Gangster Squad

The film, Gangster Squad, came out in theaters in the beginning of the year and just came out on DVD this week. I was very excited when this movie came out and disappointed when I wasn’t able to make it in theaters. It seemed like a tribute to the old school gangster films with a modern flare, which would really make for a great movie. However, this film simply came up short. The lack of depth in the main characters and the inability of the plot to surprise the audience kept this movie from being really spectacular. That said, it wasn’t all bad and if you are just looking for a fun new movie, this one will do.


The Good:

If this film did something right, it entertained its audience. Although the plot was predictable, it was still fun. You can basically tell the story yourself based on watching the previews that told you it was about a couple of cops that had to throw their badges away to take out a mob boss. Another good thing about the movie was the action aspect. The shooting scenes, where there are bullets flying everywhere, were pretty cool and the special effects were decent.


The Bad:

As I said before, the characters were very shallow. There was supposed to be a love connection between Emma Stone’s character and Ryan Gosling’s. Although the two would make a very attractive offspring, I just didn’t feel the love connection. Also, I think the director wanted to present an internal struggle within the cops and them struggling with the fact that they must use illegal means to catch someone who breaks the law. But there just wasn’t enough character development for me to care.


Gangster Squad had the potential to be a great movie, but there just wasn’t enough done with it to bring it to the blockbuster level. Still, if you were like me and wanted to see it before, I would still see it. It’s still an okay movie, just not great.


Grade: C


Verdict: Watch if you are bored and want to see a different type of action movie, but don’t cancel any plans to watch it.

Persuasive Essay Draft

** Please note that this draft does not contain citations for the sources I used. I will add them in before the final draft is due. Thanks

Mark S. Ryan

CAS 138T

John Minbiole

27 March 2013

True Fairness *DRAFT

            One of the primary purposes of government, above simply protecting it’s citizens, is to fairly reallocate resources among it’s citizens to promote the general welfare of the state. The idea of a welfare state in politics is a relatively new one spawning from Europe in the late 19th century. Before welfare policies, the role of government was to simply ensure the safety of its citizens, but today, the role of government has expanded far beyond that. Today’s governments are charged with many duties, from providing public goods such as roads, to ensuring financially stable retirements through social security programs. At the national level of the United States government, we generally perceive the reallocation of resources in the form of money and taxes. Taxes are taken from American citizens and used to pay for such welfare programs, which usually makes the country as a whole better off. One could not justify the government taking resources, namely wealth, from an individual if it did not promote the general welfare of the entire country.

The key issue our political realm deals with on a day-to-day basis is the concept of “fairness”. Politicians argue over if it is fair to take a certain resources from one party and give it to another. However, many, if not all, politicians would agree that it is not fair to reallocate a resource based on arbitrary factors. The government would not give tax breaks to people who have black hair over blonde, nor would the government tax people who wear dark clothing and not white. These principles hold steadfast when we talk about the resource of money. But we seem to abandon these values when it comes to the resource of education.

Like money, secondary education is a resource in this country that can be defined as scarce. A college education costs money, and some people are denied the opportunity to receive a college education simply because there are more people seeking educations than there are positions at educational institutions. Because of this, colleges and universities across the country have created a process which all high school graduate and college hopeful teenager fears: admissions. Throughout American history, the college admissions process has been largely left to the specific college’s will. A college can admit whomever they wish based on whatever criteria they want. It is common today that a large factor in the admissions process is a students merits and achievements. The government does play a role in college admissions when it comes to the race of applicants. The federal government does not allow schools to racially discriminate in its admissions process, based on the 14th amendment and anti-discrimination acts. However, as upheld in several Supreme Court cases, the federal government does allow schools to allocate their open positions to students while using race as a factor. This is a glaring contradiction in policy dealing with college admissions, and brings up the question of “fairness” once again. But if it is already established that it is not fair to give tax breaks based on hair color, then how is it fair to allocate education based on skin color? Affirmative action is processes that is unconstitutional and perpetuates racial stereotypes rather than eliminate them.

