Movie Review: RECOUNT (HBO Television Movie) The Story Of The 2000 Florida Election. Gore Lost Florida Long Before The Election In Nov 2000. Rated B

May 31, 2008 by · Leave a Comment
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” I’m still going to be Cruella de Vil.”, Katherine Harris. Well she called something right.

This film written by Danny Strong and directed by Jay Roach is about the 2000 Florida recount. The election was ultimately decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in Bush v. Gore in favor of George W. Bush by a five to four vote along party lines. The film stars Kevin Spacey , as Ron Klain, Gore’s demoted chief of staff who rises to be in charge of the confrontation; Bob Balaban, as Ben Ginsberg the Bush campaigns chief counsel; Ed Begley, Jr. as David Boies a lawyer who handles the appellate work for the Democrats; Laura Dern, the Florida Republican Secretary of State; John Hurt as Warren Christopher, Democratic eminence grise who abandons the field because of a family illness; Denis Leary, as Michael Whouley, chief Gore field operative; Bruce McGill as Mac Stipanovich a Republican operative ( akin to a Nixon plumber) and Tom Wilkinson as Jim Baker, The legal and tactical chief of the Bush side. Baker filed a federal action early on based on the theory that Bush’s civil rights had been violated that was the basis of the later appeal to the Supreme Court. Irony of ironies.

The premise of this film is that the Florida vote was too close to call because of the flawed mechanical counting machines that were ineffective in resolving a difference of less that .05 percent between the candidates. Because of this the U.S. Supreme Court decided the election along party lines which should have been decided by the will of the voters.

Scalia, Thomas, O’Conner, Kennedy and Rehnquist, all Republican appointees, were in the majority while Ginsberg and Breyer, Democratic appointees and Souter (by George H.W. Bush) and Stevens, Republican appointees where in the minority. The kicker was that three of the majority, Scalia, Thomas and Rehnquist were previously on record as holding that elections were the province of the states and state law. In this case the majority limited their ruling to the facts in this case. Therefore the holding cannot be cited as precedent. This gives rise to the inference that this was a political decision not a legal one.

The film reveals many fascinating facts. Katherine Harris had Mac Stipanovich in her office advising her how to manage the conflict in Bush’s favor. She is painted as a vacuous Republican without the intellectual, moral and ethical qualities to carry out the duties of a Secretary of State. Laura Dern’s characterization of her is over the top as is Tom Wilkinson’s depiction of Jim Baker as a Republican strategist who is willing to take to the streets in order to win the election. It is revealed that Baker was a Democrat until age forty when his first wife died and he became a George H.W.Bush supporter. Baker comes off as the astute strategist who sees that the dispute will ultimately end in the Supreme Court where the Republicans had many friends. Boies the Democratic lawyer believes that the matter will be settled in the state courts on settled legal principles.

We see Republican operatives, flown in on an Enron jet, mob the Miami-Dade election offices to shut down a hand recount ordered by the Florida Supreme Court. Republican public relations experts call in colorful characters to parade the Bush mantra of “no recount” in front of the cable and network cameras massed outside the Florida Supreme Court. Bob Dole and other Republican leaders are seen on talk shows and the news condemning the recount because it was “impossible” to discern a voters intent by hanging chad or dimpled ballots.

The film explains that dimpled and hanging chad on punch ballots are not always the fault of the voter. Problems arise because there is a build up of chad from prior voters in the machine that prevent subsequent voters being able to fully detach the chad signifying their vote. However in a hand recount it can be discerned that the voter intended to punch a chad signifying a vote for a particular candidate. The Republican effort was to prevent a hand recount at all costs.

Gore lost Florida long before Election Day because Secretary Of State Harris purged twenty thousand African-American voters from the rolls for allegedly being a convicted felons or having a name similar to a convicted felon. This was not learned until the excluded persons went to vote. Also there was no recourse by that time. Now if a person’s right to vote is challenged he is allowed to complete a provisional ballot and then have the matter adjudicated. The way Harris purged the rolls no one knew until he or she showed up to the polls that they had been purged and there and was no way of submitting a tentative ballot and having the issue adjudicated.

