Sunday, October 30, 2022

Inflation is a concern

Yes, inflation is a concern and should be.  But the focus needs to be much deeper.  First it is a global problem.  Blaming Joe Biden for the global inflation is extremely short sighted and virtually pointless.  His opponents are very vocal criticizing, but very short on realistic solutions.  We need to take a closer look.


 

We are not yet out of the Covid pandemic.  A lot of fear and resentment has been generated.  Some politicians tried to ignore it and one mocked honest efforts to control it.  That one person was Donald Trump.  There was already in motion other results from the pandemic that could only be mitigated.  Many people died and others were fearful and governments around the world took steps before we understood many details.  Social distancing had proven to be effective which meant controlling both crowd situation, consumer and retailer contacts and even walking down the street.  Masking was mandated to minimize risks.  These steps were resented and resisted by many people, especially those following the lead of Donald Trump.

There was a race to develop a vaccine and that already had resistance with those who felt vaccines were unsafe and many who just plain feared them.  Donald Trump apparently did get vaccinated, but it was relatively quiet and not supported by many of his followers.

Supply chains were disrupted, partially due to consumers cutting their spending.  Another problem was workers who either couldn't get to work or were too fearful.  Restrictions and practicalities on international trade caused further supply chain tightening.  Many companies, mostly relatively small went out of business.  Even some crops were not picked.

Many governments around the world felt they had to protect both consumers and retailers and gave out money which had to be borrowed.  The large companies that survived found they could increase their prices disproportionately and the government would be blamed.  Reports coming from companies on stock exchanges are of increased profits.  What most of them are doing with this extra money is stock buybacks and increased dividends.  CEOs on many companies have been able to increase their share of the profits at the expense of their lesser employees.  Again another factor increasing inequality.  Their reduced taxes increased their leverage.

It turns out inflation is a mechanism for increasing inequality.  Those in the bottom 90% find themselves with squeezed budgets forcing difficult decisions.  Those at the top are well insulated from such stresses.  There are no pain free solutions.  One strategy is to curb consumer spending which means higher interest rates as one tool.  It is very easy to criticize governments, but very short sighted.  The wealthier families did better with education than their poorer counterparts which has long term consequences for everyone.

Politicians  in opposition parties are very willing to criticize.  One of their solutions is to stop spending.  It is true that is important, but who is going to decide where the cuts should come from.  Many Republicans for example feel free to suggest social programs that benefit the masses, climate change efforts, inspectors, etc.  They are always pushing tax cuts and deregulation pointing out that the wealthy are the job creators.  Actually job creators are consumers.

Compounding the situation has been the unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.  It will push energy prices everywhere.  It also will have a direct impact on wheat and sunflower oil, but that will most hurt poor countries. 

There are no easy answers, but listening to the critics is counter productive.  Some of them should look in their mirror.  Higher tax rates on the wealthy have had a positive influence on inflation.  With extreme high tax rates for the very wealthy it makes more sense to keep employees happy. 

In the meantime the pandemic has not disappeared.  The virus has mutated with new variants.  We need long term solutions, not the short term  that too many resist.  Respect for scientific experts needs to be enhanced.    

Monday, October 24, 2022

Parallel Mothers

 One of the nominated films for best foreign film at the Oscars, it again demonstrates that foreign films are well worthy of watching.  Not sure what to expect and as usual Pedro Almodovar brought in some unexpected elements including  paternity testing and the Spanish Civil War.

 Two women are brought together as they both give birth at the same time.  They part, but are brought together in one case with Janis needing someone to take care of her baby.  Gradually we learn a little bit more about each of them as they lean on one another.  A complication comes when Arturo, the father of Janis's baby says he doesn't think the baby is his.  She is insulted and breaks off the relationship.  But she decides to check through a paternity service and is shocked that she is not the mother.  Obviously somehow the baby's got switched.  When she was going to tell Ana, she learned that her baby had died.  

Arturo had excuse to maintain contact with Janis as he was arranging for her grandfather to be disinterred from a war grave.  The Grandfather had been involved in the Spanish Civil War and was executed.  It turns out there are many such graves.

It has a sort of happy ending, but I will avoid any further details.

 What makes this a good movie are the cast and crew behind it.

Pedro Almodovar is internationally famous as a director and writer, but got his start without going to film school which were closed by Franco.  He saved money until he could afford a Super 8 camera.  He did short films and became well known in a counter culture.  He won an Oscar for writing "Habla con Ella" (2003) plus numerous awards at film festivals around the world.   In his 2009 film (Broken Embraces) there was seen a poster for "Madres paralelas" (Parallel Mothers) as he had already started working on the cncept.  Other film credits include "Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown" (1988) that was a breakthrough artistically and financially,  "Matador" (1986),"Tie Me Up!  Tie me Down" (1989), "Bad Education" (2004), "Volver" (2006), "The Skin I live In" 2011), "Julieta" (2016) and "Pain and Glory" (2019).

