Tuesday, June 30, 2009
"Being sentenced to 150 years is the same as being sentenced to life without parole -- for theft, a non-violent crime. Many murderers, rapists, kidnappers and child molesters aren't sentenced that harshly.
"The moral of this story is that stealing from the rich is obviously the most serious crime a person can commit in our capitalist country. If he had stolen from poor or working class folks, even hundreds of them, he would have been sentenced to 10 or 12 years and been eligible for parole after serving half of it (and probably gotten that parole).
"Personally, I believe the person who steals from poor or working folks commits the greater crime. That criminal is probably stealing money that is needed for food, rent, car payment or a child's medical care or education.
"Madoff refused to take less than a million dollars, and these fools begged him to take their money. They were greedy. They believed his stories of huge returns, and took their money out of safe investments so they could make a killing. This wasn't their food or rent money. It was investment capital, and none of them will go hungry without it.
I've always believed the old adage that says if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. These people knew that adage, but they still let their greed get the best of them. And now they're mad. They're mad because he made them look like the fools they really are.
"I'm not saying Madoff shouldn't be punished. He's a criminal and should pay the price for that. But is 150 years fair? Should his non-violent crime be punished more harshly than the sentences received by violent criminals?
"Lady Justice is supposed to be blind, but this case shows us that is not true. In America, it is far more serious to commit a crime against the rich, than to commit a crime against working folks."
Monday, June 29, 2009
Dark Streets (2008) *½ The film has its shallow pleasures, but once it becomes obvious that that’s all it has going for it, the affected performances and forced tough-guy speak stop feeling playful and start to become oppressive.
The Education of Charlie Banks (2009) ** There’s enough sweetness, and enough just-under-the-surface intelligence, in this film to suggest that Fred Durst may have a future as a filmmaker.
Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience (2009) ** It’s no mystery that the target audience for this G-rated bubblegum fantasy is tweens, parents of tweens and the occasional pervert. They’ll be so pleased. Anything for the rest of humanity? Not so much.
Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li (2009) ½* Even with the low expectations this film engenders, it still somehow manages to be a letdown.
Two Lovers (2009) *** A small, delicate concoction of moods and moments, far quieter than all the recent Joaquin Phoenix-related hoopla. But his heartbreaking performance may incline audiences to think of him in a new light, or at least return to thinking of him in the old one.
Saturday, June 27, 2009
Friday, June 26, 2009
Thursday, June 25, 2009
While most of the world will remember Farrah Fawcett for "Charlie's Angels," my memories of her are as a fellow student at the University of Texas. I didn't know Farrah well; to be honest, I didn't know her at all. But like approximately 10,000 other red-blooded males at the school I admired her from afar. Mainly I remember walking south on the west side of the Drag after leaving the old J Building and seeing her crossing Guadalupe at the mall. She usually wore white jeans. No one else wore white jeans back then; she was the first. Her hair was in a beehive back then -- not the shaggy mane that became such an important part of her "star" image -- and she was so beautiful she would stop you in your tracks. Farrah died today, but she will always live in my memories as that leggy UT coed in the white jeans.
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Pictured here: the promotional posture for Martin Scorsese's Shutter Island. Whaddya think?
The Dallas City Council booted the proposed booting ordinance until it can be considered, and possibly fixed, by the Transportation Committee in August. Council member Angela Hunt explains the whole issue clearly and succinctly.
Randall Turner: My nominee for the delusional wacko of the month.
- I still think Democrats can come up with a stronger gubernatorial candidate than Tom Schieffer. State Senator Kirk Watson of Austin is one of them. In her withdrawal statement, Sen. Leiticia Van Putte said: "I think Senator Kirk Watson should raise his sights and run for Governor. I've watched as Senator Watson has emerged as a leader in the state Senate on the issues of most importance to Texans. While staying true to Democratic values, he is a bipartisan pragmatic leader solidly focused on addressing the priorities of all Texans. I intend to lobby Senator Watson to run for governor, and I'll wholeheartedly support him if he does. But if he declines, Democrats should recruit and support someone who, like Watson, is energetic, pragmatic, focused, and smart; and who can fully energize Democratic supporters while also attracting a broad range of independent voters in every region of the state. "
- LSU arguably has the nation's best college baseball team, but I'm proud of my Longhorns for hanging in there. The deciding game is tonight, 6 p.m., on ESPN.
