SOCIAL VOX

My thoughts on the world around me

Films You Need to See: Earth, Good

Here are some more movies I think you should see.

Earth:

Not sure if this is March of the Penguins revisited, but it looks like a great, great movie. I love nature films, anyway.

Good:

The struggle between good and evil has always fascinated me. Sometimes external circumstances force you to make difficult choices. When the time comes, will you make the right choice? Will you choose to be good?

Nine:

This film is visually stunning.

Tokyo Sonata:

I love a good family drama. This film was at Cannes, too.

Blessed is the Match:

A heroic tale. There is always the hope that someone better than us, braver than us, will rescue us from what troubles us.

Coraline:

From the director of “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” this type of film isn’t for everyone. The innovation behind a film like this, however, is something to be respected.

State of Play:

While any movie with Ben Affleck is an automatic red flag (Good Will Hunting excluded), I’m hoping that Russell Crowe and Helen Mirren will continue to have a good taste in movie selection. I’m betting against it, though.

The Last House on the Left:

While I’m not a terribly huge fan of horror movies, I did like the question this film asks: if someone hurt someone you love, what would you do? How far would you go? Those questions, at least from an artistic/dramatic perspective, intrigue me.

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January 22, 2009 Posted by | Art, Film | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Bear Baiting in Pakistan

People can argue that ignorance is bliss. It’s true, there are times I wish I didn’t know about certain cruelties in the world. If I don’t know about them, then they don’t affect me. While the feeling is normal, I urge you to fight it. Through education and information, we can cure the world of its ills – great and small.

Bear baiting is a vile, bloody sport. Usually held at  local fairs in Pakistan, bear baiting pits vicious dogs against bears who have had their teeth and claws removed. The bears are tied to a post, which renders them unnable to evade the attacks. While most of the animals are permanently scarred, the organizers don’t allow them to be killed because of their value.

Bear fights two hunting dogs

Bear fights two hunting dogs

The World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) has done a wonderful job addressing this issue. While there were up to 300 bears involved before the WSPA undertook investigations, now they have been reduced to about 50.

The work isn’t over there. And the WSPA protects other endangered/mistreated animals. If this cause interests you, please go to the site as indicated above. You can also support their campaign by making a donation.

Don’t be afraid to be informed. Ignorance will only propagate more ignorance. Through information, then, we can truly help man and beast alike.

January 22, 2009 Posted by | Human & Animal Rights | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Partisan Politics Returned After the Long Weekend

Yesterday, Hillary Rodham Clinton was confirmed as the new Secretary of State by a 94-2 vote. So who were the two senators who voted “no”? I found Chris Cillizza’s take on this issue fascinating.

One (Senator Vitter) is seeking reelection, while the other (Senator DeMint) wants to position himself at the forefront of a Republican Party that finds itself in disarray.

It’s amazing what a little investigative work reveals about the minds of our political leaders: in Washington, there is an interest behind every decision.

January 22, 2009 Posted by | Foreign Policy, Politics | , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Obama’s First 100 Days: Day 1

Since the days of FDR, following a new president’s first 100 days in office has been a tradition in the media. What actions will President Barack Obama take? Will we see policies advanced similar to those of the previous administration? Or will he break away from George W. Bush? To answer these questions, the first 100 days of the Obama presidency will be a good barometer of where we stand as a nation.

President Obama showed up for his first day on the job, and made it very clear that this is no longer George W. Bush’s White House. He quickly set the tone by freezing the salaries of his senior White House officials, imposing the highest limits on lobbying in the history of any administration (according to Obama himself), and calling for the government to disclose more information. For the video, please go to The Huffington Post’s link.

Here’s a breakdown of President Obama’s decisions:

1. White House Pay Freeze

The freeze would hold salaries at their current levels for the approximately 100 White House employees who make over $100,000 per year. As an act of good faith, he wants the administration to be a reflection of the troubles Americans are facing:

Families are tightening their belts, and so should Washington[.]

Those affected by the freeze include the new White House Chief of Staff (Rahm Emanuel), national security adviser (Jim Johnson), and press secretary (Robert Gibbs).

2. New Lobbying Rules

The new rules (a) ban aides from trying to influence the administration when they leave his staff; (b) ban those already hired from working on matters they have previously lobbied on, or to approach agencies that they once targeted; (c) ban lobbyists from giving gifts of any size to any member of Obama’s administration; and (d) require that anyone who leaves his administration cannot try to influence former friends and colleagues for at least two years.

How do you like that, K Street?

3. Greater Government Transparency

Again, Obama made a clear break from Bush policies. He is directing his agencies to follow a very different interpretation of the Freedom of Information Act:

For a long time now, there’s been too much secrecy in this city. The old rules said that if there was a defensible argument for not disclosing something to the American people, then it should not be disclosed. That era is now over. Starting today, every agency and department should know that this administration stands on the side not of those who seek to withhold information but those who seek to make it known.

To be sure, issues like personal privacy and national security must be treated with the care they demand. But the mere fact that you have the legal power to keep something secret does not mean you should always use it. The Freedom of Information Act is perhaps the most powerful instrument we have for making our government honest and transparent, and of holding it accountable. And I expect members of my administration not simply to live up to the letter but also the spirit of this law…

Let me say it as simply as I can: Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency.

In his closing, Obama recognized that these new directives will not resolve all the issues, but that hopefully they serve as a small step toward reestablishing a once-held trust between the people and their government:

Our commitment to openness means more than simply informing the American people about how decisions are made. It means recognizing that government does not have all the answers, and that public officials need to draw on what citizens know. And that’s why, as of today, I’m directing members of my administration to find new ways of tapping the knowledge and experience of ordinary Americans — scientists and civic leaders, educators and entrepreneurs — because the way to solve the problem of our time is — the way to solve the problems of our time, as one nation, is by involving the American people in shaping the policies that affect their lives.

The executive orders and directives I’m issuing today will not by themselves make government as honest and transparent as it needs to be. And they do not go as far as we need to go towards restoring accountability and fiscal restraint in Washington. But these historic measures do mark the beginning of a new era of openness in our country. And I will, I hope, do something to make government trustworthy in the eyes of the American people in the days and weeks, months and years to come. That’s a pretty good place to start.

It was just the first day, and only small steps were taken, but we are headed in the right direction.

January 22, 2009 Posted by | Barack Obama, Obama's First 100 Days, Politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments