Monday, July 30, 2007

Sunshine: Thoughts

There was a time when all men knew of God was The Sun. Bathed in God-light, mankind was warmed and invigorated, and, inspired with its restless energy, they traveled across the earth as God watched, sleeping as It slept. Man was a loyal disciple of the Sun until discovering fire, and, with the harnessed the power of light and heat, were free to more without God’s blessing and warm their children when It neglected them. And so the Sun’s dominion over man, although still powerful and always prevalent, dimmed, and man’s existential quest for knowledge and the power prescribed to God (lordship, knowledge) began.

It is the reawakening of this long rationalized awe that director Danny Boyle (Trainspotting, 28 Days Later) and novelist/screenwriter Alex Garland (The Beach, 28 Days Later) attempt to tap into with their newest collaboration, the sci-fi meditation/thriller Sunshine. The earth is dying. Ra’s strength is feeble and diminishing rapidly, and it is the last ditch effort of a racially diverse group of space cowboys to rekindle his light by flying a giant metal umbrella, (nay!) shield, called Icarus II to his doorstep and leave him a Manhattan sized nuclear payload before ringing the bell and hotfooting it back home as heroes. Piece of cake. And, oddly enough, for the first part of the film, it is. That is of course until the crew picks up a distress beacon from earth’s first attempt to save itself, Icarus I (uh-oh!), and, like in any dutiful sci-fi film, make the decision to “investigate”, at which point things go… wrong. Credit crewman Mace (the increasingly compelling Chris Evans) with the understatement of the year, who, before venturing into the eerily quiet (and dusty…human skin we’re told) bowels of Icarus I, cracks wise to a nervous colleague who is against splitting up, “Why, because we might get picked off by aliens?” Ha! He wishes! What the crew uncovers is too fun and bizarre to spoil, but suffice it to say that the increasingly close proximity to our oldest God unleashes a wicked righteousness and runic spirituality not exclusive to Dr. Searle (Cliff Curtis), who, like any “doctor” in a sci-fi film, is looking a bit singed around edges. It’s no spoiler to say that eventually the cast is elaborately whittled down and we are left with physicist and nuclear engineer Capa’s (Cillian Murphy) marbelous blue eyes and big brain (seriously, the proportion of Cillian Murphy’s head to the rest of his small and frail body hints at some kind of alien relationship) to save the day (with some excellent help from Mace/brawn and Cassie/boobs).

What happens next is what happens in every Danny Boyle film: a calamity of genres energized with the technical skill and psychological brutality of a Jaeger Bomb. As the movie races to the climax, Boyle increasingly cuts and blurs the film, like sunspots, with overexposed frames that give cinematic form to both the bending of time and the warping effect of the gravity created by man’s desire to demand the attention of his all-father, even as he slowly wastes away and dies before him. Sunshine is a memorable film largely due to the talent of the creators and actors involved, but also for being what its peers this summer have not: A thinking man’s blockbuster with a passing awareness of the beauty of human endeavor.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Transformers: Thoughts

Say what you want about Michael Bay, but (by God!) don’t call him cheap. There is no denying that the man knows how to spend $100+ million dollars, and this time (in a film produced by Steven Spielberg) it’s Hasbro’s money that gets tossed into the blockbuster machine. What emerges from this meeting of the focus groups is probably one of the loudest, most colorful and clueless, movies of the aughts. Shia LaBeouf plays Peter Parker—I’m sorry (but...hmm...), I mean, Sam Whitwicky, an outcast dork too cool (it’s Bay!) to not have an innate aptitude for science or computers, and who’s superpower seems to be sarcasm, and even that is absent of irony, something that Michael Bay, with all his commercially honed wizardry, has, yet to understand. For a movie about robots that can change into machines (think, intergalactic shoppers), I found the film so earnest that it was difficult to find places in which I could add the appropriate ironic quotes (except for maybe John Turturro’s performance as agent Simmons, an agent of “S7”, who’s “crazy” eyes and underwear seem to suggest a none too subtle attack on his agent, who no doubt told him this was the kind of movie that would help pay for that vacation house in the Caribbean).

None of this is really a complaint mind you. Transformers has, at its rotten commercial core, the apple pie flavor that resides at the center of many a Spielberg picture. And, let’s be honest, irony is overrated and has ruined many a blockbuster this summer (Hello, Pirates! Good morning, Shrek!). However it is Bay’s own cluelessness as a filmmaker/human being that leads to many of the most stunning faux pas, particularly when he's making simplistic allusions to his idols (Spielberg and… himself): an homage to the most product heavy Spielberg picture (Jurassic Park…2, no less!), followed by the swirling camera shot Bay himself unveiled to much better and aesthetically pleasing effect in Bad Boys 2, an impulse that makes one wonder if Bay is simply parodying himself, or attempting to (pathetically) draw parallels between his elaborate commercials and Spielberg's honed nostalgia. Even more troubling is when this disconnect with reality is felt during a crucial plot point that has the Army, while attempting to hide the largest Rubik Cube in the universe from the Decepticons (bad guys, who've already demonstrated a willingness to engage in the mass slaughter of Army bases and Iraqi villages), decides (I kid you not) to take the cube to the nearest, most populated, area they can find, all of which leads to a scene in which Megatron (bad guy, who can change into a spiky space-jet) flies Optimus Prime (good guy, who can change into a semi-truck) into an office high-rise, bloodlessly killing hundreds of terrified and screaming computer people, a cinematic feat so shocking and blunt, it was only several hours later that my brain awoke to the implications post-Sept. 11th. Such daring do (or dunderheadedness) can only be the brainstorm of a man completely detached from humanity and human complexity, and who is completely immersed on the commercial viability of even the most heinous images. That Bay never considered, for a moment, the implications of such a scene, illustrates the great tragedy of Michael Bay the filmmaker: a technical wizard who never met a dolly shot he didn’t like (one wonders if the DVD will include outtakes of Tyrese Gibson and Shia dancing—or better, tripping—over the dolly tracks that litter the ground out of frame), and is a filmmaker who, while looking for his favorite open collared shirt, sold his soul to someone much more pathetic than the devil and thus lacks the faculties to ever be considered a true artist. I don’t care what that essay on my Criterion Edition of Armageddon says.

