Monthly Archives: October 2011

Laws for the GOP to pass…rework the entire bureaucracy…and by rework I mean fire just about everyone

We’re winding down weekly law blogs.  Next week will be the last one that will be published every week…not that I won’t have any more law blogs but they just won’t be on a weekly basis.

So what am I going to suggest this week?  Well I have suggested a few departments be disbanded.  Now if you noticed the theme, I would argue that most of the departments should just be disbanded, with their few useful functions either handed to the remaining departments, given to the states, or simply privatized.  Now we’ve covered Transportation , Education , HUD , the Post Office , the TSA and the USDA.

But that still doesn’t cover a lot.  Why doesn’t it cover a lot?  Well take a look at the current U.S. Executive Branch.

This would be the definition of madness.  And technically one man controls all of that.  I don’t care it if it’s Obama, Bush or George Washington risen from the grave.  No one can possibly lead all of that or should be trusted with all of that.

So I suggest we just get rid of most of it.  The federal government should be there to protect our Constitutional rights, police crimes that cross borders, defend the national borders, resolves conflicts between states and a few other things that are too big for individual states to do.  Most of what’s on that list does not fall into the area of things states can’t be trusted to do.

In fact Congress should make it its job to make this look more like this:

You’ll notice that only the Departments of State, Defense, Treasury, Justice and Homeland are left.  And quite frankly if I had my way Justice would be all the legal ins and out and Homeland would have the FBI and all other federal police forces (ATF, DEA, ICE, etc) all rolled into that large FBI–it frightens me that numerous organizations are out there with the same purpose to catch criminals which results in numerous overlaps, wasteful spending and of course turf wars.  Also can we please change the name of Homeland Security?  It’s the dumbest name ever.  It’s sounds like Fatherland or Motherland (remind me which two countries referred to their nations that way).  How about Department of Internal Security.  That way you have a federal police force (Internal Security) and a federal prosecutor (Justice) without the two being the same department (you know how every city, county and state does it).

But as to the Departments I will be getting rid of, I will be brief (If you would like a full justification of why just about everything in that Department needs to be destroyed, I will be more than happy to write a whole blog for each request).

Scrap the Department of Transportation: Last week I had a blog saying infrastructure needs to be handed over to the state, that’s most of the Department there…the only thing that’s left and of value is the FFA and that can be regulated by Internal Security but mainly it just needs to be privatized

The Department of Energy serves no useful federal function other the fact that they hold all the nuclear stuff.  Defense and Internal Security can handle those.

The Department of Commerce is entirely unconstitutional right now, but the commerce clause needs to be clarified so even a liberal can understand it only applies to commerce that crosses state borders.  Its only useful parts are the Census Bureau and Patent Office (which can just be operated as independent federal offices), and NOAA which can be privatized.

Health and Human Services is not the concern of the federal government (FDA can be privatized, CDC over to the Department of Internal Defense)

Department of Interior…utterly useless…especially Indian Affairs.  The states can clearly handle all of this.

Department of sucking up to unions…I mean the Dept of Labor…does nothing relevant, kill it.

The Department of Veterans Affairs can be rolled back into Defense.  I think people in the Pentagon will care a hell of a lot more for veterans than bureaucrats in an office.

And then of course there are a lot of independent agencies I’m getting rid of.  I’m not going into all of them but here are a few highlights.

  • Kill the Peace Corp…if we didn’t send them all to Iraq and Afghanistan to help rebuild those places why the hell do we have them?  They serve no legitimate function.
  • Kill NASA and let the private sector take over.  We’ll be on Mars before the next generation if we let the private sector take over…we’ll never get anywhere if we let government continue to handle this.
  • Kill the African Development Foundation…really, does it look like we know what we’re doing with this?
  • Kill the Foundation on the arts and humanities…again this is a private concern.
  • Privatize Amtrak
  • Kill the National Science Foundation…again this should be a private concern.  Not to mention that this thing has become a liberal propaganda wing.
  • Kill OSHA…Two or three times just to be safe, and burn the buildings…I think all the employees should be put in jail (solitary for life) just to be safe, and probably have the bodies burned after they die to make sure they don’t come back.  No government office is as harmful to business, worker happiness and safety as this office which had to have been imagined in the 10th level of hell.
  • Office of Government Ethics…Huh?  Try not laugh when reading that.
  • Selective Service System…yeah we have a volunteer system now…and if it wasn’t too hard to set up in WWII it won’t be too difficult to set up again if we need it.
  • Small Business Administration…you know how best to help Small Businesses?  Stop having an administration that constantly gets in their way. Kill this thing too.
  • Social Security…I think I’ve been clear that we need to phase that out completely.
  • Why is the TVA still around?
  • US Commission on Civil Rights…if there is a real civil rights violation then that’s the domain of the Justice Department so you don’t need this redundant excuse.
  • Office of Drug Control Policy…uh-huh, and that’s worked so well…

Yes there are legitimate functions of the federal government.  But right now it is overstepping those functions, usually at the price of those functions.  The states and the private sector can handle a lot of these things more efficiently, cheaper, with less corruption, less paperwork and at a greater benefit to the public.