- If the movies that have come out so far this year are any indication, the Academy may have trouble coming up with five contenders, let alone 10. OK, Up is now a sure best-picture nominee and the other nine will come out in the fall anyway. I think this probably assures a spot for Avatar, Nine and The Lovely Bones as well. I will argue that if the Academy had allowed 10 nominees for last year's films, the other five would have been, or at least should have been, The Wrestler, The Dark Knight, Revolutionary Road, Wall-E and Man on Wire. For what it's worth, I don't like the idea of doubling the number of nominees -- it devalues the entire idea of being nominated for the award.
- Dear Phil: Since you're making this list, would you add that I would like a job and a Honda Accord?
- Damn: This makes the Spurs a much better team than the Mavericks again. Not only that, one basketball expert I just talked to about this believes the Spurs are getting Jefferson essentially for free. "Since this is a salary dump on the part of the Bucks, I'm figuring they will cut Bruce Bowen and he will wind up back with the Spurs." That would really hurt, because it would give the Spurs a dynamic offensive threat in Jefferson and allow them to keep someone who can shut down Dirk. Now Dallas needs to make a move. I would like to see the Mavs pursue Vince Carter, but then I was saying that when they traded for Jason Kidd.
- In yesterday's reflections, I referred to South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford as the only person who could possibly surpass Gov. Hair as the biggest nutcase in a governor's mansion. That was before the news broke that he's an adulterous nut case.
- Soon we will have both well-researched history on one side and, on the other side, this.
- Quoting Tim Rogers in the Frontburner blog about the continuing effort to name a street after Cesar Chavez: "I don’t understand why we’re still messing around with this ... César Chávez didn’t have anything to do with Dallas." Tim, the same could probably be said about Martin Luther King and certainly Malcolm X, but we have streets named after them. It's time we also similarly honor those held in respect by our Hispanic community.
- Noted film blogger Jeffrey Wells really liked Public Enemies calling Michael Mann's film "the most captivating, beautifully composed and freshly conceived gangster movie since Bonnie and Clyde. It's an art film first, a Mann head-and-heart trip second, a classic machine-gun action pulverizer third, and a conventional popcorn movie fourth."
- Roger Ebert, however, didn't much care for Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen calling it "dumber than a box of staples." Ebert writes: "If you want to save yourself the ticket price, go into the kitchen, cue up a male choir singing the music of hell, and get a kid to start banging pots and pans together. Then close your eyes and use your imagination." No one dumps on a movie better or as unmercifully as the great Roger Ebert.
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
- Jon and Kate Gosselin rank at the very top of the list of people I'm tired of reading about, right above the Carrie Prejean. They clutter the news space that should be devoted to more important items. When will their 15 minutes be over? I have never seen their television show. I don't care to ever see their TV show. I'm not the least bit curious about their TV show or their twins or their sextuplets. Just get them out of here.
- I know the world's focus is on the protests in Iran, but what's really scaring me, especially since the news in Iran is keeping it off the radar screens, is what North Korea is up to.
- I'm expecting the relationship between the city of Dallas and DART to cool a little bit today when the DART staff makes its recommendations to its board of directors on a second downtown light rail line. The city favors the proposal designated as "B4B," because it would serve the proposed convention center hotel. However, I'm hoping and actually predicting the staff will recommend "B4" because it is the most cost-effective of the four proposed and is far enough south that it is out of the way of the other downtown lines.
