Saturday, January 01, 2011
By Michelle Malkin
December 31, 2010 12:00 A.M.
Instead of plowing the streets, this driver was caught snoozing Monday morning from 9:30 to at least 11 on 14th Avenue near 149th Street. (New York Post)
Diligent English farmers of old once shared a motto about the blessings of work: “Industry produces wealth, God speed the plow.” Indolent New York City union officials who oversee snow-removal apparently live by a different creed: Sloth enhances political power, Da Boss slow the plow.
Come rain or shine, wind, sleet, or blizzard, Big Labor leaders always demonstrate perfect power-grabby timing when it comes to shafting taxpayers. Public-sector unions are all-weather vultures ready, willing, and able to put special-interest politics above the citizenry’s health, wealth, and safety. Confirming rumors that have fired up the frozen metropolis, the New York Post reported Thursday that government sanitation and transportation workers were ordered by union supervisors to oversee a deliberate slowdown of its cleanup program — and to boost their overtime paychecks.
Why such vindictiveness? It’s a cold-blooded temper tantrum against the city’s long-overdue efforts to trim layers of union fat and move toward a more efficient, cost-effective privatized workforce.
Welcome to the Great Snowmageddon Snit Fit of 2010.
New York City councilman Dan Halloran (R., Queens) told the Post that several brave whistleblowers confessed to him that they “were told (by supervisors) to take off routes (and) not do the plowing of some of the major arteries in a timely manner. They were told to make the mayor pay for the layoffs, the reductions in rank for the supervisors, shrinking the rolls of the rank-and-file.”
Denials and recriminations are flying like snowballs. But even as they scoff at reports of this outrageous organized job action, the city sanitation-managers’ unions openly acknowledge their grievances and “resentment” over job cuts. Stunningly, sanitation workers spilled the beans on how city plowers raised blades “unusually high” (which requires extra passes to get their work done) and refused to plow anything other than assigned streets (even if it meant leaving behind clogged routes to get to their blocks).
A Sanitation Department spokesman would not comment until he saw the pictures, and he did not answer questions about the agency's sleeping-in-the-truck policy.(New York Post)
When they weren’t sitting on their backsides, city plowers were caught on videotape maniacally destroying parked vehicles in a futile display of Kabuki Emergency Theater. It would be laugh-out-loud comedy if not for the death of at least one newborn whose parents waited for an ambulance that never came because of snowed-in streets.
This isn’t a triumphant victory for social justice and workers’ dignity. This is terrifying criminal negligence.
And it isn’t the first time New York City sanitation workers have endangered residents’ well-being. In the 1960s, a Teamsters-affiliated sanitation workers’ strike led to trash fires, typhoid warnings, and rat infestations, as 100,000 tons of rotting garbage piled up. Three decades later, a coordinated job action by city building-service workers and sanitation workers caused another public trash nuisance declared “dangerous to life and health” in the Big Apple.
New Yorkers could learn a thing or two from those of us who call Colorado Springs home. We have no fear of being held hostage to a politically driven sanitation department — because we have no sanitation department. We have no sanitation department because enlightened advocates of limited government in our town realized that competitive bidders in the private sector could provide better service at lower cost.
And we’re not alone. As the Mackinac Center for Public Policy in Michigan reported: “The largest study ever conducted on outsourced garbage collection, conducted by the federal government in the 1970s, reported 29 to 37 percent savings in cities with populations over 50,000. A 1994 study by the Reason Foundation discovered that the city of Los Angeles was paying about 30 percent more for garbage collection than its surrounding suburbs, in which private waste haulers were employed. A 1982 study of city garbage collection in Canada discovered an astonishing 50 percent average savings as a result of privatization.”
Completely privatized trash collection means city residents don’t get socked with the bill for fraudulently engineered overtime pay, inflated pensions, and gold-plated health benefits in perpetuity — not to mention the capital and operating costs of vehicles and equipment. The Colorado Springs model, as city councilman Sean Paige calls it, is a blueprint for how every city can cope with budget adversity while freeing itself from thuggish union threats when contracts expire or cuts are made. Those who dawdled on privatization efforts in better times are suffering dire, deadly consequences now.
