Friday, March 20, 2009

This Intractable Flu

It's flu season again. What fun.
There is a long laundry list of things I want to write about this week - you only have to barely watch the news to know there is no shortage of subjects - but every time I sit down to think out the right words, I get interrupted by a coughing fit that just laughs at all cough suppressants on the market. I'm not even, strictly speaking, sick at the moment. Not by my standards, anyway. I picked up this nasty bug nearly a month ago and was laid out for about four days (which is pretty close to a world record for me). Since then, however, this militant virus has charged through everyone in my house, burning the houses, salting the fields, and taking no prisoners. Now it is looking back over conquered territory and thinking that a little extra mayhem may be in order.
The short - and less illustrative - version is that I'm fighting against getting sick again. It's a tough battle and I have not lost yet, but the odds are not in my favor. I think I'll be spending the weekend with a lot of hot tea, some chicken soup, and a few good movies. I'll get back to you on the recent flood of absurdity as soon as I feel better. I doubt it will be old news by then.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Betrayal Of Service

The Obama administration announced today that it was dropping plans for a proposal it should never have been pursuing in the first place. Actually, in an ironic note, no one in the administration even had the nerve to make the announcement so they had House Speaker Nancy Pelosi make it instead. I say this is ironic because the House was not pursuing this plan - in fact, the heads of the appropriate committees in both chambers, both Democrats amusingly enough, flat refused to even consider it - so why was this a House Speaker announcement? My guess is that no one in Obama's posse relished the idea of getting his or her nose rubbed in yet another monumental mistake.
What was this monumental mistake? Obama wanted to go after private insurance companies to pay for service-related treatment for our military personnel. Supposedly this plan would save the federal government more than $500 million and, after all, the insurance companies are getting a free ride. Obama said it, so it must be true. He even had the gall to tell veteran's groups that, if they didn't like his plan, they needed to come up with something else.
[This whole current philosophy of "you're not allowed to say no unless you have your own plan" is really starting to get on my nerves, but that's a post for another day.]
I have an idea, Mr. President. It's rather revolutionary, and I know how much you like anything revolutionary, so stop me if you've heard this one before. It's a really simple plan: Honor your commitments and don't spend billions of dollars you don't have, preventing you from honoring your commitments.
Insurance companies are not getting a free ride on service-related treatment because they have nothing to do with service-related treatment! They didn't put our soldiers in harms way, we did. We owe them! I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that this president, who believes so strongly in "spreading the wealth", should have such a low understanding of paying an honest debt, but this is a new low.
I have not been a rabid anti-Obama writer. I dislike him and I certainly didn't vote for him. I believe he is unqualified for his job and is going to make a huge mess that the rest of us will have to find a way to clean. However, I believe we have had very few qualified presidents in the last 200 years, so I didn't see Obama as anything too remarkable, even in that. Now, though, I am beginning to wonder if I have been too forgiving.
We are the first nation in the history of the world who have acted like we truly believe that we can spit on our own military and get away with it. If any other military at any other time in history were treated the way we have treated ours there would have been a military coup long ago. Either that or they would have simply walked away and left us to defend ourselves. How much arrogance does it take to torment and abuse the most powerful fighting force the world has ever seen? Have we really become this stupid?
Mr. Obama, your behavior this week has been truly disgusting. Not only are you too arrogant to realize the foolishness of your actions, you lack the honor to recognize the shame of them. These people deserve your respect and your gratitude, not another one of your spur-of-the-moment, half-thought-out pipe dreams.
To those who have served this country and stuck to your guns in opposition to this scheme, thank you. Thank you for your service and thank you for your continued dedication. I promise you, there are those who have not forgotten.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Breaking The Language Barrier