Alberto Iglesias provided the music which was nominated for an Oscar, one of 4.  His films include "The Dancer Upstairs" (2002), "The Constant Gardner" (2005),  "Volver," (2006), "The Kite Runner" (2007),  "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" (2011), "Ma Ma" (2015), and "Julieta" (2016).

Jose Luis Alcaine was in charge of cinematography.  He was the first cinematographer to use fluorescent tube as key lighting in the 1970's.  His film credits include:  "Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown" (1988),  "Tie Me up!  Tie Me Down" (1989), "Belle Epoque" (1992),

Teresa Font did the editing.  Her film credits go back to 1977.  She won a Goya award for "Pain and Glory" (2019).  

Penelope Cruz played the lead character.  She speaks Spanish and English and learned Italian for a movie role and later won an Italian award.  She has also been in French movies, but not speak the language.  She and her husband Javier Bardem have both won an Oscar and been nominated for others.  Some of her film credits include:  "Open Your Eyes" (1997),  "Captain Corelli's Mandolin" (2001), "Volver" (2006), "Vicky Cristina Barcelona" (2008), "To Rome with Love"  (2012),"Ma Ma" (2015), "Everybody Knows" (2018) and "Pain and Glory" (2019).  Before her marriage she had relationships with Matt Damon, Tom Cruise and Matthew McConaughey.

Milena Smit played the other lead.  Her character changed dramatically from being morose when we first met her to much more confident later.   There was a major change in hair color and style to emphasize the change.  She has been in films since 2018.

Israel Elejaide played Arturo, an archaelogist who fathered Janis's daughter.  His denial of paternity caused the plot to take a turn.  He has been in films since 1999.

Altana Sanchez-Gijon played Ana's mother as a selfish and set on developing her acting career despite her daughter's dilemma.  Altana has been in films since 1986 including at least two American films.  She was president of the Spanish Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences from 1998 to 2000.  Also in 2000 she was a jury member at Cannes.

Rossy de Palma played the closest friend to Janis.  Rossy was actually discovered by Pedro Almodovar in a cafe.  She has appeared in many of Pedro's films including "Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown" (1988),  "Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!" (1989), "Broken Embraces" (2009) and "Julieta" (2016).  She also sings and models.  She is fluent in French, English, Spanish and Catalan.  

If you are familiar with Pedro Almodovar and Penelope Cruz their marks are all over this film.  If you are not familiar, it is probably time you checked out what the fuss is all about.

Movies I have seen are bolded for the first mention.

Friday, October 21, 2022

The Funeral

 Funerals are deadly serious and often come at unexpected times.  This one is the result of personal experiences of the writer/director.  You will recognize some customs and also you may identify with some of the bahavior.  Each community has their own habits, but humans have similar stresses.  For "The Funeral" (1984) Juzo noticed family relations and picked up on some idiosyncrasies

 

 The first scene is of an old man coming back home after a physical exam by a doctor who assured he was normal.  There is a detailed scene of him unpacking a bag of groceries.  Soon he becomes ill and dies.  The narrator of the story happens to be a film maker and is caught in the middle of a tv. commercial.  It turns out the deceased is his father in law and nobody is quite sure what to do next.

Family members get involved with the funeral to be held at the narrator's house.  We witness some petty family business, but also some joyous conversations.  The point of the film is not any plot, but just to notice the small details of this personal funeral.

Perhaps to spice things up there is a pretty explicit sex scene with a funny aftermath.  The narrator is hiding from his wife and  is coerced into some sex with a girl friend that he didn't want to attend the funeral.  

Kneeling in religious ceremonies is a Japanese tradition that director thought odd.  He showed  camera angles to show the feet of kneeling mourners.  One of the mourners falls asleep and falls over, apparently not uncommon demonstrating discomfort and boredom.

All those attending the funeral went further to a crematorium.  Children were allowed by staff to watch fthe lames and become rambunctious.  Some adults also watch and question the furnace attendant

After the ceremony speeches were called for.  The narrator had been very nervous, but he was interrupted  by the widow who requests a chance to speak, catching everyone off guard. 

 Juzo Itami has been an actor in the movies and on television, but at age 50 he decided to be a writer and directer and this is his first effort which includes producer.  He is known to react everyday events and portray idiosyncrasies  Created stronger roles for women  Son of a well know Director which caused him to avoid becoming a director. A few of his film credits: "55 Days at Peking" (1965), "Lord Jim" (1965) and "Tampopo" (1995) Some of his later films hit the gangster mob Yukuza who at one time attacked him with knives.  Juzo died from jumping out of a building and it has been speculated that he had been forced.