Let the snow-choked streets of New York be a lesson for the rest of the nation: It’s time to put the Big Chill on Big Labor–run municipal services.
— Michelle Malkin is the author of Culture of Corruption: Obama and His Team of Tax Cheats, Crooks & Cronies. © 2010 Creators Syndicate, Inc.
Friday, December 31, 2010
By Charles Krauthammer
December 31, 2010 12:00 A.M.
Most people don’t remember Obamacare’s notorious Section 1233, which mandated government payments for end-of-life counseling. It aroused so much anxiety as a possible first slippery step on the road to state-mandated late-life rationing that the Senate never included it in the final health-care law.
Well, it’s back — by administrative fiat. A month ago, Medicare issued a regulation providing for end-of-life counseling during annual “wellness” visits. It was all nicely buried amid the simultaneous release of hundreds of new Medicare rules.
Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D.,Ore.), author of Section 1233, was delighted. “Mr. Blumenauer’s office celebrated ‘a quiet victory,’ but urged supporters not to crow about it,” reports the New York Times. Deathly quiet. In early November, his office sent an e-mail plea to supporters: “We would ask that you not broadcast this accomplishment out to any of your list…e-mails can too easily be forwarded.” They had been lucky that “thus far, it seems that no press or blogs have discovered it…The longer this regulation goes unnoticed, the better our chances of keeping it.”
So much for Democratic transparency — and for their repeated claim that the more people learn what is in the health-care law, the more they will like it. Turns out ignorance is the Democrats’ best hope.
And regulation is their perfect vehicle — so much quieter than legislation. Consider two other regulatory usurpations in just the last few days.
On December 23, the Interior Department issued Secretarial Order 3310, reversing a 2003 decision and giving itself the authority to designate public lands as “Wild Lands.” A clever twofer: (1) a bureaucratic power-grab — for seven years up through December 22, wilderness-designation had been the exclusive province of Congress, and (2) a leftward lurch — more land to be “protected” from such nefarious uses as domestic-oil exploration in a country disastrously dependent on foreign sources.
The very same day, the president’s Environmental Protection Agency declared that in 2011 it would begin drawing up anti-carbon regulations on oil refineries and power plants, another power grab effectively enacting what Congress had firmly rejected when presented as cap-and-trade legislation.
For an Obama bureaucrat, however, the will of Congress is a mere speed bump. Hence this regulatory trifecta, each one moving smartly left — and nicely clarifying what the spirit of bipartisan compromise that President Obama heralded in his post-lame-duck December 22 news conference was really about: a shift to the center for public consumption and political appearance only.
On that day, Obama finally embraced the tax-cut compromise he had initially excoriated, but only to avoid forfeiting its obvious political benefit — its appeal to independent voters who demand bipartisanship and are the key to Obama’s reelection. But make no mistake: Obama’s initial excoriation in his angry December 7 news conference was the authentic Obama. He hated the deal.
Now as always, Obama’s heart lies left. For those fooled into thinking otherwise by the new Obama of December 22, his administration’s defiantly liberal regulatory moves — on the environment, energy, and health care — should disabuse even the most beguiled.
These regulatory power plays make political sense. Because Obama needs to appear to reclaim the center, he will stage his more ideological fights in yawn-inducing regulatory hearings rather than in the dramatic spotlight of congressional debate. How better to impose a liberal agenda on a center-right nation than regulatory stealth?
It’s Obama’s only way forward during the next two years. He will never get past the half-Republican 112th what he could not get past the overwhelmingly Democratic 111th. He doesn’t have the votes and he surely doesn’t want the publicity. Hence the quiet resurrection, as it were, of end-of-life counseling.
Obama knows he has only so many years to change the country. In his first two, he achieved much: the first stimulus, Obamacare, and financial regulation. For the next two, however, the Republican House will prevent any repetition of that. Obama’s agenda will therefore have to be advanced by the more subterranean means of rule-by-regulation.