But Transformers is still a movie about robots, and, not surprising, it is the robots who steal the show (melancholy Bumble Bee, Prime, that persnickety CD Player/rat thingy), and it’s when they clash, metal on metal, and—yes—transform, that kids and fans of the toys and the old Marvel comics, young and old (present!), feel a tug inside our gut and find ourselves sucked back to the glory days, memories of Martha Quinn and Gorbechev are unearthed, and real sparks fly

Friday, July 20, 2007


15 Feet will be taking a much needed break from politics in the upcoming weeks, starting with movies, movies, movies, with thoughts on Transformers, Ratatouille, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Sicko, and, possibly, Sunshine. Followed by: music, music, music, and thoughts on Datarock, Wilco, Ryan Adams, The White Stripes, and Nick Cave. Plus an announcement regarding the first 15 Feet contest winner!

I’d also like to take a moment to direct you to this awesome preview of the Cohen brother’s new film No Country for Old Men (click here). If you like the preview, feel free to read my review of the book by clicking here.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Wrangling the Angler: Part Four

Today concludes the four part examination of the various quandaries raised by the Washington Post (here) regarding Vice President Cheney’s involvement executive branch decision making;

  1. Regarding Cheney’s role in challenging the science protecting a group of endangered fish in the interest of farmers hit hard by drought in a swing- state that resulted in the death of over ten thousand salmon: A touchy issue. Do most Americans support the rights of fish over the potential livelihood of farmers? Unless they’re on the fringes of the far left, not likely, and, despite the environmental carnage, it is difficult to find fault in the impulse to do so. Difficult, not impossible.
  2. Regarding Cheney’s effort to pressure the EPA into easing air pollution controls: Why should the EPA care about air pollution? It’s not like air pollution is one of its charters? Seriously, have we not arrived at the point that air quality (and I’m not even talking about global warming) is something to remain vigilant about?
  3. Regarding statements from former Cheney staff members who explained their role in re-writing a Clinton-era land protection measure that put nearly a third of our national forests off limits to logging, mining, and most developments: I’ll never understand the conservative agenda against the environment (notice I say conservative not Republican, as I believe there are Republicans out there who have at least some interest in the environment). With a nation that’s national identity is so tied up in the works of Henry David Thoreau and William James, it seems like it should almost be un-American to pillage the land the way Cheney would attempt. There isn’t a Founding father (from Jefferson to Franklin) in which the American ecology wasn’t of significant import. Power clearly has its draws, and as Americans we seem to celebrate individuals who can accumulate it. But with the environment today it’s more and more about greed and money, and Cheney resembles, more and more, the lumbering arrogant evil (a harsh word but one Americans shouldn’t be afraid of—as if our society has never produced a figure bereft of morality) of Noah Cross from Roman Polanski’s Chinatown, than the Henry Kissinger he imagines himself to be.
  4. Regarding deputy assistant interior secretary for fish and wildlife, Paul Hoffman’s, claim that the VP, an avid fisherman, was against listing the cutthroat trout because it would harm the recreational fishing industry in the VP’s home state of Wyoming: So it becomes clear: Attempt to interfere with anything the VP views as his—power, wealth, recreational activities—and risk drawing his ire. Most Americans, as part of adolescence, come to terms with the fact that we can’t always have what we want and that sacrifices constantly have to be made, for the “greater good”, or, less nobly, for “prudence’s sake”. Apparently, not the VP who reacts like a spoiled child when denied the things he craves—again: power, wealth, recreational hobby.
  5. Regarding Cheney’s attempt to remove snowmobiling restrictions in national parks, a tactic that involved attempting to fundamentally alter the way in which national parks were managed and attracted so much opposition from park managers and the public that the Interior Department withdrew it: Finally, the kind of off-radar political initiative we expect of our VPs! It would be more humorous if not for the way such an image seems to complete the disturbing portrait of a man who has attempted to remain unapproachable. And doesn’t immediately prompt one ask: Is there a single Cheney decision that has benefited Americans?
  6. Regarding Paul Hoffman’s assessment that Cheney’s “genius” is his ability to “put the right people in places… that comport with his overall vision”: Genius? Most people would call those people servants. And it hardly takes a “genius” to issue orders to a servant, no matter how many he may be directing.
  7. Regarding Cheney’s refusal to tap into the Cabinet officials (referred to as the “God Squad”) in his quest to help Ohio farmers, who’s job it is to decide if economic hardships outweigh the benefit of protecting endangered wildlife, and Cheney’s insistence that the had to “get the science on the side of the farmers”: Can we all at least agree on what a pathetic politician Cheney actually is, thereby explaining his utter lack of interest in the office of the presidency. We see here the seedlings of what will be another colossal failure (much like his dealing with enemy combatants) that, rather than benefiting anyone, works to hamstring both the executive branch and the agencies tasked to deal with such issues. The fact that there is a system in place to decide such issues, and the fact that Cheney sought to circumvent such channels, further illustrates his fear of confrontation and would avoid debate for fear of being exposed as the robber baron he is.
  8. Regarding former head of the EPA, Christine Todd Whittman’s, assessment that Cheney had called her personally to complain that she “hadn’t moved fast enough” regarding easing pollution rules for aging power and oil refinery plants: Ah, finally, a VP who is hands-on in environmental issues! Sigh…
  9. Regarding Whittman’s assessment of task force meetings with Cheney, in which Cheney argued that EPA regulations were to blame for keeping companies from building new power plants: So companies shouldn’t operate with a moral imperative and to expect them to do so is unacceptable? Companies shouldn’t be expected to make money in order to make it, particularly if it pertains to the future health of this nation (not to mention the world)? How have profits for oil refineries “suffered” as a result of environmental legislation? Didn’t Exxon pull in $25 billion last year? Not a penny of that can go to increased environmental protection? Didn’t they drive a tanker into Alaska? Have increased safety regulations in auto-manufacturing (seat belts, air bags) actually hurt auto-companies (like they claimed they would). Only the most self-deluded person would actually believe that those costs aren’t passed to the consumer. So either Cheney is a complete idiot, or he is deluded. The only other option would be to consider that he is completely aware and doesn’t care, which would make him someone completely bereft of moral character, traditionally the description reserved for people we like to think of as “evil”.
  10. Regarding the White House’s assessment of EPA reports that White House wanted “more pro-industry”: Sigh…
  11. Regarding the federal court of appeals who decided against Cheney backed legislation and their ruled that their attempts to redefine the law would only be valid in “a Humpty-Dumpty world”: But that’s the thing: When you don’t care about pushing Humpty of the wall and would attempt to prevent others from cleaning up the broken pieces, such laws make perfect sense.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Wrangling the Angler: Part Three