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The Random Thoughts of October

Never again am I doing a movie a day for a month series without doing some prep work the month before.

Sorry for the lack of some of the political and religious stuff.

Okay with the candidates.

I am disappointed beyond the telling of it that Giuliani did not run. Beyond the telling of it. So what do I have to say about the losers who are left?

Santorum, as always seems to know something about economics but when you get even a fraction off economics he turns into a raving lunatic.

How did Gingrich make a comeback? The man may be intelligent but he has personal financial problems to no end, and supports the idea that global warming is man-made and that healthcare is a right. WTF? How is this man doing well in the polls?

Perry. I used to think that Romney was Obama-lite. Romney should be getting down on his knees every night and thanking god that someone more sleazy and more willing to abuse executive power came into the race.

Romney. Eh.  He’s saying all the right things right now, but his actual actions have yet to show he is nothing but a New England Republican…

Bachman. Isn’t it nice that basically all of her ideas have been co-opted by other opponents and no one but Gingrich gives her credit for them? Isn’t it nice that she is the only one up there with any knowledge of foreign policy but no one seems to care? Isn’t it fascinating that she was the only one to explain, in detail, why 9-9-9 had very serious flaws with compounding nature of sales tax at every point in production which actually forced Cain to change some of the specifics (but not the name)? Being the only one who knows anything you would expect her to be out front…oh wait, I forgot what misogynists this country was filled with. What was I thinking? …However I will concede that she’s still making gaffes, like when you’re trying to down play your religious credentials because it has no bearing on your presidency don’t make the comment about turning 9-9-9 upside down.

Ron Paul continues to be a moron on foreign policy. Also I was struck dumb by his statement against the 9-9-9 plan that a problem with it was that it was a regressive tax and would force some of the people who aren’t paying taxes now to pay taxes in the future. I looked at that as a virtue of the plan. If you want to talk about fair then the fact that 47% of the population doesn’t pay taxes is what’s unfair. Why should someone reap the benefits of living in America but not pay for it…yes the argument will go, but they’re poor, they don’t get the benefits…really, well then let’s have them go be poor in Somalia or North Korea for a month and then tell me there are no benefits to being poor in the U.S. (Hell, a third of the country is on food stamps, it’s not like we’re taxing those, so it wouldn’t be regressive to the poorest among us.)

Oh and on that note do you know which group will see the biggest increase in tax payments if we go to a no loopholes flat tax (the Ryan plan) or a sales tax (9-9-9), it would be the rich who no longer have volumes of loopholes to get out of paying taxes. So really the liberals need to stop their bitching and get behind one of these plans.

And Cain continues to impress me. I still am a little hesitant about his lack of knowledge about foreign policy (especially in this day and age) but he may surprise me there as well. Yes I am a little worried that pundits may be right that he doesn’t have the structure ready to get voters out in Iowa and N.H. …but these are the same pundits who said he would never break single digits and who said he would be done by now. So there you go.

In other news Operation Fast and Furious continues to be the biggest cluster you know what I’ve ever heard of. This makes Iran-Contra look bright, Nobel worthy in fact, by comparison. At the absolute least Holder and Napolitano need to be fired and prosecuted.

Solyndra, Pigford, Fast and Furious…no, the media isn’t biased at all in the favor of Obama, they’ve fully reported on all the scandals of his administration.

So we’re pulling out of Iraq. Well, I would like to thank Bush and Obama for utterly ruining what could have been a wonderful moment for the progress of democracy. How do you go into a country and have no plan of what to do when you finish defeating the army? How? And then Obama’s running away is another sign of his incompetence.

But Obama has us now in Uganda (I’m still not sure why we were in Libya, because as bad as Gaddafi was, we’ll look back on him fondly after the Islamofacists take over…you know like how we all hated the Shah of Iran until we were introduced to the Ayatollah). Why are we in Uganda? This sounds like a civil war. With the government as the good guy. Why are we involved in such a thing? I can see getting involved in a civil war when the government is the villain…but Uganda; their public officials stopped eating people four years ago…why are we there?

The Occupy Wall Street people continue to show themselves to be a bunch of whiny, lawless, anti-Semitic thugs. But you have to love that story about the people running the Occupy kitchen complaining about the homeless coming around for free food when they aren’t even there for the protest. I know, lazy worthless freeloaders, how dare they demand to take the food that the Occupy people worked hard to get.

When you get stories of women being raped and sexually assaulted at these Occupy rallies and it is then reported that the organizers tell the victims to keep their mouths shut, how is it that everyone at these rallies isn’t immediately rounded up and thrown in jail on suspicion of aiding and abetting rape.

And if I hear one more liberal compare this Occupy BS to the civil rights marches I may hit someone…I don’t recall any claims of rape from the Civil Rights marches. I don’t recall a steady stream of anti-Semitic diatribes (that came more from the opposition in the Civil Right movement).

And I may do a whole blog on this, but I must have heard at least ten different stories on bullying in schools in the last week or so. And everyone seems to be saying what should the adults do to stop this. When did we stop telling our children to walk away once, walk away twice, walk away three times, and if they try to bully you after you have given them three chances to go away beat them within an inch of their life and make it clear you will go that last inch if they ever bully you or anyone else ever again. Bullies are wimps and cowards; they crumble easily and only can survive when people don’t stand up to them, but they will keep terrorizing people until someone stands up to them.

