Saturday, May 30, 2015

Rand Paul and Bernie Sanders Oppose Continuing the War in the Middle East

    In US politics, one of the few things that Republicans and Democrats are firmly united in, is the desirability of continued war in the Middle East.   President George W. Bush initiated the combat in Afghanistan and Iraq, which continued unabated by President Barack Obama.  Republicans of course are visibly upset at Obama's policies, but the alternatives they propose are basically more troops and perhaps shifting the commitment of troops from one zone to the next, but both parties support a Department of Defense Budget of some $500 billion dollars or more, much of which goes to protect our trillion dollar investment in the Middle East.  

    President Bush initiated the concept of "Regime Change" in Iraq, which basically states that the US has the right to overthrow foreign governments in order to improve them as a public service for the inhabitants.     Thus the condition for victory is a stable, happy Iraqi populace with an internationally accepted government.  This has so far not been achieved, necessitating further military commitments. 

  The Obama Administration, while critical of its predecessor, is nevertheless fully committed to maintaining and expanding the US military presence in Afghanistan, Iraq and other Middle Eastern nations who might be helped by the Regime Change policy.  
    Currently, there are some dozen serious candidates for the Republican nomination, and most are in the mode of trying to be more hawkish than the others.   All agree that Obama was too soft on Middle Eastern extremists, and what is needed is a fresh jolt of funding and military action.   According to the Washington Post, the total cost of military actions in the Middle East can be broadly estimated at four to six trillion dollars.   

Probably the best known antiwar candidate is currently Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, who believes that nation building is outside the Constitutional purview of the United States.  He is probably right.   However, most of America holds a very negative opinion of Senator Paul because of his ultrastrict views about the role of the government in America.   

Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont is also staunchly anti-war and opposes gargantuan spending on military defense expenditures.  He is likewise held in low regard by most Americans, most of whom enjoy the affable manner and pro-war views of Secretary Clinton.  

    Are there only two candidates in US Presidential politics who oppose more wars in the Middle East?  Sadly, this appears to be the case, although additional candidates may be added to the field and they will have a chance to weigh in on this issue.

    Currently, the mainstream policy on war in the Middle East is difficult to follow.  It's rather clear that the US is anti-Syria (President Assad), but also against the anti-Syrian movement led by ISIS.  So, when we step up our military forces, who are we supporting?  The anti-Syrian/anti-anti-Syrians of course.  I don't know a single group or individual by name that belongs in this group, sadly.  I doubt that you do either, dear reader.  

    Who are our friends?  Who are we trying to help?  What are our objectives?  How will we know when we win?    Those who ask such questions (that is, people like me) are currently regarded as fringe extremists and kooks without common sense, and maybe some of us are.  But common sense says that we are not winning friends in the Middle East.  Increased perpetual warfare may be comforting to the world psyche, but it is not promoting increased security and stability.   

    My prediction is that the American people may be slow to learn, but eventually we figure things out.   These wars are wasteful and costly, and I don't care to lose my children to them.   We need to give serious thought to candidates with the guts to debate this out in the open and to seriously advocate putting an end to the these wars.  Those who advocate escalation and increased war spending will eventually be thrown out of power in both sides of the aisle.   By 2016 this will be one of the most hotly debated issues in Presidential politics, and the candidate who is antiwar will probably WIN THE ELECTION.   

     It's common sense. 

Americans believe that dropping more bombs and spending more trillions will bring stability to the region and eventually engender pro-American sentiment.  Hence they have thus far avoided anti-war candidates like the plague.   Americans thus far have lacked common sense. 


Sunday, May 3, 2015

Avengers Disassemble!

     I regard Marvel Comics and Stan Lee as one of the greatest multimedia giants of this century as well as the last.   Incredible to think he has been creating comic characters professionally since 1941 and he is still at it.   So of course you must see the latest masterpiece in the Marvel Universe, Avengers Age of Ultron.  Or is it Iltron?  Oltron?   No matter.