So Harris excluded twenty thousand and Blacks by fiat with no right of recourse if a mistake had been made. In the film a black minister named Willie Williams was prevented from voting because his name was similar to William Williams an allegedly convicted felon. What the real status of these persons was no one knew because an outside software company was hired by Harris for millions of dollars to conduct the purge of registered voters. How the twenty thousand voters would have voted is unknown except African Americans tend to vote Democratic. Harris comes across as so unethical and partisan that the purge was obviously done to benefit the Republican side. (In 2004 Jeb Bush ordered 48000 thousand persons purged as felons. However this was stopped by lawsuits before the election.)

Gore also had to contend with Ralph Nader who received ninety thousand votes most of which would have gone to him if Nader was not a third party candidate. However this fact was not discussed in the film

Finally voters in Palm Beach County cast six thousand votes for Pat Buchanan which even he said must have been a mistake because of the confusing butterfly ballots. The county is heavenly populated by retired Jewish Democrats who would not have voted for conservative Buchanan except for the fact of the confusing butterfly ballot.

Thus Florida should have been a Democratic state if the aforesaid forces had not come into play allowing the matter to be decided on a partisan basis by the conservative justices of the Supreme Court. The hand recount had been stopped by the Supreme court while they considered the matter and then the Court declared there wasn’t enough time for a recount to be accomplished within the Florida statutory deadline which effectively decided the election for Bush

This result occurred despite the fact that Gore won the national popular vote.

This film will probably be released to DVD later for those who don’t subscribe to HBO

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FILM REVIEW: UP THE YANGTZE: ANOTHER GREAT LEAP FORWARD BY CHINA? RATED A.

May 19, 2008 by · Leave a Comment
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The Chongqing Metropolitan Area, Midway Up the Yangtze, Is Home To 30.9 Million People.
chongchig3-1.jpg picture by edsopinion

In 1958 Mao Zedong initiated the Great Leap Forward wherein he conceived that China could advance economically by making the communes responsible for economic development. Thus we saw peasants trying to increase steel production in back yard foundries. The plan failed.

Another economic plan which Mao supported was the Three Gorges Hydroelectric Project which will be the largest in the World when completed in 2011. The dam will be five times larger than Hoover Dam. This film deals with the consequences of the project on the people and environment along the Yangtze.

First this film is beautifully photographed and if you thought the Three Gorges area of the Yangtze and its surrounding areas were rural and agricultural think again. The river is a super highway for industrial barges and ships ferrying commerce up and down the river from the many factories and industries along its 6300 kilometer length. Numerous excursion boats, ships and other boats are also seen navigating the river. There is very little sunlight in this film as pollution blots out the direct rays of the sun most of the time.

I am not sure whether to call this film a documentary, a docudrama or by some new designation because it also depicts a sixteen year old Chinese girl, Yu Shui, born of illiterate, peasant squatters who farm a marginal plot of land at the rivers edge. The jerry built shack that houses her mother, father and younger brother and sister looks to be well below the lowest flood level.

The Yangtze has flooded its banks on numerous occasions. Most recently, in the summer of 1998, it over flowed its banks causing 3,004 deaths, 14 million homeless and $24 billion in economic loss.

Yu Shui has finished middle school and she wants to go to high school but the family has no money for her education. In fact she needs to work to help support the family. To this end she reluctantly takes a job on the river cruise ship Victoria as a dish washer. The cruise line caters to western tourists who are on an oxymoranic “Farewell Cruise” before the new dam raises the Yangtze 175 meters. Yu Shui is assigned the name Cindy apparently for the convenience of the tourists. Her family’s life and her life are intimately photographed and so we are not sure how much is staged for the camera and how much is real and spontaneous.

We learn from Yu Shui’s father that he was the son of a minor bureaucrat before the revolution and that after the fall of the Nationalist Government his father was denounced as a counter revolutionary. As to the father’s ultimate fate we are left in the dark other than to learn that his wife starved to death in the famine of 1960. The year the Great Leap Forward ended in failure.

We never learn why Yu Shui’s parents are illiterate in a communist state where education is supposed to be available to all unless they were excluded because of the grandfather’s politics. Another thing that is not explained is why there are three children in Yu Shui’s family when China has a policy of one child per family. Does this fact account for the family’s economic status? We also learn that the father was a “coolie” working on the Fengdu docks before he took up subsistence farming and that his job was lost because of the rising river. Later in the film we see the father working as a laborer on the river’s embankments.

