Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Gays Vs. The Christian Right - The Hell with Both of You

The latest brouhaha in Arizona has been the straw on this camel's back and let me tell you all, I'm sick and tired of it.  The constant low level warfare between one group that believes God himself defined marriage, and placed them personally in charge of defending his definition and another group that has no problem ruining lives and using unethical, judicial, and spiteful means to force people to accept them and their way of life is just making me sick.  Both of you can go to hell now.

I'm libertarian on this issue, as I've stated before.  For me, the simple solution of government getting out of the marriage business, issuing everyone civil union licenses, and then leaving marriage up to the individual churches seems to be the best of both worlds.  Yet some religious fanatics feel that two gay guys getting "married" by an Elvis impersonator in a Las Vegas "Chapel O' Love" is some sort of holy sin that requires the next best thing to crusade - using the law to enforce a definition and tradition that existed before the Judea-Christian religion even began.  God didn't seem to mind gays getting married in other civilizations, did he?  And yet now, you folks take it upon yourselves to do the Lord's work - without even checking to see if that's what he really wants you to do?  What ever happened to "love your neighbor," or "turn the other cheek?" or hell... "he who lives in glass houses?"

And don't think gay groups are any better.  They aren't.  These lawsuits and boycotts against business and private citizens who don't approve of the gay way of life are beyond mean spirited.  They're societally disruptive and worse - destructive of our God given rights, because in order to FORCE acceptance, these gay groups need to destroy our freedom of speech and our freedom of religion. In today's free market society, the idea that a gay couple can't find a dozen bakers, or a dozen photographers, who would wholeheartedly support their marriage, compared to the one who doesn't, is ludicrous.  It means those businesses sued for "discrimination" were targeted, like Sandra Fluke deliberately staying at Georgetown in order to sue it because she needed three thousand dollars worth of contraceptives a year.  It's a setup. Here's a news flash gay community :  If a photographer doesn't want to photograph your wedding because she or he doesn't approve of it, it isn't discrimination.  It's disapproval.  I wouldn't sing and dance at a Kwanza celebration either.  That doesn't make me racist.  It means I think Kwanza is a hogwash holiday.  I don't drink tequila on Cinco de Mayo.  That doesn't mean I hate Mexicans.  It means that I recognize that fact that two white guys at UC Berkeley realized that Mexico beat the French Army once.  Yeah.  Well WHO THE HELL HASN'T BEAT THE FRENCH?  And that's something to celebrate?

Look, I don't care who you want to have a relationship with. It doesn't bother me.  Marry. Mate. Copulate. Percolate for all I care.  But this bitter nastiness between you two is driving me crazy.  I wish you'd both adopt my solution as the best compromise, but neither party is willing.   And for what?  A fucking word?

Shame on you both. 

Monday, October 28, 2013

Benghazi. It Isn't Over

After CBS' Sixty Minutes went into the nuts and bolts of the 9-11 attack on Benghazi that resulted in the deaths of four Americans including Ambassador Christ Stevens, you'd think more Americans would want to know the truth behind what was going on.  CBS made it clear that the Obama Administration knew far in advance (in fact BEFORE the attack) that the events surrounding Stevens death were planned by Al Queda and were actually PROMISED.  Unfortunately, we are still left with questions - not about who planned the attack, or who executed it or even how it unfolded, but rather the awful, disturbing questions about how our government, specifically President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, handled Benghazi.

1.  Why was the security situation in Benghazi ignored by the State Department (or the CIA, if this was actually some sort of CIA operation gone bad, as some have speculated.) 

2.  Who at the State Department (or CIA) screwed the pooch and DENIED additional security to the consulate?

3.  When was Secretary Clinton informed of the attack and why were military and security units not IMMEDIATELY sent to help?  The excuse that "we didn't have anything ready" has already been proved bogus.  There were security teams in Tripoli ready as well as gunships ready to fly, and CIA agents on the ground as spotters.

4.  What was the President's role in all of this?


I realize that it is unlikely that we will ever find out what actually happened in the situation room of the White House, but I hope that someday we do, so I can point at the perfidy of this Democrat President.  He LET those men die.


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

He Didn't Know?

Seriously?

He didn't even KNOW?

 President Barack Obama didn’t know of problems with the Affordable Care Act’s website — despite insurance companies’ complaints and the site’s crashing during a test run — until days into its now well-documented abysmal launch, the nation’s health chief told CNN on Tuesday.

In an exclusive interview with CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius admitted that there is concern in her department and the White House over the technical debacle surrounding the Obamacare website rollout, saying “no one could be more frustrated than I am and the president.”

The site was supposed to make it simple for people to search and sign-up for new health care policies starting on October 1, but instead it’s been clunky and, at times, inoperable.

“We’re not at all satisfied with the workings of the website,” Sebelius said. “We want it to be smooth and easy and let consumers’ compare plans.”

Okay look, I wasn't terribly surprised at the rollout of Healthcare.gov.  What they wanted was complicated and from what I'm hearing from the contractors, multiple architecture changes were added at late moments, and many of the parameters for the system weren't delivered by HHS to the software coders until after the election, which seems ridiculous to me but evidently makes sense from a political standpoint.

But that's no longer even the issue.  The issue is that Sebelius KNEW this thing wasn't going to work, and rather than go to her boss (who evidently prefers to read about his administration's screwups in the paper, rather than from the people responsible) she just went ahead and WENT WITH IT?

WTF?

You are REQUIRING people to buy health insurance or they get penalized, and the place you set up so that they could do this doesn't even work? And you KNEW about it?  Why isn't Obama's foot seven feet up Sebelius' ass?  I've always known Obama's Administration is incompetent, but come on... can ANYONE BE THIS INCOMPETENT?