To discuss the constitutionality of affirmative action, we must look at the Supreme Court case that gave universities and colleges the federal stamp of approval to use race as a factor in admissions. Grutter v. Bollinger is the most recent completed Supreme Court case that deals with affirmative action in admissions and was certain to have an influential impact no matter the outcome. The case came about when the law school admissions process at University of Michigan was challenged. The system at the time was like many admissions systems then and now. It gave the most weight to conventional merit-based factors in admissions such as GPA, LSAT scores, leadership achievements, etc. However, it did give some weight to other factors, including race. The admissions use of race as a factor was challenged and upheld by a vote of 5-4 in the Supreme Court.

The case was not at all clear-cut. It is obvious that schools cannot use race as a factor of admissions arbitrarily, for that would be a clear violation of the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment. The justification for using race as a factor in admissions, as written by the majority opinion of the Court in this court case, says that a high level of diversity “has the potential to enrich everyone’s education and thus make a law school class stronger than the sum of its parts”. This may seem like a valid and logical argument, but it contains one fatal flaw in its logic. The Court says that diversity in an education environment may make the education stronger, which may be true, but it relies on the fundamental assumption that diversity is directly linked to race. This reasoning assumes that if everyone in a classroom has a different skin color, then the room is more diverse. This may be true in some cases, but it certainly could false in some instances as well. In fact, for the court to reason that skin color equates to ethnic and cultural diversity only perpetuates the racist ideal that people of different skin color should be treated differently. There are two scenarios that exist in our country that counter this logic: First is the case when there are two people of different skin color that have had the same cultural upbringing and therefore do not promote educational diversity when put in the same setting. The other instance is when we have two people of the same skin color that have been raised in different ethnic and cultural environments that would in fact promote diversity when put together in an educational environment.  Both of these situations show that the promotion of racial diversity is found on flawed, and racist logic.

Another aspect of the majority opinion of the Court in Grutter v. Bollinger is the concept of a “critical mass”. The law school stated in their defense of affirmative action:

“racial and ethnic diversity with special reference to the inclusion of students from groups which have been historically discriminated against, like African-Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans, who without this commitment might not be represented in our student body in meaningful numbers.”

The school continued to argue that it is necessary to have a “critical mass” of each racial group enrolled in the school. This is defined as a group of racially similar students that is big enough to ensure that a member of that racial group feels comfortable in expression their opinion without feeling like a miniscule minority, or feel as though their opinion is supposed to represent their race. The Court said that a “critical mass” is constitution because it “ensure[s] their [individual student’s] ability to make unique contributions to the character of the Law School”.

Again, this reasoning by the court lacks in sound logic and is based on fundamental racist assumptions. First, the Court and the school assume that if a race is underrepresented in the educational setting, then individuals within that race with withhold their opinions. This assumption is flawed in that it is based on the reasoning that individuals will segregate into their own racial groups, and thus will only be comfortable expressing their opinion to those of their own race. To generalize the acts of an individual and to argue that an individual needs to have racial affirmation to express his/her own opinion is itself a racist argument. It also brings up another inherent flaw in that the Court implies that members of the same racial group have similar opinions about all issues. This sweeping generalization is the backbone of the “critical mass” argument and is obviously flawed logically and racially.

We need, as a society, to stop focusing on racial groupings and stereotypes, and focus on the individual. When a prospective student applies to a college, he/she is not applying as a group, rather as an individual. Why should we treat students as members of their racial group if they are applying to the college as an individual? This issue goes beyond the manmade rules of the constitution and at its core is a matter of morality and racism. If we look at the defense of affirmative action from a moral scope, we find several faults as well. By assuming that people of different races in an educational have different opinions and will create a “whole” that is more diverse, we only promote the idea that people of different races are inherently different. The current affirmative action policy, while intended to include “students from groups which have been historically discriminated against,” only promotes the same racist thinking found in the same American history the school is trying to “fix”. How can we create a society in which all races are equal if the government and schools make distinctions between races and treat some races differently? In order for our society to reach true racial equality, we must be a society that is blind to skin color.