And of course there is this injustice which has yet to be dealt with…

Happy Halloween.  Good Samhain.

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It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, the Greatest Halloween Film Of All Time

“Ohh, you didn’t tell me you were going to kill it!”

 

So are the first words of this great half hour Halloween special that defines Halloween.

As all right thinking people know, on Halloween night the Great Pumpkin rises from the pumpkin patch that is most sincere, flies around the world and gives presents to all the children of the world.


One of the reasons this is the best Halloween film is because this is in the end a holiday for children, or at least the inner child in all of us. It is a holiday based on make believe and imagination (which is why so much of it is dedicated to Snoopy’s always over active imagination). Halloween has been stripped of any religious (pagan or otherwise) trappings it once had and is now only a night of imagination. A night when we can be anyone we imagine (although there may be something of a Freudian-slip in our choices, as in Lucy’s choice to be a witch while saying a Halloween costume should be the opposite of your personality). It is a night to bring out our fears and hopefully confront them (which is why there are so many monsters in the choices of the Peanut’s costumes). It is, and always will be a night of meaningless fun, which is why Peanuts embody the holiday better than any horror film.

Why else do I love this, because I love Charlie Brown. Every place he goes to trick or treat he gets a rock. Does he complain? No. Does he whine? No. Does he demand the others share their candy with him? No. He simply states a fact and stoically accepts. Compare this to Sally’s whining about getting to spend a night with her beloved Linus, threatening to sue, demanding restitution just because she didn’t get to see the Great Pumpkin. The Occupy Wall Street thugs could learn much from Charlie Brown.

And of course there is Linus’ unshakable faith in the Great Pumpkin. It’s admirable, although slightly misplaced on this holiday, and makes us all want to believe in the Great Pumpkin. And even though he has yet to see the Great Pumpkin he still believes–You have to love him for it.

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The dangers and evils of debt relief

China is bailing out Europe and Obama wants to forgive student debt. I don’t know which is worse but they’re both terrible calls.

All of these Other 99% and Occupy Wall Street, in between blaming the Jews for every problem in their lives (and probably fantasizing about furnaces), they’re complaining about bank bailouts and their college loan debt. It’s an odd combination. The Tea Party complained about bank bailouts because they were in support of to good old fashioned Hayek/Friedman capitalism policy. They complained about the size of government because it was against capitalism. They complained about health care because the idea of positive rights is against capitalism. They complained about taxes, regulation, too big to fail all because of one basic reason–all of it’s against capitalism.

The Occupy Wall Street people however are complaining about banks getting bailouts (even though I remember these were the very people who supported Obama…you will recall the right started grumbling during that bullshit that was TARP) because they hate capitalism. So why are they complaining about having debt…oh because they hate capitalism because they didn’t get a bailout themselves. It’s not that they’re opposed on principle to people having money…they’re just opposed to people who aren’t, you know…them, having money. And you wonder why I constantly refer to them as a bunch of whiners.

But let’s deal with their claim that their debt is a problem, a problem the government should fix. Well, technically, they might have a point there if they took the line of argument I made that the government CAUSED the problem by offering loans, grants, and subsidies in the first place. The government caused a bubble in college tuition. It’s their fault. Now if they wanted to end ALL government grants, loans, subsidies and scholarships which would burst the bubble on the cost of college tuition and after and only after ending all the BS forgive all outstanding debt over say $10,000 (because THEY ARE THE ONES WHO CAUSED IT TO BE THAT HIGH) as a mea culpa for truly f!@#ing the system up, I could understand and be in favor of that. However that’s not what Obama is proposing. He’s proposing just forgiving some of that debt. Do you know what that will do? It will make colleges think they can bilk even more in tuition because, hey, it’s not like the kids will ever have to pay it back. Just forgiving debt will drive costs higher, will cause more debt in the long run, and it will even further ruin the educational opportunities of students looking to go to college and put future graduates even more behind.

Everything this administration does boggles the mind. They’re either idiots or evil geniuses. There is no in between. Either they know absolutely nothing about economics, because EVERYTHING they do is the wrong thing (bailouts, corporate takeovers, more regulation, health care, backing unions, everything) or he sincerely wants to destroy this economy . I personally believe Obama and his team to just be the dumbest idiots in the world, but who knows I may be proven wrong. 

But let’s not just focus on forgiving debts and bailouts of losers in this country, because this form of insanity is becoming an international pastime.