- One of China's finest directors, Zhang Yimou, apparently plans to film a remake of an American classic and one of my all-time favorite movies. Although he has directed such marvelous films as Ju Dou, Raise the Red Lantern, The Story of Qui Ju and House of Flying Daggers, the director may be remembered the most as the person who designed the opening and closing ceremonies of last year's Olympics in Beijing. According to the report, Zang plans to call his remake of the Coen Brothers classic San Qiang Pai An Jing Qi, which roughly translates as The Stunning Case of the Three Gun Shots.
- Why would Dallas City Council member Angela Hunt, a persistent critic of the city's plan to build a convention center hotel, vote in favor of a proposal to sell the bonds needed to build the dang thing? She explains it all here, but I for those who want the Reader's Digest version, she says it's because (1) the people voted for the hotel and (2) new procedures are in place to protect taxpayers.
- According to this report, Texas "needs to address the severe lack of physicians, registered nurses, and other providers in order to enhance access to medical care throughout its population." So what does Gov. Hair do to address this problem? Just what you would expect from this buffoon: He vetoes HB 3485, thus preventing hospitals in rural counties with less than 50,000 residents from hiring doctors. Today 114 of the 254 counties in the state are medically underserved, including 27 in West Texas that do not have even a single physician.
- Of course, we might not have the worst nut case in our governor's mansion. In fact, the race is probably not even close.
Monday, June 22, 2009
- I'm not sure that to make of this: 68-year-old actor Michael Gambon (probably best known for playing Dumbledore in the Harry Potter films) fathers a child with his 43-year-old mistress, who is a year younger than the son Gambon fathered with his wife (and still his wife).
- I know it's the day after Father's Day, but dammit, I just couldn't come up with an answer to this questions that really satisfied me until now: Who was the best film father? And, no, it wasn't this guy. And it's definitely not him. It's not even him. In fact, here's the only person who could possibly be considered for the honor.
- About 400 pedestrians and 50 cyclists are killed in Texas in highway accidents each year. A bill to protect them was vetoed by Gov. Hair. Figures.
Inkheart (2009) ** You know a movie's not working when you see minotaurs, flying monkeys, The Wizard of Oz's Toto and Helen Mirren riding a unicorn — all on the screen at the same time — and you're still waiting for the thing to be over so you can go home and get on with your life.
Phoebe in Wonderland (2009) **½ It's not only Phoebe whose daydreams go out of control. Daniel Barnz, the writer-director, also goes a bit flooey. There's a lot more perspiration than inspiration.
The Pink Panther 2 (2009) *½ There are three or four big laughs scattered throughout The Pink Panther 2, along with a smattering of decent chuckles. But all those moments combined account for maybe five minutes of screen time, which leaves you with another hour and a half of movie to sit through.
Waltz With Bashir (2008) **** A memoir, a history lesson, a combat picture, a piece of investigative journalism and an altogether amazing film.
Sunday, June 21, 2009
But, most of all, on this Fathers Day, 2009, I am happy that I did not receive a federal jury summons for tomorrow.
Friday, June 19, 2009
- Talk about going out with a whimper and not a bang. Today's specially called Dallas City Council meeting was the last one for term-limited council members Dr. Elba Garcia and Mitchell Rasansky. There was some legal and other non-controversial items on the consent agenda. The only item for individual consideration was one authorizing the issuance of the bonds for the construction of the convention center hotel. Citing conflict of interest, both Dr. Garcia and Mr. Ransansky had to recluse themselves from the vote.
- Go figure. Six Flags, Chrysler, GM file for bankruptcy. However, the Texas Ballet Theater says it will be free from its $2.4 million debt by the end of the month. (I'll try to refrain from saying something like "those people must really be on their toes." Whoops! I failed in refraining.)
- Hmm, I wonder who we're talking about here? The court papers list his name only as D.N. and that he's a resident of Dallas County. He is seeking custody of an unborn child if it is proved that he is the father of that child. We also believe he is a rather tall gentleman, of German extraction who is known for putting the biscuit in the basket from long distances.
- I am not a George Strait fan, but I understand his popularity. However, would someone please explain to me the appeal of the Jonas Brothers and why 45,000 folks are shelling out significant sums of money to go see them perform Saturday at Jonestown?
- I noted yesterday that we would hear more about this and this latest news that the drowning death of Van Ha "Vanny" Stocco was a suicide does not come as a shock. This is just a sad, sad story. No good guys. No bad guys. Only victims.
- There is a bad guy here, however, and to my mind he got off light. This child had a skull fracture and, according to prosecutors, he brain had "practically turned to mush."
- How far can a leaf fall? I remember when the burning sports question of the day was who should be the first pick in the NFL draft -- Ryan Leaf of Washington State or this Peyton Manning kid out of Tennessee?
- Forget about this. Now perhaps we'll get a better picture of the wolverine and its origins.
- Memo to the Dallas Morning News: It seems someone on your national or state news desk (if you still have either after all the cutbacks) should have picked up this story about a Texas-based Continental Airlines pilot who died midway through a transoceanic flight from Belgium to Newark.
- Dallas Morning News' Dallas Mavericks beat writer Eddie Sefko says the big enchilada is definitely not coming to Dallas. Whew! For a minute there, I thought we were in trouble.
- Speaking of trades, what about Sean Penn for Tom Cruise? One person argues that might not be a bad idea and I must admit I agree.
- The statistics found here about rape in South Africa are appalling, but the numbers from the United States are equally as deplorable.
Thursday, June 18, 2009
- There is (1) either much more information to come concerning this drowning or (2) we need to bring back The Twilight Zone just to have an episode about this story.
- If you really love a little girl "like she was my own daughter," you simply do not -- ever -- shake her until her head flops back and forth, her eyes roll back into her head and she has a seizure. You just don't even come close to ever doing anything like that. Then there are those who never should be fathers at all. Oh, G-d, why is it that the children always seem to be the victims?
- In stripping Florida State of 14 football victories and wins in nine other sports, the NCAA's infractions committee said: "The most severe penalties (emphasis mine) are appropriate when the academic mission of the university has been compromised." This, to me, proves the death penalty will never be imposed again.
- Most Americans like The Prez even if they don't much care for what he's doing or planning to do.
- Is there a chance that this conference on the Trinity Tollroad could be connected to this decision by Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood?
- Memo to Jane Fonda: If you don't have any plans for the old one, I'll take it. Reminds me of a great title I always had for a record album: Songs I Learned at Mother's Knee and Other Joints.
- What's the No. 1 worldwide box office leader this year? The answer might surprise you.
- If preliminary reports are true, we may have hit a new low in movie comedies. But it's going to take some doing to overtake such turkeys at Miss March and Bride Wars.
- Don't hold your breath for the next installment of the Batman franchise. It appears the next episode won't be coming our way until 2012 at the earliest and most likely it will be 2013. And don't be suprised if Christopher Nolan opts out as director and is replaced by Zack Snyder.
- Apparently there is going to be a fifth Indiana Jones movie -- all that's needed is a script. I have an idea for a starting point: Indiana Jones and the Assisted Living Center.
- I just saw the flier for next week's Terrell Owens' Farewell Party. It says very clearly it's for the "Classy & Sexy Only," which means My Hero can go, but I'm out.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Mr. Allison writes: "Are we keeping the death penalty just so a few state politicians can claim to be 'tough' on crime? Are we endangering lives merely for the sake of posturing?"
Way to go, Wick!
2. And, even if it was, who cares? The sole function of the figurehead president of Iran is to carry out the orders of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Monday, June 15, 2009
This is not the performance from last night's deciding game of the NBA championships, but one from Round 2 in the playoffs when the Magic hosted the Celtics.. It is, however, close to the version from last night. I am admittedly a sentimental old codger so it probably comes as no suprise that her rendition last night brought tears to my eyes, doubly so because 7-year-old Gina Marie Incandela has been diagnosed with autism. You owe it to yourself to listen to this.
Friday the 13th (2009) *½ For one price, you get three shoddy Friday the 13th movies packed into one, which might constitute entertainment value if any one of them constituted entertainment.