Proponents of affirmative action in college admissions say that schools need a “critical mass” of each race in order for that race’s opinion to be represented. But doesn’t this just promote segregation? If an individual cannot express an opinion without peers of his/her own race, then wouldn’t all of the educational setting be comprised of strict racial groups? Our ultimate goal of racial equality in the educational setting should not be to have “racial opinions” represented, but to have the opinions of individuals represented regardless of race. A true diverse educational setting would be one that has a singular body comprised of individuals with diverse opinions. The current standard promotes an educational setting comprised of segregated groups with similar opinions. Our goal should be a society that does not make these unethical racial distinctions and treats everyone as an individual, not a skin color. The practice of creating a “critical mass” is based on immoral racist ideals that only perpetuate the problem it is intended to fix.

Perhaps the most prominent argument against the ethics of affirmative action is the argument pertaining to the daunting term, “fairness”. The current policies allow schools to put preferences for their allocation their educational resources to some racial groups over others. More bluntly, schools can lower admissions standards for racial minorities and raise the standards for whites. It is argued that minority races have been disadvantaged in the past and thus deserve a “boost” over whites to get into college. This reasoning is outdated and overtly racist. The question should be raised as to whether or not a lower standard in admissions for minorities is a “boost”. Help to overcome a disadvantage should not come in the form of a lower standard. This policy only harms. If the goal is to put every race on the same level of advantage in the educational setting, then policies should be enacted to help the disadvantaged become advantaged. Instead, the current policy discriminates and lowers standards to minority races at the expense of whites, for the standards of whites must be raised to counter the policy. This fundamentally is creating a disadvantage for one race while giving advances to others, the inherent principle behind all of racism. Affirmative action immorally gives preference for opportunity to students based on the color of their skin, contradicting what our country has established as fair and ethical.

Many people were not satisfied with the ruling in Grutter v. Bollinger just a decade ago and have since challenged its ruling. A new case has been brought to the Supreme Court, Fisher v. University of Texas, which challenges the same unconstitutional and immoral practices allowed by the Court in Grutter v. Bollinger. If the Court were to overturn its decision from a decade ago, our society would make another stride toward creating a racially equal society. Barriers between races could be torn down, people would not be defined in any way by the color of their skin, and true diversity in the educational setting can be achieved.

The practice of affirmative action judges individuals based on the color of their skin and the stereotypes that are associated with racial groups. The overturning of such policies would judge people based on their individual actions, values, morals, achievements, and cultural perspective without assumptions about the person based on the color of their skin. Martin Luther King Jr. said “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” This country is ready to take skin color out of the college admissions process and transform racial stereotypes to individual beliefs, discrimination into equality, and dreams into reality.



To be a good moderator, I think it is most important that the moderator lets each viewpoint on an issue be given equal weight in terms of focus in the conversation. I think it is more important that the moderator focus on evening out time spent talking on each viewpoint than time spent talking by each person. Sometimes unpopular viewpoints get underrepresented by the conversation and its important for the moderator to not let a popular viewpoint take over the conversation. That said, the point of the deliberation will ultimately be to reach some sort of understanding or consensus. Eventually it will be the moderator’s job to steer the conversation away from simply expressing ideas, to finding compromises and solutions. My hope is that this will all happen naturally in a deliberation, but if that were the case then there would be no need for moderators. I think its most important for the moderator to keep the conversation balanced well, and moving in the right direction. In some cases, that may mean a lot of intervention, while other deliberations may require less interference. I’ll just have to wait and see for next week. Maybe after next week, my philosophy will be different.

WIP 11

To be honest, I am just as confused about what we can and can’t use for this video assignment as I was before we started talking about the copyright stuff. It seems to me that  as long as this video is not used to promote a certain cause that would raise money or promote certain people, then we can use anything. If this is simply a video made in an educational setting and that is not intended to be used for any other purpose, then how could we get in trouble for using anything that isn’t ours? I feel like as long as we cite everything we use that isn’t ours, then we should have no problem. I think we can use songs and videos that are not ours to achieve our educational goal for this class, as long as that is our only purpose (which it is). So I don’t really see how we have to balance fair use laws with author rights because for this project, we are covered under the laws. At least it seems it to me. I could be very wrong in which case I may end up going to jail. Think they’ll let me at least take online classes?

