English: President Barack Obama's signature on...

English: President Barack Obama’s signature on the health insurance reform bill at the White House, March 23, 2010. The President signed the bill with 22 different pens. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)




Some people just can’t admit defeat.  They kick and scream and cry and refuse to admit they lost.  The other side cheated!  The other side lied!  When the empty echo of their own voices forces them to the realization that no one’s listening to their whining, they either bury their head in the sand or they turn to throwing temper tantrums as often as they can.  Anyone looking for a perfect example of such juvenile (dare I say asinine) behaviour need look no  further than our neighbours to the south, where vengeful Republicans have shut down the American government.


The Republican controlled Congressional House shuttered the White House and most American Federal agencies at midnight last Monday in an effort to kill President Obama’s signature domestic legislation, the health care reform bill commonly called Obamacare.  After failing to repeal Obamacare 41 times over the past four years, House Republicans tried to extort the Obama administration, telling the White House that they would not pass a budget, essentially de-funding the American federal government, unless the President delayed the implementation of his own health care law, scheduled to begin going into effect October 1st, by a year (the full extent of the law takes effect January 1st of 2014).  For the last 48 hours of September, Congress and the Democratically controlled Senate played ping-pong with various bills, each one outdoing the previous in absurdity.  And when the clock struck midnight Monday, a Republican forced shut down ground the American Federal government to a halt.


This isn’t about the law (and that’s what Obamacare is, a full-fledged law), or the ethics or philosophy behind it.  Entire libraries have been written about the pros and cons of health care reform in the U.S. and no one from either side of the debate is ever going to change the mind of anyone on the other.  This is about the American Republican party failing to cope with the reality that they lost this fight.  Several times.  Health care reform was central to Barrack Obama’s campaign when he was first elected president in 2008 (more than doubling John McCain in the electoral college and collecting nearly ten million more votes) and Obamacare was a huge issue when he was re-elected in 2012 (beating Mitt Romney by 126 Electoral College seats and over three million votes).  The American people were given two opportunities to vote on Obamacare, essentially approving it by referendum, but Obamacare has weathered even greater storms on its way to becoming law.  It was passed by Congress (yes, the same body that’s moving political heaven and earth to repeal it now) in November of 2009, following fierce debate and Congressional vote where a handful of House Republicans voted to pass the bill, making it law (the backlash over Obamacare’s passage was disturbing in its violence, with the offices and even homes of some Representatives who supported it being vandalized; failed 2008 vice presidential candidate Sara Palin even posted a bullseye over the constituency offices of members who voted in for the law, one of whom was Representative Kathy Giffords, who would be shot in the head months later).  Obamacare even survived a constitutional challenge heard by the conservative dominated Supreme Court of the United States.  It has cleared every obstacle it has faced. This government shutdown is nothing more than a temper tantrum thrown by Republicans who have failed to defeat it with the legitimate devices the American democracy affords them.  They have been unable to man up and deal with their repeated losses.


It’s estimated a government shut down will cost the American taxpayer an estimated 200 million dollars a day, agencies such as the Federal Food and Drug Administration and the Centre for Disease Control are immediately affected and the effects will only grow.  And if you think this won’t affect those of us north of the border, consider the following; depending on the time of year, up to seventy percent of Canada’s goods and services flow south.  If demand decreases, it will create a drag on our economy headed into the most consumption heavy time of year.  And if the shut down lasts long enough to affect border security . . .   The GOP claims that current polls demonstrate that Obamacare is unpopular with the American people and that’s why they’ve turned the government’s lights off for now.  And in truth, there is some merit to this argument.  But polls also show that a government shut down, for whatever reason, is even more unpopular with American citizens as well.  Funny how they ignore that one.


