Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and others

Don't know if I quite agree with the blogger on Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Seems to me that agent Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen) had a good, supervillain-type reason for acting as she did. She appears to have been acting unforgiving of agent Grant Ward's (Brett Dalton) behavior because she was operating as a covert agent, collecting intel for some nefarious reason, within SHIELD. That would make her feel guilty enough to explain why she smacked Grant, who was acting “under the influence” of the villain Lorelei's spell (That the show makes clear affects all men). Yeah, it's a reason that removes the show from humans acting as humans to humans acting as superheroes, so that may count as a point against the general believability of the show.

Speaking of that particular show, I was interested in seeing Sif's (Jaimie Alexander) familiarity with technology. This recalls Odin's (Anthony Hopkins) statement in Thor: The Dark World:

Loki: [mock salute to Odin] I really don't see what all the fuss is about...
Odin: Do you not truly feel the gravity of your crimes? Wherever you go there is war, ruin and death!
Loki: I went down to Midgard to rule the people of Earth as a benevolent God, just like you.
Odin: We are not gods! We're born, we live, we die, just as humans do.
Loki: Give or take five thousand years.

These two scenes suggest that the conflict between “the gods” of Asgard and “God” is not so irreconcilable after all. That Asgardians visited Earth sometime during our Viking era (793 to 1066), liked the fashions and the culture and decided to adopt those fashions as their own. They have plenty of devices and technology in Asgard, they just keep those mostly hidden and keep the Viking-looking stuff on top. They don't have to fight with swords and hammers, they just prefer to.

Speaking of religious questions in popular culture, I was pretty pleased with an episode of the Vampire Diaries. Elena Gilbert's (Played by Nina Dobrev, who also plays Elena's doppelganger, Katherine Pierce) body is taken over by Katherine and the other characters eventually figure out why “Elena” has been acting so strangely lately. The 500-year old Katherine is killed for good and she has a final conversation with the show's witch, Bonnie Bennet (Kat Graham). Now, during Medieval times, the general understanding was that you didn't have to live a good life as long as you repented at the end of it and were baptized (People were very upset if they got baptized in anticipation of death and lived through it as that meant they had to be good until their final death if they wanted to get to Heaven). Katherine doesn't repent, but she gets morally better near the end of her life, demonstrating concern for her daughter and being a desirable lover to Stefan Salvatore (Paul Wesley). The show takes a Protestant, Puritanical view of where one goes in the afterlife, meaning that The Lord looked at Katherine's whole life, not just the last month of it, and rendered a judgment based on that. The show makes it quite clear that Katherine goes to the not-so-desirable place.


Wall St. Journal

Had a lengthy email conversation with a right-winger who reads a lot, but really likes the Wall St. Journal and quotes it a lot. Problem is, he doesn't appear to read the original liberal ideas that the WSJ criticizes, nor does he read any liberal responses to what the WSJ asserts.

A real problem with the one-sidedness of the WSJ can be seen in a Media Matters critique. On the surface, the WSJ appears to have a good case. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act sets up a “disparate impact“ test that says that if a practice has the effect of denying equal employment opportunities to a minority, then it must be discontinued. In a case involving firefighters, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio defends the decision by saying “I think the numbers speak for themselves." The WSJ argues:

But the numbers don't speak for themselves. Intent matters. Racially disparate outcomes alone are not proof of discrimination, yet advocates of such nonsense continue to exploit our legal system. "No speck of evidence is required from those who implicitly assume that employee composition would be similar to population composition, in the absence of discrimination," writes Thomas Sowell...”

Slight problem with this (As Media Matters also points out) is that ever since the Civil Rights Movement of the 50s and 60s, it's been unfashionable for racists to openly and explicitly use racially derogatory terms or to openly admit racist intentions, so minorities seeking to prove that they were not just discriminated against, but were discriminated against with the clear and explicit intention of disenfranchising them, puts an impossible burden on the minorities.