Today, part three of a series of posts pondering the recent philosophical, historical, and moral quandaries raised by the reportage of The Washington Post regarding the Vice President and his influence on the executive branch. Part One can be found here. Part Two can be found here. Today’s discussion relies largely on the VP’s role in shaping the economy:

  1. Regarding Cheney’s Feb. 6 2003 goal to sell the House and Senate leaders on a $674 billion tax cut, one month prior to the invasion of Iraq: With war on the horizon, it may have been prudent to consider the cost of such a cut, and that, perhaps a $674 billion dollar tax cut might possibly have been shelved for a later date, at least until certain assumptions about the war (greeted as liberators, etc.) could be reevaluated. To propose a plan suggests that perhaps the individuals involved in crafting it felt the impending war was akin to a business investment, providing enough “profit” to pay for itself. Back in the day they used to call this “war profiteering”, now apparently it’s just a budget proposal.
  2. Regarding Bush’s rejection of Cheney’s plan to provide deep reductions in the capital gains tax on investments as part of their plan to stimulate the sluggish economy, an act Bush felt would damage his goal of “compassionate conservatism” by slashing taxes on only the wealthiest of Americans, and Cheney’s domestic policy adviser, Cesar Conda’s, assertion that “it goes to show you: He wins and he loses, and he lost on that one.”: Proof positive that the President isn’t afraid to step in an restrain Cheney when he feels that the VP overreaches. So then should we be nervous that the VP, after “losing", began to hold closed door sessions at the Greenbrier resort, in which he actively sought to work his preferred tax cut into the proposal, even at the at the expense of the President’s own goals? Surely, not! By golly, the President put his foot down on this one!
  3. Regarding the President’s assertions that he is the “decider”, and the portrayal of the VP as the one who often serves up the President’s menu of choices: When did being a “decider” become a virtue for a President? If I’m in an Indian restaurant for the first time, etiquette suggests that eventually I will have to “decide” what I will order, but just because I’ve “decided” on an entrée has nothing to do with whether or not I am informed about Indian food or the quality of the selection. What Bush doesn’t seem to realize is that a menu crafted exclusive of him makes him a more of a “chooser”, something most presidents have rarely been celebrated for.
  4. Regarding Cheney’s view that the VP should be “the chief of staff in effect, that everything should run through his office” and the President’s willingness to “delegate” responsibilities: A seemingly noble idea that clearly speaks towards a lack on understanding about the history of VP’s, bringing up the age old question: Should Cheney be criticized for taking the leads and aiding the president, or should the president be criticized for being weak and unable to advance his own policy initiatives in he shadow of such an imposing Dick? Sensible people understand the difference between delegating and allowing someone else to do their job for them, as delegating involves setting up certain criteria or goals and allowing your subordinates to craft solutions that work to maximize those goals. It’s not delegating when your subordinates make all the decisions, or more importantly set the goals. Direction should always come from the top. Anyone who has worked where there is a clear chain of command can recognize the difference.
  5. Regarding the space shuttle Columbia’s disintegration over Texas on Feb. 1 2003 and Bush’s being “consumed with concern for the families”, which left Cheney to make the first critical decisions about the future of manned spaceflight: A perfect example where all the principles involved seemingly make the right decisions, and yet I can’t help but be unnerved by some of the particulars. Mainly the notion that Bush was “consumed” with concern for the families, thus forcing Cheney to step in and play foreign diplomat with Russia about our space program and figure out a way around space-related payments to Russia, something prohibited by Congress. Since Cheney and Bush assert that the President is the commander in chief, I find it problematic that accidental deaths, regardless of how tragic, could so consume the President that it would interfere with him doing his job. This is analogous to an army commander, so upset by the death of a group of young soldiers, that he can’t leave his tent to focus on the battle at hand, and thus a subordinate must make decisions that pertain to the life of the rest of the unit. If this is the case, and Bush can’t deal with human tragedy, than he has no business being the commander in chief of anything, and instead is another example of the his inability to lead, particularly in the most humanitarian of instances (see: Katrina), and casts a direct shadow regarding his subsequent decisions in the wake of Sept. 11th.
  6. Regarding files obtained by warrant in Rep. William J. Jefferson (D-La) congressional office, and Cheney’s role in keeping those legally obtained Congressional files out of the hands of federal investigators by placing said files under seal for 45 days, thus allowing Bush to sign off on Cheney’s recommendation denying Justice Department access, which today has resulted in nearly half the files being “off-limits”: It’s good to know that $90,000 in cash, found in a freezer in Jefferson’s home, paid in order to influence congressional legislation, will get Cheney down to the Senate and inspire s him to put aside “petty party politics” for the greater good, even at the expense of the Justice Department, which would be troublesome if it didn’t fit Cheney’s pattern of marginalizing and thwarting the Justice Department’s ability to do anything (fight terrorism, prosecute corruption, etc.).
  7. Regarding the President’s establishment of a budget review board (in which Cheney is the chair) as a device to keep Bush from wasting time on “petty disagreements”, and former Bush budget director from 2001-2003 (and current governor of Indiana), Mitchell E. Daniels Jr’s claim that, during his tenure the number of time a Cabinet official made a direct appeal to Bush was “zero”, which former aides from previous administrations told him was “stunning”: Some of us, when discussing something as important as the Federal Budget, might call “petty disagreements” “healthy debate”, particularly when it involves a dialog between people the President hired—this isn’t Republicans and Democrats in a room, this is, after all, the President’s team. That Cabinet members could not get an audience with the President about the budget makes me want to move to Canada.
  8. Regarding Cheney’s steering clear of faith based/hot/buttoned issues, like stem-cell research and the funneling of federal money into religious groups: Does Cheney’s steering clear of these initiatives mean he is a.) uninterested in them, or b.) clearly the only two issues the VP doesn’t have to shape the President’s opinion on?
  9. Regarding former Texas Republican senator Phil Gramm’s claim that Cheney had told him that Bush was a “big-government conservative” (the sole item in the Washington Post’s article that is disputed by the Cheney’s office): Well, of course Bush is a “big government conservative”. He apparently needs a lot of people to do his job for him.
  10. Regarding Cheney’s assertion that Fed Chairmam Alan Greenspan’s analytical model about The White House’s proposed tax proposals (i.e. cuts) were flawed, and Cheney’s unwillingness to allow Greenspan private audience with the President; as well as former Treasure Secretary, Paul H. O’Neil, and Commerce Secretary, Donald Evans’, claims that a huge tax cut would undermine the GOP’s message of fiscal discipline and Cheney’s subsequent demand for O’Neil’s resignation: First: Greenspan has always needed to be taken down a peg or two, who cares if the plunging the country into a record deficit was the way to do it? As for O’Neil: what makes the VP, already enjoying unprecedented influence and power in the White House, think that he can dictate who should and shouldn’t resign form the President’s cabinet? I mean, it’s not like he hired O’Neil, right?... Right?
  11. Regarding Cheney’s casting the deciding vote in the Senate regarding his capital gain proposal at the sacrifice of one of Bush’s personal goals of abolishing the tax on stock dividends, an issue in which Cesar Conda, Cheney’s personal policy advisor, used as an example of the Vice President “losing”: D’oh!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Wrangling the Angler: Part Two

