The Closing of Guantanamo Bay and the Return of the Real “Real America”

Posted on January 25th, 2009 in Commentary,Politics by EngineerBoy
Lawyer??  What's a lawyer?!!?

Lawyer?? What's a lawyer, you maggot?!!?

“As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our founding fathers, faced with perils that we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience’s sake.” – excerpted from President Obama’s inaugural address


The United States is a country of breathtaking highs and soul-crushing lows.  One of the lowest low points in American history is the tragic reality of the Guantanamo Bay detention area, also known as Gitmo.  For over one hundred years the US Navy has maintained this base on the southern tip of the island of Cuba.  The proximity of the base to the US mainland coupled with its location in a country with whom we have no diplomatic relations has made Gitmo a unique asset for the US government.

The fact that it was not on US soil means that the laws of the United States did not apply.  The fact that it was located in a country where we have no diplomatic relations means we did not have to care about what the host country thought of our activities there.

The Bush administration took advantage of these facts to create a specialized prison to hold what were called “enemy combatants”, which they defined as anybody the President said was involved in terrorism against the United States.  Think about that for a minute – all it took to be sent to Gitmo was the President stating that you were an enemy combatant.  No trial.  No jury.  No lawyers.  No hearings.  No rights.  No Constitution.  No Geneva Convention.  Nothing.  Just imprisonment by Presidential fiat.

Sounds like the old Soviet Union to me, doesn’t it?  Remember those days, when the USSR would throw comrades into prison for political reasons and just make them disappear?  Remember how outraged we were by that?  But with the dawn of the “War on Terror” we ended up with our own American Gulag.  Now, we did not imprison millions at Gitmo, only hundreds, but that doesn’t make it any less wrong.  Picture a serial killer who murders 25 people and compare him to a dictator who causes the genocide of hundreds of thousands.  Do we forgive the serial killer because of the smaller scope of his crime?  Of course not.  The nature of the crime is so heinous that scale doesn’t matter.

And such is the case here.  We, the United States of America, took foreign nationals from foreign soil and imprisoned them with no rights or due process, with no method to appeal their case, without even a sentence to mark the time – just open-ended imprisonment until such time as we decided we wanted to do something with them.

Quite frankly, my opinion is that Bush and Cheney

Paul Blart: Mall Cop (***)

Posted on January 20th, 2009 in Movie Reviews by EngineerBoy
Not-Lean, Not-Mean, Protecting Machine

Not-Lean, Not-Mean, Protecting Machine

I was in the mood to watch a movie this weekend, but nothing at any of the nearby theaters was really grabbing at me.  I’d seen the ads for Paul Blart: Mall Cop and chuckled a bit, and I think Kevin James is a naturally funny guy, so I figured I’d give it a shot even though it looked like it might be a throwaway.  I’m glad I did.

This film is almost exactly what you’d expect – Paul Blart is a mall cop, he’s a loveable loser, he takes his job much more seriously than is called for, and when trouble invades the mall he has a chance to redeem himself and become the hero.  Think of it as a comedic homage to Die Hard, set in a New Jersey mall, only the cop (uh, make that security officer)  doesn’t have a gun and the bad guys ride skateboards and bikes.

You see, Paul Blart dreams of joining the New Jersey State Police.  He’s a big guy, but he’s in shape, he’s not dumb, and the only reason he can’t qualify is that his hypoglycemia causes him to fall asleep at random times.  So he takes all of his drive to protect and serve and uses it in his job as a mall cop.

In his home life he’s trying his best to raise a daughter as a single dad, and his daughter and his mother provide moral support for his career and aspirations.  His fellow security guards are mostly just clock punchers who don’t take their work nearly as seriously as Paul.  Then, on Black Friday, a group of thieves take over the mall hoping to make a big score, and Paul gets trapped inside as the only peace officer that can help free the hostages and catch the bad guys.

Let’s just say that action and comedy ensue from there.  There is very little violence, and no cursing, bloodshed, or nudity/sexuality to speak of, other than the surprisingly genuine spark between Paul Blart and kiosk-worker Amy (played by the perky Jayma Mays).  And the good news is that all of the funny bits are not revealed in the trailer.

And that’s the key – Paul Blart: Mall Cop is FUNNY and the story is reasonably engaging for a comedy like this.  When the movie finished, my packed theater erupted into spontaneous applause.  Kevin James embodies his role with a perfect combination of gusto, machismo, earnestness, dopiness, and heroism. 

And, man, can he ride a Segway.