing and empathized with the victims of the attack; no foul there. However he was very careful to point out there have been no direct links between the California massacre and international terrorism, which I found a very stupid thing to say. It is accurate to say that the administration hasn’t proven conclusively that the perpetrators physically met with representatives of ISIS, however, the way ISIS recruits doesn’t require a direct connection. In addition to smuggling fighters in refugee populations being transported into Western countries, ISIS exports terror by putting out propaganda into cyberspace for Western consumption, radicalization, and ultimately the commission of violent acts on their behalf. * Tashfeen Malik, the female in the terror twosome, swore allegiance to ISIS on-line just before the shooting, ** which is all she needed to do to join ISIS, and then consummated her loyalty in blood. Additionally, both of the terrorists most likely received help from someone in constructing those pipe-bombs, if only online. Ultimately, ISIS itself has claimed responsibility in these attacks **, so when the President goes out of his way to state such a qualification he comes off as defending ISIS, which is hardly going to bring comfort to families of the victims, nor the American people, who are both looking to the President for leadership in a time of crisis.

After his first blunder, Obama went on to describe how he will respond militarily. It sounded great, at first, with Obama describing his plan to destroy ISIS with a multinational coalition led by the US. However, it quickly became evident that the President had pulled a lawyer trick by using the word “continue”. He’s going to have the military “continue to hunt down terrorist plotters”, *** or that he will “continue to provide training and equipment to tens of thousands of Iraqi and Syrian forces”, *** meaning that he’s not going to change a blessed thing in his strategy, so we should all quit our complaining. The day before the Paris attacks, **** the President declared that ISIS was contained, but then they hit Paris, and Mali, and now us which is hardly proof of a winning strategy. So why doesn’t the President vow to bomb them into the Stone Age, or some similar doom? As I’ve written previously, I believe that Obama’s war strategy is to have all the optics of doing something, without really doing anything. The President could turn ISIS into a glass ashtray tomorrow, if he so desired, with a multitude of other less severe options that all end up with ISIS gone from the face of the earth. The only reason that this hasn’t happened is that the President doesn’t want it to happen. Obama believes, probably from deep within, that it is and always will be our fault when non-Westerners attack us. You have only to examine one of his many speeches where he blames America and American foreign policy for the state the world today (under other Presidents, mind you). For instance, consider this September 23, 2009 quote when he said, “I took office at a time when many around the world had come to view America with skepticism and distrust.  Part of this was due to misperceptions and misinformation about my country.  Part of this was due to opposition to specific policies, and a belief that on certain critical issues, America has acted unilaterally, without regard for the interests of others.  And this has fed an almost reflexive anti-Americanism, which too often has served as an excuse for collective inaction.” ***** Leaving aside for the moment that he falsely accuses America of acting “unilaterally” (e.g. the Iraq war) or that America acts without regard for other countries, he squarely places the blame on his own country. As consequence of this belief, he is loath to use military power on what he sees at some level as a movement of the people. Because of this and also his apparent general discomfort with the military, Obama wants to keep his war efforts to a minimum, and if his lack of might lead to the deaths of more so-called privileged Americans, he obviously sees them as acceptable losses in his efforts to avoid seriously taking on ISIS or any other hostile group that he sees as suffering from socio-economic disadvantage.

