Monday, February 28, 2011

US Debt

US Debt as of Feb. 28, 2011 at 7:49 AM EST.

The Fed

The Federal Reserve is a wholly illegal and unconstitutional enterprise. It is used by the global cabal of financiers to extract trillions from the US economy for these robber barons! Right now the Fed is pumping trillions of dollars into the economy, driving up inflation, raising interest rates and further devaluing the US dollar which in turn raises the price of petroleum since it's pegged to the US dollar. This is one of the greatest criminal conspiracies in world history. When will the American sheep wake up and open their eyes to this truth!?

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Western Democracy

Just listened to the radio segment "Sunset of the West" on the NPR radio program  
The Brian Lehrer Show.
Author Dambisa Moyo argues that through short-sightedness and folly the West has 
contributed to its decline.
Some thoughts:
For Western style democracy to work it needs a majority of the people to be educated 
and to have a certain level of morality. 
None of the longest lasting empires in history were democratic. The Greeks 
experimented with some democratic ideas, but only in a very limited way. And of 
course most of Greek society was excluded, unless they were a powerful Senator. 
The Greeks believed in essentially top-down rule. They had slavery and women were 
treated as outright property in Greek society. Their plight bettered somewhat 
during Roman rule. There was still slavery and minority groups like Jews and 
Christians were expected to tow the line and submit to Caesar. If minority groups 
pushed for any degree of autonomy they would be ruthlessly crushed. Look at the 
Jewish revolt in 69 AD. It's interesting to note that slavery was the norm for 
thousands of years and even in modern times it still exists. 
The neoconservatives talk about democracy as if it is a sort of magical all 
powerful elixir. Just sprinkle it on any problematic country and overnight you 
will see a moral and economically vibrant society emerge! What rubbish. 
It is sheer folly for us to be pushing democracy in the Middle East. I agree that 
we are doing it to advance corporate interests. However some writers, particularly
in The Economist, seem to think this is somehow a unique American phenomenon and 
it isn't. Every country acts selfishly for its own interests. Islamic law (sharia)
is simply not compatible with a progressive liberal (in the classical sense) 
Western democracy. The two examples held up as the greatest Islamic democracies 
were Egypt and Turkey. Egypt looks like it very well may fall into Islamist rule 
when elections are held and the Muslim Brotherhood takes power. And both countries
have horrible human rights abuses against non-Muslim minority groups. In countries
like Turkey such abuses are even codified into law. It is a crime in Turkey to 
mention the Turkish genocide of the Christian Arminians in 1915. America is in the 
Middle East for oil interests and other corporate interests period. 
Our own republic is not in great shape either with respect to our lauded 
democratic society. The wealth gap is significant and accelerating Warren Buffet 
has warned against this. Through apathy and ignorance the American electorate 
keeps choosing politicians who put their own selfish interests first. Rather than 
advance the pressing interests of the electorate they seek to enrich their own 
personal wealth and power and bow to corporate interests. We have a dysfunctional 
democracy. No matter that America is still the world's #1 economy and military 
superpower and all of the money that was generated in the past decades has done 
little to alleviate poverty or to increase the quality of life for the average 
American. We have less purchasing power now than our parents or grandparents 
generation. Personal debt is a serious problem. The government now has an 
astronomical level of debt and a huge trade deficit. During the last 25 years as 
globalism and free trade expanded we saw America lose 20 million jobs. The housing 
market is still in shambles and will take decades to recover, over half of all 
residential mortgage holders owe more than their home is worth; foreclosures are 
at an all time high. Over 40 million Americans are on foodstamps. Child hunger is 
a real issue in the US. And knowing all this, does the government seek to help the
lower middle class and the poor? No. Instead the Fed pursues what I would consider
a criminal policy of pumping trillions of dollars into the economy and raising 
interest rates, thus causing inflation to soar and the value of the US Dollar to 
further decline. Now oil prices are back to $100+ per barrel and with the Middle 
East blowing up will probably only get worse. This will also drive up the costs of
goods, particularly food at the worst possible time. 
And morally America is in many ways very similar to the Roman Empire in her final 
days as debauchery and hedonism took over. Only a massive spiritual awakening can 
save America. This wicked nation must turn away from its sin and seek Christ. 
Also I disagree with Mr. Moyo that the US should stop all foreign aid. We need to 
be smarted in how we handle aid, it should be targeted and go to grassroots 
organizations and NGOs that have proven they are able to get the job done. We need
to immediately halt our $25 billion per year to Egypt. We should pull back our 
military presence from Europe significantly. Pull out of Japan and South Korea. 
Trade wise we should stay open and not become isolationists, but we simply cannot 
afford to keep policing the world, and what good has it done for us? The people 
we've helped almost universally fail to appreciate our help, they are ungrateful and
come to resent our presence. 

