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Monthly Archives: July 2011

Raising the Debt Limit and Increasing Revenues: How I make it look easy

Did your grammar school have one of those enrichment programs? Mine did. We would do wacky stuff that was way above our ability: follow the stock market, write novels, and build bridges that were two feet in length and could support a shotput with nothing but three sheets of paper, a handful of paper clips and three feet of masking tap. Why do I mention this? It’s essentially my credentials for being a person of some intelligence and therefore being qualified to solve a national crisis.

First off, lets just Raise the Debt Limit already. Even the barest of analysis tells us that a default will damage America’s credit rating, and the trickle down will raise costs of everyone as interest rates go up. Now if you’re worried about the Chinese and how much of our debt they own, and you think that it stands to reason that they would be mad if we defaulted… well, they would be, but frankly, they own so much of our debt that they are basically screwed no matter what. I heard a smarter person than me put it this way: "If you owe the bank a million dollars, then the bank owns you. If you owe the bank a billion dollars, then you own the bank… and the Chinese own way more than a billion dollars of our debt. Where else are they going to put there money?" I’m paraphrasing, but you get the idea.

And it’s not like we’ve never raised the debt limit before. I was born at the end of 1980 and in my lifetime, the debt limit has been raised… wait for it… 36 times. THIRTY. SIX. TIMES. I’m not saying this is a good thing, but given that Congress has raised the debt ceiling more times than the number of years I’ve been alive over several administrations, I think it might be fair to call raising the debt limit business as usual. Just raise the damn thing already and quit wasting my time!

In my opinion, the best way to get rid of debt is to pay it off, and the best way to pay something off is to have money you can use to pay said bills, which means incurring revenue. I have two very simple ways to do this:

1. BUSH TAX CUTS REPEAL & SOLAR PANEL TAX BREAK INITIATIVE
In case you were wondering, that’s the greatest name for a law ever. Much better than "Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001 (EGTRRA)" or "Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003 (JGTRRA)," right? Those are the Bush Tax Cut laws, which are set to expire in a few months, so we don’t really need to repeal them so much as just not renew them. The simple fact is that when you owe a ton of money, you have to pay it back, and the longer you wait, the worse it gets – it’s called interest. So spending a ton of money (Iraq, Medicare Drug Program) while reducing income was not the best of ideas, but the idea that reduced tax rates are sustainable is totally insane, especially when you already have a ton of debt, never mind the fees these programs are still incurring.

Yeah, we have to raise taxes, but don’t worry, I’ve got your back, rich folks: solar panels. That’s right – my solution to easing your tax burden (which you can afford anyway because you’re rich) is solar panels. Own a business? Own a property? Own a home? Awesome – just slap some solar panels on your houses, business, and over your parking lots and I’ll cut you a fat multi-year tax break. Hell, if you rent the space where your business operates out of and your landlord puts up solar panels, I’ll still give you and the landlord the tax break. Look what I just did: I raised revenue with increased taxes, offered a loophole that will create jobs (which creates more tax payers) and helped the environment.

2. LEGALIZE MARIJUANA
You know what else costs a lot of money, anxiety and danger? Marijuana importation from Mexico. A simple way to increase revenues, secure the southern border and cut spending would be to legalize marijuana and tax the hell out of it… or, tax it back to the ‘stoned age,’ as I think we should say. This will diminish the violence on the border (not to mention in Mexico), create a new cash crop for farmers, make us safer (despite all of the stoned people wandering around movie theaters) and bring in additional revenue… Oh, and then there’s all the money we’ll save on our police, court and prison system. The cops won’t have to waste time and money on marijuana investigations, the courts won’t be clogged with possession cases and we won’t have to pay for people sitting in already overcrowded prisons. But let me be clear: I’m talking about a regulated product that is sold in stores to adults ages 21 and over – not something sold on the street corner to anybody with money. We should still take care of that. But there is no reason not to make money off marijuana – especially when we need money so desperately and Americans are smoking it anyway.

No, I’m not running for president
But I totally should, right? I’ll think about it in 2016… I like Obama, I don’t want to spoil his flava in 2012 – although he’s a bit too compromising for my tastes. In any case, write your congressmen and tell them to get this debt ceiling nonsense settled, ASAP – and turn off the Ben Affleck movies.

