2013/01/26

Les Misérables


I think this movie was done as well as it could have been, but it hasn't aged well at all. I can see Javert (Played by Russell Crowe) chasing Jean Valjean (Played by Hugh Jackman) all over, hither and yon if Javert was really bored and his case file was really thin and he just had nothing better to do or if Valjean's crime was so monstrous that Valjean was a real danger to public safety, but Valjean's crime was so petty to begin with (It was revealed very, very late in the film) that when I finally learned what it was, I was like “Wha-a-ah?!?! THAT's what this whole, long chase has been all about?”
The siege in the later part would have made more sense if I understood what the rebels were planning to do to improve things in the event that they were successful, but that detail got lost in the the hazy, romantic, rebelliousness and bravery, etc. I guess they would have started something “New” and “Bold” and “Different,” yada, yada, yada.
Now, Madame Thénardier was another Helena Bonham Carter villain and she's gotten quite good at doing those roles. She played a very good villain in both Sweeney Todd and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. She's very good at being believably human, but also at arousing the desire to boo and hiss and throw things at the screen. Anne Hathaway did a good job as Fantine. She was very pretty with long hair and good clothes. After her hair had been shorn off and she had been degraded, abused, defiled and was dressed in rags, yeah, she looked pretty darned haggard and worn out.

2013/01/18

Parsing the questions - Politifact and Jeep

The Weekly Standard is outraged, outraged, I tell you!, the Poltifact apparently stretched the truth when it said that Mitt Romney lied during the closing days of the 2012 campaign. They give us a general description, based on Politifact's statements, of what Romney allegedly said:


"It was a lie told in the critical state of Ohio in the final days of a close campaign -- that Jeep was moving its U.S. production to China."

Now, to me, the word "moving" is extremely critical. That doesn't just suggest that Jeep was planning on opening up factories in China, it suggests that Jeep is letting Americans go and re-locating American jobs there. Here's Romney's statement as quoted by The Plum Line:

“I saw a story today that one of the great manufacturers in this state, Jeep — now owned by the Italians — is thinking of moving all production to China,” Romney said at a rally in Defiance, Ohio, home to a General Motors powertrain plant. “I will fight for every good job in America. I’m going to fight to make sure trade is fair, and if it’s fair America will win.”

Sounds to me as though that's exactly what Romney is saying. The Weekly Standard goes on to show that Jeep is indeed opening up factories in China to serve the Chinese market and flourishes this fact as though it proves their point that Politifact is being dishonest. But the WS quotes a Jeep executive who says:

"Let’s set the record straight: Jeep has no intention of shifting production of its Jeep models out of North America to China," Ranieri wrote..."

Again, the question for me is not whether Jeep was opening up a factory in China, it was, but whether it was doing so at the expense of American jobs. Could Americans have been producing Jeeps in the US and then shipped those cars to China? As WS says:

To recap, Jeep Patriots—oh irony, you capricious sprite!—that were heretofore exclusively produced in America and sold overseas are now going to be made and sold overseas. [emphases in original]

Probably, but let's keep in mind that Japan makes Japanese cars in the US for the US market, so it would be hypocritical for Americans to complain of Jeep producing cars in China for the Chinese market. From a Forbes piece that makes it sound as though the US is fast becoming the Mexico to Japan's US (A country that is assembling products for the wealthier market), Forbes states that:

The Japanese carmaker [Honda] has invested more than $2.2 billion in its North American operations over the past two years, enabling it to increase production capacity in North America from the current 1.63 million to 1.92 million units per year in 2014.

Now, what precisely did Politifact condemn Romney for?

PolitiFact has selected Romney's claim that Barack Obama "sold Chrysler to Italians who are going to build Jeeps in China" at the cost of American jobs as the 2012 Lie of the Year.

WS correctly points out that, yes indeed, Jeep is indeed producing Jeep models in China for the Chinese market, just as Japan is producing Japanese cars in America for the American market. So yes, Politifact goofed up and accused Romney of the wrong thing. Why did Romney's statement draw so much fire at the time? My own "ruling" is that Romney suggested that Americans would lose their jobs and that those jobs would be moved overseas. So yes, Romney's statement that "Jeep — now owned by the Italians — is thinking of moving all production to China,” [emphasis added] is very clearly false and Romney very clearly had good reason to know that it was false and that his statement richly deserved condemnation.