So the problem is that if one depends entirely on the WSJ for their understandings and arguments (And the aforementioned right-winger does), if one's only source is the WSJ, then one will be unaware of how deceptive and manipulative the WSJ is being. But the only way to realize this is of course to read other sources like Media Matters. Remaining in a bubble has to be voluntary act as it's not at all difficult to find liberal sources that will eviscerate WSJ talking points.


300: Rise of an Empire

I wouldn't even consider allowing anyone under 18 to even try to get in to watch this film as there are gouts and gouts of blood and the two lead characters (Themistokles & Artemisia) “do it” with each other in a very convincing scene. Did I like it? Well, it was a Navy film, with pretty much all the action taking place onboard ships, so yeah, great stuff! They also make the good guys and the bad guys pretty obvious, with Persian oarsmen chained to their oars and getting whipped and the free Greek oarsmen having their hands free and them able to abandon ship whenever the need arose. It certainly doesn't hurt to have seen the film that parallels this one, 300, but it's not required as this film does a good job of summarizing what happened then.  


Game of Thrones - Season 1

I've seen a couple of collected TV series and concluded it was a mistake to see them all too closely together, so I watched the first few shows of Game of Thrones close together, but then folded them in with my regular weekly shows. Worked well as there are some scenes that stuck in the mind for awhile, so it was good to have some time between them. And yeah, the first season leans heavily towards being more background and introductions for the rest of the series than drama in its own right. I can see why people have said that the second season is better.


Conversations with right-wingers

So I had an email conversation with a few right-wingers that finished up on February 10th. One of them proved to be pretty dogged, so I didn't finish up with him until February 20th. Couple of conclusions based on both these and earlier conversations:

1. Right-wingers really, really hate it when they're dealing with straightforward, unapologetic left-wingers:
You can't skirt around the fact that ObamaCare is going to cost jobs (as the non-partisan CBO report clearly spells out (along with many other economic reports), increase costs for many working class people (except the lower-income traditional Democrat voters who receive large subsidies) and not even come close to giving the "45 million uninsured" (a figure manufactured by the left wing) health care coverage. 

Rich, open-mindedness or liberal thought is being open to reading, listening to, or debating other points of view. You have confirmed that you do neither, while I admitted to reading, listening to and watching the left wing-controlled media outlets (MSNBC, PBS, NYT, WP, ABC, CBS, NBC, etc). I also have friends and colleagues who are liberals who I enjoy debating politics with. I highly doubt you found any right wingers in the school where you taught or the Jewish non-profit where you worked - proving that it is you who only consorts with, hears, and are open to one side of the debate. If that is erroneous, prove me wrong. 

I've formed my opinions based on facts about which systems have failed miserably to improve the condition of man (liberalism/socialism/communism) and which have done more to help mankind than any other (conservatism/capitalism/individual freedom). (Think of Lincoln's Republican Party eradicating slavery, and the 1960's GOP passing the Civil Rights Act over the objections of the Southern Democrats). But then, I understand liberals don't look at objective outcomes - because they're ruled by their emotion rather than rational, objective thought processes. 

What feels good isn't always best, otherwise we wouldn't discipline children, right? Regarding your comments on capitalism etc - I believe it needs less regulation, as the stagnant Obamaeconomy is certainly proving, and there already are plenty of non-profits, utilities etc. in our economy. Again, your anti-corporate/capitalism bias comes through loud and clear. Why don't you simply admit to being a socialist?
Tom's view is that because I hold left-wing views, that automatically means I've never read, or listened to or even paid any attention to other views. That's complete nonsense, I simply don't agree with most centrist and right-wing views. (And no, the GOP didn't pass “the Civil Rights Act over the objections of the Southern Democrats.” They helped to pass it, yes. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was pushed by first the Democratic President Kennedy and then by his successor President Johnson. Vote totals show that both parties had their anti-civil-rights minorities, the Democrats had more opponents both by numbers and by proportion, but the majority of both the Democrats and the Republicans voted for the Act.)