    Marvel is great because they are willing to still do original things and take chances, unlike the sorry franchises from movies like Batman (Bruce Wayne's parents killed at least 10 times) and Star Trek (re-running characters from the 1960s with ho-hum plot twists and echoed dialogue).  The natural tendency with big budget movies is to copy methods that have worked well in the past and not tinker with a successful formula---precisely the opposite of the requirements for creativity.  So if Marvel tries a few things that bomb, I'm not that upset.  I am more concerned if they become boring and predictable.  

    I don't want to give away any plot spoilers, but let's just say that Avengers pick very odd times for romance, drinking parties as well as vacation time.  Hey, the world is being destroyed, Avengers! What will you do about it?   I dunno, let's spend some time in the country thinking about life and reflecting about country values.  Our maybe let's have a little us if anything happens, ok?  

    Thor turns out to be a party animal, and wins a lot of money on the "pick up the magical hammer" game as shown in the movie trailers.   There is a lot of funny dialogue.  Natasha Romanova and Tony Starks are witty as well, although Tony is sometimes nerdy.   

     Marvel has done a great job of creating original bad guys. Until now.  Iltron, I mean Ultron, is a really lame villain.  It seems that someone left an alien floppy disk with a copy of Windows for Aliens Operating System on it, and that led to the creation of a really crabby android named Ultron.   It takes him only a few minutes to turn really bad, get superhuman powers (though we're not sure what they are) and decide to destroy the earth.  I had the same experience with Windows 8, so this part of the plot seems realistic although a bit lame.  

 This is everything you need to know about the character of Oltron, I mean Ultron.   Same-o, same-o, same-o.   He's just a crabby alien intelligence who wants to blow up the earth.  

We also don't know much about his plan to blow up the earth but it involves anti gravity and dropping large rocks on the earth.  Not sure why that results in the destruction of the earth, maybe a tsunami or something, but ok I am willing to be terrified that Eltron, I mean Ultron, will do something bad.  

     Another android, known as the Vision, was created under conditions that I at least found confusing. As far as I can tell, though,  Tony Stark, Bruce Banner and Thor seemed to have collaborated on an update to the Windows for Aliens Operating System, and then some red android showed up.   But no one in my family could remember who he was, what his powers were or what happened to him at the end of the movie.  I will have to see it again to keep track of the guy and figure out why (or if) he was important to the movie.  Just because the plot is more complicated, does not mean it is better.  

Who is this guy?  What is his name?  How did he get here?  What happens to him at the end of the movie?  Nobody in my family could remember much about him, though we kind of think he was some sort of key character.

We also are introduced to new characters Scarlet Witch and her brother Quicksilver.  Are they good or are they bad?   Does anyone care?  Answer: no.

The Scarlet Witch was really sexy in the comic books, but toned down for the movie.   Is she going to fight?   And on whose side?   Again, we are not sure why we should care.  Her powers were never well defined, though she could zap people or else make them have delusions.   That was cool for a while, but she got a headache and had to stop.  "Not tonight, I have a headache!"  

Stan Lee is old enough to remember Errol Flynn, the original Superhero in Robin Hood (1939).   They've been trying to find another Errol Flynn for 76 years, but neither Hawkeye or his DC cousin Green Arrow have been able to live up to Robin Hood's legacy.  Face it, Hawkeye is boring and doesn't make any sense in a world that uses AK-47s.   

      The Hulk is probably the most compelling character, though his rampages are so out of control that there must certainly be an unacceptable level of civilian casualties.   Still, if they enforce the no-killing rule then the movie wouldn't work, so I guess we just have to suspend our disbelief.

     Something needs to be done about minor armies. Last movie they had hordes of naughty elves, and this time it is naughty robots. Suffice it to say that each Avenger can just wade into them and pretty much clean their clocks, and the naughty robots get weaker and more easily defeated later in the movie.   In short they are boring.   

Hint:  Don't use karate chops, just send in the Hulk to clarify all this mess.  

   In summary, the Age Of Ultrun, er, Ultron, is a fun spectacle with great special effects, well worth watching.  The writing has definitely taken a step backwards over the first Avengers movie, however.  I hope they won't get too conservative, but will improve the writing for the next movie.