Isaiah Webster

America’s inaction on guns reveal immoral society

thoughts and prayers

The United States is on pace to set a new record for school shootings. The shooting today at Santa Fe High School in Texas was the 22nd school shooting of 2018 — a higher number than at this same point in 2017. We are averaging roughly one school shooting per week, and with 29 weeks remaining in the year, the nation could easily exceed 50 school shooting for the year at this current pace. (There were 48 school shootings that resulted in at least one death in 2017.)

Given America’s gun culture and the sheer volume of weapons readily available to anyone who wants one, mass shootings aren’t particularly surprising. In fact, given the pervasiveness of guns, it would be surprising if there weren’t multiple school shootings each year.

What’s surprising is that our governmental leaders continue to do nothing in response to this gun violence. And more important, the citizenry as a whole are not demanding that their elected leaders do more to prevent or reduce school shootings. This lack of action is stunning. It’s one thing to enact ineffective or unpopular gun control measures; it’s other matter entirely to do absolutely nothing at all.

Such inaction in the face of hundreds of innocent children gunned down in their schools reveals a society that is immoral. We have placed the right the bear arms above the safety and security of the most innocent among us. Not even the lives of our children is enough to move us to action. We are all to blame for this.

Disney is playing it too safe with ‘Star Wars’

Solo-Star-Wars-Harrison-Ford

The reviews for Disney’s upcoming “Solo: A Star Wars Story” have been decidedly meh. See for yourself here and here.

The problem is Disney’s unwillingness to invest in Star Wars storytelling what involves unfamiliar characters. When LucasFilm first announced the standalone “Star Wars Story” franchise, I was a bit skeptical. After all, what’s the point of cluttering up canon with unnecessary films about unnecessary backstories? I was pleasantly surprised by “Rogue One,” as it genuinely felt like a different type of Star Wars film, while skillfully expanding upon well-known characters. (That Darth Vader scene alone makes the film worthwhile. If you’ve seen the movie, you know know what scene I’m referring to —  it’s the one Star Wars fans have waited 30 years to see!)

But truthfully, “Rogue One” was a guilty pleasure; it and the other recent films constitute  a troubling pattern.

I did not like “Episode VII: The Force Awakens”; it’s a complete rehash of Episode IV. And though I’ve now watched “Episode VIII: The Last Jedi” five times — I’ve concluded that it spends too much of its time cleaning up the messes of Episode VII. (As it turned out, Snoke’s purpose and Rey’s parents are completely unimportant — tough titty if viewers got emotionally involved in either.)

The one constant with all of these missteps is a reliance on familiar characters and familiar backstories; it’s almost as if Disney is afraid to tell and sell a new story. Even though Han Solo is among the most developed characters in the Star Wars universe, he still got his own movie. And two “Solo” directors were fired because, apparently, they were unwilling to tell the story that Disney wanted.

I’d appreciate a backstory film centered on a mysterious villain, or perhaps on an unknown character completely unconnected to the Skywalker family. But such a film would require creative storytelling, and Disney doesn’t appear willing to risk its formula or its cash-cow just to be innovative. And this is where the fans come into play. Most fans loved “The Force Awakens,” making it one of the top-grossing Star Wars films ever. Stunningly, most fans didn’t care that it was a re-run of “A New Hope” — they liked it all the same. And as long as fans aren’t willing to take a pass on material they’ve already seen, it’s doubtful that Disney will offer up anything new.

So as “Solo” drops May 25, once again, the Millennium Falcon and Chewie will be back front and center in a major Star Wars film. We’ll learn how Solo got his name; and we’ll learn about previously-teased Kessel races — but we probably won’t learn much that’s truly new about the Star Wars universe. And that’s a galactic missed opportunity.

Americans truly are clueless

The Senate Judiciary Committee is considering whether Neil Gorsuch should become the next associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. Meanwhile, a new C-SPAN/PSB Poll found that just 43% of Americans could name even one Supreme Court justice. Sadly for Justice Stephen Breyer, not a single person surveyed offered his name when prompted to name one of the eight current justices.

America suffers not from maliciousness, but from ignorance. Our politicians, our institutions, our media — all greatly benefit from a clueless citizenry. It’s so sad.

George Carlin

An opening for liberals

Over seven years of promising to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act, Republicans finally produced an actual plan last night. Congressional Republicans didn’t bother to wait until the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) scored the plan, so they don’t actually know how much it will cost. And if they do know how many people will lose coverage under this plan — they aren’t saying.

In his effort to “Make America Great Again,” President Trump promised that he would replace the ACA with something “better” — meaning it would have broader benefits, costs less, and cover more people. The plan that Republicans have introduced does none of those things. And this development presents a political opening for progressives. (Vox has a great breakdown of the ACA and the new bill here.)