Subsequently, the President played that old tune about curtailing the second amendment. He attacked the usual suspects, such as so-called assault weapons, but he left out a few important details that would throw cold water on his gun-control fantasy. He failed to mention that the terrorists targeted a gun-free zone (again); ***** it must have slipped his mind that the terrorists had their weapons purchased in a state that has some of the toughest gun control laws of any ; ****** he forgot to discuss the bombs the terrorists possessed, ******* which are completely illegal, but widely available to anyone with knowledge and access to a Home Depot; and he gave no evidence that he realized that all of California’s gun control efforts, similar to what he wants for the nation, were powerless to protect the victims. It seems that those without guns can still die by them. Now, the President wants power to deny the purchase of weapons to people on the no-fly list. To many, this may seem like common sense, because people on the no-fly list must be bad, right? However there’s one thing we should consider before giving Obama this new power, and that’s the requirement of due process. The terrorism watch list is a quick and dirty tool of the executive that can prevent people from getting on a plane, and flying is not a Constitutional right, but it’s rife with issues and mistakes. For instance, if you are unlucky enough to have the same name as a terrorist, and you decide to take a plane to visit Grandma-ma for Christmas, you could be thrown in jail, be banned from further flights, and have to waste a lot of time and treasure to get the slovenly government to right that injustice (to read a specific example of this, follow the link below ********). In this country, if you want to deny someone of their Constitutional rights, you need to bring evidence before a judge as part of the checks and balances on government written in the Constitution. Congress is right not confer this new power on the President since it would be unlikely that it would stand up in court, being unconstitutional, but more importantly because this President has shown himself to be untrustworthy with power. I’m sure that if Congress denies him, he will once again go outside the law and claim yet another new power for himself and wait for the courts to rule against him like they’ve done 22 times before. ********* Now, you may not agree with the second amendment and have the opinion that all guns everywhere should be confiscated while we surrender our safety and that of our family’s to the tender mercies of government, putting our trust in five minute response times to save us, but for the moment the second amendment is a right that all Americans except where it has been removed by due process, and the courts have pretty consistently upheld it. In fact, the second amendment, plus all of the Bill of Rights and Constitution exist to protect the citizen from a government that can take away your rights as easy as a pen pusher putting your name on a list. I know there are Americans who believe that government shouldn’t be limited, just so long as this all-powerful government acts in favor of progressive goals, but they would do well to consider that the power they allow one Democrat politician today will still be there for a Republican tomorrow, and be sure that a supreme GOP executive could use any of the 76 Obama over-reaches ********** as precedent to abridge a freedom that they DO care about, in the name of common sense, of course. If the President seriously wants to fight ISIS, let him do so by killing the enemy abroad, stopping them from getting into this country with better screening and refusing entry to un-screen-able refugees from enemy-rich countries, and not with new restrictions on liberty that will only apply to those that don’t break the law, which is the least concern for terrorists.

The President went on to argue that Congress should give him greater latitude to improve terrorist screening and give him greater war powers to fight ISIS with, which I have no problem with in principle, but with Obama, nothing is as it seems. I know in the past, he’s requested war-powers that are too weak to make a difference and lack clarity for winning, *********** a word that, if you remember from his recent press conference in Turkey, Obama doesn’t like to use. ************ That last part should tell you all you need to know about why he hasn’t been given what he asks for: he’s not interested in victory.

I think it’s appropriate that while the President continues desperately to try to shift focus off of his failures as Commander-In-Chief and onto the restriction of our liberties that we take a moment and remember what happened in 1941 on this day, December Seventh. Our country was attacked by a coordinated effort by a foreign power, in which thousands of American’s died. President Roosevelt framed this attack as infamous, and showed resolve in declaring that we would fight on until we had the unconditional surrender of the enemy. 74 years hence from FDR’s address to congress, the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. and his administration offer no resolve to fight on until victory, but rather seek to placate our demand for justice with a show-war, while at the same time offering nuance and apologies for the enemy (See POTUS’s prayer breakfast comments from this year *************) instead of fierce condemnation and defiance, and in the end seek to use yet another crisis to expand Presidential power and diminish our rights. Pearl Harbor bore witness to infamy, but in today’s present war with Radical Islamists, it’s difficult to determine where the greater infamy resides: in the deaths of 14 victims or in a President who would risk more American deaths and make victims of us all by taking away our liberty in order to satiate his unquestioning devotion to a twisted ideology and his own lust for power.