Greece is once again about to default on its debt so let’s bail them out again. But this time it’s not just the EU and the IMF (read U.S. money) now we’re adding China. You know how in crime movies they always describe that one loan shark you do not want to owe even a single nickel to because if you do you will never pay it off and you will always be in their pocket. Yeah, China. But more importantly is the simple fact that this is never going to work. Never. Greece is a total entitlement state that spends more than it can possibly take in. And they have shown no inclination to make the massive cuts required (you know kind of like how this country should have started making massive cuts right around the time Enron and Arthur Anderson went under…but Bush knowing nothing about economics, yet still more than Obama, didn’t). But let’s be honest here, Greece is beyond help. They’re going to default. Even if they went for true austerity measures, stopped all socialist policy and instituted Hong Kong style capitalism the economy will not grow fast enough to stop them from going into default. This is just a fact. They passed the point of no return a long time ago. All we can do now is choose whether that default is going to be big, as it is now (we could have made it much smaller had we let them default years ago, but that time is past) or we can choose for that default to be unbelievably massive as another round of bailout after bailout will make it. Greece will default. That is a fact, the only question is now how big do we want to make that disaster and how many of us should go down with her.

But no. Like a the crazy idiot who can’t pay their bills Greece is just going to take out another credit card and put all their new debt on that one. I’m sure that plan will work.

The unfortunate fact is that people, whether it’s the EU or the Occupy Wall Street idiots, don’t want to deal with the facts of debt. Debt is an agreement to pay back what you have borrowed. To socialists who don’t hold property and contract law as sacrosanct this may come as a bit of a perplexing issue, but for the rest of us we understand. In any loan agreement there are two parties. The loaner who agrees to take a risk and loan you money which you will pay back with interest as payment for having the money up front when you needed it but didn’t have it. This person knows they are taking a risk and if they’re smart will not loan out more than they can afford to lose (banks and governments should take a hint). And there is the loanee who thinks that they will do better by taking out the loan and buying something now rather than waiting to have the money and buy it later. It’s a capitalistic act. Both parties make out better. The loaner gets interest on their loan, the loanee gets the benefit of buying something that will benefit them. Each party is supposed to be better off than before (remember capitalism is a win-win system). Now the loaner takes a risk, and they should know it’s a risk, and with any risk you should not throw good money after bad, you should not loan out more money just to get your original investment back. It never works. For the loanee you take on an ethical requirement to pay that money back (and for college students out there, it’s a good investment because you will make more money with a college degree and spend less time unemployed…unless you study Sociology or Modernist Literature, in which case you will rightfully be unemployed and have all day to just sit around and bitch about how life is unfair with other idiots at Occupy Wall Street). If you can’t pay the money back (i.e. Greece, idiots who buy houses they can never afford, U.S. Congress) DON’T TAKE THE MONEY. You’re an idiot to loan money when you can’t afford to, and you’re an idiot to take money when you can’t pay it back. And you’re an idiot and an unethical bastard to say someone else should pay back the loans you should never have taken. But more than just that it ignores that while capitalism is a win-win system where everyone does better on every capitalist transaction, it is also a system about profit and loss. You may do better off of every transaction because you always get what you want; however, what you want may not be in your best long term interest, and if you’re an idiot and make stupid choices based on immediate wants that will lead to your own failure with no one to blame but yourself.

If we bailout people who took out loans on houses they couldn’t afford you encourage more bad home loans. If you bail out people who can’t get a job with their stupid liberal arts degree you encourage more useless degrees. If you bailout banks with bad loan programs you encourage more bad loans. If you bailout businesses with bad growth policies you encourage more bad business decisions. If you bailout countries with unsustainable socialist policies you encourage more socialist policies. Stop bailing out and supporting losers. Every dollar spent on bad policies form the individual to country level is a dollar not going to policies that work, a dollar that encourages more bad choices and less good ones. Stop the bailout and loans by governments which seem to always encourage the worst. Get out of the loaning system, leave it up to the banks, which, as they are convened with profit will only subsidize good choices, and thus subsidize economic growth, and which will be better for everyone. Stop doing encouraging all the things that ruin people’s lives and let them live their lives…not everyone will make it to the top, but it will because of their own choices, not because a government got in the way.

Worrying about people’s debts, especially people who have made bad choices and can’t pay off those debts, worries only helps those about people who have made bad choices allowing them to make more bad choices..and it hurts everyone else. The government seems to have no ability to look at people suffering and subsidize their bad choices…so it needs to leave because all it is doing is encouraging more bad choices. Will this have consequences? Yes. Lots of loans from the personal level to the international level will have to be defaulted on. But the effects of this will be lower prices in numerous fields and capital will be freed up to be given to people who will repay their loans, to people who will invest in education that will lead to a job, to businesses that will grow an economy.

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Greatest Films of Halloween #2 Psycho

“People always call a madhouse “someplace”, don’t they?’Put her in someplace!'”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to sound so uncaring.”

“What do you know about caring? Have you ever seen the inside of one of those places? The laughing, and the tears, and those cruel eyes studying you? My mother there? Oh, but she’s harmless. She’s as harmless as one of those stuffed birds.”