The Republicans never actually thought they would be in a position to really repeal and replace the ACA, thus, it really didn’t matter that their math didn’t add up or that the complexities of health reform would make any number of their ideas a non-starter. As long as they were in strict opposition to Barack Obama, they only needed to sound good — not actually promote coherent policy.

But now, things have changed. The Republicans control the White House and all of Congress. They now have the burden of governing. Now, much to their dismay, they must pass something. And there is broad disagreement even among them on what to do.

The reason the GOP didn’t wait for the CBO to score the bill is because they know it’s a budget-buster. Why wait and hand the Democrats a tool to beat you over the head with? And they aren’t even pretending that the new American Health Care Act will cover as many people as the Affordable Care Act currently does. Beyond those two realities are even bigger problems — this new bill contains no individual mandate, and replaces the ACA’s subsidies with tax credits. In other words, it will be easier for rich people to get covered, and far more difficult for poor or sick people to get covered. This new bill also contains almost no incentive for young people to sign up — since there will be no penalty for not purchasing health insurance.

This entire enterprise is a disaster. As The Washington Post notes, the GOP is slow-walking through minefields. The Democrats still have the burn scars from the last time they tried to fix health care in America. Now, they’ll have front-row seats as the Republicans flambe themselves. This represents the first policy opening for a liberal return to governing. The progressives should just sit back and watch the show, and be prepared to pick up the pieces in 2018 and 2020. And should anyone doubt that obstructing a president’s efforts to reform health care is bad politics, well, just look at the Republicans now in power.

 

Dreading Super Bowl LI

It’s happening. We’re just a few short weeks away from the Super Bowl match-up that most NFL fans are dreading: Dallas v. New England. If the Cowboys and Patriots meet in Super Bowl LI on February 5, it would be their first meeting in the championship game. However, they have 9 Super Bowl titles between them, and two of the most loyal (and obnoxious) fan bases in all of the NFL.

Entering the final week of the regular season, both teams are projected to be the #1 seed in their respective conferences — that means first-round playoff byes and home-field advantage. Dallas is already a lock for the top seed in the NFC, while New England needs a win, a tie or an Oakland loss to lock up the top seed in the AFC.

Looking forward to the playoffs, Dallas will have the toughest road to the Super Bowl. The New York Giants and the Green Bay Packers look like serious threats. In fact, the Giants swept their season series with the Cowboys. It’s a very open question as to whether Dallas’s young team could beat both the Giants and the Packers in the same postseason — even if they have the home-field advantage. As for the New England Patriots, they are truly without peer in the AFC. The Raiders looked like a threat right up until starting quarterback Derek Carr broke his leg in Week 16. Now the Patriots will be favored to beat any of the remaining AFC playoff teams. And in many cases, their opponents might struggle to keep the games from becoming routs.

Though the NFL has struggled with TV ratings at points throughout this season, recent games have drawn record audiences. In fact, last week’s Monday Night Football telecast saw its highest rating in two years. If Dallas and New England were to meet in a Super Bowl, it could draw an audience of epic proportions. Very few NFL teams have the world-wide following and championship success that the Cowboys and Patriots enjoy. In terms of Super Bowl glory, only the Pittsburgh Steelers and the San Francisco 49ers would even be in the conversation. (The Cowboys, Patriots, Steelers and Niners have won 20 of the 50 previous Super Bowls. The other 30 are divided among the NFL’s remaining 28 teams.)

As far as the NFL is concerned, a Dallas-New England match-up would be a gold mine.

As far as football fans who root for a team other than Dallas or New England, it would be Hell. Generally when your team is not competing in the Super Bowl, you simply root for a team based on other aspects of the game. Such as Peyton Manning’s last ride or Luke Kuechly’s improbable, yet magical season. For the most part, the game’s participants don’t make you want to claw your own eyes out with hot forks.

And yet, it looks increasingly likely that the football gods won’t spare us from a Dallas-New England Super Bowl. The list of aggravation is long: Stars on helmets; Jerry Jones; Tom Brady; Bob Kraft’s smug face; Michael Irvin on TV; Zeke Elliott’s belly; Cowboys fans; Pats fans; clueless wannabe fans jumping on the winner’s bandwagon. These teams aren’t just annoying because they have a history of dominance, they are additionally annoying in that almost everything about them pisses off other teams’ fans. The Patriots have been caught cheating multiple times; the Cowboys project an arrogance so grand that words can’t fully capture it. AT&T Stadium has been called “Jerry Jones’s palace” — and they say this with a straight face!

This year, we won’t even have Pats tight end Rob Gronkowski as a funny, sexy aside to it all. He’s on Injured Reserve, and won’t play again until next season. It’s just all a shallow shit-show that we can see coming, yet are powerless to prevent.

If the Universe wants to atone for a horrible 2016, beginning 2017 with a Chiefs-Falcons Super Bowl would be a great start. Why the hell not?