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957) review

This is a great Western. It portrays the showdown between US Marshal Wyatt Earp, his brothers and friend Dr. John 'Doc' Holliday against cattle rustler Ike Clanton and his men in Tombstone, Arizona.

Stand out performances by Kirk Douglas and Burt Lancaster in the leads. Also features appearances by a very young Dennis Hopper and DeForest Kelly (Bones from Star Trek)!

Holliday's family was struck hard by the Civil War and his parents gave everything they had left to send him to dental school. He became a dentist, but stopped seeing patients apparently because they complained about his cough. Doc likely had tuberculosis. He carries around a picture of them in a pocket watch and is clearly wracked with guilt and shame over what he's become - a gunfighter. His parents are dead, yet he feels he's let them down and contributes to a feeling of self-hatred and worthlessness. Explains why he is drinking, smoking and gambling himself into an early grave through such hard and unhealthy living. Even when explicitly asked if he had a death wish he muses that perhaps he does.

Wyatt wants to marry Laura, a beautiful gambler, but feels compelled to help his brothers first which leads to a fight and him departing for Tombstone.

Wyatt tries to warn the youngest brother off gun fighting. Several times in the film we're told how sad and unglamorous the lifestyle is and the human toll it takes, especially on those closest.

The cinematography is really nice. Excellent acting by the leads and solid acting by the supporting cast. Very nice pacing. Excellent score which really complemented the flow of the movie
and key plot points.

We get to see the heavy price that is paid for choosing to be a gunfighter or a lawman. Neither side is glorified. Earp is the lawman who cannot be bought off, a tower of moral strength who just wants to get married and settle down on a ranch of his own in California. Holliday is a drifter, a gambler who lives by his wits and the quickness of his draw, self-loathing and weary of the live he's found himself in at this stage of his life. Their friendship and the personal drama they face define this film, even more so than the iconic final showdown in my view. I highly recommend this film.

Monday, February 21, 2011

"The Mechanic" (2011) review

This remake of the classic version from 1972 with Charles Bronson had some things right, but overall it really falls short of even competing with the original, let alone besting it.

The 1982 film had a sort of detached coolness and a more visceral grittiness. These were professionals who did not get emotionally involved with the assignment. Jan-Michael Vincent's Steve wanted to prove he had what it took to be at, what he perceived, an elite level. Also there was a late 60s, early 70s counter-culture subtext to his motivation. And that was really interesting. Whereas the analog in this remake comes off more as a listless wanderer who has no clear idea what he wants to do, but he thinks it would be cool to kill people and he is emotionally overcome by the revenge aspect.

Another fault I found was in the actual killings themselves. There was no detachment and precision. It was just raw death by torture in many cases. Sloppily fighting with the target, or shooting your way out of after a botched hit. Too much of the tired, formulaic "Hollywood modern action" was written and you lose all the nuance, the art of the kills which these mechanics would care about (even perhaps more than the monetary reward).

Hollywood films these days tend to assume the average movie viewer is a moron, so they try to connect as many dots for us as possible. This is patronizing and downright offensive. The match up between the old and new Bishop illustrates this glaringly. Bronson's Bishop was about control, he was in supreme control and his downfall was letting his emotion hinder that control. Everything he did was calculated. And this was no brute, he was a cultured assassin. I felt that the writers tried to convey this with Statham's Bishop but it came across very hammy (the numerous shots of his record player) and forced. Also time and again in this remake we saw a Bishop that seemed to be driven by almost pure emotion, a reactive Bishop who was never in control except marginally in the opening hit.

This remake emphasized over and over the revenge motif and I think it was a mistake having Bishop go after the Company. This was never even a possibility in the original film and I like that because it established a boundary that even Bishop had to recognize. It's the cheesy desire in Hollywood action films for the main character(s) to always get retributive justice by their own hands. I see this time and again these days and it gets very tiresome.

This remake shows that a vastly bigger budget does not equate with better film making.

Regarding pacing the remake seemed a bit too fast, however that wasn't surprising.