Today: Part two of my thoughts regarding the legacy of Vice Presidential power and Dick Cheney, focusing on the VP’s efforts to expand Presidential authority in dealing with “enemy combatants”:

  1. Regarding John C. Yoo’s assertion that the “CIA guys” were going to have real difficulties getting “actionable intelligence” from detainees: Welcome to war, Mr. Yoo. I’m sure if you took a poll of every military leader who has commanded troops during war, they would probably tell you that “actionable intelligence” is always difficult to come by, especially through direct questioning of POWs. It’s a wonder America ever won a war prior to contemplating Yoo’s (and Cheney’s) “robust” solution to the “intelligence problem”. The reality is that torturing a German colonel during WWII probably yielded more “actionable intelligence” than torturing some suspected terrorist plucked from some foreign city or mosque (pick a city! we’ve done it all over the world!), as such men followed a chain of command and thus followed something that resembled a paper trail. Is Yoo (or Cheney) aware that certain members of the September 11th terrorist troupe had no idea the plan was to fly the planes into the building? No, because clearly they haven’t read the 9/11 Commission Report. If they had, and were truly interested in preventing future terrorist acts, they might have learned that, unless you were willing to sequester and detain people who hadn’t even committed a crime yet, that “robust” methods could have hardly prevented such an act. The fact that America held to the Geneva Convention while battling the biggest bad of them all (Hitler), should be a lesson in and of itself.
  2. Regarding The Post’s assertion that “the VP’s office played a central role in shattering the limits on coercion of prisoners in US custody”: Cheney talks a lot about removing obstacles to the presidents power, but it is becoming abundantly clear that the only person in the executive office who seeks to actually wield those powers (much like the clumsy young King Arthur in the classic Disney epic The Sword and the Stone) is the VP himself, as many of Cheney’s “initiatives” seem to be implemented in “closed door” sessions. Closed door apparently meaning: lock the door to the Oval Office and say, ‘regardless of what he says don’t let Him out until we’re done here. If he gives you crap, give him this O’Douls.
  3. Regarding the assertion that Cheney has managed his office through “thoroughgoing secrecy, persistence of focus, tactical flexibility in service of fixed aims and close knowledge of the power map of government”: All aspects we hope a VP learns during their tenure as VP, which, in theory, would ideally, make him a better candidate for the presidency in the next election (ah… idealism). The fact that, from day one, Cheney has demonstrated such skills says more about what he wanted to do once in the White House to advance his own interests, as opposed to those of President Bush. Whether Bush had any ideas of his own about what he wanted to do as President, we may never know.
  4. Regarding James A. Baker III’s assessment that Cheney has been “pretty damn good at accumulating power, extraordinarily effective and adept at exercising power”: If by “effective” he means the implementation of policies detrimental to the international reputation of the United Stated…then, yes. Very effective. If he means “effective” as in advancing the ideals of America as (hopefully) a responsible super-power wary of bullying and hesitant to throw its weight around regarding issues that keep decent people up at night…then, no. It’s one thing to covet money in America, which is, after all, the American dream. It is another thing to covet power. History has never been kind to power mongers.
  5. Regarding Cheney’s claim last fall that we “don’t torture” and the opinion of Assistant Attorney General, Jay S. Bybee, that the definition of torture means “…suffering equivalent in intensity to the pain of organ failure…or even death”: Let’s look at that again. According to Cheney and his (few) allies in the Justice Department, torture is not torture unless it involves “organ failure” or “even death”. Generally, the consensus of your average upstanding citizen is that at that point (again, “organ failure…or even death”), it is, quite simply, murder. So, let me get this straight: It’s not “technically” torture unless we murder them? Got it.
  6. Regarding the VP’s lawyers claim that “the president may authorize any interrogation method, even if it crosses the line into torture” and that “laws forbidding any person to commit torture do not apply to the commander in chief”, because Congress “may no more regulate the President’s ability to detain and interrogate enemy combatants than may regulate his ability to direct troop movements on the battlefield”: Who are we talking about here? Ulysses S. Grant? Eisenhower? We’re talking about (traditionally) Ivy League educated children of privilege who’ve run hard and fast from armed combat their entire lives. Bush senior was the last president who was actually in combat, and that was more than a generation ago. The chances that a future president might actually command men into battle, riding horseback while saber waving across a battle field, are about as likely as Haley’s Comet actually hitting earth its next go round—it could happen, but nobody seriously thinks it will happen during their lifetime. But this language is pretty specific. Torture is still a crime, and those in the armed services who would implement it run the risk of facing criminal prosecution (see: Abu Ghraib), however the President retains the right to use torture as a “intelligence gathering tool”. So, legally, we’re at the point that the President himself has the right to, personally, waterboard detainees, something phrat-boy Bush no doubt found…awesome. Okay, that was catty. Bush, to our knowledge, has yet to be seen in Eastern Europe or Guantanamo with a steel pail full of cold water. The President should be grateful Cheney took the lead regarding this executive privilege, a power Cheney apparently wields in service of a branch in which he claims he is not a member. Somewhere, a monkey jumps up and down on a musical box while clapping a tiny pair of cymbals.
  7. Regarding John C. Yoo’s, on Aug. 1 2002, signing off on a secret opinion approving waterboarding, a form of near drowning that the U.S. government has prosecuted as a war crime since at least 1901 as “lawful”, as well as a long list of approved interrogation techniques that, thankfully, drew the line at burying a prisoner alive: John C. Yoo… is a douche bag.
  8. Regarding John C. Yoo’s feelings that “only the CIA should do this” but that people at the White House and DOD (Rumsfield’s former right hand man) “felt differently”: John C. Yoo... is a huge douche bag.
  9. Regarding the fact that Secretary of State Colin Powell and National Security Advisor Condolezza Rice learned of the torture memo for the first time on June 8, 2004 by reading about it in The Washington Post, two years after its creation: History records Colin Powell’s previous response to news that detainees would be denied legal counsel as, “What the hell just happened?” There is no record of Powell’s exact words upon hearing about the two-year old torture memo, but one can hypothesize, so allow me to completely fabricate, “Fuck. Me. Thosemotherfuckers…” How should we regard the integrity of Bush staff members who were in powerful positions but clearly were unaware of events being played off-stage under their noses, ala Powell and Rice? Perhaps we should let history decide, and, in several years, ask ourselves this question: who stayed?