“I tried to mean well. “

“People always mean well. They cluck their thick tongues, and shake their heads and suggest, oh, so very delicately! Of course, I’ve suggested it myself. But I hate to even think about it. She needs me. It-it’s not as if she were a maniac — a raving thing. She… “

This is one of those movies like the Sixth Sense, if you didn’t see it when it first came out then all the mystery is lost because everyone knows what happens. So we spend the first 40 minutes watching Janet Leigh as Marion Crane steal $40,000 of her boss’ money (That’s in 1960 dollars, so it’s closer to $300,000 today…which is still kind of a flimsy number to risk your whole life on). We watch her in a paranoid stupor, constantly afraid that she will be caught and sent to prison. Fantasizing about how everyone knew and was tracking her down. I can only imagine if the original audience thought the title was in reference to her truly stupid choice of stealing the money. But of course, we all know that it’s not. It has to do with very poor choice of motels to stay in. The Bates Motel. With proprietor Norman Bates. And mother (She just goes a little mad sometimes…). And even then we might have thought that Norman might just have been a twisted plot point designed for Janet Leigh’s personal trip through hell…but then she decides to take a shower.

Norman Bates. Anthony Perkins does almost too good a job as Norman. How do I know he does too good a job? Because he never got another major role ever again. One moment he’s the stuttering, insecure, passive, weak one moment…the next all too forceful, all too dark, all too accusatory…and that’s when he’s still being Norman. (There might be someone who doesn’t know the story so I won’t clarify that).

I usually don’t talk camera angles and cinematography because, one, I understand most people aren’t interested in those aspects of film on a conscious level and, two, because most directors aren’t good enough to use them in a way that shows anything near an above average skill with a camera. But this is Hitchcock. Hitchcock who will use only three different pairs of angles in the conversation between Marion and Norman, each pair more and more sinister. Stuffed birds of prey and carrion eaters in the background. Pictures whose names all include the word “Rape.” You have to admire the attention to detail to cause you to be disturbed on both a conscious and subconscious level. And of course the shower scene. Go through it sometime frame by frame, you see nothing, and yet it’s done so well that even though you never see the knife go into flesh it’s far more horrific than most slasher films today. Hollywood would do well to learn from this less is more example. But nothing compares to the look through the Bates house at the end of the film. Each shot of a seemingly innocuous item. A child’s bed. A record. A dress. An indent in the bed. Each on their own meaning nothing. But together giving us a horrifying glimpse into the life of Norman Bates if we have the courage to think about what each one of them means.

And then there are the little things that make this movie so spine tingling creepy. “A son is a poor substitute for a lover.” is just one of a few lines with the disturbing incestuous overtones. And then there are the suggestions of child abuse and pedophilia, grave robbing, necrophilia, the fact that Norman knows what the inside of a madhouse sounds like and that he cleans up a murder scene with the skill of a pro. The movie implies a lot of horrifying things without saying them.

And there’s this trailer…it’s seductively creepy…but so much worse when you know everything he’s referring to…

…and by always referring to the murderer as “she” he kept the doubt and suspense going not just through the first half hour with wondering how far over the edge Janet Leigh might go…but…well again as there might be someone who missed this classic I won’t reveal too much.

And tomorrow, All Hallow’s Eve, the greatest Halloween film of ALL TIME…

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Meditation of the Week: Throat Chakra Chanting

After a week hiatus so I could watch some movies and get blogs out in a semi-timely fashion (I swear I’m going to make that whole series relevant to the overarching themes of this blog, you just have to let me get to the end) we come back to the weekly mediations.  Hopefully you have been singing every day for the past two weeks and I encourage you to continue singing (there are absolutely no downsides to it) everyday.

However this week we’re going to return to the more traditional chanting meditations.  For this week, while seated (either in a chair or in lotus position) put your hand in front of your palms up.  Rest one hand in the other and have your thumbs touching above your palms.  You should be making a circle with your fingers and thumbs.  Now chant the sound HAM.  (As always be sure to pronounce all three sounds of the word, as you can’t hold an H sound I suggest a very forceful H as you begin each time).  5-15 minutes a day and concentrate on the spinning blue circle in your throat.

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Oh just let these countries default so we can actually hit rock bottom and move on from there…

International Liberty

The Europeans have just agreed to another bailout for Greece. That’s the bad news.

The good news is…well, there is no good news. Sarkozy, Merkel, and the other statists have once again failed to do the right thing and instead have decided to throw good money after bad and dig the debt hole even deeper.

But there is worse news. The IMF is financing part of the bailout and American taxpayers are “shareholders” in the IMF.

In other words, I’m helping to reward bad behavior and misallocate global capital. This doesn’t make me very happy – especially since the White House supports this misguided approach.

But this is business-as-usual for the IMF, and here’s a first-hand example.

I’m in El Salvador where I just finished two days of speeches, meetings, and interviews to discuss how the country should deal with its fiscal imbalance.

My message is simple. El…

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Greatest Halloween Films of All Time #3 The Silence of the Lambs

“Well, Clarice – have the lambs stopped screaming? “

Believe it or not Anthony Hopkins is in this 2 hour movie for only 16 minutes. Only 16 minutes of Dr. Hannibal “The Cannibal” Lecter. A slight bit over one eighth of the film. But he seems to be in every scene. And what makes him so creepy is how oddly polite he is, even when being horrifically evil his demeanor is always calm and somehow considerate. What is so frightening about Lecter is that he isn’t easily placed in a box. He isn’t the devil who is evil for the sake of evil, all the violence he commits in the film is directed with the goal of achieving freedom (not that this makes it forgivable, but it isn’t evil for evil’s sake). He’s not a psychopath (like the other serial killer in this film) who acts in an irrational manner he’s quite rational in everything he does. He’s not a sociopath as he seems to have great empathy for Clarice, wanting to help silence her inner demons (although he replaced the screaming of the lambs in her mind, so I’m not sure if that’s a step forward). As Clarice says “They don’t have a name for what he is” because something as self-contradictory as Lecter doesn’t, probably can’t exist, but the fact that we can’t wrap our minds around the layers of contradictions that define Lecter is what makes him so disturbing. (Harris did a great disservice to his character with the back-story that tried to explain Hannibal in “Hannibal Rising.” He was far more horrifying when we couldn’t understand him).

