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Monday, August 15, 2016

Fall Semester_Campaign Season

This coming fall semester should prove to be unique and exciting. For starters there is only a presidential election once every four years. But with the two major candidates being as detested as they are, the coming final weeks of the campaign should be one for the history books.  I won't be spending as much time as usual on the typical  actions by candidates and parties and resulting news media coverage because none of the usual is happening. Perhaps we will compare and contrast what the text declares as typical with what we see occurring.     

Friday, August 12, 2016

Term Limits

It sounds reassuring and comforting to hear that term limits would be more good than bad. One can believe that limiting terms would allow us to return to a time of “citizen legislators”, people who take a brief sabbatical from their chosen career to contribute to society in guiding how the ship of state should steer its course. Arguments are that this would rid us of power grabbing “career politicians”, possibly “promote new ideas”, and “eliminate corruption”. Nice work if we could get it, but it ain’t that easy. 
Two of those goals are elusive and, in my mind not necessarily fulfilled with a mere return to simpler more honorable times. Term limits will not eliminate all those who wish to grab and hold power, who want to have their way. Nor will term limits eradicate corruption in the public sphere. And thirdly, I don’t deny that the odds are good that new and different people could produce “new ideas”. However, the fact that things like public policy change slowly hasn’t necessarily been due to a lack of new ideas. The vast majority of new ideas just never survive the labyrinth of all the competing goals and wishes of the general body politic.  
But more on “career politicians” and “eliminating corruption”. To say that elected officials quickly or invariably become power hoarders is first of all unfair to so many of them. There are many modest, thoughtful members of the Senate and the House as well as most state legislatures who serve to improve the lives of their constituents, not to build an empire. Yes, there are some who do act as the poster children for the cliché. And most op-ed essays and letters to newspapers spend most of their time describing the exceptional horror stories of those who do game the system. But that doesn’t make it so. I believe we are mostly well served by the true “public servants” who devote their lives to doing good, or trying to.
As for “corruption” by elected officials, there are just too many safeguards and checks and balances for corruption to be as rampant as term limits advocates assert occurs. Yes, the occasional elected office holder is caught accepting a bribe or promoting favoritism within the sphere of their power. But percentagewise, such “corruption” is miniscule. Would we prefer it be zero? Of course! But we also tend not to want to pay for the higher cost of control and prevention. So again, we get what we want to pay for.
But I’m torn. Too many Americans like and want to keep their Senator or Congressman. They also want to term limit yours. They believe the villain is the Speaker of the House or the Senate minority leader. They wonder how the voters in those districts or states keep voting them back in. Wouldn’t term limits solve “the problem”?
There are two strong arguments against term limits. One is that such a restriction would take away the franchise, the choice from voters in the district or state that would, given a chance, returned them to office. It is un-American to restrict my freedom to vote for whom I wish. The other argument addresses institutional continuity. Do we really want to take away the imbedded memory of how and why laws were passed as they were? This would seriously skew the playing field in favor of the lobbyists and Executive Branch bureaucrats who are not term limited. Do Fortune 500 companies term limit their boards of directors? Their top management staff? Mostly no.
I am unaware of any studies addressing what has been the impact on state governments of specific states giving term limits a try. But I have yet to see a report that the voters of any state have stepped up and declared adopting term limits to be the best, wisest decision they ever made.  

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

"Some People"

“Some People”
Is he going to be allowed to use this transparent sham the entire campaign? I can’t count the number of times presidential candidate Donald Trump has dredged up the “some people are saying” phrase to hide behind as he spouts bigoted and perverse opinions against his opponent, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.
Once or twice was annoying but understandable. But done repeatedly this trick becomes obvious for what it is. Did Trump think this vague, unattributable term, “some people” was necessary to protect supposed real people from having to take ownership of their statements? Or was he merely trying to expand the sentiments of one isolated person to seem like more “people”?

I could offer numerous examples of Trump’s use of this device. He seems to do it several times a week. But my more immediate heartburn arises from the media, his, hers and “objective” media permitting this to go unchallenged. At press conferences, debates and the like nobody ever presses Trump to name names. “Some people” includes specifically who, Mr. Trump?

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Movie Review: Jason Bourne

Movie Review                          Jason Bourne

Matt Damon
Tommy Lee Jones
Julia Stiles
Alicia Vikander

The Mrs. and I took in a movie today. I enjoyed “Jason Bourne” as a reasonable expenditure of two hours of escapism time. MCN? Not so much. She didn't hate it. But now I owe her one.

I had enjoyed the first three Bourne flicks and had been interested to see how the movie producers, directors and writers would carry on after his creator, Robert Ludlum passed. I had not thought much of the fourth film, “The Bourne Legacy”. It had just barely paid passing homage to the franchise and didn't even feature Matt Damon as the real Bourne. So when ten years after the “Bourne Ultimatum” had left the story line satisfactorily concluded but open for other developments, I had let my hopes rise that Matt Damon's return would allow us to forget and forgive the “Legacy” detour.

Not to be. The co-writers of the screenplay simply are not the reincarnation of Ludlum. What they cooked up was a storyline reminiscent of books two and three, “Supremacy” and “Ultimatum” with only a tiny bit of new ground covered. The new ground dealt with our need to come to grips with advancing technology. Could the CIA spy on everyone they wished?

The main efforts to recreate the Bourne magic, though, involved trying to ramp up the chase scenes and fight scenes to new levels. The Las Vegas car chase might have been a bigger deal if it had not already been done in “Con Air”. And the fight was pretty much like fights in “Supremacy” and “Ultimatum”.

But I also thought character development was wanting. The story offered nothing concerning Bourne's ten year gap. They must not have wanted to dwell on that. Get right to the rock'em sock'em action instead.

Or take the Tommy Lee Jones character, CIA Director Dewey. I believe this was a newly developed character needed because Bourne had taken out the people in charge during his first three books. Yet Dewey implies to Bourne he's been around the entire time. Don't think so.

Finally there's the Nickie Parsons character. After surviving four movies, she gets killed off in this film. But prior to this there are vague facts indicating she has become some kind of CIA counterinsurgent. She reaches out to Jason Bourne to fill in the last gaps in his original memory lapse and encourage him to seek revenge on Dewey and the CIA for wrongs done to him and his father. I would have liked more on Parsons as to how and why she does what she does. Also how does she know what she knows if she's been on the outside?

So, bottom line, I enjoyed Jason Bourne. A film doesn't have to be perfect to be somewhat enjoyable. And based on the previews we watched, I wouldn't have wanted to spend my August movie money on anything else.