So... do we now put this on the list of other wonderful Obama Examples of Incompetence?

Balancing the Budget
Closing Gitmo
Foreign Relations with Egypt
Sodomized by Putin over Syria
Benghazi Security
Fast and Furious

and more...

UPDATE: Jay left an interesting comment.  Here's my response:

Jay, once again you prove that you are a reasonable liberal. I like that.  We're still figuring out what was going on with the White House, HHS, and the Healthcare.gov website.  I've heard two speculative things - one was that the HHS wasn't as involved with the website as the White House itself, and two - that many of the specifics for the rules of getting insurance weren't disclosed to the software developer until after the 2012 elections (why I have no idea.)  I find it more disturbing that this was a no-bid contract, to a company that had already screwed up not one, but two websites for the Canadian government. 

I disagree with you on the legal limbo of the detainees, at least as you framed it.  The legal problem is that these people are enemy combatants, not criminals.  Which means you can't just shove them into our legal system.  Not only that, but they aren't US Citizens, nor do the qualify as enemy soldiers by the definitions of the Geneva Convention.  Bush and Obama have both proved that if you let them go, they start being terrorists again.  I think the reason Gitmo is still open is because a bad case of reality hit the President.

Egypt - yes we did support a dictator for decades, because the enemy you know is better than the enemy you don't know.  Frankly Mubarak kept the peace with Israel, maintained good control over his fundamentalists, protected the Suez, and basically worked with us to make the Middle East much more stable.  And Obama threw Mubarak under the bus, knowing that the only political group organized enough and ready for elections was the Muslim Brotherhood.  Brilliant plan.

Syria - Please don't tell me you don't think Obama's handling of the Syria situation was competent.  First of all, we should never have been involved in the first place, unless we had done it two years before Al Queda operatives had gone in and gotten involved.  Obama stepped on his own crank, shocking his OWN staff with his red line for chemical weapons attacks.  Then after Assad actually did it, not once, but TWICE, Obama finally had to come forward and do something.  And instead of actually moving quickly in order to take advantage of military surprise and keep Assad from spreading his chemical weapons assets all over the country to keep them from being destroyed or at least the delivery systems from being eliminated.  And instead of doing what he did in Libya (violating the War Powers Act) he decided to announce to the world that he thought he should go in and do something (but not kill or attack Assad) but wanted approval from Congress - just like the law allows.  Excuse me, don't get me wrong, I'm glad he FINALLY wanted to obey the law, but seriously?  He wanted an excuse NOT to act.  And even better, he could still blame those darn Republicans (who were the most vocal about NOT getting involved.)  And THEN... then... Kerry stepped on HIS crank too!  And in comes Putin, who calmly bends Obama over a barrel and...

Benghazi.  No, we did not agree.  There are still unanswered questions. 1.  What was Stevens doing in Benghazi, without a full security detachment?  2.  Why were there so many CIA agents on the ground in Benghazi?  What were they doing?  3.  What was the timeline of events at the State Department and the White House after the attack started?  4.  Who gave the order for the security team in Tripoli to STAND DOWN, even before the attack ended?  5.  Who arranged for US Military Rapid Response teams in the Med to head back to the States for TRAINING on 9-11?  6.  Why on earth did the Obama Administration try very hard to change the narrative for this attack, blaming a stupid video that no one watched and only a half dozen had even heard of?  Wouldn't it have just been easier to blame Muslim radicals hating America?  It didn't even make sense!  And the more we learn, the more I suspect that Obama knew what was going on and this is one of the CIA's big screwups.

Fast and Furious  - You are incorrect about operations predating Obama's Administration.  Yes, there was a similar program under Bush - but it was done with the Mexican Government's knowledge (Fast and Furious was not) and none of the guns made it across the border.  We still don't know who came up with this program, much less decided to allow the guns to make it to Mexico.  Was it just incompetence?  If so, why not let us know the ATF made a mistake?  But no... Obama declared we couldn't get the facts due to EXECUTIVE PRIVILEGE.  Heck, even Jon Stewart went nuts over that. 

Solendra - President Obama repeated multiple times during the campaign against Romney that Romney was evil for what he did at Bain Capital as a venture capitalist.  Clearly someone needs to look up the definition of "venture capitalist" and then wonder what you call a venture capitalist using tax payer dollars to gamble on a business instead of investors. 

Oh right... the NSA fiasco, and the IRS fiasco, and the State Department cover up of the US Ambassador to Belgium investigation where he was buggering little girls in a local park.  Oh and don't forget the Lightspeed fiasco.

Jay, look... I admire your heart. I really do.  I can even accept your opinion on the issues.  But how on earth can you still support this man as President of the United States?  Hell, as problematic as Bush was he didn't have even half this many scandals. 

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Why the Republican Party Self Destructed

One of the things I've noticed about the conservative political movement today is a tendency toward negativity, especially to members of the opposite party.  President Obama did this and Harry Reid is doing that and Nancy Pelosi is saying this and Joe Biden is saying that.  But the reality is that whether you are a Democrat or Republican, Liberal, Moderate, Conservative or Libertarian, you probably already have a pretty firm grasp on what those folks on the other side of the aisle are doing, and what they're hoping to accomplish.  Of course there are degrees.  Liberals tend to gloss over the things they don't like that the president and his party are doing, while us conservatives tend to immediately over react and start in on the conspiracy theories.  In everyone's defense, the moment the political parties switch power, we do the reverse.  It's the nature of politics.  You're always more forgiving when "your guy" is in the captain's chair.