RCL 11

As we talked in class, many people were discussing how the power of words to evoke one’s imagination is far superior to the power of an image. I simply disagree, and I think John hits on some key points in his blog post about this. Sure, if we are talking about the description of a certain character in a novel vs. the image of this character in a movie, it is clear that the movie leaves less room for interpretation at the surface. What I find the key to this argument to be is the distinction between interpretation and imagination. While books require the reader to form their own images of what a character or setting looks like, movies don’t allow the reader to form their own interpretation about that specific character or setting. This does not mean, however, it restricts the imagination of the reader/viewer. It simply changes the frame of imagination in the audience. By this I mean that while books require their readers to use imagination to form images, movies require viewers to use their imagination to form context of an image. Take the picture of the orc vs. a written description of the orc. The text obviously allows you to form a visual picture in your mind of what the orc looks like and acts like, which requires imagination. The picture of the orc makes people associate that image with other images in their life (as John described the image of the Devil) which in turns sparks the imagination of the viewer to make assumptions about the image. These assumptions can be about the character itself, yes, but images allow for a deeper imaginative quality. Images allow the viewer to use their own personal experience to form a backstory about the image, about its past and what happened before the image, and about its future and what happens after the image. Essentially the point I’m trying to make is that textual description is a bottom-up imaginative process. Many words are used to help a reader form images about the subject. While images are a top-down imaginative process in which a viewer takes an image and uses imagination to form the context and story behind the image. Both text and images require imagination to interpret, but one is not more powerful than the other.

WIP 10

I talked a good amount about my TED talk video in last week’s work in progress blog, but I’ll touch on it in a bit more detail. It was very strange watching my video after my presentation. Between the quality of the camera, the lighting in the room, and my nerd glasses, the whole thing reminded me of like an 80s public service statement that one would watch in elementary school when the teacher was out.

Regardless, I was pretty happy with my TED talk and my overall presentation. I was able to practice it a good amount before hand and was pretty comfortable up there talking. That said, the whole atmosphere of the talk and that room definitely added to my anxiety. When I had practiced, I figured that I would be able to walk around like George said, but that was not the case. It threw me off a bit and the whole time I was swaying back and forth wishing I could walk around. That would really be my main critique of myself. Right at the end of my talk, I thought I maybe had spoken too fast but after watching the video it seems I talked just fine. Overall I was happy with this assignment and hope to get a decent grade on it.

Passion WK9: Hero or Hack? You decide


There is no real non-partisan way to go about deeming this news story a hero or hack, so I’ll let you decide. This is a story that has to do with an article we read in class about unmanned drones used in the military.

Just days before the election here in the United States, and unmanned air drone was shot at by Iranian military jets. The Pentagon is not releasing much about it, but here are several “known facts”:

  • The drone was flying in International airspace when shot at by Iran. It was NOT flying in Iranian air space
  • The drone allegedly was only surveying the area, and was not used for force.
  • The drone was shot at, but was never hit and returned to the nearest military base
  • United States officials have confirmed the incident, but Iran has yet to come out with a statement.

So the United States was flying a drone in neutral air space for “surveillance” (which I hope everyone questions) and was shot at and missed by two Iranian jets. Not it is not known if they missed on purpose or if they just have bad aim, but needless to say, the Pentagon is pissed. I am curious to see people’s opinion on this. I think its possible that the Iranians missed on purpose and shot at it to make a point that they don’t like the unmanned drones and see them as a great threat. I also think its possible that using the drones the survey neutral territory is a BS story and the Iran was a target only defending itself from being surveyed.

Is it right for us to have these drones? Will they cause more violence and lives than they would save? Obviously less Americans lives are being lost, but is it moral to put that at the expense of other countries? So many different prospectives to take on this one that I cannot say one country is in the right while the other is in the wrong. I did feel like this is a story you should all know about and see how it follows through in the weeks to come.