– Ryan Thorson

 

*                             http://www.businessinsider.com/isis-is-revolutionizing-international-terrorism-2015-5

**                           http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3346861/First-picture-terrorist-Tashfeen-Malik-pledged-allegiance-ISIS-killing-14-party-attack-radicalized-American-husband-devout-laws-never-seen-face.html

***                        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rXRnHgfX6JQ

****                 http://www.cnn.com/2015/11/14/politics/paris-terror-attacks-obama-isis-contained/

*****               http://www.whitehousedossier.com/2012/03/23/president-obamas-hall-blame/

******                   http://www.thenewamerican.com/usnews/crime/item/22074-san-bernardino-victims-defenseless-in-gun-free-zone

*******                                https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2015/12/04/california-has-the-nations-strictest-gun-laws-here-are-the-other-strictest-and-loosest-states/

********             http://criminal.lawyers.com/criminal-law-basics/bomb-making-is-illegal.html

*********           http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/04/no-fly-list-anti-terror-measures

**********        http://www.speaker.gov/general/22-times-president-obama-said-he-couldn-t-ignore-or-create-his-own-immigration-law

***********     http://dcxposed.com/2015/01/27/ted-cruzs-list-76-abuses-power-lawless-actions-obama-administration/

************   https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/obamas-weak-and-unnecessary-war-authorization/2015/02/16/69ae8df8-b5f7-11e4-aa05-1ce812b3fdd2_story.html

*************                http://talkingpointsmemo.com/news/obama-america-winning

**************                http://www.nationalreview.com/article/398277/obamas-moral-idiocy-dennis-prager

 

Milo and Gender Inequality

Milo Yiannopoulos, author at Breitbart.com, participated in a debate with feminist Rebecca Reid at Bristol University. The following quotes are from his closing remarks, and I think they sum up the state of affairs for gender equality better than any I’ve heard, and so I wanted to pass them along. I hope you enjoy them.

-Ryan Thorson

“I want to address the men in the audience—sorry ladies, I love you, but this is for boys. The question posed to us today was whether we’ve reached an age of gender equality. I don’t think we have. We’ve overshot the age of gender equality—by a long stretch, and men of your generation are going to be the primary victims of this era. In secondary school you will have experienced a system that is tilted against boys. Your exams will have been primarily modular, not linear, a system that favors girls. Teachers will have tried to control and pathologize your boisterous behavior, branding you “young offenders” for pranks, or “cyberbullies” for typical male teenage trash-talk (taunting, after all, is how men bond).”

“Your female peers will be encouraged at every stage of their educational journey. They will be told to join a STEM field; they’ll be given—showered, in fact—with grants and awards, prizes, and encouragement. And when they do get to applying for those jobs, you will be discriminated against, just because they’re a girl. You’ll be the recipients of nothing. There are no programs for men. The suggestion for having a Men’s Officer at York University was laughed at by the student union. At University, you will be told that you’re rapists-in-waiting; that you need to attend consent classes. Your natural love and affection for women will be neutered. You will be faced with an impossible choice: suppress your natural, healthy, romantic interest in women, or risk a charge of rape or sexual harassment. And if you speak out against this hostile and unfair environment, you will be persecuted by rabid mobs of politically correct lunatics, as well as the full force of the establishment media.”

“When your studies are completed, you will enter a jobs market that is stacked against you. With companies pressured from all directions to hire women, you will be at a 2-to-1 disadvantage if you are in STEM subjects, and possibly worse in others. If you do happen to land a job, a single accusation of an inappropriate remark or any unsubstantiated allegation can destroy your reputation forever.”

“Despite all this, I’m not worried for you—because you’re men. Your incalculable, intolerable, impossible obstacles have been placed before you precisely to overcome. And overcoming is what men do best. It is the nature of men to battle on under impossible odds. We do that in war, we do that in all sorts of things, and we will do it here. Throughout your education, you will have been fed a grim history of what men have done through the centuries. You’ve been told that straight white men are worse than the Nazis. You have been told nothing good about your sex, your race, or your orientation, but I’m going to tell you something good, and it is: If the patriarchy exists, women should be grateful for it. It is what took us to space, it is what builds roads, it is what built the internet, [and] it is what protects and provides for women. If it exists, thank God it does! With their strength and determination, men have tamed the wilderness. Men built cities and the walls around us. They built the buildings that we’re in. Men’s curiosity led us to explore the oceans; their ingenuity has allowed us to reach the moon. And whenever feminism rises up and tries to ridicule you, to demean you for what you are,” “Don’t pay attention to it. Don’t listen to it. We’re not in an age of gender equality; straight white women in the West are the most privileged class in the history of our species. But we’ll be fine.”