Captain America The First Avenger (movie review)

stars-fourThe fourth in a series of comic book movies to debut this year, Captain America The First Avenger stands just a little bit taller than the rest, and there are a ton of reasons why, but I’m not going to bother listing the short comings of Green Lantern, Thor or X-Men First Class again.  As the saying used to go, “Let’s rap with Cap!”

First off, as a life long Captain America fan, I’m still shocked anyone showed up to watch this movie.  Much to my surprise, people know who Captain America is!  I saw this at the local mall multiplex on Sunday night with a packed house, featuring many folks in Captain America t-shirts, including the ladies.  I never expected this, and it fascinated to the point where I almost asked folks if I could photograph them as this seemed to unlikely to be real.  But, I got it now:  people know who Captain America is – duly noted.  (Or, they are big fans of Dunkin Donuts.) Read the rest of this entry

Harry Potter and Deathly Hallows Part 2 movie review

stars-fourWell, its finally over.  Harry triumphed over Voldemort – bet you didn’t see that coming!  I only drop that sarcastic comment because for a movie that you knew exactly how would end (even if you didn’t read the books), Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Hallows Part 2 is an exciting film.  The movie picks up right where the last one left off, and once they head for Gringgotts, the fast pace never really lets up.

I don’t really have a lot to say about this one – I don’t think its the best of the series (Azkaban is), but its certainly one of the better of the Harry Potter films.  If anything, I could have done with another 10 minutes – how about a few cheers at the end?  Could someone at least toss Harry a “good job” or pat him on the back for saving them from Magic Hitler?  The end is a little flat and like the novel, the flash forward feels tacked on and unnecessary.

Still, Harry Potter’s final adventure is good fun and a satisfying conclusion.

My Rating: 4 out of 5

More Movie Reviews at creativejamie.com/category/movie-reviews/

Midnight in Paris movie review

stars-fourNot having an extensive Woody Allen vocabulary (I’ve seen Annie Hall, Bananas, The Curse of the Jade Scorpion, Sleepers and Bullets Over Broadway of the 45 or so films he’s directed), I still approached Midnight in Paris with certain expectations – both good and bad.  Yet right away, its obvious that this movie wouldn’t fall into the trap that sent a movie like The Curse of the Jade Scorpion plummeting to its demise:  getting the audience to believe that their could be a reasonable attraction between Helen Hunt and Woody Allen, for example.  I don’t have any problem with Woody Allen as an actor, but not casting himself as the protagonist already lets you know that you’re in for a decent flick, and Midnight in Paris is better than that.  I didn’t like it as much as the critics who gave it a 93% at Rotten Tomatoes, but it’s still a good movie.

spoiler alert

The story primarily follows screenwriter Gil (Owen Wilson), who is engaged to Inez (Rachel McAdams) as he hopes to complete his first novel and leave Hollywood behind while they accompany Inez’s parents in Paris, as Gil falls in love with the city.  The story is fairly predictable, and the trailer doesn’t help:  When Inez says, “You’re in love with an idea,” and Gil responds, “I’m in love with you,” it doesn’t take much foresight to realize that they aren’t going to end up together by the end of the flick.  Inez and Gil don’t seem especially compatible even at the beginning of the movie – and they are especially incompatible for two adults that have agreed to marry each other of their own free will.  They can’t even get together on a love of history:  while Inez has a respect for art but lives in the now, Gil is so fascinated with the creators of works of art that he rejects the present as being capable of equivalent in any way.

The movie’s biggest flaws are it’s bad guy characters – namely, Inez and her parents.  These characters were drawn a little to flatly for my taste.  The audience isn’t supposed to like them, so they don’t seem to have a single redeeming quality amongst the three of them, but I think Mr. Allen went a bit too far in this direction .  Still, they are passable and don’t ruin the movie by any stretch of the imagination.  As the movie roles on, Inez chooses to go dancing with their friends while Gil walks back to the hotel, only to take a few wrong turns and…

SUPER spoiler alert

Gil gets picked up by a mysterious classic looking car.  He gets into said car with some trepidation, but not nearly enough; this scene does take place in 2010, after all – as adults, I’d like to think we’re all smart enough to refuse rides from strangers, no matter how nice (or in this case, drunk) they seem or how awesome their old school car is.  As Gil has been harping about the past, its no surprise to the audience that the inhabitants of the car don’t seem to fit in with 2010 and before Gil knows it, they’re out of the car and in party… in the 1920s.