Executive producer, Yasushi Tamaoki,owned a sweets company and has used Juzo to do commericals for tarts like shown in "The Funeral."  Became a critical helper for the final financing.  After Juzo's death he set up a Juzo Itami museum

Tsutomu Yamazaki played the narrator and son in law of the deceased.  His film credits include "Tampopo" (1995) and  the Oscar winning "Departures" (2008).

Nuboko Miyamoto the wife of Juzo also played the wife in this film.  This was her first lead role, but had played many supporting roles.  The death of her father sparked the idea of the film.  The story was filmed in their house in Yugawara and at one point she is shown on top of a log swing actually built by her husband.

Kin Sugai played one of the female relatives.  Her film credits include "Ikiru" (1952),

Manpei Ikeuchi, 9 year old son played one of the rambunctious kids.  -had been told when his dad wanted to do a film that if it failed it would make for a money hardsdhip for the family.   He did a few ad libs during the film-At one point he did a sketch and with a few professional touchups it became the cover for the movie.

One of the advantages of getting DVD's are the special features some of them include that very often help to give a better understanding of the film.  This was a good example.

For other perspectives on disposing of dead bodies.  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2021/09/would-you-rather-be-burnt-mummified-or.html

As usual I have bolded the first mention of films I have seen.

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Searching for Sugar Man

Never heard of this film until in an interview Aamir Khan cited it as one of his favorites.  Khan is an authority as a respected movie maker with a reputation of striving for perfection.

Fame is an odd thing.  It motivates some people, but the lack of it can demotivate others.  One likes to think their efforts are appreciated, but sometimes the public isn't ready.  This story is about a man who actually was very famous in another unknown country, while not recognized in his own. 

Back in the early 1970's in Detroit, Rodriguez who had received some encouragement in bars and concert halls put out an album.  It had been expected to do well, but in reality it flopped.  Although he did put out another, his career was over.  He disappeared from public view.

Meanwhile someone had taken his album to South Africa where some loved it.  They made copies and before too long it became very popular.  It developed appeal to rebellious teenagers, many of whom were against apartheid.  Government authorities tried to ban the record and even went so far as to scratch one particular song which of course made in more appealing to the teenagers.  One commentator claimed he was more popular in South Africa than Elvis.

A few years later a music journalist was asked to write some liner notes for a cassette version and realized they knew very little about him.  At one point he became very determined to find out more, but kept running into dead ends.  They didn't even know what city to search.  Rumors abounded, including different versions of a suicide.  Eventually success was achieved when a notice reached someone who knew Rodriguez--one of his daughters.  Surprisingly he was still alive and living in his home town.  He had been making a living in construction and demolition raising three daughters and living relatively poorly.  

After awhile he was persuaded to travel to South Africa.  His three daughters went with him, one of them eventually marrying a South African and having a baby.  They booked him for six concerts and each of them sold out with very enthusiastic crowds.  We learn that he returned to Detroit to his house of 40 years and continued with his low level construction and demolition..  It was also pointed out that he gave away most of his extra money.  He made further trips to South Africa for other concerts (and to visit one daughter).

His father was Mexican and he was born Jesus Rodriguez, performed mostly as the singular Rodriguez, but also called himself Sixto Rodriguez

The film was another story.  In Sweden Malik Bendjelloul had been involved in films as a child, later got involved with journalism and producing music documentaries.  During travels he became aware of the story of Rodriguez and became determined to make a movie of it.  He had difficulty in getting financing and decided to go it alone.  At one point filming was done with an Iphone App as had run out 8 mm. film. He improvised to do some animation to cover early events.  

After about four years he completed the film.  On the DVD there is a special feature where Malik and Rodriguez are at a film festival and we learn a bit more about his life.  The film won an Oscar in 2013 as the best documentary.

Another key person that helped the film get produced and distributed was Simon Chinn.  As Malik was running out of money and perhaps a bit discouraged he approach Simon who loved the idea and helped bring the film to fruition.  Most famous for "Man on Wire" (2005).

Listening to the songs one wonders why he wasn't accepted in America.  Some suggested he was like Bob Dylan, but ahead of his time.  He has a pleasant voice and the lyrics and tunes were well thought out. 

Each person believes they deserve greater recognition and a few of us might imagine in another universe we might be famous.  For many of us life reflects disappointments with not getting a promotion, being rejected by prospective partners and even in our own behavior.  This film shows us someone who suffered disappointment at one level, accepted it, and moved on.  In his case there were forces beyond his knowledge that gave him another try.  His self respect was boosted and the world had access to his musical contributions.

Monday, October 17, 2022

Missing Home

Indonesian cinema has not made much of a mark in North America, but keep your eye on it.  They are professional and choosing interesting subjects.