Source: & Associated Press

WIP 9: TED Talk

I was the first in the class to present the TED talk, and I was definitely nervous. I had practiced my talk several times over the weekend, but was out of town for family matters so I couldn’t go to the room and scope it out before like I had hoped. If I had, I would have realized that we were confined to a small box to stand in rather than being able to walk around freely. I had practiced walking around and doing the triangle method, only to find out I had to stand in a box. That being said, I think it went pretty well. Once I started, the nerves went away and I just rolled with it. I didn’t have to stop and start over or find my place. There was once where I lost my point, but I just kept talking and BSing until I got back to my original point (hope you all didn’t notice).
Going back and watching my video was mad awkward, though very helpful. I noticed that I started by talking really fast because i was nervous, but ended up slowing down as I went. I also noticed that while in that box, I kept swaying back and forth the whole time. I guess I wasn’t used to being confined to standing as I would’ve rather been able to walk around. Overall though, I think I did alright and hope I get a decent grade

RCL 9: Concession speech

Whether you support the losing candidate or not, its always sad to hear a concession speech. Even if you don’t agree with anything a losing presidential candidate stands for, the candidate is still a person that has devoted years of time and energy fighting for what he believes in. Romney truly believed that he could move America in the right direction and has spent the last year or so under all the stress and pressure that comes with the political spotlight. It is not easy being followed all times of every day, having every word recorded and knowing that the smallest misspoken phrase could potentially end or harm his career. It was a year of constant moving from place to place, endless speeches and no time for leisure. A year of hell like this would all be worth it to him in the end if he had won. But he didn’t. He lost and it seems like there may have been no point to all his hard work and dedication to his cause, whether you support it or not.

His concession speech was spoken by a man who was trying not to feel hopeless. The opening of his speech was, from what I could tell, not scripted at all. He started off by congratulating Obama and his family. Then he thanked his own family, and Paul Ryan, and all those who helped on his campaign. The second half of his speech was short, and scripted (I think). He spoke about the direction of the country, and how the American people didn’t choose his direction so now he, along with his supporters, have to support the president in his direction and pray it doesn’t go bad. Overall, it was a pretty blah speech with everything you’d expect and nothing spectacular. It just must be terrible to put so much effort and money into one thing and come up empty handed.


Mark S. Ryan

Professor John Minbiole

CAS 137H

29 October 2012

The Power of Your Vote

            The most basic definition of a democratic system of government is a government that is “by the people” (Oxford English Dictionary). It is a government that does not make the needs of one person a higher priority than another, and is a government that gives every subject an equal voice in the policy making process. In order for any government to be democratic, one must discuss the most fundamental aspect of any democracy: the vote. The vote is the most powerful tool of the common man in a democratic government and is the driving force behind every government action, policy and regulation. Voting is not just a right or a privilege; it is the basis of the American identity. Without the vote, the pillars of democracy vanish and the palace of democracy comes crashing down. But has the high and mighty United States Constitution always promoted true democracy? Does it today? Over the last century, the United States Constitution has changed to allow more power to voters and to put more emphasis on democracy. This mirrors the ever-increasing desire for personal influence on government in American culture and exemplifies the American desire for individual expression.

This country was founded on the principals of democracy and freedom, but its original constitution did not entirely reflect those ideals. The first elections in the country were exclusive to only white, male, protestant citizens. Most polling places required these males to also own some type of land to prove that they were responsible enough to vote. It is easy for a person of modern cultural beliefs to realize that this principle of restricting voting rights as morally wrong and undemocratic. However, it was not until relatively recently that the American society believed in equal voting power. Prime examples of this contemporary shift include both the women’s and civil rights movements.

It is well-known that female and non-white citizens of the United States were not always given the opportunity to vote in elections. The struggle for these groups to gain suffrage was not easy, but ultimately a success in expanding the power of the vote for United States citizens. The first landmark in these voting rights struggles comes with the ratification of the 15th amendment of the Constitution in 1870 that stated “The right of citizens to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude” (“Transcript of United States Constitution…”). This amendment seems straightforward enough, but individual States found ways to limit non-whites from voting in forms of poll taxes and literacy exams that would endure for another century (“15th Amendment to the Consitution”).  It wouldn’t be until the mid-20th century that these roadblocks would be cleared and people of all races could finally vote. The women’s suffrage movement was difficult as well and finally resolved in 1920 with the ratification of the 19th amendment that stated, “The right of citizens in the United States shall not be denied…on account of sex” (“Transcript of United States Constitution…”). The passage of these laws and regulations is significant in the expansion of democracy and voting power in the United States. In the course of several decades, the electorate of this country expanded from exclusively white males to any person above the age requirement to vote. This was a colossal aspect of the increased power to vote in the United States, but not the only case.