  10. Regarding the fact that, according to Powell, Rice vociferously admonished Alberto Gonzales (one of the architects) regarding the secret torture memo, insisting that there would be no other secret memos or she would be forced to take the matter “directly to the president”: Decrying that you intend to take executive matters concerning executive rights and powers directly to the executive himself if certain people don’t “straighten up”, is just… bizarre. Somewhere, a monkey, exhausted from banging his tiny cymbals, is fed a fresh banana and sucks spring water from a baby bottle.
  11. Regarding the fact that former deputy White House counsel, Timothy Flannigan, claimed that Cheney’s general counsel, David S. Addington, beat back proposals to allow detainees counsel because “that was the position of his client, the vice president”: The fact that Cheney would use his personal counsel, or that his lawyer would engage in lawyer speak while discussing issues outside of the courtroom, in essence, closed door debates with the Justice Department, illustrates disturbingly pathological behavior, as if the alleged suspects involvement with suspected terrorism were somehow a personal and legal affront against the VP, and that disagreements over the treatment of combatants should resemble the judge’s chamber of a civil suit. Only in this courtroom there is no judge to play arbitrator.
  12. Regarding Rumsfeld’s “emphatic” order to senior subordinates that “the VP had the lead on this issue” of interrogations: Really? I have my constitution right here and I’m pretty sure that the president should be the “lead” on these things, followed by the Secretary of Defense? Hmm, doesn’t say much about the VP… I guess it’s just another example of thinking along the lines of what you can get away with rather than where you’ll draw the line (see yesterday’s post) Besides, where is the precedent on the VP taking the “lead” on an issue as central to national security as the treatment of terrorists? Is this an example of the President being out to lunch and unable to handle such decision, thus making Cheney, the senior executive member the link to the President, the person reluctantly responsible for making these decisions? But, wait… According to Cheney, he’s not part of the executive branch! Are we in the midst of a historical revolution? Has the executive branch, like say, Verizon, begun to outsource executive powers to people willing to do the job for less money? Somewhere, a monkey poops into a green canvas bag and resumes banging his tiny cymbals.
  13. Regarding the numerous Supreme Court rulings against the President’s ability to detain detainees without counsel as well as attempts to extend presidential power, and Flannigan’s claim that “ironically” Cheney’s “crowd pushing the envelop on presidential power have resulted in the president having less powers than he would have had they made less extravagant, monarchial claims”: That loud cracking sound you hear is the sound of at least a dozen Justice Department lawyers and officials (including John Ashcroft), slamming their heads against solid oak. Ironically, a department fully prepared to take on terrorists in the courtroom finds themselves, as well as the executive, more restrained than ever. I hear the ACLU is planning a parade.
  14. Regarding a former White House ally who claims that nobody cares less about their image than Dick Cheney: While holding public office, care of one’s image is not a sign of weakness, but instead, a trait of humanity, in essence, a worry for ones soul. Martin Luther King Jr. (by way of St. Augustine) claimed that a “just law” elevated mankind and that an “unjust law” degraded and humiliated mankind. Thus mankind’s view of laws that would be enacted by politicians should always be considered. How the public views your job performance should absolutely be considered (maybe not the deciding factor, but an interest should be shown). We should applaud elected leaders who work against a slim majority view that is detrimental to our moral fabric (segregation), but fear those who would work against humanity by not considering them at all. If someone doesn’t care what people think about them, then they don’t care about people in general.
  15. Regarding the Supreme Court’s ruling rejecting the claim of “implicit legislative consent” that Bush was using to justify electronic surveillance without a warrant: The legislative being Congress, “implicit consent” sounding a lot like something you would hear bandied about during a rape trial. This not hyperbole. This is truth. The definitive example during the Bush administration of “checks and balances”, and the judicial branch stepping in a restraining an executive branch who would seek to bypass the legislate in establishing laws and at the same time put itself above and beyond the courts. Thank you, founding fathers!
  16. Regarding the confession of Australian citizen David Hicks (the second detainee brought to Guantanamo), who confessed to providing “material support” to terrorists after six years in jail without representation, and who, while in prison, was beaten regularly and sodomized by captors, in addition to experiencing sensory deprivation and forcibly fed disorientating drugs, and the governments reduction of its initial sentence of 20 years in prison (including time served) to 9 months, conditional only if Hicks agreed to affirm, on a legal document, that he had “never been illegally treated”: Hey, who hasn’t confessed to providing “material support” while being sodomized?
  17. Regarding Bush’s statement that he would like to “close Guantanamo”: If by “close” Bush meant “keep open until the very last days of my presidency” (i.e., when a new administration will have to deal with the fallout of denied trials and released detainees, both in political and in terrorist circles), the President is right on schedule.
  18. Regarding the Post’s claim that, more than a year after the McCain sponsored law placing restrictions on the questioning of terrorists, two officials cite the VP as deadlocking the debate regarding how far CIA interrogators can go during an interrogation: How does the President allow the VP to deadlock a debate that has made it way through Congress and the Supreme Court? Who, exactly, is in charge? Somewhere, a monkey puts down his tiny cymbals, reaches back into his green canvas bag for a handful of poop, and flings it at a young boy dressed in a sailor suit eating chocolate ice-cream on a waffle cone.
  19. Regarding former favorite Bush speechwriter, Michael Gerson’s, assertion that Cheney views waterbording as a “no-brainer” and that the VP feels very strongly about these things, and it’s his great virtue and his weakness”: It’s such a relief that Cheney “feels strongly” about such things, especially considering how strongly Lenin felt about peasants.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Wrangling the Angler: Part One

A few weeks ago, I asked readers to check out the Washington Post’s series of reports on Vice President dick Cheney (“The Angler”) and his impact on the executive branch (here). Today begins a four part series of ruminations inspired by Barton Gellman and Jo Becker’s stellar reporting. There is no new information here outside of what The Post offers, and yet, many philosophical questions about executive power and the moral implications of the VP’s behavior go unasked and unpondered. Such things should be left to people like Hedrick Hertzberg (here) and unknown internet yahoos like myself. Today’s thoughts deal with the first article, in which the reporters provide an overview into the ways in which Cheney has sought to increase the role of the VP in developing policy. Warning, this first part is the longest:

  1. Regarding the VP’s desire to expand the office of the vice-president: It is not beyond the VP’s power to strive do more than others have done before, but rather it is the executive leader (The President) who should, not only have the final say but, hopefully, be the originator of policy, as he has (ideally) been elected leader of (let’s borrow a term) “the free world” for his vision, and should thus temper those in his office who would make themselves originators and “deciders” of policy. In this regard, collaboration is celebrated, as long as it is guided with a willful hand.
  2. Regarding the VP’s mandate (approved by the president) to have access to “every table and every meeting”, and making his voice heard in “whatever area the vice president feels he wants to be active in.”: A historical anomaly. Seriously, ask Harry Truman, who assumed the presidency during WWII with virtually no knowledge of the Manhattan Project as well as other military initiatives. This is not a bad thing. By compartmentalizing information, The President has the autonomy to function without fear of his potential successor and rival (what other job has that perk: think Regan/Bush Sr. or Adams/Jefferson or Bartlet/Hoynes), while also, historically, giving VP’s culpable deniability regarding controversial policies and actions, all geared towards extending the political life of the party in power once The President steps down (or is voted out). Something Cheney has, by not actually being interested in actually being president (but wanting that power), all but annihilated. Pity the VP who would follow Cheney and shoulder the task of rebuilding a tarnished office that was, until recently, innocuous and safe, in essence, the PR representative of the executive office (straight-laced and socially responsible Al Gore helped Clinton way more than he hurt him, Dan Quayle made Bush senior look like a genius.) With approval numbers in the teens, Cheney, because of his close proximity to the President, is toxic to the President’s own approval ratings (see: shooting old man in the face). Such men (VPs) must henceforth be eunuchs and glad-handers, party sycophants to the point that we cringe at the thought of them assuming power (like Ford, Cheney’s former boss). If there is a benefit from such things, it is that, hopefully, voters will elect a candidate (of either party) in 08 who appears to be the unquestioned leader of vision, as well as demonstrating an ability to manage and control his office. Something Bush has clearly never done.
  3. Regarding Cheney’s role in “making up lists” of nominees to the secretary of state, defense, and treasury: Who among us hasn’t made a list of the things we wanted? My mother makes me do it every Christmas. Still, the remarkable similarities regarding Cheney’s list and Bush’s final appointments give one pause. The question being: At any point did The President inform Cheney that—hey!—this was my cabinet? If not, the follow-up question should be: My God, did he (the President) even know he had to make his own list?
  4. Regarding Cheney’s invented “Treated as: Secret/SCI” stamp: What can be said that John Stewart hasn’t already said? Allow me to quote him, “…apparently the governments “top secret” and “classified” don’t sound appropriately Blofeldian. The best part is, Cheney uses the stamp on things like political talking points for staff members who are going to deal with reporters. In other words: stuff he wants the public to know. Which I’m not sure he understands, is the opposite…of secret.
  5. Regarding the testimony of eye witnesses who observed Cheney in the immediate aftermath of September 11th, and who, apparently, saw none of the “profound psychological transformation that was imputed to Cheney” following the tragedy: You’ll forgive me if I question the ability of “witnesses” to prescribe a psychological assessment of the VP in the wake of the largest tragedy in American history (I’m sure they had their own things going on). As someone who takes bad news with a straight face, often times with delayed bewildered surprise, much in the way I do when getting a gift or present gift that is actually something I want, I find such opinions to reek of mudslinging. To that I say: Why rely on supposition when we can let facts do the work for us.
  6. Regarding Cheney’s use of the term “robust interrogation” in discussing “interrogation methods” that have included (a brief sampling): sexual humiliation, water-boarding, rape, electrocution, sensory deprivation, etc.: Some definitions of the words robust: “strong and healthy”, “requiring bodily strength”, “rich and full bodied (in flavor)”, “boisterous”. Now Cheney’s use of the term suggests one of three things. One: He has never opened a dictionary and thus has no idea what the word “robust” actually means, and therefore was unable to find another term that adequately skirted the type of “interrogation” Cheney sought to employ on enemy combatants, thus making him not as smart as people prescribe him to be. Two: To him, a good interrogation is a type of sport and suspected terrorists should think of water-boarding as a particularly hard and vigorous pat on the butt during competition. Three: The combined smell of blood, bodily waste, ejaculate, burnt flesh and hair, as well as the echoing sound of humiliation, agony and fear, in short, complete human desperation, is something to be savored. You know, like a good pinot noir.
  7. Assertions form John Yoo (more on him tomorrow) that the war on terrorism was “different, you can’t predict what might come up”: True. But starting with how far the President can take “it”, versus discussing up front what should be “off the table”, imply two differencing moralities regarding conflict, but, in this instance, a perceived war of cultures. The first would see events carried through to an inevitable end regardless of the losses (to reputation, lives, soul, etc.). The other would seek to establish, up front, how to maintain our moral integrity on a new battlefield, an assertion that, regardless of the tenacity of our foe and their methods, that we hold certain truths to be “self evident” and that national integrity implies a resolve, both as much about restraint as in the prosecution of an objective.
  8. Regarding Cheney’s bypassing Congress, the courts, and the ranking national security lawyer (John Bellinger III) that were likely to object to his warrant-less wiretapping proposal: Sorry, Dick. The American people are citizens guaranteed rights by the constitution. When such a proposal potentially involves the citizenry who are the foundation for the government (we’re not talking enemy combatants here), in whose framework you occupy only a portion of, it is Congress’ and the judicial’s right to vet and (yes) potentially disagree with certain proposals. Indeed, it is their constitutional obligation. To function in a government in which there is no legislative or judicial oversight is to function within a monarchy. So how does one completely bypass the ranking national security lawyer, who’s job it is to use his expertise to make sure the federal government successfully navigates the waters of national security? Unless Bellinger was a terrorist himself, I find it hard to believe he wasn’t as passionate about using all the tools at his disposable to combat terrorism. But then again, it has always been the position of the VP that if you aren’t joining his fight than you must be fighting for the other guys.
  9. Regarding the Washington Post’s assertion that the warrantless wiretapping was, only a month after Sept. 11th (Oct.) and a month before Bush signed off on it (Nov), already in full gear, and how this was one of the “most closely compartmented secrets”: So compartmented Bush even knew? This goes beyond the myth of culpable deniability (Regan/Contra), and instead extends directly into the constitutional framework of the executive branch. Meaning something like this should never have been green-lit, or even instigated, without Presidential approval and (one would hope) inception. So did it? Did Cheney implement this on his own, or did Bush sign off (in theory) when it is clear to The Post (and the rest of the world) that he himself did not conceive or organize such a program. Thus we have the ultimate chicken and egg. If the president was out of the loop, the historical legacy of his administration can rely on American skepticism and its penchant for nostalgia regarding the actual power and role of the VP in policy (the image of Quayle and potatoes). Conversely, since we operate, as Truman would have wished (nay, expected) that “the buck stops here” (i.e. Bush) and Cheney is just the dutiful VP, thereby skirting consequence and accountability (something he has so far, masterfully, done). If this is the case, then Cheney is a coward, and his constant denials, obstructions, and continued falsehoods (Iraq and Al Qaeda, thick as thieves) the chicanery of a delusional Emperor, his purple robes as lithe and transparent as the most tactile fantasy.
  10. Regarding the fact that Ashcroft, due to Cheney’s manipulations, could not “get an audience” with the president regarding the prosecution of terrorist in the justice department: Who did Ashcroft thing he was, The Attorney General? Wait… Didn’t he see Cheney’s big board?
  11. Regarding Cheney’s assertion that suspected terrorists “do not deserve to be treated as prisoners of war”: What do terrorist deserve, exactly? Do members of Al Qaeda view themselves as terrorists? Obviously, no. Do they see themselves as at war with the west? Obviously, they do. Do we diminish them by not going to “war” war with them, thereby having to engage the universally acceptable standard of behavior? Then why call it a “war” on terror? Why not do what we’ve done (call a spade a spade) and wear the mantel proudly: that we, the United States, are terrorists (confiscating citizens across the globe and spiriting them away to secret prisons, engaging in torture, etc.), battling terrorists of the world as unconventionally callous as they do, with no regard for the rights of humanity, so that collateral death and cultural humiliation are the tools of the day. After all, that’s what terrorists do. With such a declaration, who would argue that the perceived “enemy” should be given any rights?
  12. Regarding David S. Addington’s assertion that if the administration had followed Colin Powell’s lead (a defender of “obsolete” and “quaint” rules) the US would be “obligated” to provide athletic gear and commissary privileges to captured terrorists: Should we be surprised that men who’ve never entered combat, and therefore never had to live with the mounting dread of captivity at the hands of an enemy, should care so little about the treatment of those captured? Morally, we should be surprised, as there are countless veterans, from various wars, who could speak to the evils of torture, or, possibly, the character of societies we’ve come into conflict with who value their fellow man and realize that his duties as a soldier to nation and home do not make him the instigator of conflict. We should be surprised, given the fact that had they (Cheney and legal counsel) crossed the street to talk to Colin Powell, or if they could spare the time, hopped the metro to meet with John McCain, they could have been informed of such things.