There is another person featured in this film named Chen Bo Yu who is given the name “Jerry”. He is nineteen, handsome, self centered and speaks English. He is a male “little emperor” from a one child middleclass family who can afford to educate him. He is assigned to work directly with the tourists on the cruise which means he receives tips. He also runs afoul of the management when it is learned that he solicits tips from the passengers.

Later in the film Jerry gives and impromptu speech for the camera that all he cares about is money and that he doesn’t want work for the older passengers as they don’t tip as well as the middle aged tourists on the boat. Still, later he is let go at the end of the trip for his attitude but he doesn’t care because his family will send him to college. Why both he and Yu Shui must pay for their education in a socialist state is left unstated. It may be that education is based on competitive testing or political connections and that those who fail to be accepted in a state school can buy an education at a private school.

In the end we see Yu Shui’s family laboriously drag their shabby belongings by hand and push cart to a run down apartment where they have been resettled. The river rises and their small plot and shack disappears. Yu Shui returns to her lowly position as a dish washer on the cruise ship. The best she can hope for is to learn enough English so she can be assigned to the dinning room as a waitress and earn tips.


This film is about the monumental changes that have and are taking place in China and the social consequences to the people. The film is ambivalent as to whether it is a good thing to inundate the Three Gorges Area, an area of greater significance in cultural and environmental terms than our Grand Canyon.

The film is prefaced by this quote from Confucius: “By 3 methods we may learn wisdom: first, by reflection which is noblest; second, by imitation which is easiest; and third, by experience which is the bitterest.”

Thus we will have to wait and see whether the destruction of the natural beauty of the Three Gorges area and the dislocation of two million people is worth the electricity and flood control the dam will bring.

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Political Opinion: Attorney General Mukasey Proves Himself As Feckless And Lacking in Integrity As Gonzales. He Refuses to Carry Out Statutory Duties

May 6, 2008 by · Leave a Comment
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DOES THE RULE OF LAW HAVE A CHANCE IN WASHINGTON?

On February 28, 2008 House speaker Nancy Pelosi Sent Attorney General Mukasey a letter requesting that he order the U. S. Attorney for the District of Columbia to enforce the House Resolution citing Harriet Miers and Jeffrey Bolton for criminal Contempt of Congress.

Ms. Miers, a former Counselor to the President and Mr. Bolton, White House Chief of Staff, were cited by a House contempt resolution for failure to respond to subpoenas for Mier’s testimony and for Bolton to produce documents concerning the Judiciary Committee’s investigation into the dismissal of 7 U.S. Attorneys.

The dismissed U.S. Attorneys alleged they were dismissed because they refused to bring invalid actions against political candidates for corruption and for voter fraud. The 7 U.S. Attorneys had previously been appointed by the Bush Administration and now were being dismissed mid- term for refusing to bow to political pressure from the White House to indict candidates adverse to the administration or bring voter fraud cases to inhibit Democratic turnout in close elections.

Mukasey wrote back to Speaker Pelosi that he would not order the U.S. Attorney to enforce the House Resolution because the parties in question claimed executive privilege and therefore a crime had not been committed.

Neither Miers nor Bolton had appeared before the Committee and claimed the privilege on a question by question basis or provided a privilege log listing the document and stating the grounds for application of the privilege. This is a statutory procedure to claim testimony or documents as privileged.

Miers and Bolton’s failure to appear in person and their claim of executive privilege, by letter, as to all communications including ones between the White House and the Justice Department or the White House and third parties is clearly not covered by executive privilege. Communications between Ms. Miers and the President may be privileged depending on the nature and type of communication. No allegation was made in correspondence between the Committee and the White House that the subpoenaed documents or testimony was related to advice given the President and therefore it is unlikely the privilege would apply.

Also even in instances where the privilege might apply there is a balancing test weighing the need for privilege over the need for the information to formulate necessary legislation.

Mukasey has a statutory duty to enpanel a grand jury for the investigation and enforcement of a Congressional Contempt citation.

In refusing to honor the citation at the request of Speaker Pelosi he is in violation of the law and probably himself in Contempt of Congress.

Thus he is a feckless lackey of the Bush Administration like Gonzales.

