Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Politics: The Farce of Demanding Free Health Care

Much is being made, and has been for years now, of demands for a government-run free health care system. You're familiar with it: among others, Hillary Clinton tried to get it enacted some years ago, and is trying for it again. News outlets and left-leaning politicians frequently offer up sob stories about the un- and under-insured not getting treatment they need.

It's a farce.

I mean, ignorance run amok, inmates running the asylum.


Enter the ER doors of any hospital in this country, and you'll see a little plaque on the wall stating that nobody will be turned away for any reason, including inability to pay. Anyone who walks thru those doors will get the basic treatment they need, on demand. Payment, if a problem, will be worked out according to the individual's circumstances and ability. At any hospital, at anytime, anywhere.

Oh, it might not be free. Few people are truly destitute. Most people can pay something, even if it's just, say, $5 per month for life for, say, emergency quadruple-bypass surgery. If the patient will just take a little time to talk with the billing department, something can be worked out which is fair and favorable to both.

Oh, it's not widely known - at least to those who do have some ability to pay. The welfare class does seem to know about this, as emergency personnel are inundated with requests for what is really routine medical care ... and thing is, the treatment is given at little or no cost.

Free health care? Government health care? Universal health insurance? Calls demanding it are a farce, as we already have it.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Movie: Miami Vice


I'd like to stop there, but that's not particularly helpful to you.
Grand sweeping vistas. Powerful, subliminally elegant vehicles. A story that cuts deep, with just enough anesthesia to know what's happening. A game played well, won at great price.

This isn't the TV series, it's the distilled liqueur thereof.

Movie: The Christmas Shoes

One of the biggest tear-jerkers I've seen in a while. Based on the recent Christmas song that you'll be hearing again a lot more often than you'll like.

Surprising that a whole movie could be created, and that with a good well-timed plot, out of what amounts to two minutes of song lyrics.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Legal: Heller's Response to DC's Petition to SCOTUS

Washington DC has petitioned the Supreme Court to take the DC vs. Heller case; today, Heller et al has responded to that petition. Upshot is that they agree that the Supreme Court should take the case, but that DC's petition is grossly flawed.

Here's a quick shot at the Cliff's Notes version (quotations from the brief italicized):

Whether the Second Amendment guarantees lawabiding, adult individuals a right to keep ordinary, functional firearms, including handguns, in their homes.

Mr. Heller officially responds to DC's petition (re-joined by the other 5 original Parker petitioners on the grounds that they were a party to the case in lower courts), stating "The Court should grant certiorari on the question as presented by Respondents." ('Certiorari' = 'take the case')

Summary of Argument: "the people" means "individuals in our country". High courts are divided on the issue, and SCOTUS must resolve the split. The case, properly presented, will be very simple: does the 2ndA protect an individual right, and do the two DC laws in question absolutely negate that right? (Expected answer: yes.) BTW: DC is way outta line in how they presented the issue, so the question they presented should be replaced with Heller's (above).

I. The Court Should Provide Essential Guidance to Courts That Misconstrue the Second Amendment: it's an individual right, not collective. The people are all individuals, not a select government-chosen body. The militia is members of the public capable of bearing arms in defense of the government if called upon to do so. Miller was very simple and clear on this - but somehow courts have twisted that into the opposite. The whole issue has gotten scrambled, and SCOTUS should explain how the 2nd Amendment should be interpreted.

II. The Question Presented by Petitioners Misrepresents the Court of Appeals’ Holding and the Central Issue in This Case: DC says X may be banned because Y is allowed - but fails to explain that, for all practical purposes, Y is not allowed either. SCOTUS needs to clarify what the question actually is, and what the answer to it means. (While well done, the wording of this section makes me nervous, as SCOTUS could say "fine...DC, try again" or worse "crappy question, next case" - ctd.)

III. Whether the Second Amendment Forbids Handgun Prohibition Is a Discrete Constitutional Question That Must Be Answered on Its Own Terms: Miller addressed the question of whether Z was "militia suitable"; handguns are plainly "militia suitable", and DC's notion that they are not is flatly unsupportable, social commentary notwithstanding. The two bans together form such a comprehensive total prohibition that bickering over the division between the bans is pointless until both bans have been firmly overturned.