Friday, July 6, 2007

The Road: Toughts

“He said the right dreams for a man in peril were dreams of peril and all else was the call of languor and death.”- Cormac McCarthy, The Road.

If it has been said, then so must the narrator of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road dream the most perilous dreams: a dark cave inhabited by a “translucent” beast with eyes “white and sightless like the eggs of spiders”, or the way the blistered feet of Gods in tattered robes crack the dry surface of barren riverbeds. In short, dreams of inevitability and extinction, of person and civilization.

Faulkner's south served as the backdrop of many of McCarthy’s earliest works, but it was with Blood Meridian that McCarthy struck out on his own, constructing his own view of America after having left his native Tennessee (too close to Mississippi) and followed the dried bloody trail of manifest destiny. The Border Trilogy followed and brought us out of the west and into the atomic age. And then…nothing. For seven years (not the first time he vanished), McCarthy produced no new work and continued his staunch avoidance of print and academia. And then something curious happened, McCarthy reappeared and released mean little genre-novel, No Country For Old Men (NCFOM). Gone were the languid descriptions of sun-bleached landscapes and the evening's redness (been there, done that), instead, NCFOM, was a work of pure cruelty, in simplicity and message, consisting of little else than voice, word, and verb. (Click here for my thoughts on NCFOM). A play quickly followed, and then, not even a year later, came his most recent (Pulitzer Prize winning) book, The Road. The Road was a book familiar to what had come before, but, implemented in the style and immediacy of language, was more similar to NCFOM than Blood Meridian.

“No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. This is later. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one’s heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes. So, he whispered to the sleeping boy. I have you.”-Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Rarely does a writer, particularly a writer of a signature style, reinvent themselves. McCarthy has done so twice now in subsequent works, once for NCFOM and once for The Road. As beautiful a writer as McCarthy has been, tenderness has been in spare (if any) supply. Then again, until a few years ago, McCarthy never had children (The Road is dedicated to the 76-year-old author’s 8 year old son). Is it cliché to think that something as iconic as a sleeping child could soften even the most calloused hands? In MCarthy’s case, apparently not. The Road is the survival story of a nameless narrator and his young son as they attempt to navigate their way through a post-apocalyptic wasteland in an effort to make it to The Gulf of Mexico and hopefully (hope itself a sign of danger) warmer weather (the ecological disasters of nuclear winter beginning to take hold). This is not a happy story, but it is not a story that lacks optimism. McCarthy’s narrator, through sheer force of will, would see his son survive in a world that is rapidly dying. Why? Given the environment, such a plan goes beyond simple paternal obligation (the mother, having given up a long time ago to suicide). Where is the logic behind such an act? The fact being that there is no logic to such behavior, that such an effort reeks of irrationality, which, for McCarthy, is a break through. McCarthy has always been a staunch rationalist; one who has yet to make up his mind about God and who would rather spend his time with scientists and philosophers as opposed to the solipsistic world of other writers (see, Oprah). Whether it was Judge Holden dismantling religion through geology, or, his most recent creation, Anton Chigurh, explaining the cold reality of the coin flip, McCarthy has always been drawn to characters who are rationalists. And it is this rationality, the cold facts of cost-benefit, that is firmly rooted in the American soul; for Americans (children of the enlightenment) can rationalize anything (genocide of indigenous people, a war in a secular Iraq as a way to combat religious fundamentalism). Rationality has, to an extent, been the tonic of evil (just ask Eve). With The Road, McCarthy abandons rationality. For the first time, the most compelling character on the page (the world weary but incredibly resourceful father) is a man who behaves irrationally (refusing to resort to cannibalism to survive, breaking the lock to that obviously locked and foreboding basement, swimming in the frigid Gulf while already clearly ailing). The sparseness McCarthy unveiled in NCFOM was a bitter yawlp atop a mountain of the dead, the final reaction to a morally bankrupt society (see the title). Yet it was this scorched earth attitude that enriched the creative soil and allowed McCarthy to reconstruct his soul, The Road being the symbolic bridge between the end-of-days McCarthy of old, and the still bitter and exhausted, but, for some reason (at his age) more inspired than ever McCarthy.