The House Judiciary Committee thorough the House General Counsels office has filed a Civil Contempt Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief against Miers, individually and Bolton as custodian of White House records. The case is filed in the Federal District court for the District of Columbia and Assigned to Judge John D. Bates who was appointed to the Federal bench in 2001 by George W. Bush.

Prior to his appointment Bates served as a Deputy Counsel to the discredited Kenneth Starr in the Whitewater Investigation. Further he dismissed Valerie Plames civil suit for damages against Cheney, Libby, Rove and Armitage for the disclosure of her identity as a CIA agent. This despite the Supreme Court ruling that even a sitting president could be sued civilly in the Paula Jones case. She sued Clinton for sexual harassment.

The disgraced Kenneth Starr used the discovery in Jones’s case as support in his witch hunt against the Clintons. Starr proved himself to be a man without self respect or integrity in that matter. Mukasey and Bates appear to be other diehard Bush loyalists cut from the same cloth as Starr. .

Thus the partisan fecklessness continues in the Justice Department and apparently in the judiciary. The members of both bodies are sworn to impartially uphold the laws and Constitution of the United States.

It looks like it will be a long time before the subpoenas will be enforced or the rule of law will prevail in this matter.

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Political Opinion: ABSOLUTE PROSECUTORIAL IMMUNITY VERSUS QUALIFIED IMMUNITY.

May 6, 2008 by · Leave a Comment
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ABSOLUTE PROSECUTORIAL IMMUNITY VERSUS QUALIFIED IMMUNITY.
Which protects the public, innocent accused and the prosecutorial community?

Numerous cases have revealed that prosecutors have been guilty of concealing exculpatory evidence, presenting false evidence or other practices that deprive the accused in a criminal case of his due process rights under the 5th and 14th Amendments. When exposed this usually results in a reversal of the conviction and release of the wrongfully convicted from jail. Of course if the defendant has been executed then exoneration is meaningless.

However the Supreme Court in Imbler v. Pachtman has ruled that prosecutors have absolute immunity even when they knowingly present false evidence at trial or suppress exculpatory evidence. This leaves them to be disciplined on some occasions by their state bar.

Absolute prosecutorial immunity only attaches when it is intimately connected with the trial of a case. For instance it does not attach when a prosecutor is assisting the police in investigatory functions or in activities not directly involved in the trial of a particular case. It is not based on the job title, prosecutor, but on the function the prosecutor is performing namely intimately trying a particular case. Intimately is a word used by the courts to describe when absolute immunity attaches.

Recent civil cases against supervisory prosecutors for damages due to a failure to set standards or office procedures for the protection of the accused constitutional rights are not accorded absolute immunity but may have qualified immunity.

This occurred in Goldstein v. Van De Kamp, where the Los Angeles County District Attorney and his chief deputy were sued for failure to set up an index to alert prosecutors of all relevant information to each prosecution including promises made to jail house informants in return for favorable testimony.

Goldstein served twenty four years in jail on a conviction for murder based on the testimony of Edward Floyd Fink a notorious jail house snitch who had received numerous reduced sentences in the past and in Goldstein’s case had been promised favorable treatment on a pending case for testifying that Goldstein had confessed to him while they were incarcerated together in the Long Beach, California city jail.

Ultimately Goldstein won his freedom on a writ of Habeas Corpus when it came out that Fink had perjured himself by denying that a promise of favorable treatment had been made or that he had received such treatment in the past for similar jail house “confession” testimony.

Fink was well known by the Long Beach police and other prosecutors as a jail house snitch but allegedly not known by the deputy district attorney handling Goldstein’s case.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Goldstein’s suit for civil damages against the District Attorney and his chief deputy could proceed since their failure to set up a proper index disclosing a witness’s status and the promises made to him or her was administrative and not intimately connected to the Goldstein prosecution. Therefore Goldstein’s right to due process had been violated. This case has been appealed to the Supreme Court which has placed it on its calendar of cases to be heard.

However it will only hear the issue of qualified immunity as it relates to administrative duties and not absolute prosecutorial immunity.

It seems that there should not be absolute immunity for a prosecutor who either deliberately or with wanton disregard for the truth or falsity thereof offers false evidence or suppresses relevant evidence in a criminal trial.