When Senator Ted Cruz started the entire brouhaha over the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, the entire point was to bring to the forefront of the American people the fact that Obamacare is not really that good for us.  Sure, a bunch of people who didn't have insurance before can now get it.  Specifically people with pre-existing conditions, plus a few more million people who were sort of stuck between making too much for Medicaid or Medicare, and too little to actually afford the premiums.  Even the idea behind Obamacare - making everyone buy health insurance to increase the pool and thus avoid premiums for everyone else rising in order to cover the new policies, seemed like a good idea.  There are some other positives in the legislation that most Americans with any shred of common sense would say "hey, that's not a bad idea," irrespective of party affiliation.

But Obamacare has some negatives too.  There are some provisions in Obamacare that sort of negate the whole "increase the pool" concept.  There are massive taxes on medical care devices which will seriously impact senior health care.  716 million dollars has been cut from Medicaid, and we don't even have to wonder about how the reduction in Medicaid and Medicare payouts to doctors will be handled, considering how Congress has done it for the last decade.  You can bet your bottom dollar our congresscritters, ever concerned with being reelected, will continue to vote to keep payments to doctors at the higher level, regardless of what the President wants.

There are a ton of new regulations for doctors to deal with.  And I'm sure by now, whether you are a Democrat or Republican, you've heard the stories of employers cutting full time jobs and going with multiple part time positions in order to avoid paying for health care.  Add in the problems with increased premiums, the delayed employer mandate, and the problem plagued website rollout of Healthcare.gov, and it doesn't take a genius on either side of the political angle to realize that the Federal Government has bitten off a bit more than it can chew.

Polls show that most Americans are leery of the Affordable Care Act, and as more information on its implementation and effect on our economy become known, that number gets bigger and bigger.  This was the message Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) meant for his collegues in the Senate to hear, and more importantly, for the people to listen to and understand.  And you know what?  Some people did listen.  After Cruz's 21 hour pseudo-fillibuster, the House of Representative, known as the "People's House" passed a budget along party line votes that defunded Obamacare, a last ditch attempt to slow down (and not stop, since there is no way to actually stop it,) the President's signature legislation.

Conservatives everywhere rallied, especially the TEA Party, which in case you didn't know, stands for Taxed Enough Already.  Tea Partiers, despite how the main stream media paints them, are basically a group of upstanding, patriotic people who don't like how our government is spending money.  And you have to admit, regardless of party affiliation, that we are running a deficit and the national debt has almost doubled during President Obama's term.

The blame for the national debt is on both the Republicans and the Democrats, since both parties have used the funds to secure votes.  It's easy to get people to vote for you if you give them stuff.  Free phones, free food, free housing, and now free healthcare has an attraction all of its own.  It may not let you live in luxury, but a lot of people will choose free and lazy over luxury and hard work.  In fact, that's the failing concept of socialism, communism, and their root: Marxism.  These concepts might work well in microcosms, but on a macro level, they fail miserably.  All you need to do is look at history to know that.

The Republicans as a party passed the "defund Obamacare" continuing resolution designed to keep the Government running as sort of a wink wink and nod to both conservatives and Harry Reid.  John Boehner knew that not only would the defunding of Obama care never pass the Senate, but wouldn't get signed into law by the President either.  And so the opening salvo was nothing more than sabre rattling, a move by the more conservative elements of the Republican party to appease those Tea Party conservatives that HEY! We AGREE with you!  Obamacare is BAD and we want to STOP it it!

Most conservatives knew it, but we also knew that when you step up to the negotiating table, you always ask for something outrageous.  If you ask for something realistic, the guy on the other side will laugh and argue you down from there.  It's one of the basic tenants of compromise.  And the Democrats did exactly what we all expected.  Harry Reid put the Obamacare funding language back in the bill and sent it back to the House.

It was sort of like a Tennis Match.  Who will drop the ball before the government shuts down?  To make matters worse, we suddenly had media spotlights on a couple of Republicans like Peter King of New York, who belong to what conservatives think of as the "establishment" Republicans, the old guard of Republicans who have been in office for years and understand that compromise is what makes governing possible.

Unfortunately, Democrats don't believe in compromise.  I think the President's official word on it was "we will not negotiate with terrorists," or some such language to that affect.  The rhetoric was pretty intense, but the reality is why SHOULD the president negotiate with a political party that has been willing to fold and compromise for years?

What Pete King did, as well as Bob Corker was similar to someone sitting in a boat with a bunch of other people, and being pissed off on the route the boat is sailing, and then deliberately punching holes in the bottom of the boat.  I wish I could say I understood their logic.  Sure, okay, they objected to the no holds barred, no compromise position that Tea Party wants to adopt (especially since that attitude is exactly what has emboldened Democrats for the last ten years.)  And when Cruz and other Tea Party Republicans, conservatives, and libertarians pushed, they were rolled under as the has beens that got us into this mess.  Even Texas Senator John Cornyn was blindsided by pissed off Texans who are demanding his head for not supporting Ted Cruz.  

Then to make things even more interesting, the Congress passed ANOTHER resolution to fund the government, this one asking the President to delay the individual mandate on Obamacare.  And this is where things went crazy.  After the boondoggle rollout of Healthcare.gov and the massive problems with the implementation of Obamacare, most conservatives and probably a heck of a lot of moderates, felt that a delay in the individual mandate would be a good thing.  But not Harry Reid or President Obama.  Again two men with more will power than a collective group of Republicans managed to reject the will of the People's House.  They shut down the government, unwilling to negotiate with Republicans.  Worse, they had a willing collaborator on their side: the main stream media, who immediately flooded the air waves with accusatory comments like "Republicans Shut Down Government," and other biased commentary that made it seem as if the Republicans really were terrorists holding the hostage government rather than concerned politicians who just wanted to stop Obamacare.