2. Right-wingers have a funny definition of what “being in a bubble” means: We discussed the charge that the ACA was going to “cost” America millions of jobs on the 18th (Media Matters explains starting on the 5th paragraph that no one will lose jobs. They will probably give up jobs voluntarily because the ACA means they're no longer locked in to their jobs by health care plans that they don't dare to give up.) As of the 20th, Tom had had plenty of time to research the question, but insisted that I “must” be lying as he simply couldn't imagine (or, obviously, research) any way in which his “fact” could have been debunked. He was just astonished to hear something that contradicted what his right-wing sources were telling him and had no way to even begin to research the question.

According to Tom, my belief in left-wing answers makes me part of a bubble, but to my mind, what Tom and I believe is beside the point. The point is that he had no idea that any viewpoint other than the official Wall Street Journal viewpoint even existed and when he was told that such a viewpoint did exist, hadn't the vaguest clue as to how to go about researching the question.

3. Do right-wingers respect people who hold different viewpoints? Ehhh, not so much. “I'm sure Paul Krudman....err....Krugman can spin something to fool...err....keep all the liberal NYT & MSNBC sheeple in the herd!” Uh, yeah, I can see that Tom reads Krugman's column on a regular basis! [/snark] What it also means is that if I present anything written by the Nobel-Prize winning Professor Paul Krugman who was right more often (In 2007 & 2008) than any other pundit, I'm just presenting the views of some crazy far-left wacko. What this does is to greatly narrow the parameters of any possible debate.

4. Do right-wingers really give a rats ass about the little guy? I located Toms' “500,000 people who will lose their jobs” the next day. That's the estimate on what the minimum wage increase will cost us all. Of course, the number of people who will gain the ability to support themselves on just one 40-hour workweek will outnumber that half a million people who will lose those low-wage jobs. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has a really good run-down on the issue and states that “In addition to raising 900,000 working families out of poverty and increasing the earnings of another 16.5 million low-wage workers...” and goes over a number of other benefits.

No, it's not as good a “win-win” solution as we'd all like to see, but it's not a one-sided picture of just plain loss, either. It would be a wonderful thing if there were more policies that produced only winners with no losers, but those policies exist far more in happy-wonderful-fuzzy-bear-la-la land than anywhere in reality. And yeah, it's interesting how the statement: “The only perceivable downside [of TPP] being the loss of non-knowledge-based, low-paying jobs, to countries such as Vietnam (no great loss for the U.S., or it's citizens)” shows such deep concern [/snark] for low wage workers. Funny how that deep concern disappears once the context changes.


The Lego Movie

Cool stuff! The message of the movie is a corporate one that encourages the buying of Legos, but it's a pretty cool one that comes out in favor of playing and being creative and being a kid. ThinkProgress has a good deepthink piece on the various meanings of it all and how it messes with and takes off on certain ideas and characters presented in movies these days (Covers plot in detail, so read it after seeing the movie). A blogger covers the hilarious Fox News reaction to the movie. "Mercy sakes, why would anyone ever get the impression that a Captain of Industry could be an evildoer?" 


Two wars wind down

Looks like the dirty effin' hippies were right all along and that the Bush dead-enders were wrong.

Very few Americans see either the Iraq or Afghanistan Wars as a success. In my view, a view shared by many of my buddies, the problem didn't lie at all with America's armed services. Our fighting men and women did all that they were asked to do and frequently went well beyond the call of duty.

Is the blame with the Iraqis of Afghans? No, there were plenty of both who welcomed their respective US invasions and who worked with the "occupiers" to try and make their countrymen think of Americans as "liberators."

The problem, we hippies saw, was that even before the invasion of Iraq, it was clear that the reconstruction of Afghanistan was being pursued in a very casual, lackadaisical manner. G.W. Bush called for people to go to Iraq after the fall of Baghdad to assist in the reconstruction there, but the right wing couldn't muster it's own Lincoln Brigade of people who were willing to undergo the lack of luxuries that working in Iraq would entail.

Iraqis and Afghans saw that their lives had been made more difficult, not less, after their respective dictators had been tossed out. So here we are, over a decade later, with pretty much nothing to show for it.