 Expectations, whether they are met or exceeded are key to a film.  My feeling was "Ngeri Ngeri Sedap" (Missing Home 2022)  would be okay, but not extraordinary.  It started out as a comedy.  A married couple were frustrated they were unable to persuade their three sons to come home for a celebration of their Grandmother.  They argued in front of their daughter and in their minds joking about divorce got a strong reaction.  They concocted a way to convince the sons to come home.  They persuaded their daughter that they were serious about a divorce and she phoned her brothers who all trusted her.

We are all anticipating a comedy and for awhile it fits.  The husband and wife did develop a routine that was pretty convincing, BUT the film turned deadly serious.

We learn some of the dynamics that drove the brothers away and later learn all is not well with their sister either. One brother married a woman of a different ethnicity.  Another brother pursued a career as a comic film actor.  The youngest brother had traditionally been expected to take care of his parents in their old age, but had moved abroad.  The daughter seemed reasonably content, but we learn she was not happy.  They could have found some comic mechanism for a reconciliation, but it really took some soul searching and outspoken family criticisms.

There is not a lot of information readily available on cast and crew, but they are spreading outward.  The following names are likely to be more visible in the future.

Benee Dion Rajagukguk originally wrote the novel, then given the opportunity he wrote the script and  directed.  His background includes being an actor and director as well as a script writer.

Music is by Vicky Sianipar and cinematography is by Padri Nadeak.

Aline Jusria was the editor.  Her film credits include "Ali & the Queens" (2021) with Indonesian and English dialogue and set in New York.

Arswendy Bening Swara with 43 acting credits plays the father who at first seems like a fun loving husband who loves his kids, but we do see another side to him soon enough and at the end he goes through some soul searching.

Tika Panggabean played the mother.  She was in "Ali & the Queens" (2021)  She speaks four languages.

The three sons were played by Boris Bokir, Ghita Bhebhita and Lolox while the daughter was played by Indra Jegel.

Foreign films can be educational.  Indonesia is the world's largest Muslim nation in the world, although India actually has more Muslims, but is not considered a Muslim nation.  There are many ethnic groups and languages in Indonesia.  I was confused when I heard a reference to Sudanese, but checking it turns out it refers to a group that is sometimes called Sunda and amounts to about 15% of the total population.  They are not to be confused with the Sudanese Africans.

This is a mature film that explores family dynamics of a traditional family that is modernizing.  Much of the world is going through such a transition and to some extent we in the "western world" are part of the process.

Another set of Indonesian films would surprise most Westerners:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2022/01/surga-yang-tak-dirindukan-heaven-none.html

Friday, October 14, 2022

The Bollywood version of Forrest Gump

 Aamir Khan is a superior film maker, but deciding to do a remake of "Forrest Gump" (2022) appears to have been a mistake.  At least from a domestic box office viewpoint.  Fortunately it is faring better outside India and one can recognize its brilliance.

 It follows the "Forerst Gump" format adjusting for Indian history and culture.   We see history through the eyes of a very naive, "dim-witted" man who can always find the bright side.

Most of the movie is framed with Laal telling a series of stories.encomposing  Indira Gandhi's assassination, wars,  the assault on the Taj Hotel and many others.

For a dim-witted man he stumbles onto a lot of success.  At one point he is a champion runner, later a war hero and later a successful business man.   He comes from a line of Sikh war heroes, but for most of the film was turbanless, until near the end.   His biggest obsession was with his youthful sweetheart who goes to Bollywood and mixes with the wrong people, but always considering him a friend, until she realizes she loves him too, nonetheless she lives with another man and has a child

Aamir Khan was producer along with ex wife Kiran Rao. He also plays the lead character.   Aamir Khan is one of the premier actors and film makers in the world.  As he got established he became an actor who concentrated on one film at a time.  Abstains from drinking and smoking, but will do so if film role requires it.  Related to filmmakers he started as a child actor, but became a star with "Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak" (1988).  Most of his films were successful at the box office including "Dil Chata Hai" (2001), "Mangal Pandey" (2005), "Like Stars on Earth" (2007), "Ghajini" (2008), "3 Idiots" (2009), "PK (2014), "Dangal" (2016) and "Secret Superstar" (2017).  "Lagaan:  Once Upon a Time in India" (2001) started his success in the Chinese market (meaning he was at various times the most famous actor in the world with more than two huge markets).   Like Tom Hanks, Aamir did a lot of running, but he has a good body as has been required in some of his films.  Check:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2011/07/dil-chatha-hai-bollywood-classic.html and  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2015/03/pk.html

Advait Chandan, the director has film credits for "Secret Superstar" (2017), "Like Stars on Earth" (2007), both connected with Aamir Khan.