One of the biggest international news stories of the last few days was the incident of the U.S.N.S. Impeccable being harassed by Chinese ships in international waters. It is a known fact that Chinese officials do not comprehend the language of international boundaries but, from what I have discovered, neither apparently does most of the mainstream media. The sentence I just gave contained the extent of the location details given in most MSM articles on this story. In order to find out exactly where this confrontation happened, I had to go to a blog that is so far left the writer and many of the commenters actually consider the New York Times to be a Republican mouthpiece.
I'll give you a moment to settle the laughter from that last sentence.
Ready to continue now?
So, where did the confrontation take place? (Amusingly enough, I return to that blog for my notes and it seems that all reference to the exact location has been removed. Glad I have a good memory, but this does mean that I won't be giving exact numbers.) The Impeccable was operating about 75 miles off the southern coast of China. My knowledge of international law is sketchy at best but, last time I checked, international waters begin about seven miles off coast. Even if my memory on this is not precise, you do the math. There is absolutely no way to claim that the Impeccable was not in international waters and there is absolutely no way to claim that the actions of the Chinese vessels (approaching to within 25 feet and even stopping directly in the path of the moving Impeccable, forcing an emergency stop) were not a violation of Maritime law. Take a guess at how many mainstream media outlets are actually calling China out on this blatant violation. If you guessed any number higher than zero, you need to be paying more attention to current affairs.
China has been trying for years to claim territory that does not belong to them and this behavior is just another example of that attitude. By not denouncing these actions loudly and without reservation, the international community is letting them get away with it.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Wanted: Offensively Stupid

I am a huge movie fan. That is hardly a secret or a surprise to most people who know me. I am also very picky about my movies though, as a comics geek and an avid book reader, my pickiness is actually different than what might be expected. I do not rant and rave if a movie does not slavishly follow the source material. I do understand the difference between print material and a movie and realize that changes are mandatory. No, my pickiness stems from the expectations of a rationalist who loves the imagination. I expect the plot to work. I expect the internal reality to be consistent. I expect characters to display personality and I expect character actions to follow from those personalities. I don't think I'm asking too much, though it's hard to tell based on what passes for filmed entertainment most of the time.
I won't watch most of what is pawned off as comedy these days because I won't support the encouragement of stupidity. I avoid modern dramas like the plague because they are inevitably centered around some political or social issue that will cause me to twitch. I love a good sci-fi flick, but it is rather difficult to get Hollywood to be remotely respectful to that source material. You might think that a simple action movie would be safe. Good guy pummels bad guy, gets the girl, and saves the day. It's a simple formula and the internal rules are usually too easy for even a hack director to forget. You'd be surprised.
While there are many movies I won't watch, I do not generally find them to be offensive. They are what they are and don't claim to be anything else. I just finished watching the movie Wanted, however, and now I am offended.
Warning, if you have not seen this movie and are worried about spoilers, do not continue reading. There won't be many, but they'll be big.
The movie begins with an irritating, whining accountant. Not a big deal. It is fairly common that the One Who Is Meant For Great Things begins the story as something less than stellar. It turns out that this less than stellar individual is the son of one of the greatest assassins on the planet, a member of a secret "Fraternity" of assassins that stretches back a thousand years. They are the Warriors of Fate, making the world a better place through surgical pruning ...
... Except that they're not. The movie wasn't great before the big reveal, but it was something I could live with. Then we're told that these assassins take their orders from a "secret code" written - supposedly by fate itself - into the flaws of a massive weaving project that I suppose we are suppose to believe has been going on for a thousand years. The villain we are given is said to be a man who has broken with the code and only our hero can stop him.
So we have a secret society of assassins who take their orders from a rug and the villain is a villain because he stopped obeying the rug. Everyone with it so far?
Of course you know that the villains are actually inside the Fraternity and the "villain" our hero is being sent after is actually the good guy. Anyone who didn't see that one coming a mile away, please leave the room now. While predictable, I was actually hoping this would be a redeeming factor. It would turn out that the outcast had gone rogue because it dawned on him that killing people because a rug said so was just plain stupid and he was trying to bring things around to something that actually resembled a sensible plan.
(Every now and then I get my hopes up to high and it really hurts when I fall down.)
What actually happened was that the leader of the Fraternity (played enjoyably by Morgan Freeman) got a message from the rug that he himself was the next target and he decided that he didn't much care for this idea and started picking targets on his own rather than listening to the demands of a bunch of thread. The outcast was mad because Freeman had broken the code and our hero was suppose to return things to their state of slavishly following the dictates of an overgrown carpet.
Basically, we're supposed to be offended because Freeman's character didn't commit suicide when a rug told him to and we are apparently suppose to see it as noble or something when Angelina Jolie's character does commit suicide on the whims of the rug. I'm confused. Is blind obedience to a pile of cloth really something we should feel warm and fuzzy about?
The movie is based on the comic book mini-series of the same name by Mark Millar. I haven't read that particular series but I have read much of Millar's work and am usually a fan. He is something of a wizard at superhero deconstruction and is famous for writing comics with a more mature theme. His work on The Authority (DC) and virtually any title that begins with the word Ultimate (Marvel) is some of the best modern comics writing available. I certainly hope that the flaws in this movie didn't come from Millar's source material but I suppose I'll have to get my hands on a copy of the graphic novel to find out. I recommend you do the same. Go read Millar's works and avoid this movie if at all possible.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