I remember seeing this movie when it first came to VHS (just spelling those letters seems so long ago) at the time it was the most disturbing thing I had ever seen…it’s sad that re-watching it now it comes off as tame compared to some of the movies that come out now (which is a sad statement about how Hollywood has degraded into just cheap thrills).

There are no more supernatural monsters in this list…why? Because the supernatural in many ways is comforting, it allows an excuse for the terrible things they do, they’re just that way…but human beings being that perverse…that’s so much more frightening. We may not ever see the likes of Hannibal the Cannibal in real life, but there are sadly just a few too many in the vein of Buffalo Bill for comfort and that’s what makes this movie so terrifying an evil we can’t understand and one we can understand all too well…

…and that’s also why we like Clarice she is willing to both stare in to the abyss, let it stare into her, and not become the monster she fights…


Up tomorrow…well, we all go a little mad sometimes… followed of course by the single greatest Halloween movie ever made. The one movie that no Halloween is complete without…

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Greatest Films of Halloween #4 Dracula (1992)

“How did Lucy die? Was she in great pain? ”
“Yeah, she was in great pain! Then we cut off her head, and drove a stake through her heart, and burned it, and then she found peace. “

I would argue that of all the versions of Dracula out there this is the closest yet to the original book. Dracula by Bram Stoker is probably the 2nd best horror novel in history (the best being Stephen King’s It, but there are not good movie versions of It). As a side note there is only one correct way to read Dracula: with a group of two or more people, taking turns reading it aloud by candle light, preferably on Halloween night. But enough about the book and how this is the only film version where the screenwriter seems to have looked over more than the Cliff notes one page overview…

Why is the movie a great Halloween film?

Gary Oldman as Dracula is just creepy. As the pale and creepy old man. As the bat/wolfman thing. Even as the regenerated younger man he still has that horrifying magnetism. For the most part he revels in his debauchery and villainy. The slight problem is that the screenwriter and director did humanize him a little too much. This is not the creature of the night hell bent on world conquest and destruction–this is more a tragic figure who through loss and pain has come to hate the world and wants it to suffer if he has to suffer. And this is kind of the weakest point of the movie…they tried to humanize him, give him a actual relationship with Mina Haker, bring some human drama into the story and have a title character who wasn’t just a lecherous piece of scum and embodiment of all the dark sides of sexuality (keep in mind vampirism is in many ways a metaphor for rape, for venereal disease, for lovers who use and abuse women). Still Dracula is a villain in this film (especially his shadow which seems to have a twisted Peter Pan thing going on, creeping up on people when Dracula himself is stationary).

Oh and then there’s Keanu Reaves. Sometimes I will actually defend casting Keanu in certain movies (Much Ado, Matrix, Lake House); however, this is not one of those cases. Coppola was going for that bland emotionless look that the Victorian middle class so admired…but it doesn’t work in a story of good versus evil.

But this is made up for by Anthony Hopkins’ Abraham Van Helsing, He’s a little crazy and certainly enjoys his job as vampire hunter way too much. But he is the only one in this film without fear; he actually enjoys pitting himself against the forces of darkness. It’s good he found something he enjoys. Van Helsing in the novel had an offbeat sense of humor, but Hopkins takes it to a wonderful extreme.

But overall the movie is true to the book (at least by Hollywood standards). All the characters which Hollywood usually leaves out are there (especially Lucy’s three suitors), all the main plot points are included (even if they did add some unneeded character development for the Count) and just the general horror of Dracula is there (especially when he’s feeding small children to his vampire brides).

While I wouldn’t go as far as to say that no Halloween is complete without this movie (that only applies to the #1 movie on this list) it does come close.

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More Misconceptions of the New Age: Crystals, incense and the rest


So when I asked my friends what they thought of when they heard the phrase New Age I got a lot of responses regarding crystals, incense, and music. I was looking for misconceptions about the New Age, but this really isn’t a misconception…New Agers really do go for all of that…but I think it’s misunderstood as to why we do it.

New Agers believe, not entirely without basis, that everything in existence is really just energy vibrating at different levels (don’t roll your eyes this is one of the more popular theories of quantum mechanics). And with this we find that certain objects have certain vibrations that correspond to certain patterns of thought. That certain sounds and even certain stimuli (like scent) can also help raise the vibration level of the person using them.