I am torn regarding the ending. On one hand I like the fact that Bishop bested Steve and lived to see another day in this remake. However philosophically I must give a slight edge to the original film in which both of them die because the narrative is stark: in this business of death there is no clear winner. I think even the first film should have explored some of the moral issues a bit deeper and perhaps have added a redemptive storyline, but that would be clearly a different sort of film.

So to sum up, this remake was enjoyable as a modern action film, but if you want a bit more depth and nuance see the original!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Presidents' Day

This is another thing that irks me. Why did they eliminate Lincoln and Washington's days? These were extraordinary men who deserve special recognition. To lump them in with all the presidents in one day is a disgrace!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

On social dynamics - could you become a dictator?

This study is fascinating. The research doesn't surprise me.

"...people primed to think of themselves as well-off were worse at reading other people's emotions than people primed to think of themselves as poor."

This is so true, in my limited empirical experience, and there is something going on in the pysche were people with power and wealth tend to become more self-involved self-obsessed and put less effort into reading others emotional states. When one is rich they can afford to act rude, smug and treat others badly. Their messed up values tell them that they are superior because of their status/wealth. If you question many of these people the attitudes they share on those "beneath them" are are the same as during Victorian times where the poor and assumed to be immoral, lazy, unintelligent and even deserve their lot in the life. Social darwinism is evil and treats people as things to be exploited for our own selfish gain. This dovetails in with odious Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism where each person is told to look out for themselves and that they have a naturalistic imperative which lets them off the hook morally! Disgusting.

Very heart warming commercial

This is probably the most beautiful and touching commercial I've ever seen.The ad, "You Can Shine",  is from Thailand and for Pantene Chrysalis shampoo.

The main actress is 18 year old Pimchanok Leuwisedpaiboon (พิมพ์ชนก ลือวิเศษไพบูลย์). Her nickname is Fern/Baifern (ใบเฟิร์น). Recently she received several Thai Star Awards for her movie "Sing Lek Lek Tee Reak Wa Ruk" (A Little Thing Called Love).

Here is a higher quality HD version

Note: If you can't access YouTube here is a local copy of the file you may download: You-Can-Shine-HD.mp4

Music : Canon in D Major from Johann Pachelbel and JS Bach

Advertiser: P&G
Brand: Pantene Chrysalis shampoo
Agency: GREY Thailand
Executive Creative Director: Sajan Raj Kurup
Creative Director: Sajan Raj Kurup
Copywriter: Sajan Raj Kurup, Thanonchai Sornsriwichai
Agency Producer: Bee
Director: Thanonchai Sornsriwichai
Production Company: Phenomena, Bangkok
Country: Thailand
Chief Operating Officer: Shilpa Swaroop
Account Management: Joy

On Man's Quest for Truth

"On Man's Quest for Truth"

an ephemeral thing
a broken vessel
who shall rise
from their waking dream
what tenuous bonds
hold us tight
the familiar masks
a richer truth
a reality hidden
revealed to some
who submit
to the Creator
a terrifying journey
the unknown
most retreat
full of fear
clinging to a structure
laid down
by blind watchmakers
never illuminating the core
on faith step out
plunge into the void
a dark abyss
beyond time and space
beyond reason
behold the One
connections infinite
topological unity
beneath man's dim view
shines a light
brighter than imagination
raging hot
pure energy
pure mind
through the Spirit
one can break
the veil
supreme ignorance
of arrogant man
a part taken as the whole
the altar of science exalted
a false security
a failed ontology
the edifice of fools
a broken epistemology
cloaked in robes of learning
an incomplete cosmology
never gaining truth
but for those few
who wish to see
seek in Him the key
unlock the cosmic rhyme
discover your true nature
and be free finally

-- Zachary Uram (c) 2011

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Shark Attack 3: Megalodon

This movie is hilarious! Best part:

dude: Oh my God! Shit!
woman: Oh my God!
dude: Noooooooo! Noooooooooo!
woman: Oh mai Gawwd!

Saturday, February 12, 2011


The silent holocaust, the forgotten holocaust of abortion rages on in America. All those tens of millions of women and the doctors, nurses and anyone else connected with abortion will have to answer to God for their great evil and the ocean of blood they've created! Lord may they turn from their great iniquity, repent and come to salvation. Protect the innocent babes Oh Lord we ask you! AMEN!