-Milo Yiannopoulos

Trumping the Shark?

Trumping the Shark2
Donsie goes for it!

A few weeks ago, Donald Trump gave a 95 minute speech to voters in Fort Dodge Iowa.* In this speech, in which Trump sounded a little lubricated, the Don hit all of his usual talking points plus adding to it a newer repertoire that included comparing Ben Carson to a child molester, * dropping the S-bomb when talking about dropping bombs on ISIS, * and calling the people of Iowa, those he wants votes from, stupid for supporting Carson. * The reaction to this around the media was as the drumbeat of doom for a Trump candidacy. A lot of pundits, including yours truly, thought that this was the moment when the Don finally jumped the shark and he was about to hemorrhage supporters… but then it didn’t happen. In fact, his stock went up while his chief rival’s went down. How could this be? Normally, bombastic populism has a shelf life that lasts only until it becomes too repetitive or too offensive, yet Trump thrives with even support from some principled conservatives. Indeed, their support is given in spite of the fact that the substance and detail of Trump’s speeches rarely ever rise above discussions pertaining to a wall, making America great, and the importance of a high energy candidate. Nevertheless, Trump is, according to Reuters, taking thirty-five percent nationally, ** well above his other rivals, and has also closed the elect-ability gap, pulling ahead of Hillary in a potential match up. *** So why Trump? Why has Trump been the recipient of so much unflinching support and what should be done about it, if anything? In the following, I will give my take on the phenomena that is Trump.

At the heart of Trump’s popularity is his political incorrectness. Trump is not averse to insulting the people or ideas that he dislikes, and if you call him out on it, he’s more likely to double down than apologize, i.e. if you accuse him of calling you ugly, he’ll say you’re fat too. The hallmark of the Trump candidacy is in the Don’s refusal to be obeisant to any of the sacred cows of politics. He says it just like he wants to, and no matter how outside the mainstream of polite discourse his words are, he nonetheless benefits. Normally, this is not a good way to instill confidence in potential voters that you are the one with the temperament to be President, but Trump can’t seem to shake loose his supporters. If he balks at the proposal of defunding Planned Parenthood, saying, “We have to help women,” **** even after they’ve been caught red-handed committing multiple systemic felonies (he later claimed he didn’t say this), ***** his numbers are maintained or increased. Similarly, when he came out with a plan for socialized medicine, he scares away few, even among those most opposed Obamacare, the beta version of socialized medicine.****** Under normal circumstances, both these positions would be deeply troubling to most of what now forms Trump’s base, but strangely, it hardly seems to register. Why don’t these policy matters seem to matter to Trump’s followers? I believe that the reason for this is found in our intolerant political culture and in the cult of political correctness that exists in this country. Currently, we live in a land where a loud and self-righteous few seem to be calling the moral shots for everyone else, and as such many people feel marginalized by politicians and the media for their race, religion, and sexual orientation, even though they are the norm. Many Americans are tired of working hard, taking care of themselves and their families, barely making it, only to be rewarded by a collective wagging finger in their face rebuking them for their so-called privilege: if they believe that foreign visitors should respect US immigration laws, they are branded xenophobic, racist, and anti-immigrant; if they believe that the word marriage should apply as it has, between a man and a woman, no matter what other accommodation are made for those that have other preferences, they are labeled bigoted and anti-gay; and if they believe that there should be some restrictions ( however minor) to abortion, perhaps taking the fetus’ ability to feel pain into account before tearing them limb from limb, they are denounced as anti-woman. People with defensible and reasonable opinions have found themselves told not that they are mistaken, but that they are evil to disagree with these self-appointed pontiffs of political purity. Americans are just plain tired of the injustice of having their motivations constantly questioned but their concerns never addressed. And while some candidates, like Bernie Sanders, become timid and submissive in the face of such rabble-rousers, like when representatives from Black Lives Matter took over his platform with threats and aggression, Trump, on the other hand, who is often characterized with ism pejoratives, shows no sign of a similar collapse into a pile of submissive apologies, no matter how loud they shout. Trump chooses to either give them a second dose of acerbic rhetoric or has them thrown out of his rallies. ******* His supporters see him show courage in the face of almost universal condemnation in the media, steadfastness where lesser men would kowtow, and his supporters love him for it. Because of this, his supporters either don’t pay attention to the few policy details that escape from the Trump camp or they’re willing to give great latitude to the candidate that skewers the social cry-bullies.