The policy reason given for absolute immunity is that it would require prosecutors to spend too much time defending themselves civilly and thus take them away from their main prosecutorial functions. This argument sounds hollow. This is particularly true in the light of recent studies such as the Benjamin Cardozo Law School Innocence Project which found that based on DNA studies 154 innocent people have spent time in prison. In many cases the convictions of the innocent were the result of prosecutorial misconduct.

Prosecutors should only be accorded qualified immunity in all cases even those functions intimately connected with the trial of a particular case.

In doing so decent hard working prosecutors as well as the innocent will be protected from those who would build a career and reputation on the conviction of the innocent using false evidence or suppressing relevant evidence.

A notorious case of prosecutorial misconduct in recent years was that of Michael Byron Nifong. Nifong charged white, Duke Lacrosse players with the sexual assault of a black woman who was working as an escort, prostitute, and stripper. At the time he was running for district attorney in a county with a large black population

Nifong was later disbarred and dismissed as a prosecutor after it was determined that he never interviewed the accuser who changed her story at least six times, used photographs for identification that only depicted Duke Lacrosse players and failed to timely provide defendants with exculpatory DNA evidence.

The three Lacrosse players ultimately charged spent over three million dollars defending themselves against the false accusations which also had national and international publicity. Had the players not had the resources to defend themselves, as is the case in so many prosecutions, Nifong might have gotten away with his conduct perpetrated to help his election as district attorney.

He did win election as district attorney but has been since dismissed. He now has taken bankruptcy to avoid the consequences of a civil suit brought by the falsely accused. He may not have absolute prosecutorial immunity since many of his actions were administrative or investigative and not intimately related to prosecution of the Duke players.

However his case shows how a corrupt prosecutor can suppress evidence or manipulate evidence to enhance his reputation and electabilty over his honest opponents. Nifong is a good example of how a corrupt prosecutor can advance his career by the prosecution of the innocent and a defining reason why there should be no absolute prosecutorial immunity

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Movie Review: DECEPTION: A NEO NOIR THRILLER. FLAWED BUT WORTH A LOOK. HUGH JACKMAN, EWAN MCGREGOR, MICHELLE WILLIAMS. RATED B.

May 4, 2008 by · Leave a Comment
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Ed's Opinion
Deception is a neo noir thriller. Staring Ewan McGregor as a Jonathan an outside auditor who reviews the books of large law and financial firms on Wall St. Hugh Jackman plays Wyatt Bose who poses as a lawyer at a firm being audited. Michelle Williams, the love interest, plays a beautiful woman that Jonathan meets through a sex club. Jonathan unwittingly becomes a member of the club through Wyatt’s deception intended as a trap to coerce Jonathan to do his bidding.

The cinematography by Dante Spinotti is excellent. It is shot in a bleached color for the modern noir effect seen before in The Game and Fight Club. The acting is excellent. The direction is good by Marcel Langenegger . The picture is technically good. However it is understated at times perhaps deliberately but it doesn’t work.

First it runs into trouble with the plot. It is slow at points but worse these characters don’t act like people so we don’t completely suspend our disbelief. This is especially true with an ambiguous and contrived ending. However noir thriller fans will enjoy the effort and see what could have been. It should be judged against the genre and not against the absurd action or lowlife comedies that seem to glut the screen and vacuum up movie revenue. It is worth seeing for what it attempts.

Another problem is that Michelle Williams, we don’t learn her characters name until late in the film, is too beautiful and fragile to make a convincing femme fatale even in the dénouement at the end of the film or as a member of a sex club. Charlotte Rampling is cast as a member of the sex club and she is obviously much older than the other club members.

Usually the edits or cuts in thrillers are rapid and sharp to keep the viewer on edge to the point of disorientation and to make it difficult to piece the puzzle together until to the end or when the viewer is driving home or maybe even the next day. Well this film doesn’t have that rapid fire style and you know early on Michelle Williams is going to part of the deception. If they name the film Deception you know there will be a deception and not just the one Wyatt pulls on Jonathan at the beginning of the picture.

Perhaps the film would be more cohesive if Michelle Williams took the Jackman part, then she would certainly be a femme fatale like Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct, and you wouldn’t need the part she plays. It would make for a tighter more tense screen play or another (Maggie Q is in the film in a minor part) woman could play her part and Jackman could be a policeman. I digress too far. The picture has a lot of talent in front of and behind the camera and is worth a look. I rate it a B for effort.

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