Now do New Ager’s believe that just by putting a crystal in our hands we suddenly are lifted to a higher level of enlightenment? No. It’s something we use to focus, to help us remember and concentrate. You know like crosses, stars of David, rosary beads, mandalas, formulaic prayers, water in a baptism, and the Eucharist. Few of us believe in the full power of these things when we’re not of the faith that uses them, but we do understand their uses. They’re tools to help us control our thoughts. We just have quite a few more than most religions because we tend to draw items from every religion because we believe that almost all religions can be a way to truth. If a crystal works for you in helping you raise your thoughts, use it. If it doesn’t, don’t. If a crucifix does the same thing use that.

So yes, we do have all those things that make New Age stores so profitable, but understand, in that aspect we’re not really different from any other religion…we all have our tools for helping our thought focus more on God. You have yours. We don’t insult yours when they don’t work for us…

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Top Ten Films of Halloween #5 Young Frankenstein

“”For as long as I can remember people have hated me. They looked at my face and my body and they ran away in horror. In my loneliness I decided that if I could not inspire love, which is my deepest hope, I would instead cause fear. I live because this poor half-crazed genius has given me life. He alone held an image of me as something beautiful and then, when it would have been easy enough to stay out of danger, he used his own body as a guinea pig to give me a calmer brain and a somewhat more sophisticated way of expressing myself. “

It’s odd that a Mel Brooks slapstick managed to convey the theme of the original Mary Shelley novel better than any other film based on that work (Branagh tried but failed for a lot of small reasons and that big one where he radically changed the ending). But in being true to the novel, Brooks was oddly also faithful to the original Hollywood version by hauling out the original equipment (those really are the original props in the lab) and parodying almost every famous scene from the original film.

But of course there are the differences. Igor (pronounced eye-gore) is of course far more talkative when played by Marty Feldman, although he does seem to have problem reading (“Whose brain was it?” “Abby someone.” “Abby Who/” “Abby Normal.”). And Gene Wilder as Frederick Fronkensteen at times comes off as more mentally unhinged than any previous film version of the original mad scientist. Add in Mars, Garr, Leachman, Boyle, and of course Hackman…

…and you get what is arguably Mel Brook’s finest movie (Blazing Saddles while funnier in many parts has a terrible ending) not to mention one of the 10 best comedies of all time.

I could talk about how the Frankenstein story in all its versions is very much about how giving into the fear of death and trying to avoid it at all costs can only lead to destruction…but this is Young Frankenstein and that might be going just a little far. The same with the story’s warning against need for humility in the face of the hubris of science to feel it shouldn’t have any restrictions placed upon it by ethics and morals…but again such a discussion is really pushing it with this version…and I just can’t say that any other version is worthy of being in a top 30 list. These themes are there because of the source material, but they’re not the focus of Brook’s film.

If this movie is doing anything it’s critiquing Hollywood for turning a story with a thoughtful, articulate creature, with a penchant for quoting Milton and Goethe, (as shown in the quote at the top) into a lumbering, mindless, hulk. Hollywood turned one of the most intelligent villains in literature into an idiot for no reason…and this has been the bane of English teachers ever since as for some reason everyone thinks the Hollywood version is the truth. (If only Brooks had shown the same skill when critiquing Hollywood’s vision of Dracula).

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International Liberty

Over and over again, I tell people to ignore whether politicians have a D or an R after their names. That’s because Democrats sometimes do the right thing and Republicans often do the wrong thing.

My latest example of Republicans doing the wrong thing come from Florida, where GOP politicians decided that free markets should not be allowed to function and that all taxpayers should be put at risk to subsidize hurricane insurance (primarily benefiting upper-income people).

The Wall Street Journal opined today on why this is a mistake.

…evidence continues to build that the state’s taxpayers will get walloped sooner or later. The state’s own hurricane reinsurer now admits its 12-month funding shortfall for claims is $3.2 billion. That estimate is based on the taxpayer-backed Florida Hurricane Catastrophic Fund’s cash on hand, its investment income and the amount banks estimate the fund could raise in municipal bond markets…

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Top 10 Halloween Films #6 Ghostbusters

“Why worry. Each of us is wearing an unlicensed nuclear accelerator on his back.”

I could hardly choose a single line to put at the top of this–they’re almost all classics.

The great story of three men, who, after being booted out of the cushy world of academia and have to get real jobs which is a problem for some of them, “You’ve never worked in the private sector. They expect results.” So they do the only thing they can think of, they catch ghosts. Oh and destroy a lot of crap in the mean time…but they get paid well. Meanwhile a moldy Sumerian god is planning on returning and destroying the world. But, as I’m sure we all know the Ghostbusters have this covered. Honestly do I really have to summarize the plot…we’ve all seen it. We all know who to call.

Not exactly a lot of fear here, just a lot of great humor dressed up in the trappings of a horror flick. Something that has been lost in modern comedy, the understated visual gag. Egon moves to the other side of the elevator after turning on the proton pack and the comment about the unlicensed nuclear accelerator…no need to explain the punch line or even to have other characters mention it, just make the joke and move on expecting your audience to be bright enough to get it…and there are numerous examples of this. And then the dialogue is even better. I watch this movie every year and it never gets old. As I said I’m sure you’ve seen it so you know that rather than listening to me talk about the quality of the writing you should just go and watch it.