So, when it comes to fact-checking, an endeavor that's worthy and something all reporters should do, Politifact demonstrates that it's far from an exact science or...well, that they're really not very good at doing it. I feel that Romney was rightly condemned for making an inflammatory statement that he knew full well was false, or at the very least highly misleading, but that Politifact deserves condemnation for making a statement that they, in turn, also had reason to know was false. Yes, Jeep was indeed planning to set up factories in China and yes, they condemn Romney for saying just that, but Romney deserves condemnation for suggesting that Jeep would do so at the expense of American jobs.

Update: These two posts were on PhillyIMC.org:

Notice how Romney said that

Notice how Romney said that Jeep was "thinking of moving" Jeep manufacturing to China. The fact is they were and the story in Reuters proves it. Romney said nothing about moving manufacturing to China "at the expense of American jobs." You and Politifact tried to put words into Romney's mouth that he did not say and you are getting smacked for it. This is probably the most clear example of left-wing "journalists" using the Logical Fallacy of the Straw Man in their analysis. Had Romney said the words that you and politifact tried to insert into his mouth, he might be culpable of lying but he did not. He might not have stated other pieces of the story but there is a big difference between withholding information and lying.
Romney's words, as quoted:
“I saw a story today that one of the great manufacturers in this state, Jeep — now owned by the Italians — is thinking of moving all production to China,” Romney said at a rally in Defiance, Ohio, home to a General Motors powertrain plant. “I will fight for every good job in America. I’m going to fight to make sure trade is fair, and if it’s fair America will win.”
If you can show me that Romney didn't actually say these words, and he's quoted very specifically as saying "Jeep...is thinking of moving all production to China," [emphasis added] then please feel free to supply me with the correct quote (With source, please) where Romney doesn't lie. My reading of that quote is that Jeep was planning to move production to China. That means to fire American auto workers and to replace what they were producing with a factory in China.

2013/01/14

Bold, fresh ideas from Republicans

Columnist, former speechwriter for the elder George Bush and frequent talk-show guest Peggy Noonan urges conservatives "Now's the time to put a dagger 'tween their teeth, wave a sword, grab a rope and swing aboard the enemy's galleon. Take the president's issues, steal them--they never belonged to him, they're yours!" ... "Really, it's pirate time." Essentially, Noonan urges right-wingers to take a page from the Democratic playbook and to stand for the little guys, the working and middle classes, against the rich.

How's that working out for Republicans? Well, let's see, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal's bold, fresh, new idea is to eliminate state income taxes and to boost the sales tax instead. What would that do?


According to ITEP, while Louisiana millionaires would receive a tax cut of around a quarter of a million dollars, “[the] poorest 20 percent of taxpayers, those with an average income of $12,000, would see an average tax increase of $395, or 3.4 percent of their income, if no low income tax relief mechanism is offered.” (And if a low income tax relief mechanism is offered, it will have to be paid for, almost definitely on the backs of the middle 20 percent, with average incomes around $43,000.)

And Jim DeMint, the former Senator and new head of the Heritage Foundation insists that welfare reform is an amazing success. What does that success actually look like?

In the state of Georgia, where 300,000 families survive below the poverty line, 4,000 people are on welfare. The goal is zero people on welfare. Not “zero poor people,” but zero recipients of government benefits.

So, er, not very well if you're a person who's down on their luck and in need of assistance. Great, if you're a wealthy person who doesn't like paying taxes.

How about bold, fresh, new ideas on climate change?

The Washington-commissioned analysis makes clear that America is already feeling the impact of global warming; infrastructure, water supplies, crops and coastal geographies are being noticeably affected, it says, while heatwaves, downpours, floods and droughts are all both more common and more extreme.
...
But although President Obama has brought in a smattering of regulations on greenhouse gases, and his energy strategy ultimately aims to wean the US off foreign oil, explicit references to climate change are still few and far between in Washington, and...