Why the President and Reid wanted Obamacare to move forward despite the problems isn't hard to fathom, but that isn't what this article is about.  It's about Republicans and despite having a great hand, a phenomenal cause, and finally the high ground, another iceberg loomed up out of the dark; the debt ceiling.  What was two separate issues then became one, and more Republicans like Pete King and Bob Corker spouted off, trying to call for moderation and understanding, not realizing (or perhaps not caring) that the folks who hadn't been to the negotiating table happened to have the letter D after their names.

The media loved it, and Corker and King were played constantly, their bitter harping over the "strategy" of the Republicans made internal strife that much more evident to the American people and the White House played up on it.  Made up polls were played over the air, casting blame for the shutdown and the horrible behavior of Republicans, and instead of standing for the principles of fiscal sanity, free market, and common sense health reform, the House and Senate Republicans folded like a wet blanket, just as President Obama expected they would, unable to keep their knees from knocking together because they were more concerned about getting reelected than doing what is right for America.

Even now I hear nasty comments directed to the Tea Party, about how awful we are, and Republicans like Pete King, Bob Corker, John Cornyn, and Chris Christie are the kind of Republicans we need in office.  But I have to ask the people who make these comments, "why? Why do we need these guys?  All they've accomplished over the years is to SLOW DOWN the massive spending and building fiscal crisis that our government has become.  Entitlement programs are massive, filled with fraud and mismanagement, and over fifty percent of folks in the United States don't even pay taxes! Joe McCarthy must be turning in his grave.  He spent so much time looking for communists and look!  Here they are!  They're RUNNING THE DAMN GOVERNMENT!

And establishment Republicans are part of the problem.  So what is an honest, constitutional conservative to do?  Splinter off the Republican brand and start a new party?  Not a bad idea, but unrealistic.  One of the reasons that Bush Senior lost to Bill Clinton was disaffected conservatives siding with Ross Perot, taking enough votes from the Republican brand to kill Bush 41's chances at a second term.  If Tea Partiers were to do the same thing, the demonizing from the media would basically create an environment where the Democrats would win the White House for all time.  We'd be a three party system where two parties were closely enough linked that we'd literally be shooting ourselves in the foot.  For the last two Presidential elections moderates (and in some cases actual Democrats) have manipulated the actual primary process for the Republican presidential candidate, eliminating more conservative possibilities in favor of weak moderates.  And we still lost. Way to go establishment Republicans.  Instead of offering a REAL choice to the people, let's offer more of the same, but not as much.  Brilliant plan.

So that leaves one more option, an option that John Cornyn and his political action committee that gives cash donations to fellow incumbent Republicans, doesn't like.  It means that we have to take back the Republican Party.  We have to adopt some of the tactics and strategies that the Democrats have used so well against us.  We have to be loud.  We have to demonstrate that less regulation will improve the free market.  We have to show that becoming what you can and working hard is the answer to success, instead of just letting government give you an easy, if somewhat sad lifestyle.  We have to message, and market, and demonstrate.  We have to show people the plan.  We need to stop allowing get along and go along Republicans from turning tale at the front lines and directing their fire backward at those of us who are willing to fight for our principles.  And we need men and women on the edge who will look at what  people on the other side are doing to this country and say "wait. Wait one damn minute.  This is wrong.  You're destroying the fabric of what it means to be American."  We need people in education, in entertainment, and in journalism who are willing to be honest with the people, instead of promulgating the lies.

Now for the sad part.  I don't believe we will win.  I think that we've reached a tipping point in this country where the lazy and ideologically misled will manage to contrive win after win.  After all, Peter never minds if you rob Paul in order to give him money.  And so starts the long decline as our economic prosperity, our personal liberty, and our national pride and prowess fade into memory.  And that's sad people, but not terribly unexpected.  Most awesome civilizations, powers that know few outside rivals, invariably are destroyed from within.  And so America has only one hope.  To keep alive in the hearts and minds of men that there are some necessities which require the bearing of arms, to remember that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.  We did it once before.  If this continues, we will have to do it again.

A day is coming, not tomorrow or even next week or next year.  But eventually there will be another revolution, where the tree of liberty must be watered once more.  Fight the good fight now, in the hopes that our beliefs of liberty and personal responsibility take root in American hearts, instead of the false comfort of a worker's paradise, where everything that you once had control over is now brought to you and controlled by government.  Make no mistake.  That's the endgame here for some.  It might take decades, but what the powerful want is to make you an automaton, a single minded worker bee who's personal comfort is more important than your personal liberty.

Republicans need to stop helping them.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Night Light - A Dresden Fan Film



Over the last decade hordes of ravening Dresden fans have been lying in wait to ambush author Jim Butcher, peppering him with questions about his signature work, the Dresden Files.  A mixture of paranormal action and classic Phillip Marlow type detective story, Harry Dresden, wizard for hire, has become a fixture in the paranormal fiction world.  With over fifteen books already in print and another ten at least outlined by the author, Harry Dresden is what JK Rowling’s world would have been if intended for adults.

