28 April 2006

Movie Review: “United 93”

Arriving in theaters five years after September 11, United 93 is a desperately poignant film that focuses on the only flight that day not to reach its intended target. United 93 recreates the events of this doomed flight in real time, from take-off to hijacking to the horrifying realization by the passengers and crew that they were on a flight that was part of a coordinated attack on U.S. soil. Director Paul Greengrass creates an amazing reality that makes you feel as if you are watching the events as they occur through a window.

The film starts slowly as the early morning crowd waits around Newark Airport, then hustles on board United 93. We see the crowded skies on the Air Traffic Controllers screens (over 2200 planes were in the air that morning!) and we experience the second a controller realizes a hijacking might be in progress. The controllers have a clear view of the World Trade Center and as they notice a Tower smoking, slowly the realization dawns that the plane that just fell off radar actually flew into the Tower. We continue to cut back and forth while United 93 takes off after a short delay. The four hijackers all sit in first class and look appropriately scary and hostile and after a short wait they take out both pilots.

As the information makes it way up the chain of command we watch as everyone scrambles to do the right thing. It was the actions of so many heroes that day that this film honors. It’s painful to watch the passengers on United 93 calling their loved ones and saying goodbye, and thrilling to watch a group of scared unarmed men rush the armed hijackers and struggle to take back control of the plane.

There is only one familiar face in this film (David Rasche plays one of the passengers), everyone else is an unknown, with FAA’s Ben Sliney, and many of the controllers and military played by the real people who lived the experience. Contrary to public comments United 93 is not the first film to focus on events that occurred on that day (DC9/11:Time of Crisis was done for HBO in 2003 and focused on events that day in Washington) but it is the first film to pose what events might have occurred on one of the flights. Chilling in its reality, every moment reads true.

The ironically sad experience of this film is watching everyone, terrorists and passengers alike, praying to their god as the plane goes down. There was a deep, painful silence for a few beats as the film ended, then applause.

Many people have been speculating about whether or not now is a good time for this film. That’s a personal decision. No one, of course wants to go to a movie and feel bad when they leave, we go for entertainment, but sometimes it’s important to remember.

Sometimes there are things we should never forget.

Digital Dogs rating: A. This film sets the bar high for this release season.

MPAA rating: R

Writer, Director, Producer Paul Greengrass (Bloody Sunday, Bourne Supremacy, Live Aid documentary); Producer Lloyd Levin (Hellboy, Rocketeer, Boogie Nights, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider); Producer Tim Bevin; Producer Eric Fellner

You can make a donation to the National Park Foundation for a memorial to the heroes on United 93 here - http://www.nationalparks.org/flight93/default.asp

19 April 2006

Let's Idolize the American Presidential Vote

The ratings and cultural juggernaut, American Idol, is in the final weeks of its fifth year. This season my top three are Chris Daughtry, Catherine McPhee, and the brilliant Taylor Hicks. I'm sure you've got a top three. And that's the point… everyone is watching and everyone is voting.

Each year the Idol audience grows and each year more people vote for the winner of American Idol than vote for the President of the United States of America. It's reported that an average of 31 million Americans are tuning in and voting for talented unknowns to reach uncharted celebrity in an updated version of shows like Star Search, Ted Mack's Original Amateur Hour, Showtime at the Apollo, Nashville Star, Minutes to Fame, Superstar USA, Fame, You're A Star, Rock Star: INXS (soon to be Rock Star: Super Group), etc. Americans obviously can't get enough of watching wannabe's reach the top.

In the complete 2005 season of American Idol just over 500 million votes were cast. In 2004 the American Presidential election garnered a paltry 122 million votes, 20 full percentage points behind the Afghanistan presidential election that same year. Compare that with Afghanistan's 96 per cent voter turnout.

Whatever shows are thrown up by competing channels against American Idol are churned over and tossed away in the rush to watch the wannabe celebrities. The American public is now in a glow of participatory democracy, at least as far as American Idol goes. Why not bring the same dream of full participation to the Presidential election?

It would be so easy to do. No worrying about Deibold voting machines, no paper ballots, no wasting gas on driving to ones polling place, no worries about non-drivers making it to their polling place, no lines, no anger…no muss, no fuss.

Each registered voter could simply register their phone number, and that one number would be allowed to vote only once or twice, etc. depending on the number of regsitered voters at that address, thus eliminating the redial issue that American Idol encourages. Voting would be open for a predetermined period of time to allow everyone to cast their vote. Since votes would be tied to a pre-registered phone number everyone would have an equal chance to cast their vote.

This is such a good idea, in fact, that the entire presidential election could be modeled after Idol. There could be a panel of Senators to select the top 50 men and women to run for American Idol President. Each week the public could narrow that number down after watching the candidates compete in public debates on such topics as Public Policy, Race Relations, The Economy, The Clash of Civilizations, The American Army, Nuclear Arms, The Middle east, Global Warming, Extreme Weather, Eurabia, , New Orleans Recovery, etc. If we "Idolize" election we can also eliminate those pesky, opportunistic lobbyists like Jack Abramoff thus eliminating a huge source of fraud and waste of everyones dollars.