 Atul Kulkarni, writer, best known as an actor.  With "Hey Ram" (2000) winning a best supporting actor award, "Page 3" (2005), "Rang De Basanti" (2006), "Koode" (2018), "A Thursday" (2022) working not only in Hindi, but also Marathi, Kannada, Malayalam, Tamil and Telegu.  As president of Quest he advocates for improving education.  check http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2022/02/the-message-is-spoiler.html  

Pritam Chakraborty composed for the script  and brought in Arijit Singh, my favorite singer.  Music which is mostly unobtrusive was provided by celebrated Bollywood composer, Pritam Chakraborty. He has composed for such films as "Jab We Met" (2007, containing one of the best romantic songs of Bollywood), "Life in a Metro" (2007 where he on screen as playback singer), "Rajneeti" ( 2010), "Yeh, Jawaani Dewani" (2013), Ae Dil Hai Mushkil" (2016) and  "Dangal" (2016).

Satyajit Pande is the cinematographer.  His film credits include "Like Stars on Earth" (2007), "Kahanni" (2012) and "Dangal" (2016).

Kareena Kapoor Khan played Rupa.  She has been in several memorable movies, but has also played a lot of vapid women.  I would say she is one of the better dancers and has demonstrated a diversity of roles.  Comes from a well known family in Bollywood.  Married Saif Ali Khan and has had one child.  Favorite movies of hers include "Jab we Met," (2007)  "3 Idiots" (2009), "Talaash" (2012) and "Good Newwz" (2018).  She was actually pregnant with 2nd child during filming

Mona Singh plays his mother, but is actually younger than Aamir.  Her film credits include "3 Idiots" (2009).

Shah Rukh Khan has a cameo role, but as my favorite actor is always of interest.  Check him out.  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2016/06/shah-rukh-khan-worlds-most-famous-actor.html

Manav Vij played the double amputee who became a business partner of Laal's.  Manav's film credits include "Udta Punjab" (2014), "Rangoon" (2017), Phillauri" (2017) and "Andhadhun" (2018).  When blogging for "Anhadhun" I was a little confused, well the film is worth seeing http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2021/10/telegu-remake-opens-my-eyes.html  

"Forrest Gump" is a vague memory for me, but this parallels much of it.  Not every one's cup of tea, but you can be assured if Aamir Khan is involved it is done very well.  If you enjoyed "Forrest Gump" there are adjustments to Indian history which has had its share of "interesting" events.

The first mention of films I have seen are bolded. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

The Iranian Dilemma

 Most of the western world is supportive of the Iranian women protesting restrictions on their lives.  Underneath there is a lot of resentment of being ruled by an autocratic theocracy.  The women hold the leverage of righteous indignation.  As in history men have tried to control women and looking back we have paid a price.  This time the women have garnered greater support from men. What are the dangers of pushing too hard?  



As one commentator pointed out how we got to this point is that we, especially Americans have usually taken the side of dictators and corporate interests against the will of the people.  This doesn't always work out the way it is anticipated.

In 1953 the Iranians had a democratically elected leader, Mohammad Mosaddeq who was trying to follow the example of an agreement between Saudi Arabia and Americans to share oil revenue.  The British resisted and requested help from the U.S.  After a successful coup, Mohammed was replaced by the Shah.  To consolidate his power he sought help from the C.I.A. to set up SAVAK, a secret police service.  One of the trainers was Norman Schwarzkopf, later famous for the Iraq invasion.  They also involved the Israeli MOSSAD.  The purpose was to track and control enemies of the Pahlavi family.  The Americans left and SAVAK took a turn for more brutality including torture, executions, censorship.  The first director was repelled, eventually becoming a dissident and was assassinated in such a way to appear an accident.  Agents spied on Iranian citizens to uncover dissidents and as a by product promote distrust among neighbors.

With the election of Jimmy Carter the Iranians were coerced into alleviating torture and other abuses of power.   As the Catholic church in Poland was responsible for forcing the Communist government to eventually capitulate. a fundamentalist Shiite clergy forced out the Shah.  Ironically when the Iranian Revolution occurred in 1979, Carter also felt an obligation to support the Shah under siege.  This stirred resentment in Iran and led to the hostage crisis that helped undo Carter's re-election.  

The Iranian Revolution was sparked by civilian discontent.  As is often the case the people rallied behind fundamentalist clergy who in the end took control.  Similarly the Poles rebelled against the Soviets using the Catholic Church as a tool.  In another blog about corruption it was pointed out that when citizens have little room to protest they support fundamentalists.  see http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2015/07/thieves-of-state.html 

A few other ironies--during an oil boycott it was Carter who adopted a conservation strategy to make Americans less dependent on Mid-East oil.  This was ridiculed by Republicans who went onto ridicule climate change.  Another irony provided by the Republicans is that they spun an arms deal with the supposed enemy Iranians to finance an insurrection in Nicaragua.