Okay, so that's a very serious issue and Democrats aren't making a very big stink about it. So what are Republicans doing on that?

...most Republicans refuse to acknowledge any link between human activity and a changing climate.

Hmm, so much for that hope. But hey! Republican Senators can perform their "advise and consent" role that the Constitution gives them.
In Meet The Press, Bob Schieffer asks Senator John McCain (R-AZ):

SCHIEFFER: What about John Brennan, the nominee for the CIA? Your friend Lindsey Graham says he should not be confirmed until we know more about the attack in Libya. Are you going to...

MCCAIN: I think Lindsey's right that we need to know. It has been months now and we still haven't gotten basic information. Like, what was the -- how were the talking points that were given Ambassador Rice to tell the American people? And on this program, why weren't there DoD assets for seven hours capable of -- I mean, there are so many questions that have not been answered, and Lindsey is right.

Erm, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and former Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT) both refuse to be tagged as critics of the Obama Administration's response to the deaths of a US Ambassador and several other people in Benghazi, Libya last year. The project of making the Benghazi deaths into a scandal took a severe hit when McCain skipped a briefing on the Benghazi situation in order to complain that he lacked information on...the Benghazi situation. McCain is beating a horse that's not only dead, it's long since decayed.

McCain also claimed earlier in the conversation that:

By the way, on this process [of appointing presidential cabinet picks], usually with the previous presidents, both Republican and Democrat, when they're considering nominations, they call in the other side and say -- you know, the key members on the other party and say, hey, I'm thinking about nominating Mr. X, what do you think about it? There has been none of that with this administration.

Really? Sorry, but I certainly don't recall that ever happening under George W. Bush. Bush just made his decisions and put them out. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but McCain appears to be insisting that President Obama observe a higher degree of cooperation than Bush ever demonstrated.

2013/01/05

Django Unchained

Think I've caught every Quentin Tarantino film since Pulp Fiction. Django is a worthy addition to the line-up. It doesn't disappoint. Tarantino and the many stars that appear here are all given the chance to really sink their teeth into roles that allow them to break out of their usual noble, selfless heroic parts and to play really awful, terrible, e-e-e-villll villains who all thoroughly deserve the horrible ends they come to. Not that it's all a kill-fest. There were a couple of minor, side characters I was sad to see get blown away.
Amanda Marcotte comments accurately I believe, that Django should not be viewed as history. What interested me about the film was the deep complicity that some characters who, in real life, had to have felt about the various events and happenings of being a slave. The film really drives home the point that lots and lots of people involved with slavery had to have felt morally complicit and unclean from their actions/lack of actions.
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$%#@^!!! The IMDB review of the film spells our heroines name as "Broomhilda." No, the character from the Ring of the Nibelung is spelled Brunnhilde and the opera was around at that time for people to get the name from. She's NOT named after the chubby green witch of the much later comic strip!!!!

2013/01/02

A few Barbara Stanwyck films

Taped and just finished watching Sorry, Wrong NumberThe Mad Miss Manton and  Breakfast for Two. And I learned by watching the TCM commentary that  Double Indemnity and  Stella Dallas are big, acclaimed films of hers, neither of which I've seen. Sorry is an interesting film as the main characters are not at all sympathetic until the very end, when it's too late. Mad is interesting as Stanwyck's character heads up a sort of women's posse that runs around solving crimes. In that and Breakfast, an attempt at a madcap romantic comedy of the type that Katherine Hepburn did in Bringing Up Baby, I'm sorry to say that Stanwyck is completely unconvincing as a woman in love. The men in these films say that they love her, but their statements fall completely flat. Maybe that has something to do with the rumors that Stanwyck was a lesbian. As she had an affair with Robert Wagner that no one was aware of at the time (They broke it off because of the age difference), perhaps she was bisexual. In any event, there's a great deal to admire about her as an actor. And nah, I checked to see if anyone has ever collected her movies together into one set and no one has. The next TCM classic actor film-fest is for Loretta Young. Not sure if I've ever seen her in anything.