Morning Light (2008) ** The film is more appealing for its scenery, which is as breathtakingly blue as you’d expect, than for its drama.
The Perfect Sleep (2009) * The movie layers its fatalistic drama with absurdist horseplay and a few moments of Lynch-ian mysticism, but it’s an awkward mix at best; even when it is trying to be funny, it’s far too self-conscious to really be much fun.
Tyler Perry’s Madea Goes to Jail (2009) ** There is something both satisfying and frustrating about this movie. Writer/director/star Tyler Perry dutifully gives his audience what it wants, but you can’t help feeling that he might also have more to offer: more coherent narratives, smoother direction, better films.
What Goes Up (2009) * A pointless and pretentious drama.
Sunday, June 14, 2009
Saturday, June 13, 2009
In the other runoff, incumbent Carolyn Davis swamped school board trustee Ron Price. Ms. Davis, in what to me is a surprising outcome, received nearly 70 percent of the 1,932 votes cast. This, to me, is as much a repudiation of Price as it is an endorsement of Ms. Davis.
- Reducing the number of departments/offices from 32 to 23
- Demoting nine directors
- Combining Development Services and Building Inspection into a Sustainable Development and Construction Department
- Reconfiguring the the Housing and the Environmental and Health Services departments into a Housing/Community Services Department
- Combining the Library Department with the Office of Cultural Affairs
- Reducing the 3-1-1 incall times from 24/7 to 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.
- Consolidating financial services, strategic customer service, emergency management, intergovernmental services, fair housing, efficiency team, public information and environmental quality into a single Financial and Management Services department
- Central Library and branch libraries closed Sundays and Mondays
- 6 percent water rate increase and a 9 cents a month sanitation rate increase
Friday, June 12, 2009
- Game 4 of the Lakers-Magic series was the highest rated television program last night.
- Only two R-rated comedies have had a higher opening week box office than The Hangover's $45 million and both of them -- Sex and the City and American Pie 2 -- were already franchises with built-in audiences.
- Speaking of franchises, Harrison Ford should be glad he's part of one. According to this story, Ford earned $65 million between June 2008 and this month as part of his revenue sharing agreement in connection with Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. That's far more than most of us real people will ever see in our entire lifetimes.
- One of the most controversial films of the year may be Creation starring Paul Bettany as Charles Darwin and Jennifer Connelly as his wife, Emma. It opens in the UK Sept. 25. The U.S. opening has not been scheduled yet.
- Woody Allen says he originally wrote Whatever Works for Zero Mostel and when Mostel died, Allen put the script away in a drawer, only to resurrect it when the writer's strike was looming. It was his casting director who suggested Larry David for the lead.
Now we have a new definition--Texas Judge Samuel Kent, who pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice and is insisting that he continue to draw his salary of $174,000 a year plus benefits while in prison. Kent is a federal district court judge and federal judges serve for life. So Kent is claiming "Hey, I am still a judge even though I am in prison." He did have the decency to resign from the bench earlier this month but he had the indecency to make it effective June 2010.
There's hope. The House Judiciary Committee voted 29-0 earlier this week to approve articles of impeachment against Kent. If the full House votes to impeach, then the case goes to the Senate for a trial. Here's hoping (a) Kent has the good sense to resign immediately or (b) that justice is swift in Congress to stop the joke of a lawbreaker getting paid to uphold the law.
Thursday, June 11, 2009
Of course, everything is still up in the air. According to all these rumors, Ridley Scott, who directed the original, plans to produce this one, but not direct it. He wants his daughter's boyfriend, Carl Rinsch, best known for his futuristic TV commercials, to direct. But, from what I'm hearing, Fox, which owns the Alien franchise, is going to refuse to give its approval unless Scott directs.
More to come, I'm sure.
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
If you want proof of this, check out a study that will be published in the August issue of the American Journal of Medicine reporting that 62 percent of all bankruptcies filed in the United States last year are the result of unaffordable medical bills and, what's more, 75 percent of those people filing had health insurance. Not only that, the problem is getting worse. Only 46 percent of the bankruptcies filed in 2001 were because of medical bills.
Here's the issue: As long as greedy, profit-driven private insurance companies control payments, there is more of an incentive on their parts not to pay for medical procedures than to pay for them. Agents who find ways to deny the most claims are rewarded with bonuses. Our own insurance companies kill more Americans each year than Iraqi insurgents simply by refusing to pay for life-saving medical treatments.
The major argument the insurance companies always mount to counter demands for a government-operated single-payer health insurance system is this: "Would you rather have a doctor deciding your medical treatment or a government bureaucrat?" What a load of crap. For one thing, doctors have always and will always decide on the best medical treatment. Almost every industrialized nation in the world currently has a government-run single-payer health insurance system and in every single one of those, doctors make all the medical decisions. The problem with our current system is that you have some yokel (a bureaucrat) sitting in an insurance company deciding whether that company will pay for the treatment the doctor has recommended. Under a government-run program, that treatment will be far less expensive because one major cost layer has been removed -- the profits of the insurance company.
Not only that, most insurance companies don't even let you chose the doctor you would prefer. I would like to be able to afford to be treated by the doctor I choose and not to have payments for those treatments denied because it could eliminate the bonus to some greedy insurance executive.
A couple of days ago, I addressed the cost of such a system in tax dollars. But this cost is minimal compared to the alternative of pressing personal debts and bankruptcy.
Monday, June 8, 2009
Fired Up (2009) * It’s like being trapped for an hour-and-a-half in a pound full of yappy puppies.
Gran Torino (2008) *** This is not a masterpiece, but it is a fun character drama that features a knowing but winning final performance by Clint Eastwood and just enough commentary to make it worth discussing. Until it starts rumbling headlong toward its tone-deaf, self-serious ending it is often enjoyable, satisfying and funny.
The International (2009) ** An action thriller with some decent action and a few thrills, but all embedded in a yarn so hopelessly tangled that even the loose threads have knots. I couldn’t help feeling that it was stuck in second gear, like it couldn’t decide whether to be fun or meaningful and so settled for being neither. It’s almost worth seeing, though, for the incredible action set piece at the center.
Spinning Into Butter (2009) ½* Approaches its ideas of reverse racism and the hypocrisies of tolerance with a heavy hand and odious moralizing. Less a movie than an essay.
Sunday, June 7, 2009
- The United States has only 5 percent of the world's population, but house 25 percent of the world's prisoners.
- The United States incarcerates 756 out of every 100,000 people -- five times the world average.
- One in every 31 adults in the United States is in prison, in jail or on supervised release.
- The United States spends $70 billion per year on corrections -- a rise of 40 percent in the last 20 years.
- About 16 percent of adult inmates are mentally ill (and the rate is higher in juvenile institutions).
- About 60 percent of those serving a drug sentence have no history of violence.
- About 80 percent of drug arrests are for possession -- not sales.
- African-Americans make up 14 percent of drug-users, but 56 percent of drug inmates.
I discovered these statistics in an informative Newsweek article written by Dahlia Lithwick who goes on to say "If Americans actually have the conversation about our disastrous prison policies, we'll understand the trends all move in very dangerous directions: we lock up more people, for less violent crime, at ever greater expense, breeding more dangerous criminals who often come out unemployable, violent and isolated."
She also says Sen. James Webb, D-Va., is launching "an ambitious effort to reform U.S. prisons. In addition to proposing a massive 18-month review of the prison system, Webb wants to work toward reducing the overall incarceration rate while refocusing efforts toward locking up truly dangerous criminals and gang leaders, decreasing prison violence, establishing meaningful reentry programs for ex-offenders, reforming the nation's drug policies and improving treatment of the mentally ill."
It's a start, although I fear in "law and order" Texas, most folks just want to "lock e'm up and forget 'em, unless we execute 'em first."