After the Iranian Revolution Iraq thought it would take advantage of confusion in Iran to invade it starting in 1980.  Americans, concerned about the prospect of a prolonged war supported Saddam Hussein including providing expertise on chemical weapons that not only killed an estimated 100,000 Iranians but were also used on Kurdish civilians.  Iran was able to quickly repel the invaders, but the conflict dragged on until the United Nations brokered a ceasefire accepted by Iran in 1988.

In 1988 an Iranian passenger airline was shot done in Iranian territory by an American missile.  Americans claimed they mistook it for a military fighter.  All 290 people on board died.  Ronald Reagan expressed regret in a diplomatic note.  United States did not admit legal liability or offer a formal apology but did agree to a financial settlement of $61.8 million.

After 9/11 the Bush administration labeled Iran as part of an "axis of evil," although they had provided some intelligence for the crisis.  I have to admit that phrase came from David Frum, a Canadian conservative writer who I have come to like a bit.   

Trump not only broke the multi national Iran Agreement, he imposed sanctions not only for Americans, but also for their allies.  On top of that he approved assassination of Qaasem Soleimani, a prominent Iranian general.   http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2019/05/alarm-bells-on-iran.html

Iranians are accused of terrorism, but they see themselves as defending the interests of Shiite followers in Lebanon, Yemen, Oman? and Israel.. 

The current energy crisis greatly aggravated by Putin and OPEC is forcing difficult decisions.  At some point some vested interests will point out that we in the west are suffering for our support of Ukraine and might face a nuclear Armageddon.  Is it worth it?  For the sake of world peace and to solve other global problems like climate change and pandemics it is, but difficult decisions will have to be made.  Winter will soon be here.

How do we deal with Iran?  They are resentful of our reactions  (including in Canada and the U.S.) to the riots.  Canadians are proud that Ken Taylor, our ambassador to Iran helped Americans escape from the hostage situation at the American embassy.  Going back further they are upset about sanctions against them and American actions going back to at least the 1950's.   Time to acknowledge American mistakes.

There is no easy way to deal with the oil shortage over the winter months.  Sacrifices are necessary in our support of Ukraine.  Long term we need to boost renewables.  Iran could be helpful and to a lesser extent could Venezuela.

We are not likely to persuade old theocrats that they need to give more power to women.  We  can give the women some support, but really their willingness to risk dying is more critical.  The hijab symbolizes power.  Although many women prefer not to be objectified, others feel that should be their choice. Beyond the symbolism women want property rights, access to jobs and education, the ability to divorce, freedom to express oneself as men do.  Women rights are human rights.

The Puritans won the English Civil War and imposed their morals on their subjects.  This included a ban,  on playing cards, dancing, women on stage, etc.  These irked citizens no end and eventually the English what was called the Restoration.

Dealing with the heads of state is practical for the short run.  Autocrats tend to stick together as do democracies.  Human rights really are a global issue and if we are not to be hypocrites we need to do more to promote human rights.  We will all be better off if we can make the right moves to furthering human rights. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2022

January 6th hearings

There have been and are many investigations regarding Donald Trump, but  the House Committee is the one that has been televised and publicized the most.  Legal technicalities (and political Interference?) have tied up progress.  The people have been given an opportunity to learn about his crimes. 

At the moment one last hearing is scheduled.  The hurricanes Fiona and Ian were too big a distraction.  Hopefully there will be no delays as the midterms are less than 4 weeks away.  Although apparently the hearings were having a minimal effect on voters they were watched by many swing and independent voters.

 The Trumpers may not have a rational response to the overwhelming evidence that Trump is an egotistical con man who would go to enormous efforts to retain power, but they have a different set of motives.  They feel it is too bad Trump is being dragged through courts.  They most likely realize he had done a few illegal things, but they don't matter.  He has tried to give them what they really want.  In some cases that is racist or Biblical and in other cases it is tax cuts and de-regulations.  For a few an outspoken celebrity draws more attention than regular politicians.

But actually he has pulled a fast one on them as well as non Trumpers.  Inequality has increased, consumer protections have decreased.  Division which hurts everyone has increased.  International co-operation took a shellacking.  Regulations intended to protect consumers/voters have been cut while up to the cabinet minister level appointments have been made to many wanting to undermine or ignore regulations.   To be better understand how racists hurt themselves check:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2019/06/dying-of-whiteness.html

 For some an indictment or even just a legal barrier to running would be a reason "to take off the gloves."  How do we avoid a civil war?  It may have lots of violence or more likely isolated violence and endless legal wrangling.  And for sure lots of disinformation.