What is less well-known is the progressive era election reforms that took place in the early part of the 20th century (in the midst of the aforementioned expansion of voting rights) mainly in respect to senatorial and party primary elections. The original constitution of the United States had the upper assembly of congress composed of two senators from each State to be appointed by the State legislatures. This was an attempt to have State legislatures “cement their tie to the national government” so that the States would support the national government more (“Direct Election of Senators”). The framers of the constitution wanted to have a body of congress that was actually more removed from the people of the country that served long terms in order for congress to be productive. This productivity came at the expense of democracy by removing the people from the policymaking process.  The seventeenth amendment to the Constitution reversed this and since 1913, the public can vote for their senators (“Direct Election of Senators”).

Primary elections in the United States before the mid-1920s never existed much like senatorial elections didn’t exist before 1913. The candidates in each party to run for office were not directly elected by the people of the party, rather they were simply nominated by party leaders at conventions. The people of the party did not have a say on who their party puts up for the election like they do today. A movement started that put pressure on political parties to allow the people to have more say in their nominating process and by 1926, many nominations for political office were decided by primary elections (“The Future of the Direct Primary”). This new process of direct voting was “established for the purpose of giving the people the right to say who shall be nominees for public office. The convention system, on the other hand, takes out of the hands of the people the selection of candidates and gives it to a few persons.” (“The Future of the Direct Primary”). The direct primary is more evidence of the shift toward more democracy and increased power of the American voter.

Before any of these radical changes in election and voting rights, the public of the United States was expected to conform to the values of others. Before women were allowed to vote, they were simply expected to accept the government that men had created for them. Before non-white citizens were allowed to vote, they were expected to conform to what the white voters believed in. Before the public could vote for their own senators or nominees, it was simply expected to accept the candidates and senators that more influential people selected. All of the changes in voting rights and all of the election reforms over the last century have one main principle in common: they allow more people to voice their opinion and vote on more issues. It is this underlying value of self-expression in the United States that is in a state of change.

Today we see a whole different political world that is full of self-expression and individual beliefs, past the days of conformity and acceptance. This change is evident by the trend in party identification over the last century. It used to be that most people identified with a certain political party and always voted for the candidate or issue that the party platform supported. The number of true independents who did not conform to either set of political ideologies used to be relatively small. In 1945, the proportion of people in the United States that identified themselves as independents was only 15%. This number has steadily increased to 31% in 1988 and is up to 38% today (“Trend in Party Identification”).

The public’s need to stop conformity and its need for self-expression strongly correlate. As we have seen a decrease in political party conformity in the U.S., we have also seen a strong increase in self-expressionism movements. From the emergence of political movements such as the gay rights and disability rights movements, to new cultural developments in green energy or global awareness, the country is being flooded with changes that reflect the desire for self-expression. All of these new progressive movements are by-products of the increased importance our culture places on individualism that was catalyzed by and reflected in the increase in voter power of the early 20th century.

These changes in the voting system of the United States with respect to universal suffrage and voting power are reflective of American society’s constantly growing need for individual political expression. Individualism is a concept that blankets the United States, and the political realm is not immune. The days of accepting what the government decides for citizens are over. The days of conforming to a preset list of ideals are done. The days of accepting someone else’s political beliefs as your own are through. Its been apparent since the birth of our country that the need for true American democracy would never dissipate, and although it has never been fully achieved, the desire for true democracy has exploded over the last century and shows no signs of slowing down today.


Works Cited


“15th Amendment to the Constitution.” 15th Amendment to the Constitution: Primary Documents of American History (Virtual Programs & Services, Library of Congress). Library of Congress, n.d. Web. 25 Oct. 2012.

“Democracy.” Oxford English Dictionary. N.p., 2012. Web. 25 Oct. 2012.

“Direct Election of Senators.” U.S. Senate. Senate Historical Office, n.d. Web. 25 Oct. 2012.

“The future of the direct primary”. (1926). Editorial research reports 1926 (Vol. III). Washington, DC: CQ Press.

“Transcript of the Constitution of the United States – Official Text.” Transcript of the Constitution of the United States. The Charters of Freedom, n.d. Web. 25 Oct. 2012.

“Trend in Party Identification.” Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Oct. 2012.