I don’t mean to make this sound trite, because it’s not.  Sure, it’s predictable – I can just imagine the pitch meeting:  “A 21 century man who rejects the present and is at odds with his fiance is magically whisked back to the 1920s!”  In the past, GIl’s encounters with famous folks who frequented Paris such as F. Scott Fitzgerald (who calls everybody ‘old sport’ just like his famous Gatsby character does) and Ernest Hemingway (portrayed by the brilliant Corey Stoll) are charming.  Marion Cotillard (you saw her in Inception) plays Adriana, who quickly (and predictably) becomes Gil’s new love interest, and the movie rolls on…  Gil returns to 1920s Paris each night at midnight, blah blah blah, gets help with his book from Gertrude Stein (Kathy Bates), walks around, has drinks and so on.

I guess I should have known they were going further back in time when Adriana invites Gil to get into a horse and carriage, but… you know, it’s Paris!  I thought it was just supposed to be romantic!  If the clock chimed midnight… well, my bad.  After a while, it becomes clear that they’re in 19th century Paris…  or somewhere like that, I don’t know.  Anyway, when Adriana declares how much she loves this time and wants to stay there forever, Gil explains to her how she must embrace the present…  and yeah, there’s his arc.

The movie is charming and well performed, and the sets/locations are lovely, yet Midnight in Paris is predictable and not especially well written.  Owen Wilson carries this movie on his back the way an ant might carry a Thanksgiving Day turkey.  It’s fun, but its 94 minute running time feels much more like 120 minutes.  I recommend this movie, but Woody Allen has made better movies – and so have a lot of other people.

My Rating: 4 out of 5

 

More Movie Reviews at creativejamie.com/category/movie-reviews/

X-Men: First Class movie review

stars-three-halfIf you’re not familiar with the X-Men movies from the previous decade (the three gay rights allegory films: X-Men from 2000, X2 from 2003 and X-Men:  The Last Stand from 2006, or, as I like to call it, X3:  What happened to Nightcrawler?), don’t worry about it – you can easily sit down and watch X-Men:  First Class (equal rights allegory) without any trouble.

Just so you don’t get the wrong idea, I don’t have any problem with allegory; and, aside from X3:  The Search For A Plot That Feels True Without A Ton Of Tacked On BS, I like the X-Men movies, and this newest prequel installment is no exception.  Sure, it confuses 1962 with other years that starts with 196 in an attempt to put more women in little skirts, but whatever.

Read the rest of this entry

Green Lantern movie review (Mixers and Movie Reviews)

This video review is an outtake from our Man of Steel episode.

stars-two

Imagine you’re in charge of choosing the basic story for the Green Lantern movie.  It’s a daunting task; after all, the first Green Lantern appeared in All-American Comics issue #16 in July of 1940 – I’m not trying to up my nerd credit (and yes, I get that the first Green Lantern from the Golden Age of comic books was quite different from the second Silver Age Green Lantern), but I just want to point out that there are decades worth of stories a screenplay could be based on – not to mention multiple Green Lanterns to choose from.  As for me, I’m a John Stewart kind of guy, but that’s not the reason why I’m going to have such a hard time saying good things about this movie.

spoiler alert
In fact, I very much enjoyed Green Lantern:  First Flight, proving that I can enjoy Hal Jordan as GL, and I assumed, right up until the end, that we’d get a very similar movie…  and I guess we did… sort of.  But rather than a straight forward movie, I felt that instead, the producers assembled every possible idea, plot thread and character available, tossed them in a hat in an attempt to pick one – and instead, picked ALL OF THEM.  Let’s see if I can weave my way through this unnecessarily complicated mess of bizarre execution and choices of what should have been a simple story about how a guy becomes an intergalactic cop, but instead is the story of a guy at odds with a girl he loves (?), at odds with a guy who is the main competition for said girl (and neither of them know about it?), but also has issues with is father’s accidental death… forget it, I give up. Read the rest of this entry

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