Some Americans think their economic difficulties are unique and the fault of the Democrats' government.  The rest of the world is also confronted with economic problems with a lot of the same causes.  The Covid Pandemic is the underlying cause of supply chain problems which caused governments everywhere to give out cash which mostly had to be borrowed.  Inequality is rising in most western nations and is exacerbated by corporate gouging.  Climate change is squeezing everyone, resulting in food shortages.  On top of that Vladimir Putin has had his ego challenged.  Trump was involved with all of it.

The evidence is compelling, but too many are afraid of Trump and others too blindly loyal.  Some calm voices are required from the Republicans and certainly the media.  The midterms could complicate affairs if more deniers gain power.

The hearings themselves have been handled well.   The incriminating evidence has come from Republicans giving them more credibility.  It seems one hearing spurs more evidence and allows some insiders the courage to testify.  Timing is everything.  October surprises are the goal of the underdog and in fact do make an impact.  If the Democrats lose control of the House the hearings will be cut off and probably replaced by some trumped up political hearings.  

A last minute hearing could backfire and take from other efforts.  The voters are upset over inflation and crime, issues that do have a Democrat side to them that could be shouted louder.  It is hard to guess what game changing evidence is available, but some voters are undecided and it could make a difference.  They need to get more information out to the public.

When a voter feels a candidate has good character they are inclined to feel their policies are well meant.  One wonders how voters could support power hungry liars.  Whose best interests are being fought for?

It is not a good idea to predict the future, but events of the next four weeks can have a very long lasting effect for the entire world.

Thursday, October 6, 2022

Freezing Order

First learned about "Freezing Order" (2022)when author, Bill Browder was interviewed by Steve Paikin.    It does clarify some events noted in earlier blogs.  We all knew that Putin could not be trusted and that somehow he was linked to Donald Trump.  Much has already been public, but much has either been buried or dismissed.

Bill Browder is an investment manager/owner.  He saw an opportunity when the Soviet Union broke up.  He moved to Moscow and set up a fund the Hermitage Capital Management.   At one time he was the largest foreign investor in Russia.  That ended in 2005. One problem was that he had to deal with corruption that undercut his investments so he developed ways of minimizing corruption, but soon found that authorities weren't on board. 

The Russian government forced Browder out of Russia.  Sergei Magnitsky, a lawyer working with the Hermitage fund stayed and became an annoyance (obstacle) uncovering corruption.  He was imprisoned and tortured and died November 16, 2009.  

Browder took upon himself to fight back and organized to set up the Magnitsky Act as a memorial to the misdeed uncovered by the honest Sergei Magnitsky.  In effect the government could freeze funds that had been illegally obtained and laundered.  Obama signed the Magnitsky Act into law on December 14, 2012 and illegal started to be frozen.  Putin reacted by blocking adoption of Russian children by Americans.  He also put Browder and the dead Magnitsky on trial to prove they are the ones that stole money.  In other words they were accused of committing the crimes that they were investigating.

When the Panama Papers came out it was learned that Sergei Rodulgun, a cellist had come across billions of dollars.  It turns he was the closest friend of Putin and perhaps the only one he could trust with his money.  On his job Putin was limited not only by his salary, but any public means of making money.   He is fact was one of the richest men in the world.  He went to great lengths to keep his source and total wealth secret.

Browder was harassed  with the Russians even hiring top notch American lawyers as part of their arsenal.  They made an effort to uncover Browder's Russian contacts.  As you may recall those who crossed Putin tended to fall from high buildings or be poisoned or even be shot.  

One name that crossed Browder in court was Natalia Vaselnitskaya who claimed she worked for private business, but later seemed more likely she worked directly for the Russian government. 

The infamous dossier seems likely to have some truth to it, but has been dismissed.  Browder was told that Russian disinformation sources were able to put in some misinformation that allowed others to focus on the untruths as if they proved the whole thing was false.  

The Helsinki conference where Trump and Putin met, discussed behind closed doors and took part in a press conference revealed another link.  After Robert Mueller indited 12 GRU agents for interfering in American election Putin was asked if they could be extradited and replied that sure they could be interviewed in Russia, if Bill Browder could be indicted. Trump remained silent.  Later when told other names to be extradited Trump thought that was "an incredible offer."  What hold did Putin have over Trump--for a few clues check:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2019/06/house-of-trump-house-of-putin.html

The well known Trump Tower meeting had been orchestrated by Natalia Vaselnitskaya the Russians hinting they might have some damaging information on Hillary Clinton.  Clinton had not only criticized Putin, but was also a spporter of the Magnitsky Act.  Paul Manafort noted that Browder's name was a topic, but the underyling concern was the Magnitsky Act.  When revealed the Trump team claimed it was about adoptions.