There was even a short-lived television series based upon Butcher’s private detective/wizard, with a decent budget, access to all sorts of special effects, quality actors, and even paid writers, not to mention the author himself.  In the end, casting mistakes (Murphy) were made and the fact that the overall plot arc of the book series is not readily transferable to film or television, much less complete, made Dresden difficult to translate.  When the show ended, the television rights went back to Jim Butcher and it has been questionable if we will ever see a Hollywood television or film version of 
Harry Dresden again.

But that’s okay, because frankly, real fans do it better.  At least Murphy’s a blonde again.

I found out about Tower of Turtles production of Night Light through the Harry Dresden fan page on Facebook and have followed along with their trials and tribulations as a group of passionate, talented, and daring individuals, with real jobs, no budget, and little training, took on a task that Hollywood itself has skipped on.  In the end, their product, while maybe not as polished as something you’d expect from a major television studio, comes through with the feel and power of a Harry Dresden story.

One of the first things any Dresden fanatic is going to like about Night Light is the casting.  Landon Solomon takes the lead role as Harry Dresden, and besides having the right look to match Butcher’s original character, he does a fairly good job of adopting the attitudes and demeanor that readers have come to expect from the book version of Harry Dresden.  In addition, Night Light remembers that the key to the Dresden Files success as novels have revolved around the fact that the story is written in first person – and the writers of Night Light followed suit, making sure that Dresden’s narration fill in the blank spots and add that flair that readers recognize come from Harry’s repartee and quick wit. 

Other characters also are well portrayed, especially Karin Murphy.  “Shut up, Harry.”  Suzanne Solomon, who plays Karin, steps into a role that is integral to the Dresden verse and while she doesn’t quite get to the counterpoint the character plays in the original stories, Suzanne Solomon’s Murphy does a fair job of playing Sundance to Dresden’s Cassidy.  I actually wish there was more of her in this movie.  Another character that I at first felt was miscast was Molly Carpenter, played by Rachel Dawson.  


 Part of the problem I initially had was that I have always pictured a younger Molly in my head.  The problem with this is that Molly grows and matures through the books, starting at fourteen in “training bras” and moving onto the famous Chromo-tonsorial Cahokian Goth tribe lookMs. Dawson is clearly in her early to mid-twenties and at first I felt that Ms. Dawson’s experience and maturity seeped through into a character that in the books clearly has all sorts of immaturity issues.  But within a few scenes Ms. Dawson’s portrayal came together and I was able to picture her as Molly – albeit a very different Molly than I’ve ever envisioned.  The capstone of her performance as Molly comes at the end of the film where Harry encounters her in his living room after emerging from a shower.  Her embarrassed monologue about relabeling Dresden’s ingredient and spell supplies is punctuated with “by the way, there’s some stuff down there that should NOT be kept next to each other,” and at that moment she WAS Molly Carpenter from head to toe.  I could not help laughing.

Humor is a strong point in the Dresden novels and Night Light follows suit with a number of one liners and humorous moments that made me laugh.  I loved the shower scene with Lashiel, Dresden’s resident fallen angel and her intrusion into his shower stall. The line “ignore the poof. Get to the point,” is absolute gold and Landon Solomon’s straight faced and irritated delivery of the line, in spite of Lashiel’s (and his) implied nakedness, is noteworthy.  It’s this sort of humor that makes Harry Dresden awesome.

One of the things that we have to remember is that the production crew of Night Light (who often included the cast playing parts) didn’t have a lot to work with.  I’ll bet they had one camera, few lights, limited access to props, and probably no sound stage or set to work with.  Practically everything was filmed on location.  In fact, I know it was, since I’ve actually eaten at Nico’s Cocina - featured in the opening scene.  In fact, I live about half a mile away.  Pretty good guacamole too.  Many reviewers will give Night Light a hard time for these things.  Dresden’s basement apartment clearly isn’t a basement.  (Try finding one here in Texas where you hit water five feet down.) There are lighting issues where candles obviously weren’t used as lighting (even Hollywood can’t do that by the way,) and of course the scene where Dresden is standing on the bridge over the George Bush Turnpike is only about 925 miles away from Chicago.  

But hey!  These people don’t have a five thousand dollar camera much less two or three of them!  They don’t have a gaffer and expensive lighting systems!  They don’t have a boom microphone.  Hells bells! Their sound stage is probably a broom closet with corkboard on the walls, a computer, and one or two decent microphones.  So clearly we need to remember that this wasn’t a Hollywood production. I’ll bet their next movie is even better – experience is a wonderful learning process.

That said there are two things I hope they do improve upon.  First of all sound was an issue. I was using headphones just to eliminate outside noise and I still had trouble understanding dialog sometimes.  For the first half of the movie the cast sounded like they dubbed all the lines while sitting in a steel cargo tin and the echo was bad.  So hopefully they’ll work on that.  Other minor issues like stage fighting needs some work, Murphy’s police procedure is somewhat lacking in the details (time to get some official advisors) and the overuse of words like “perp” and “vic” are easily fixed in the sequel.

The only other negative to Night Light is that the plot of the actual story seems rather familiar.  In fact, it is simply a light and less complicated version of the plot to Butcher’s book “White Night”, where Madrigal Raith attempts to suborn the dastardly plan of a Malvora operative and kill a number of individuals who are magically talented, but not to Dresden’s level.  In the book, this was done to remove the “freaks” from the supply of available cuisine.  I guess Wizards don't appreciate the appetites of the White Court.  As my favorite White Council Warden once said, "I am not food."