One could reasonably infer that such a change of purpose is due to the arrival of child, a sobering but inspiring thought that even one as jaded as McCarthy sees something worth salvaging in a desolate and shattered world. And he isn’t going down without a fight.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

It's a boy!

At this moment, I have, in my hands, a copy of Junot Diaz's long anticipated first novel, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. The means by which I came across a copy are top secret (unless you know me personally, then you could probably figure it out). Many of you thought this day would never come (okay, maybe it was just me). The drop date is Sept 07, but I've moved it to the top of my read pile and will hopefully to have thoughts on it before then.

Happy Independance Day. Celebrate by clicking here.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007


  1. Everyone’s favorite temperamental sheriff (and current cinema cyber-genius), Timothy Olyphant, is, apparently, also a top notch sports reporter. Okay, maybe “top notch” is a bit of a stretch. Still, his daily sports broadcasts for Indie 103.1 FM are hilarious, as well as the perfect reminder that Olyphant is exactly as cool as he seems in the pictures. Click on this Entertainment Weekly link to catch the highlights, or go straight to the source (here), scroll down a bit and look to the right, and catch up on all the not so latest in sports (Olyphant always seems to be a day behind. I blame Bulgaria.).
  2. Fellow MFA Taylor Antrim is hitting the big time. His novel, The Headmaster Ritual, hits stores this week, and, deservedly, the publishing world is taking notice. Taylor’s book has been mentioned as a potential summer breakout book by New York Magazine, as well as The New York Observer, who recently ran quite the flattering piece on the uber-handsome (seriously, click on the link and notice the wind-swept do) and, sadly, funny as well, Antrim. I encourage anyone who reads this to go out this week and pick up his book.
  3. Speaking of friends, an old acquaintance of mine (from the old Family Entertainment days and my personal inspiration for the infamous "Body Farm Incident") has, for the last several years, been running the indie label El Deth records out of Knoxville, TN. In addition to recording and performing his own music, as well as the music of other local musicians, he also periodically engages in the art of screen writing. The man’s name is Arrison Kirby. Mr. Kirby is like a one-legged Moby, only he could eat the hell out of a cow (or any animal quite frankly) and has way more chicks under his belt. Oh, and he’s not annoying. Visit his record label site here (which is pretty nice I have to say), or visit his personal web page here and listen to some of his tracks.
  4. Finally, if there was one name I would ask you to remember, it would be Ryan Kelly. Trust me. Dude is going to be huge.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Live Free or Die Hard: Thoughts

To say Bruce Willis is an analog hero in the digital age, is to say we live in an age when terrorists (as well as rouge government agents) are more likely to be foiled by striking at their hard drives as opposed to their faces. If this is indeed the age we live in, then let me be the first to say it... This age blows. It’s been a while, but thankfully John McClane (not to be confused with John McCain…one’s a republican) is back, looking chiseled, bald, and free of the lunacy that was Demi Moore, and is here to save us from…ourselves? Wait, where did the late 80’s/early 90’s go? It appears McClane is, once again, plopped into the center of another elaborately unfolding incident and must extricate himself using the proper amount of sarcasm and blunt force trauma (plowing SUV, anyone?). This time McClane is forced to flex his biceps for scorned government programmer Thomas Gabriel, played with the appropriate amount of irritation and awe by (Deadwood’s own) Timothy Olyphant (more on him on Wed). Events take their usual high-impact turns (a DC tunnel, a plant in West Virginia, a spiraling interstate ramp to nowhere) as McClane throttles his way through a masochistic orgy of personal injury in order to thwart Gabriel's plans to zip away with the wealth of America downloaded to his laptop (if only he had waited for the new iphone!), and America is again saved. From what, though?

A recent subscription to Netflix (definitely more on this at a later date) has aided me during a re-discovery period regarding all things McClane (and Bourne), and what I’ve come to realize is how susceptible Americans are to labels (shocker!) and how the 70’s changed movie villainy. Regarding the later: the 70’s was the decade of hostage taking, as well as the rise of fundamentalism, all egged on by the dynamic Cold War duo that was the United States and the Soviet Union. To Americans, if they weren’t Russian and carried a gun while speaking a funny accent, they were terrorists (thanks for that simplification by the way!). What does this have to do with John McClane? Funny you should ask. As much as the Die Hard films are retro shout-outs of old Hollywood cowboyism during the PC age, the one thing they have not been, despite the consistently lazy assessments of critics and moviegoers (myself included), are films about terrorists (well, except for maybe the second one, but that was directed by hack actionteur Renny Harlin, so let him bear the responsibility for that mess). The McClane films are, at their best, elaborate heist flicks, where the subtly of a well timed switch has been replaced by the cacophony of a well placed pack of C-4. Terrorism has always been the McGuffin of the McClane films, generally used to cause disharmony and panic among the rank and file so that the criminal genius and his mercenaries can scoot off with the loot—well, at least until McClain gets dragged into the plot (Wrong place wrong time? Word!). Think back to the first film’s Hans Gruber (the iconic Alan Rickman) who, when talking to the police and demanding the release of a number of terrorist “brothers”, including members of the “Asian Dawn”, acknowledges the look of bewildered subordinate and, shaking him of with a smirk, says, “I read about them in Time magazine.” Or Die Hard with a Vengeance’s equally gamey Jeremy Irons (Hans Gruber’s brother! What are the odds!), who leads McClane (and Samuel Jackson!) on a wild goose chase around New York in an effort to steal a large stockpile of gold. You can’t get more Western than that. The fourth film’s Olyphant is no different (outside of being American), using images of an exploding capitol to incite panic, all so he can download that awesome MP3 (or, as the film would have you believe: the accumulated wealth of every American individual and business). These men aren’t terrorists, they're Henry Fonda in Once Upon a Time in the West, charismatic Hank’s, only with bigger budgets and—yes—computers. The parallels between today, as well as the completely unintentional commentary on display in the Die Hard films, is uncanny. A big intimidating man shouts “terrorism, terrorism”, all for the pedestrian goal of lining his pockets. I know, hardly sounds like Osama Bin Laden. Hmm, I wonder…

For more click here.