Browder's legal problems were ongoing and harassment never ending,  At one point Browder was accused of murdering Magnitsky, although earlier they claimed the death had been from natural causes.  Browder was tried in abstentia and of course was guilty and altogether he was sentenced to a few decades of heavy labor.  However he eventually got 34 nations to adopt their own version of the Magnitsky Act.  The Act was not just against Russians, but has been used against the Saudi assassins of Jamal Kashoggi and organizers of Uigher concentration camps in China.

Chrystia Freeland (who speaks Russian) was one of the people behind the scenes among other activities advocating for Canada adopting its own Magnitsky Act.  More on her:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2013/01/plutocrats-by-chrystia-freeland.html

As I write this, Putin has signed legislation that annexes parts of Ukraine, ironically while the Ukrainian army has been steadily reclaiming much of this land.  His unprovoked attack on Ukraine and his disregard for the truth proves he is unworthy to be a leader of a great nation.  Or maybe it just proves if you have enough power you can do anything. 

An earlier blog about Putin and the truth:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2022/03/icarus.html

Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Flower of Evil

Flower of Evil" (2020) is one of my best recallable psychological criminal stories ever.  With two romances intertwined it is emotionally draining.  Trust is really put to a test (a few times). 

It is quickly established the focus will be on a loving couple with a three year old daughter.  In the first episode you are made aware that the wife is not aware of lots of things about her husband.  We also realize she is a very capable police detective who discerns details that escape others.  

The childhood of the main protagonist included a murder and accusations of psychopathic behavior.  One more detail, he has since changed his identity fooling even his wife.  Cha Ji Won's police job brings her in touch with some puzzling cases that eventually lead her to suspect her husband. 

An old acquaintance of the protagonist is a reporter who interacts with Ji Won is interested in something she shows him from her husband's work which is metal ornaments.   Kim Moo Jin, the reporter, who wrote about the earlier crisis visits the protagonist who I will give his original name Do Hyun Su.  They recognize each other right away and Hyun Su decides to turn Kim Moo Jin into a prisoner and hides him in his basement workshop.  There is fear and distrust on both sides, but eventually, spoiler alert, they end up working together.  Apparently Moo Jin had been going out with Hyun Su's sister Hae Sue, but had broken up at the time of a crisis.

There are many layers to the crisis that involve how Hyun Su took on another identity with another family whose son became under critical secret care.  Everyone has secrets and revelations come out with every one of the 16 episodes.  Psychology plays a major role with Hyun Su who we learn was considered a psychopath in his youth and he himself will describe himself as feeling no real emotions.  At one point he loses part of his memory and hurts his devoted wife who had learned his history.  Does love conquer all?   Read below for one clue, but I would add there are some unresolved issues at the end.

The crisis in his past involved more people than we originally thought and the family that accepted Hyun Su is not what we think.  Trying to avoid spoilers I would just add there are more complications than hinted so far.  All and all the ending is satisfying and each episode is very engaging.

A lot of talent went into the emotional engagement this film offers.

 Chel-gyu Kim, the director won an award for this television series.

Jung Hee Yoo, the writer in only her third series.  She commented the title came from a collection of poems by Charles Bodler, "Where evil has been buried flowers can still bloom."  It is a gut wrenching plot.

 Enjoyable music was provided by Kim Jun seok whose film credits include "The Chaser" (2008) and composer Jung Se-rin.

 Lee Joon Gi plays the double identity protagonist.  He career started to grow after a role in "The King and the Clown" (2005).  He has won numerous regional awards including for this film.

Moon Chae-Won  played the detective wife, Cha Ji Won.  Her film career started in 2007 and included "Criminal Minds" (2017) with Lee Joon Gi.

Seo Hyun-woo plays Kim Mo  Jin who is at first antagonistic, but later is supportive and provides a secondary romance.  His film career includes "Tunnel" (2016).

Choi Young-joon plays a fellow detective to Ji Won, Choi Jae Sub and sometimes is just as sharp.  He is sometimes supportive and sometimes difficult.  He has appeared in "Vincenzo" (2021) and "Our Blues" (2022).

Choi Dae-hoon plays another detective.  His film career includes "Crash Landing on You" (2019-20) and "Extraordinary Attorney Woo" (2022).  Check two of my favorites:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2020/02/crash-landing-on-you-very-addicting.html and  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2022/08/extraordinary-attorney-woo.html

Jang-hiepjin plays Hae-Su, the sister who was central to the original crisis.  Despite her youthful appearance she has been in films since 2006.

 This film has already been remade in Philippines and Bollywood.

If you like complicated mysteries spiced with psychology and romance this is a not to be missed series.  Check out IMDB and don't just note the high rating, but also the reader comments that seem like they are written by an advertising firm, but seem appropriate to me.