The weakness of Night Light’s plot is that no attempt is really made to explain who Madrigal Raith is, or that he’s a vampire, or that what he does is feed on the soul of humans through intense emotional contact.  For that matter, Night Light shows us Harry Dresden’s brother “Thomas,” but does little to introduce him, or explain his presence beyond a sinister individual who is for some reason following Dresden.  The fact that Thomas is known to Harry at this point in the canon, makes Thomas’ avoidance of Harry odd unless you know that Thomas was following Harry to make sure he was safe – a fact only a reader would know, and for that matter, they’d have to know exactly where Night Light takes place in the story canon.

But all in all, Night Light is a fantastic fan film made by people who have a passion for Harry Dresden.  The fact that they took such pains to get costuming and attitudes correct, and that this wasn’t just some five or ten minute “let me dress up like Dresden and carry around a plastic skull and a stick” video makes Night Light stand out.  

I actually got a tingle when Dresden brought back Emily.  Hells bells.  Even the cinematography was outstanding in that scene.

In the end, this is probably the best fan fiction film of Harry Dresden we’re likely to see in a long while and I hope that they make a couple of more films.  If they’re taking suggestions, I’d love to see these guys act out a couple of special scenes from the actual novels, even ones where there is no action per se, because these actors have nailed their characters.  I can just imagine Landon Solomon walking up the drive of Lara Raith’s mansion estate, explaining to Anastasia Luccio that “this is America.  Diplomacy in America is me coming up with a gun in one hand and a sandwich in the other and asking, which of these do you want?” 

Night Light is a fun way to spend an hour, and since you won’t be able to indulge in your Dresden fetish for at least a couple of months (until Skin Game is released! Woo Hoo!) so sit back, get the popcorn, and watch Night Light.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Congressional Approval for An Attack on Syria

Considering my last post took the president to the wood shed for being a gutless coward, I wanted to clarify a few things.

There are a number of specific issues we all must consider when discussing the situation in Syria.  So lets begin.

Moral Right - I think we can all safely say that we, as Americans, object to the use of weapons of mass destruction being used on civilians. Chemical attacks are non-directed (unlike a bullet) and kill indiscriminately (against non-military targets) and are particularly heinous.  While the world has drawn no "red line" (which we'll talk about in a moment) against the use of these weapons, there HAS been an almost world-wide condemnation of chemical and biological weapons.  The problem with  US Intervention against Assad of Syria for this outrage is that if we accept the role of world arbiter of justice, we place ourselves in an impossible position.  Already there is a sense of hypocrisy as we have ignored chemical attacks before, and what about the 100,000 OTHER dead people in Syria, who were killed with conventional arms?  Are their lives worth any less than the 1000 or so who died by chemical attack?  And for those who want to see us punish Bashir Al Assad for the use of chemical weapons, I would ask them if this policy only goes for nations we can handily defeat in a military engagement?  Because what happens if CHINA or RUSSIA decide that gassing their populace is the easiest way to crush rebellion?  Will we attack them?

Constitutionally - Constitutionally, the President of the United States has absolutely no authority to launch an attack similar to the one being asked for by President Obama without congressional approval.  Both the Constitution itself and the War Powers Act limits the President from waging war of this kind.  Unfortunately there are people who argue both sides of the aisle on the issue of Constitutionality.  You can read the for and against here:

Constitution Allows President To Attack
Presidential War Powers

When I wrote the article I posted a few days ago about how I felt the President's sudden adherence to Constitutionality was an act of cowardice, I was very closely aligned with John Yoo, a law professor at UC Berkeley who wrote the first article linked to above.  Precedent HAS given the President almost unilateral, limited control over the US military and targets and there are good reasons for that.  In many cases a military intervention must be completed quickly, before targets are dispersed, and secretly, to make sure the enemy does not know we intend to intervene.  For just such a reason Presidents have rejected using Congress to make the decision for military action.  It can introduce politics into what should be a simple question of national security and protecting our country's interests.  There are just some things that should NOT be decided by a committee. By failing to act with speed, President Obama has made the task of eliminating Assad's chemical weapon delivery capacity almost impossible by the US Military, which brings us to our next issue.

Military Targets - We've been told by experts that the type of limited military strike that President Obama initially asked for will be ineffective.  We can not bomb the chemical munitions directly, since that will release the toxic agents and would cause thousands of innocent casualties.  Further compacted by the fact that the Syrian Regime has no problem using their own population as human shields, the best we might be able to do is remove the military infrastructure that delivers the chemical weapons.  The effectiveness of this is highly debatable, but I will presume that if the US Military is told to make sure planes can't take off from military bases, and that every piece of mobile artillery is destroyed, it will be.  But in reality this kind of certainty will take thousands of man hours and weaponry.  Much more than the "limited" strike, President Obama envisions.  Worse, it still leaves the problem - the weapons of mass destruction - on hand, ready to either be used again by Assad, or falling into the hands of the rebels, most of whom are Al Queda fighters.  Brilliant.

The Red Line - First of all, I find Obama's attempt at disassociating himself from the "red line" he drew when declaring that the use or even MOVEMENT of WMDs in Syria would "change the calculus" and be intolerable.  Worse, there is no precedent in the international community for us to "intervene" on the use of chemical weapons in the first place.

Iraq used chemical weapons in two 1987 attacks during their eight-year war against Iran without any outside intervention. Libya used chemical weapons against Chad in the same year, again with no outside intervention. Most infamously, Saddam Hussein used chemical weapons as a means of genocide against the Kurds in Halabja in 1988, killing more than 5,000 non-combatants, without any international military response (although it was one of the many justifications used by the US and UN in 1991 for Operation Desert Storm and in 2003’s second invasion of Iraq). One can certainly argue that all of these incidents called for American or global intervention, but not that the world laid down a red line for armed response to their use. -http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/Columns/2013/09/05/Obamas-War-in-Syria-Misguided-and-Doomed-to-Fail#page1

We have no support amongst our regular allies for the use of military action against Assad and many could argue that an attack on Syria will actually violate international law. These factors are more than enough to make us think twice.