An Omnibus Of Absurdity

Sorry I haven't been around much - the paying job has been rather consuming lately - but, in honor of the Omnibus Pork Bill currently squabbling its way through Congress, here is an omnibus post on the absurd headlines and talking points in the news lately.
The International Criminal Court has issued arrest warrants against a sitting head of state for the first time. They have accused Omar al-Bashir, the Sudanese president, of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur and officials from Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah have stepped up to defend and endorse al-Bashir. A gaggle of known criminals is endorsing another criminal and they're not even smart enough to realize what this means.
The U.S. Postal Service is losing revenue yet again and is now threatening to remove Saturday deliveries in order to save money. Face it folks. If any real business were run the way this agency is run it would have gone bankrupt and disappeared long ago. The USPS is the only "business" in the world that gets away with raising rates because no one wants there service.
A middle school in Southern California is spending $10000 a year to teach Advanced Placement Spanish classes to native Spanish speakers and they don't understand why everyone else is giving them funny looks. School officials claim to be just taking advantage of a natural resource but I'd say artificially inflating your "success" numbers by giving classes to students who are known to have no need of the class is more accurately described as cheating. It's kind of like putting the math nerds in the Checkbooks for Dummies classes and then claiming to have done something wonderful when they all achieve perfect scores.
Southwest has a new plane on the runway that has some passengers seeing red. It has other passengers seeing a beautiful woman in a bikini but it's all in the eye of the beholder, right? The new plane is a flying advertisement for Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition and features Israeli supermodel Bar Refaeli lounging in a bikini. Uptight passengers are complaining that it is "pornography". Ordinarily I scoff at European opinions of America, but this one makes sense. One of the reasons they often look down on us is because we have so many loud people who do not know how to use a dictionary. Look up "pornography", people. You will not find "woman lounging in a bikini" anywhere in the definition.
And, of course, the hoorah about comments from Rush Limbaugh continues to defy imagination. Everywhere you look you'll find Lefties crying "treason!" because a man who is known to oppose liberal policies has stated that he hopes those policies fail. When did criticising a sitting president become treasonous? It certainly wasn't treasonous for the last eight years when the Left was non-stop slamming and ridiculing Bush. Of course, we're talking about the same people who dismiss Limbaugh as a "drug addict" because he became hooked on pain medication after surgery but apparently have no problem with Obama's admitted recreational drug use. Amazing how that works, isn't it?
Speaking of that particular controversy, Federal Union Thug ... I mean Boss Colleen M. Kelley recently weighed in on the controversy by lambasting Limbaugh and claiming that "If he [Obamna] fails, our country fails." Really? In a country of more than 300 Million people our only possibility of solving this economic crisis resides with one man of middling political experience? And Kelley wonders why she didn't get invited to the White House for the last eight years.
I could keep going but I think I've skewered enough absurdities for one day. Maybe I'll do another omnibus tomorrow. There will certainly be the headlines for it. It seems certain now that one thing I can count on from the current political circus is plenty of absurdities. It would be entertaining if it wasn't so frightening.