Fidei / Faith

Real faith is a dynamic relationship with Christ and it affects all aspects of your life and being. So I pray you dear reader come to saving faith in Christ if you aren't already saved. Religion and all works of man are dead and cannot save anyone. Only by being born again can you enter the Kingdom of Heaven.We are saved by God's grace through faith in Christ. Christ was born of the virgin Mary the God-Man (fully divine and fully human), He lived and died on the Cross at Calvary so that our sins may be washed away, an atonement for our evil. Jesus rose on the 3rd day and ascended unto Heaven. He is seated at the right hand of God the Father and will return to Earth one day to judge the living and the dead. COME TO FAITH NOW! Confess your sins, ask Jesus to forgive you and to be your personal Lord and Saviour and He will send His Holy Ghost to live in your heart and be your helper. Trust now in the Lord of Lords and King of Kings! If you've done this you are now a new creation and have gained eternal life. Praise God!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Multiculturalism is a misguided failure - Muslims in Europe

I agree. Muslims DO NOT WANT to integrate into the societal milieu and cultural norms. They want to have their own separate universe where retrograde sharia law is enforced, where women are second class citizens, where preachers are free to spread hatred and calls for outright violence against non-Muslims, where non-Muslims are told they are not welcome to live, etc. Multiculturalism and giving refuge to tens of millions of Muslims was the biggest mistake Europe has made since the World Wars in my view. Sarkozy, Cameron, Merkel and other leaders are realizing this now, but it's too late. Unless drastic change happens the problem will only get worse.

Support Family Farmers

We live in a very greedy world. Companies will exploit and even defraud consumers and their own shareholders for more profit. Huge agro companies like Monsanto have largely put the family farms (small and medium) out of business! They have no qualms about using nasty pesticides or hiring illegal aliens, anything to squeeze out more profit! We need morally restrained capitalism, absolute capitalism will lead to despotism. Look at the increasing gulf between the richest and poorest in this country, it is accelerating just as in China!

The Mission

This film is a true masterpiece. I easily place it within my top 100 films of all time. The story is very human, and while some reviewers think this picture is a critique of faith, particularly the Catholic Church, I do not agree. Yes colonialism had its problems and was a flawed vehicle for the Gospel, but the Indians came to beautiful faith genuinely. Also the priests had an abiding love for these Indians as people, not as mere numbers to add to their scrolls. Real faith is not something which can be forced. And in the end of the movie the Indians and priests give one of the most compelling and loving scenes of martyrdom I have ever witnessed on film. Yes it is sad how they are cut down, but they gain far more than they lose, and in doing so show that true faith cannot be destroyed. I should state that I'm a Protestant, but I have known priests, and the character Jeremy Irons plays reminds me of several dear priests I've encountered. DeNiro gave probably the best performance of his career in this film, the only other contender would be "Deer Hunter". The scene when they reach the top of the mountain and the Indian cuts off the dead weight of the armor (symbolic of the guilt and anguish he'd be carrying over his brother's death) and DeNiro breaks down and expresses sorrow and finally joy it is truly sublime! Ennio Morricone's music beautifully complements the film (both in pacing and detail) and shows his preeminence amongst film composers! I should also comment on the film's lush cinematography. No wonder it won an Oscar for it. You are transported into the heart of the jungle. I recommend this film in the strongest possible terms. Please see it and you will not regret the time spent!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Democracy in the Middle East

Last night i tweeted ,"The Middle East wants freedom, freedom to be oppressed by Islamic theocrats!" Sad, but so true. Western style freedom and pluralistic democracy doesn't work in Islam, even if you look at the most socially advanced Muslim countries like Indonesia, Egypt and Turkey you still have absolutely shameful treatment of non-Muslim minorities, especially oppression of Christians. And you have strong Islamic terrorist networks there. The type of freedoms and values we embrace will only be accepted in Islamic world once Islam goes through a major structural reformation and unequivocally purges itself of violence and intolerance as legitimate forms of expression. Remember that democracy can be a tyranny. I wonder what these groups gushing over the recent events in Egypt will say if the Muslim Brotherhood has a significant presence in the new government and the Islamists make inroads and enact more of sharia law over time.

ode to bany's blog post on a squirrel

"ode to bany's blog post on a squirrel"

a solitary squirrel
in nature's warm embrace
a whithered oak
rage bitter winds
snow gently blankets
the hard ground
a primal impetus
to survive
to live another season
yes we shall

- Zachary Uram (c) 2011

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