Consequences - When playing chess, it helps to be able to think several moves ahead in order to both plan and conduct your strategy.  Real life is no different and it isn't hard to be able to postulate some of the responses from various countries around the world.  First off, both Iran and Russia have large number of military advisers, and in some cases actual soldiers, serving in Syria.  Neither country would respond well to their deaths, whether intentional or unintentional.  Russia has already made it clear that it views an American intervention to be illegal, and would prefer a UN response (which it can handily veto.)  Iran has already declared that if America attacks, Israel would be their first target, so we can expect Hezbollah and even Hamas to jump on that bandwagon.  It's even conceivable that Iran's military might attack oil shipping in the Gulf, just to launch an economic attack on us.  Sink eight or nine supertankers and the price of oil will skyrocket to the moon, making an already strenuous economic situation in the US even more difficult.  In Syria itself we have to look at the possibility that the Rebels will win against Assad, thus taking control of the country and no doubt installing an Islamic government that hates us even worse than they hate Assad.  They will have weapons of mass destruction available, ties to Al Queda, and sit at Israel's door step.  And this isn't a cause for concern?

Credibility - Many supporters of the President talk about our credibility, saying that if we don't act, America proves that we are gutless posers and that this will embolden our enemies.  I disagree.  Foreign nations understand exactly what America is: a strong, powerful country with a gutless poser who is politically weak serving as president.  Obama is the fact of this nation and he has little respect on the foreign stage.  Iran is already emboldened, so what more could we possibly do to discourage them? I hardly think a few missile strikes on Syria will discourage the Iranians from supporting Assad, much less to stop their nuclear weapons program.

Competence - And last but  not least, comes the issue of competence, or perhaps incompetence is the right word.  The Obama Administration has demonstrated a complete lack of skill at negotiating the pitfalls and perils of foreign policy, from the failed apologetics and internationalism of Obama's first term, to the failed and terrorist ridden state of Libya, his vacillating support of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, to the covert arming of Syrian rebels, and the lack of security at so many of our consulates.  Obama has mismanaged both domestic and foreign issues with the same blank stare incompetence that has become a hallmark of his presidency.  And so many Americans, even if they support the idea of military intervention, balk at allowing a man who can't even manage to keep informed on what his own administration is doing (in order to protect him politically of course) to lead this fight.

In summary, the cons of intervention in Syria far outweigh the moral need to punish Assad.  

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Military Intervention in Syria - Evidently I Get A Vote

With the President's abrupt about turn on asking for Congressional Approval for a military strike on Syria, thus destroying any strategic advantage we might have had for actually taking out Assad's chemical and biological weapon systems, we now, through our elected representatives, have the power to weigh in on US intervention in Syria.

I am against it.  And here's why:

1. Sending a Message.

President Obama has stated he wishes to "send a message" to Assad and any other dictator who uses weapons of mass destruction on innocent civilian populations.  While the use of these weapons are horrific, the President's desire to implement the Obama Doctrine - enforcing a red line in the sand across the world (but only if the villain isn't a big power like China or Russia or North Korea of course) is bad policy and sets up America for failure.  Obama's initial failure to act decisively has made the effectiveness of a military strike on Assad's assets questionable, and the President's refusal to send a more direct and meaningful message to Assad is exactly the sort of wishy washy, lead from behind, cowardice that has come to reflect this administration.  If Assad really is this horrible villain, responsible for this attack, why not fire a cruise missile into his bedroom window?

2.  International Support.

He doesn't have it.  The Brits have bailed.  Germany wants nothing to do with it, and it looks like even the French might retreat (but that's hardly a surprise.)  In the end, the US will go it alone and be totally responsible for whatever happens there, regardless.  This is a no-win scenario for the President and while I despise the man and his ideology, I regret that he has led us to this situation with his demagoguery in the first place.  President Obama bluffed and Assad called.  It's that simple.

3.  This isn't about Syria.  It's about politics.

The President's desire to take the decision on US Intervention in Syria to Congress is a blatant attempt to avoid responsibility, pure and simple.  If Congress doesn't support the President, he can merely point to our legislature and say "oh well, they said no."  And if they DO support intervention then the President can't be criticized politically for action.  This is a fool's choice.

4.  There are no good guys.  Just bad guys and innocents.

It's a sad fact that if we were to intervene in Syria now, we would be aiding and abetting the very terrorists who plot to kill Americans and laugh as they take our guns and humanitarian aid, succeeding in their short term goals with our help, then turning their eyes back on destroying western civilization.  While I feel for the innocent children and civilians who want nothing more than to live their lives in peace and happiness, this is what Islam means for MILLIONS of people across the middle east.  It's sad, but it is the reality.

I oppose intervention in Syria. 

Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Coward in the White House

Is he President, or not?

In a stunning turn of events President Obama finally (after weeks) made a decision on whether or not to launch a military attack on Syrian dictator Assad for the use of chemical weapons against a civilian population.  His decision?

Let Congress decide.

Putting the aside the moral quandaries of the Obama Doctrine for the moment, Obama's announcement that he would personally attack Assad for what he did, but will ask for Congress' approval before launching an attack has the distinct flavor of a desperate man backed into a corner of his own making.  I can't wait to hear the line on this one.

I would have attacked Assad, but those darn obstructionist Republicans...