IV. The City’s Policy and Social Science Arguments Are Irrelevant and Factually Baseless: DC claimed the ban is effective, when facts easily and plainly show it is not - and that is, nonetheless, irrelevant because this is a court of LAW, not of policy or sociology.

V. Citizens Under Criminal Attack Are Not Required to Stand By and Die Awaiting Police Protection: In claiming the city is not required " to stand by while its citizens die", the city perversely requires its citizens to do so despite numerous court cases where the city fought for the right " to stand by while its citizens die" (to wit: DC is not obligated to protect citizens, both by the laws of this land and the laws of physics).


Overall the brief is good, systematically demolishing everything DC presented to justify its side.
My one concern is whether it is too good: SCOTUS could say "this is a mess, we'll let the lower court ruling stand until someone else presents a better challenge."
I think SCOTUS will take the case, precisely because there is a legal mess that only they can clear up, SCOTUS justices rarely get a case this profound & fundamental & wideranging (i.e.: they can't pass up a case this good), and it really can be resolved with a simple, narrow, yet profoundly impacting verdict.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Movie: Pan's Labyrinth

Marketing can really make or break a movie.

Pan's Labyrinth is a well-done tragedy of a little girl trying to save her sanity, in a horrible situation, by indulging an active & creative imagination. A great deal is made of the horrible situation, with a few powerful moments depicting the saving fantasy.

Unfortunately, the viewer is probably watching this because the marketing of it depicts little more than the fantasy world, which one comes to expect a great deal of. While marvelous, there is little of it - in fact, most of it is seen in the previews and the box cover, and the indicated few minutes is spaced with long periods of dark, dreary, tragic warfare and nasty interpersonal conflict.

For what it is, Pan's Labyrinth is quite well done. It's just not what you were looking for when you hit "play".

Book: An Inconvenient Truth

OK, so I finally succumbed and read the book version of Al Gore's infamous movie.
OK, so I skimmed it. There really wasn't that much meat to it, so that didn't take long.
OK, so there was so little to it I got thru the whole thing while standing at a table at a bookstore.

For all the pretty pictures, emotional declarations, and bluster about climate change, this book really can be distilled down to just 3 graphs:
- average planetary temperature
- population
- species extinction rates
and those are simplistic and open to discussion.

Most of the book really is just hype-generating fluff. Seriously. I don't mean that from any particular sociopolitical viewpoint, I mean that from an analytical view: there is so little actual data in here that it's hard to take any of it seriously.

The main point is the temperature graph. Showing apparently mild fluctuations for centuries, right near the end is a rapid fluctuation ending in a high point. That alone is disingenuous precisely because most of the data was clearly derived from long-term samples spanning decades, while the data at the end was measured in far more rapid succession - giving an illusion of sudden chaos. Average the last data out to the same sample rate, and the fear-inducing spikes go away, just as they have been smoothed out the rest of the data. I suggest the reader go peruse the marvelous book "How To Lie With Statistics" before taking Gore's book seriously, as the latter seems a prime example for the former.

Little is made of the fact that the much-feared "recent warming" amounts to about one degree over a century. Things change, people. That includes the sun's temperature, which has risen a bit lately, obviously has an effect, and is unceremoniously ignored where it is most relevant.

The other graphs?
Yes, the world's population of humans has increased dramatically; you handing it ok? the planet seems to be as well.
The extinction rate gets a brief mention, with one scary-looking graph. Considering how new species are being found at a surprising rate today - despite decades & centuries of seeking them - I have to wonder about the alleged means of finding which ones vanished millennia ago.

The rest is plain fear-mongering, interspersed with warm fuzzy irrelevancies about himself, his wife, and his sister.

Oddly, those heralding the onset of "global climate change" seem to think there shouldn't be any.
And if Al Gore believes anything he wrote therein, he would not have a house that uses 20x the national average in energy, and certainly would not be flying around in a private jet. If Al Gore doesn't believe his own book, I'm not sure we should either.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Movie: Spider-Man 2.1

I can see why it was widely considered the best "comic book" movie ever.
I just don't quite share the conclusion.

Yes, well done in all ways. ...yet, the long periods of eliciting sympathy for poor ol' Peter Parker, loser extraordinare, coupled with the over-the-top bad guy's invention, just made for an enjoyable couple hours I'd rather have spent watching something else.

Movie: Lord of War

Serious guy movie: weapons & business. Lots of weapons, business at all costs.