I can only see an upside here. Are you with me?

It's participatory democracy in action.

I say let's Idolize the American voting process!


If you're so inclined you can download all the 2006 American Idol contestant songs as MP3's from the Idol Forums.

11 April 2006

More Cool Videos w an African music focus

There's great video content online all over the place, youtube and google video are 2 great places to see all kinds of great stuff like...

03 April 2006

Bush & Cheney Should Be Tried for Treason

In the pursuit of Republican Party Values and their "Faith-Based" Intelligence mandate George Walker Bush, Dick Cheney, and their "Conservative" cabal have purposefully, willfully, and with premeditation, committed treason. This crime should make every patriotic American sick to their stomach. It made me want to vomit.

The definition of treason from the wikipedia is:

"A person who betrays the nation of their citizenship ... is considered to be a traitor. "
From The National Journal (the bible of Washington insders) :
Libby Says Bush Authorized Leaks

"According to court papers, Vice President Cheney's former chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, testified to a federal grand jury that President Bush authorized disclosure of the contents of highy classified information to the media to defend the administrations's use of pre-war intelligence while making it's case for war in Iraq."
From The Nation:
"U.S. Representative Maurice Hinchey, D-New York, who has been the most determined Congressional watchdog with regard to the administration's misuse of intelligence information, says that, "If what Scooter Libby said to the grand jury is true, then this latest development clearly reveals yet again that the CIA leak case goes much deeper than the disclosure of a CIA agent's identity to the press. The heart and motive of this case is about the deliberate attempt at the highest levels of this administration to discredit those who were publicly revealing that the White House lied about its uranium claims leading up to the war. The Bush Administration knew that Iraq had not sought uranium from Africa for a nuclear weapon, yet they went around telling the Congress, the country, and the world just the opposite. When Ambassador Joseph Wilson, Valerie Wilson's husband, publicly spoke out with proof that the administration was not telling the truth on uranium, the administration engaged in an orchestrated plot, which now reportedly includes President Bush, to discredit Ambassador Wilson and dismiss any notion that they had lied about pre-war intelligence."
Watch as the Republicans try to explain this away

As usual, bloggers like gay conservative (an insane contradiction in terms if I ever heard of one) Andrew Sullivan are already jumping to attempt to wash away the seriousness of this crime when he prints:
"The president's self-defense at this point must be that if he, the president, decides to leak classified information, like the NIE assessment, then, by definition, it isn't a classified leak. POTUS gets to decide what is and isn't classified. And so he cannot commit the wrong or crime he decries in others. He can break no secrets because the secrets are his to break. He is above the law because, in terms of executive privilege, he is the law."
Perhaps Sullivan is trying to see both sides of this issue, but this is plain wrong. The President exposed an active CIA agent in an attempt to cover up a series of lies that led us into an unwinable war. They used these lies to cover up their "faith-based" intelligence. This is an obvious betrayal of our country on the highest order.
A definition of Faith-based intelligence - I will pick and choose intelligence I prefer to believe. If I have the faith to believe a lie to be true, then I will only listen to people who agree with me and help me propogate my lies as truth ignoring all other facts to the contrary.
According to these same court documents:
"Bush and Cheney authorized the release of the information regarding the NIE (National Intelligence Estimate) in the summer of 2003, according to court documents, as part of a damage-control effort undertaken only days after former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV alleged in an op-ed in The New York Times that claims by Bush that Saddam Hussein had attempted to procure uranium from the African nation of Niger were most likely a hoax."
They outed Valerie Plame to punish Joe Wilson for speaking the truth. This lie continues to damage our country, the country of Iraq, all of our men and women serving in the military, the thousands of our military who have died, the thousands of military who are injured and handicapped, made Iraq a most convincing recruitment commercial for Islamist terrorists, wasted billions of dollars, made the US a mockery in the world's eyes, made enemies of our longtime allies around the world, and made Halliburton richer than rich by giving them countless no-bid contracts, which will directly benefit Cheney when he leaves the White House and will resume control of his copious stock in the company he headed, Halliburton, and which is only in a trust while he is veep.

The simple fact that Bush and Cheney ordered this "highly classified information" to be leaked to the press (to conservative reporters Judith Miller and Robert Novak) is proof of his treason. One does not reveal government secrets and out an undercover, operational agent of the government and not commit treason.

Just think what the lying Republicans would be saying if this were a Democratic president! When will the Americans who identify themselves as patriotic wake up?

So I would like to know... Bush said he would fire anyone involved in leaking national security information so is the President planning on firing himself and Cheney?

Useless, But Fascinating Nerd Fact

On Wednesday of this week, at two minutes and three seconds after 1:00 n the morning, the time and date will be 01:02:03 04/05/06.

Exactly one thousand years from now this will happen again at 01:02:03 04/05/06 (3006)