Another big thing helping Trump is his opposition to and from the Republican establishment. Disappointment is not an unusual thing associated with the typical rank-in-file Republican voter, and this because of a GOP establishment that seems to be expert at pandering to their base, while shortly afterwards surrendering to the other side. It seems that with every GOP election victory, the GOP voter has to think really hard to find something that is better or even different than if Democrats were in charge. I know, some of these political machinations are nuanced, and that there have been causes quietly advanced by the GOP, such as reducing the budget deficit by two thirds, but on many high profile issues such as defunding Obamacare or Planned Parenthood, or stopping the Iranian nuclear deal, there’s inexplicably been very little traction if not capitulation with the Democrats, and this even while there were steps that could have been taken. Simply put: promises were made in an election cycle and promises were broken. There are notable exceptions, such as Senator Ted Cruz (currently in a statistical dead heat with Trump in Iowa), ******** who has made himself a pariah to GOP leadership by trying to force them to do more than have show-votes and pay lip service to their constituents, but by and large the public perception of congressional Republicans is that they have betrayed their voters by not being willing to take a stand. It’s not so much that the GOP is believed to surrender too often as much as it is believed that they never try. Then Trump comes along, calls the career politicians out and positions himself as just the right outsider to give the people the results they’ve been promised. Rankled by this, and also in fear of the loss of potential Latino votes and the loss of wealthy business donors that a Trump candidacy represents through his stance on illegal aliens, the GOP establishment has been attacking Trump. Also, they’ve advocated bringing back last cycle’s candidate, Mitt Romney, to fight Trump since the current crop of establishment candidates have failed to catch on, ********* and in a brazen act of political machinery, the Virginia GOP has tried to institute what amounts to loyalty oaths from their party members to keep them from voting for either Trump or Cruz (the other contending anti-establishment candidate). ********** I understand their fears, if not totally sympathize with them. Trump’s campaign is still weak for lacking detail, and it remains to be seen how far insults and platitudes will carry a candidate who doesn’t have, for instance, the historicity of being the first black president, to buttress his otherwise lacking attributes. If this election is lost, it may be the end of the GOP as we know it and perhaps even the country. However, I think the establishment’s primary fear is winning with Trump rather than losing with him, and the main reason for this, whether it’s that they fear that a President Trump will not be controllable or that they fear he will do damage to the country, is debatable. If the GOP hired me as a paid consultant, I would tell them that if they want to effectively diminish the Trump-candidacy, they should first stop attacking him. Next, they need to immediately replace the GOP leadership in places like the Senate, substituting toxic figures like Mitch McConnell with proven conservative reformers, and do so in a very public way in order to combat the some-what deserved perception that they are an adversary to be overcome by the electorate rather than a champion to be supported by it. I have my doubts that they’d do anything so common sense as that, so great seems their contempt for their own base, but the resignation of John Boehner was a move in the right direction. What the GOP establishment doesn’t realize is that when they strike at Trump, as they irresistibly must do, they will continue have the opposite effect to the one they want, and much like Obi-Wan, will make him more powerful than they could have possibly imagined.