Shayne Kempton


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Director:  Roland Emmerich

Starring:  Channing Tatum, Jamie Foxx, Maggie Gyllenhaal, James Woods, Richard Jenkins

Studio:  Sony Pictures

Length:  2 Hrs 11 Min

Rated:  PG

     John Cale’s having a rough day.  He’s catching a tonne of heat from his ex-wife for, well, being his ex-wife, his relationship with his eleven year old daughter is strained because he’s messing up as a dad at every turn despite his best intentions, and his interview for the secret service job he needed to elevate his status in his daughter’s eyes goes wrong from the word go.  Then, just to cap it all off, while he and his daughter are on a tour of the White House, a group of terrorists seize control of 1600 Pennsylvania avenue.  That’s a lot to deal with before lunch and if the plot sounds remarkably similar to the storyline in March’s Olympus Has Fallen, that’s because it pretty much is.  And while White House Down delivers adequate punch for an action movie, it’s the lesser of the two films, which is unfortunate for Roland Emmerich’s most recent summer popcorn movie because of the inevitable comparisons the two movies’ identical plots will provoke.

     There are some differences, to be sure.  In Olympus, Gerard Butler plays a secret service agent parked behind a desk after he fails to prevent the tragic death of the first lady and soon finds himself swept up in a spectacular assault on the White House by North Korean terrorists bent on taking the president hostage to seize America’s nuclear arsenal.  In White House Down, Tatum’s Cale is a capital police officer whose daughter is taken hostage by a motley crew of domestic terrorists ranging from white supremacist Tea Party types to disgruntled former soldiers, apparently looking to ransom the president off for the entire U.S. Treasury.  After that though, both movies are roller coaster rides of explosions, gun fights and fisticuffs that can best be described as Die Hard on Capitol Hill.

     Channing Tatum has always struck me as having the potential to be the next big action star, but somehow that breakout role has always eluded him (G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra failed to carve him a foot hold and he had little more than an extended solo in this spring’s sequel).  In White House Down though he gets a chance to sink his teeth into his action hero role, efficiently delivering some humour along the way as well.  Jamie Foxx does a more than decent job as President Sawyer, though after his turn as the hero in Quentin Tarantino’s fantastic revenge fantasy Django Unchained, it’s unusual seeing Foxx playing the guy who needs rescuing (though Foxx’s commander-in-chief does get in a handful of shots against the bad guys along the way).  And even though White House Down starts a little slow, Emmerich quickly ramps up the pace and once at full throttle, he doesn’t ease his foot off the gas too much until the final credits.  He even makes a thinly veiled nod to the magnum opus of his career, a certain science fiction disaster movie starring Will Smith that also featured some prominent destruction at the White House a few years back.

     White House Down isn’t a bad action movie.  It isn’t great but it was better than I expected going in.  While it isn’t going to go down in movie buddy history, the onscreen relationship between Foxx and Tatum had its share of decent chemistry as the two trade barbs and one liners while dodging bullets.  And if you’re looking for comic relief, there’s a particular tour guide that pops up every once in a while that provides a few chuckles here and there.  But White House Down simply isn’t as good as Olympus Has Fallen, and it’s that comparison that is going to hang over this movie’s head like the cinematic sword of Damocles.  Nothing against Tatum, but for the time being Butler seems more bread to his action roles, Olympus‘ villain was a little more ruthless and imposing and the action delivered a little more punch.  That’s not to say  that White House doesn’t have plenty of action-Emmerich’s signature over the top approach is on full display-but Olympus just seemed a little more orchestrated, a little more precise.  Plus, White House runs a little too long for my tastes and there was probably plenty of opportunity for Emmerich to get all his best explosions in under two hours.

     Rumour has it that originally, White House Down was supposed to be released first but Olympus Has Fallen‘s release date was bumped up to this past March, a strategic move that will probably cause a lot of movie goers to write White House off as cheap copy cat fare.  Unfortunately, White House Down‘s  promotional campaign hasn’t been able to establish its own identity (although, there’s precious little difference between the two movies outside of their actors).  It’s a costly error that could hurt; even as I was leaving the theatre I overheard more than one comparison between the two, all favouring Olympus as the better movie.  The lesson moviemakers may learn here is how truly valuable word of mouth is for the success of a summer blockbuster.

Shayne Kempton