Sociopolitically, it's both pro- and anti-gun, depending on what the eye of the beholder chooses to see. I saw a lot of bad guys being armed, and will become armed regardless of laws, versus a lot of good people who need arms as their last chance to stop the progression of evil.

Movie: Speak

Heavy teen drama about rape and openness. Pretty well done and viscerally satisfying, but probably not what you're looking for when picking a movie. Unless that's your thing.

Movie: I'll Sleep When I'm Dead

OK, what is it about modern British action dramas that are really slow on the action part? and really dreary on the drama part? I can't say this tale of a gent finding his brother's murderer is, well, er, bad exactly, but c'mon - an awful lot of time is spent mulling over awful, mundane truths. Maybe, on reflection, it is actually quite realistic & believable ... which isn't necessarily what paying audiences are looking for.

Movie: One Night with the King

The Biblical story of Esther brought to life. Well done, well told.

Few movies are good enough for me to see more than once. This I did, in short order.

Movie: How to Make an American Quilt

This "American quilt" is the mixed pieces of old ladies' love stories, blended into a romantic quilt for a young woman seeking her own story. Gentle, sweet, very deeply a chick flick.

Movie: Kingdom of Heaven

Big bold epic about the Crusades and control of Jerusalem. Director Ridley Scott pulls off another fantastic grand film on the vast scale of Gladiator, Blade Runner, and Alien. Does an excellent job of fairly balancing the competing cultures.

Not for a light amusing evening's viewing.

Movie: Open Season

Hysterical animated tale of a domesticated bear's return to the wild. ...and the wild's difficulty in coping therewith. From story to animation details, all was done surprisingly well.

The river run scene ended with me falling off the couch from sheer overwhelming laughter. It's been a long time since I laughed that hard...

Movie: Out of Africa

Marvelous grown-up love story about a woman who finds herself running a coffee farm in Africa, and the professional hunter who she falls for. Great acting, spectacular photography. A chick flick that guys will appreciate (safaris and struggles in the Veldt).

Movie: Dark Water

Descent into madness. No, it's really not a fun concept to contemplate. Start with a lady finding a new (as in "another", not "fresh") apartment in a bland, mundane, decaying part of NYC. Add a missing girl, ambivalent clues about her existence, a curious child, vandals, and a plumbing leak that won't quit, and let all that slowly push her over the edge. ...or is something supernatural going on? Whatever the truth of the ending, it's not a recipe for a good time.

Doesn't help that the key tragedy in the plot was all too similar to a real-world crime that ended somewhere I worked. Look up Kali Ann Poulton if your morbid curiosity is too much, and you don't mind movie spoilers.

Movie: I, Robot

Good meaty sci-fi high-action flick for when yer in the mood for such a thing.

Not to be confused with the book of the same name by Issac Asimov, which features the same "3 Laws of Robotics", a robopsychologist named Susan Calvin, references to "positronic brains", and a whole lotta pontification about what the 3 Laws really mean in the real world. Really, they're not even close.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Food: Wild Wings Cafe

Jalapeno Cheddar - very pleasant moderate hot (not to be confused with "medium"), with good pepper and cheese flavors. Texture and moisture are very appealing.

Hot-lanta - slightly sweet, nice flavor. Hot. I mean beads of sweat rolling down my face, fight-or-flight visceral aggression inducing, lips swelling, gotta-fight-thru-another hot. Worth the price paid the next morning.

Music: Okie Dokie (The Orb)

After leaning toward pop, The Orb leans back to their nifty off-center, melody-agnostic, found-sound, sleepy-eyed surrealism that I like so much. Pieces are still short, unlike the groundbreaking 40-minute Blue Room that grabbed me years ago.

Listeners expecting melody, harmony, and rhythm should buy other material. This is more like observing a Jackson Pollock and Andy Warhol art exhibit while eating a great big bowl of your favorite ice cream after a really long nap on a sunny afternoon. ...with mosquitoes.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Movie: Pride and Predjudice

The best love story I've seen on film. A little hard to follow due to the fast complex dialog (turning subtitles on helps) - but such is a witty intelligent work. Excellent work all around. Emerging from the social issues, earnest worries, hearts broken and mended, and sheer confusion, it is pervasively funny - few films have kept me chuckling for so long.