The last quality of the thus far successful cocktail that is Trump is his entertaining personality. His populism wouldn’t resonate with the people for so long if he wasn’t as funny and likeable as he is. Even when he acts like the insult comic of Presidential candidates, he’s still likeable. Whether it’s messing up his hair at a rally to prove that it’s real, getting in zingers at a debate, or appearing on SNL and The Tonight Show to engage in self-deprecating humor, Trump has crafted himself as a likable character which is an advantage he has over the seemingly detached and cackling Hilary Clinton. And as it seems a universal truth that likeable candidates win, while angry or scolding candidates seldom do, this quality, which I confess is the part I appreciate most about Trump, should serve him well. Of course, this feature is not without its downside. Many wonder what place irreverent humor and comedic performances have in a Presidential candidate. But since Nixon’s appearance on Laugh In, *********** Presidents and candidates have appeared on entertainment forums in order to reach voters that they might otherwise not be able to. Certainly, it’s possible for him to overdo this so that he destroys any real credibility that he has as a serious candidate, but as long as he puts proper limits on this kind of exposure, I think that it will only help him.

I am not a Trump supporter, but the idea of a Trump Presidency, going back to 2011, is one that I have believed and do believe could win, maybe. Other than beating Hillary, I’m not sure that the public who would vote for Trump understand all that they would be getting with his Presidency. If they did, I doubt that they would be such ardent supporters as they are now. What I believe will happen with the Trump candidacy is that he will say something so outrageous, that he loses enough primary voters to cost him the nomination. That process may have already begun with his ill-conceived ridiculing of a disabled reporter last week. ************ Even so, I think that Trump will end up having a positive effect on the GOP campaign in that his positions and political incorrectness will rub off, making the eventual nominee all the tougher for it. However, if he does indeed go the distance and become the GOP candidate, I will vote for him. I’d rather give the devil I don’t know a try versus the devil I do, and the GOP should take care that they don’t make an HRC presidency inevitable by running interference in the primary. Of course, I’ll have to hope in Congress to restrain Trump’s more liberal tendencies (repressed shudder). Third parties are out for me, as they should be for all Republicans, because they only help the party you agree with less win, such as in the Wilson election or both terms of Bill Clinton. I have lived through too many years of Clinton incompetence, corruption, and cronyism, and lived too long under the foreign policy disaster that is the Obama-Hillary State Department to give that record another spin. I hope the GOP will see it the same way and stop all this foolish talk about splitting if Trump is the candidate. I held my nose and voted for McCain and Romney; they’d better hold their noses and vote for Trump, if it comes to that.

 

Ryan Thorson

 

*                             http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2015/11/best-of-trumps-95-minute-rant-compilation.html

**                           http://theconservativetreehouse.com/2015/10/02/polling-convergence-oangravis-and-reuters-show-donald-trump-surging-with-34-35-support/

***                        http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/poll-bernie-has-bigger-lead-over-trump-than-hillary/article/2572738

****                     http://dailysignal.com/2015/08/12/donald-trump-defends-planned-parenthood-calls-abortions-small-part-of-what-they-do/

*****                   http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/donald-trump-o-reilly-planned-parenthood

******                                http://spectator.org/blog/64193/trump-60-minutes-we-need-socialized-medicine

*******             http://insider.foxnews.com/2015/11/21/donald-trump-tosses-blacks-live-matter-heckler-alabama-rally-get-him-hell-out-here

********           http://theweek.com/speedreads/590688/ted-cruz-pulls-into-statistical-tie-donald-trump-new-iowa-poll

*********        http://nypost.com/2015/11/13/gop-bigs-still-think-mitt-romney-is-best-choice-for-president/

**********     http://directorblue.blogspot.com/2015/11/document-leak-virginia-gop.html

***********   https://vimeo.com/84829955

************                http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/donald-trump-making-fun-reporters-