Since his demagoguery in 2012 where he initially drew his "red line" to his pathetic backpedaling, the President and his Administration have bungled the Syria crisis from day one.  Failing to act when secular rebels asked for help, President Obama's reticence to assist allowed the secular rebels to be replaced with Al Queda and other Islamist fighters.  Now we are in a situation with no "good guys" and the real and frightening prospects of another theocratic nation being born, that hates us and Israel with equal fervor.

To make matters worse, instead of keeping the intended response to Assad's use of chemical weapons secret and prompt, the Obama Administration publicized their outrage, through both Secretary of State Kerry and Press Secretary Carney, as well as two speeches from Obama himself.  The American public was told that there WOULD be an American response, and that the President was making a decision.  Over a week passed, giving Assad and the Syrian military time to disperse their chemical weapon delivery systems and units, and hide amongst the population. Increasing ten-fold the difficulty of finding targets and eliminating them.

To make matters worse, the Obama Administration has been nebulous about the point of the attack, claiming that Assad must be "sent a message" to discourage the further use of such horrific weapons.  And yet this message will be a limited military on his equipment, that is officially not intended to remove him from power, nor seriously affect the strategic balance of current Syrian forces.  One almost has to ask, what's the point?

The point is simple.  Obama put his foot in his mouth and can't find a way to get out of what he promised without looking like a coward and reinforcing the opinion of our country's enemies that America is powerless.  His desperate move to lay the impetus of action on Congress, instead of briefing the appropriate Senators, weighing his military options, and then making a decisive, informed, and strong decision, smacks of a man out of his depth, unable to lead, and frighteningly inept.

We have a coward in the White House.

Obama and Syria - The Moral Dilema of the Obama Doctrine

In 2012 President Obama, in what was later revealed as an off-hand remark rather than carefully considered policy, set limits for Syrian dictator Assad on the use of chemical weapons.  "A red line for us is (if) we see a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around, or being utilized. That would change my calculus," President Obama said.

That calculus has changed.


The situation in Syria is mired in a slurry of questionable motives.  But the issue I would like to address in this article is the moral one.  President Obama has made it clear that western nations will not, and should not tolerate the use of weapons of mass destruction on civilian targets.  Several conservative talk show hosts have taken this exact same standpoint, and from a Christian perspective I agree.  But as policy, the Obama Doctrine leaves much to be desired.

America has a heavy conscience.  We are a religious people, who believe in personal liberty and freedom, the rights of expression and the ability of each person to achieve self-actualization.  Since World War II and the Holocaust, the Genocide of the Jews, our nation has felt a guilt that came with the horror of realization at what Hitler and the Nazis had done.  The fact that our government knew about the camps and Hitler's program of extermination, and did not move sooner to intervene, lies heavy in the hearts of most Americans.  No one who visits Auschwitz can can deny that horror, and most are seen with tears in their eyes, silently saying "never again."


"Never again" has been the motivator for many military interventions over the years.  President Clinton and NATO forces moved into Kosovo to stop the genocide of the Serbians.  In 1993 we went into Somalia (though that didn't quite work out for us.)  It could be argued that the invasion of Iraq also removed a brutal dictator known for gassing his own people.  But while we've used our conscience as the basis for intervention, the reality is that many more atrocities have occurred around the world where America had no interest, and the simple loss of life was insufficient to mobilize the strongest and most moral country in the world to action.

The Obama Doctrine seeks to change this.  In 2011 President Obama supported our European Allies, concerned over the possible loss of their light sweet crude oil supplies in Libya, when they asked for our help in supporting the instigators of a revolution against Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi.  Despite violating the War Powers Act (which the President was actually sued for by members of his own political party) President Obama not only created no-fly zones that prevented Gaddafi air forces from attacking the rebels, but actually bombed military targets and Gaddafi's stronghold, forcing the dictator out of hiding and into the open.  Gaddafi was hunted down and killed.  President Obama's justification for this military action was in support of  U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973.

"United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973 authorized Member States, under Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter, to take all necessary measures to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack in Libya, including the establishment and enforcement of a "no-fly zone" in the airspace of Libya. United States military efforts are discrete and focused on employing unique U.S. military capabilities to set the conditions for our European allies and Arab partners to carry out the measures authorized by the U.N. Security Council Resolution."

After the initial attack on Libya, there was little response from the main stream media or congress in general after the discovery that our military did more than create no-fly zones.  We actively intervened.  We bombed Gaddafi military targets.  We armed the rebels (who later turned out to be Al Queda fighters.)  And of course most Americans are familiar with the 9-11 attack on our consulate in Benghazi, which left four Americans dead, including Ambassador Stevens.  The problem with America's intervention in Libya was that it set the stage for the Obama Doctrine of intervention in order to "protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack."  This concept has carried forward to Syria, and seems to be the exact same justification the Obama Administration is using to explain their intention to attack Assad.

Some might limit the Obama Doctrine to the use of chemical or biological agents against civilian targets, but Libya shows that the Obama Doctrine can be used even for conventional warfare.  Worse, the question arises as to what point the Obama Doctrine no longer applies.  If China or Russia decides to gas their own population for whatever reasons, will we immediately launch an attack on these nations to "send a message?"   Or does the Obama Doctrine only apply to nations and leaders who are militarily weak in comparison to our own forces?

And what about atrocities not committed by weapons of mass destruction?  And who gets to make the decision that an atrocity is worthy of our response? The American People, calling for action?  Congress?  Or is it the President's whim, lost to demagoguery and political idiocy, leaving one man no course of action save one, in order not to appear weak, impotent, and incompetent?  This is what the Obama Doctrine has left us.