And of course on the greatest reason to love this movie, the EPA is the villain. That’s right the whole mass destruction is primarily caused because an arrogant, dickless (hey, I’m just quoting a fact listed in the movie, twice in fact), brainless, bureaucrat had to show that he had power. This movie understands that when it’s the federal government vs. small business, the federal government is on the side of the universe destroying evil. It’s a pity the bureaucrat only got covered in marshmallow and not something more painful and befitting the vicious crime of being a bureaucrat.

Of course the lasting impact of this movie can best be summed up with the following line from my favorite TV show:

“Who you gonna call? [awkward silence] God, that phrase is never gonna be usable again, is it?”–Spike

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Top Ten Films of Halloween #7 Alien

“I admire its purity. A survivor… unclouded by conscience, remorse, or delusions of morality. […] I can’t lie to you about your chances, but… you have my sympathies.”

This is a movie best watched at night with the lights off…yeah it has a lot of sci-fi elements…but in the end it’s a monster movie, with possibly the most horrifying monster the silver screen ever dreamed up.

The first thing that I find a little odd about this is that in the opening scene you hear the engines working as you look at the ship from the outside. I thought that in space no one can hear you scream…oh well, we would have to wait for Joss Whedon to understand you don’t need sound effects when in space. But then again while there is the hum of the engines or the sound of the wind there are very long and uncomfortable silences in this film. Very uncomfortable. Because this movie is about the uncomfortable nature of fear. Long, silent, drawn out, pricks up the back of your spine fear.

And the only thing more uncomfortable is the intentional repetition of violent sexual imagery. It starts with a forced impregnation that leads to a thing that bursts out of man’s gut in possibly the most horrific pregnancy on film to give birth to a creature that is a disturbing amalgamation of phallic shapes . Or as the screen writer put it “This is a movie about alien interspecies rape,”… I have a hard time thinking of a more disturbing 8 word sentence. Add to the fact the initial thing that attached itself to the guy’s face looked kind of like a spider, which is even more creepy, there’s just nothing comforting about this movie. Oh and a disembodied Ian Holm also added to the creepiness.

In fact re-watching this film made me ask myself…why am I watching all these horror films right before I go to bed…this is kind of stupid…

Actually there is one thing that’s comforting about this film: Ripley. You can’t help but love her. Granted she’s even more the hero in the sequel, but she has just about every quality that is imaginable in a hero. Smart, grace under pressure but not eternally cold and when need be the ability to throw off one liners.

It’s almost impossible to think that Weaver did not get first billing…we have come to think of her as the face of these movies. It’s her versus the big ugly thing. That’s the nature of these movies. (Which makes me a little worried at how good Prometheus will be)…but that of course lead me to have a word on the sequels. Aliens was a very different film, it was a James Cameron action spectacular and it was a great one. Aliens 3 I don’t know what the hell they were thinking. And of course Alien Resurrection which is also a piece of crap…but it does have one saving grace: screenwriter Joss Whedon added to the cast a ragtag bunch of space smugglers (which included a morally ambiguous captain with a sense of honor, a quirky pilot and a big thug who had good one liners…I wonder if Whedon ever got around to reusing the good parts of that idea?).

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Halloween’s Greatest Films #8 The Lost Boys

“You never grow old. You never die. But you must feed.”

A true horror classic is an appellation that can be applied to just about every movie in the the Top 9 of this list, so I it could be argued I don’t need to say it with this one, but I will. The Lost Boys is a classic film of Halloween.

Again is this was from a day when vampires would rip your throat out as soon as look at you. And they have fun doing it. No qualms, no remorse, no brooding…just vicious destruction. This is the movie that originally introduced us to Kiefer Sutherland being a badass (although I think we’ll all agree Bauer was far more deadly).

We know the story. Biker teenage vampires lure an unsuspecting teenager into their lair and begin to turn him in an opening gambit to turn his entire family. Meanwhile his younger brother teams up with two socially dysfunctional wannabe vampire hunters who don’t know that you never invite a vampire into your house (which is one of those rules that everyone is supposed to know).

The movie plays, somewhat poorly I’ll admit, with a comparison between vampirism and teenage rebellion (the problem is that one is a phase and the other is by definition eternal), but the destructive, self-centered at the costs of others, you don’t know what I’m going through angles do hold. And it does hold the teenage desire and delusion to be young forever and never responsible for your actions.

It had been a few years since I had last seen this movie, so I had forgotten how bloody (very bloody) killing vampires was in this films, but it works.

As with a lot of the other movies I’ve discussed on this list we see the immortals heightened fear of death, and the overcoming of fear by our heroes…but this also offers us the fear of character Michael as he changes into the vampire and desperately tries to hold onto his humanity. It is this fear that the movie focuses on the most, and arguably tries to tie to that vampire/teenage rebellion theme.

The movie is unsteady at times but makes up for it with the fact that it keeps you guessing as to where the real power of the villains lies. Red herrings, subtle clues, and distractions all leading up to the final reveal by the vampire works for a nice surprise. Of course that leads into its own problems. If this movie has a single great flaw, it’s the random deus ex machina save at the end. If you’ve seen the movie, you know what I’m talking about, if not no need to spoil the ending. It was just a little too convenient.

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