But this must simultaneously be mixed with ostentatious displays of legislative bipartisanship (e.g., the lame-duck tax-cut deal) in order to pull off the (apparent) centrist repositioning required for re-election. This, in turn, would grant Obama four more years when, freed from the need for pretense, he can reassert himself ideologically and complete the social-democratic transformation — begun Jan. 20, 2009; derailed Nov. 2, 2010 — that is the mission of his presidency.
— Charles Krauthammer is a nationally syndicated columnist. © 2010 the Washington Post Writers Group.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 31, 2010; 1:06 AM
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski waves to the crowd after Duke's 108-62 win over North Carolina-Greensboro in an NCAA college basketball game in Greensboro, N.C., Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2010. Krzyzewski moved past longtime rival Dean Smith into second place on the men's all-time wins list. (AP)
GREENSBORO, N.C. - A little more than 24 hours before he went past Dean Smith on the all-time wins list for college basketball coaches, Mike Krzyzewski threw his team out of practice.
"I didn't just get angry," he said that afternoon. "I worked my way up to being really angry."
All of which may explain, at least in part, why Duke's 108-62 rout of UNC Greensboro on Wednesday night was Krzyzewski's 880th career victory - one more than Smith and 22 fewer than Bob Knight.
Soon after telling his players they were soft and spoiled and nowhere close to being ready to play in the ACC, Krzyzewski got on a private plane and flew to Washington to watch a high school junior play. That night he was back on the practice court, giving his players a chance to show him they weren't as soft and spoiled as he had told them they were.
At 63, Krzyzewski still gets angry and he's still relentless. He completely understood the significance - especially in the state of North Carolina - of his 880th win because of his respect for Smith and because of how his career at Duke began.
"All of that said, I'll be glad when it's over," he said Wednesday afternoon, sitting in his customary seat - second row, right side, next to the window - as the Duke team bus rolled down I-85 to Greensboro. "We're a team in transition right now and there's a lot we have to do before Sunday [the ACC opener against Miami] and going forward to get these guys accustomed to playing without Kyrie [Irving]. Yesterday morning they just weren't getting any of that.
"That's why I got angry. I've been blessed with the ability to get angry. Anger is good when you use it to make something better. Most of the time I can do that."
Until Irving, the star freshman point guard from New Jersey, seriously injured his big toe on Dec. 4 in a game against Butler, Duke was an overwhelming favorite to win a second straight national title. Without Irving, the Blue Devils are still a deep, talented team but are now one of many that might be good enough to make a deep run in March.
Irving's foot is in a cast and will be re-examined next week. The worst-case scenario is surgery, which would end his season. The best case is the toe might heal on its own by the end of the regular season.
That's why Krzyzewski is obsessing about recasting his team, because almost every player must play a different role with Irving gone. That's why, as touched as he was by the lengthy ovation he received when the game ended Wednesday evening, he wanted to put it behind him so he could stop talking about Dean Smith and start worrying about Nolan Smith and his ability to run Duke's offense.
In advance of the milestone, Krzyzewski said all the right things about Smith - things he truly believes: Smith made him better because he set the bar so high at Chapel Hill, just eight miles down the road from Durham and the program he took over in 1980. He respected Smith because he did things the right way - he won with good kids and took care of his players from the day they set foot on campus.
"Dean made my job a lot harder," Krzyzewski said. "He wasn't the only one. Jimmy Valvano won a national championship at [North Carolina] State my third year. Bobby Cremins had a fantastic program at Georgia Tech. Lefty [Driesell] was doing great work and so was Terry Holland. It was an amazing league. But Dean was the benchmark. And because he was so good he forced me to be better."
There were people who couldn't stand how good North Carolina was in Smith's heyday and there are people who can't stand how good Duke is now. Several years ago, Smith pointed out that the pressure was tougher on Krzyzewski than it was on him. "There wasn't nearly as much media," he said. "There was no Internet. Every game wasn't on television. I know I wouldn't have enjoyed all the attention the best teams get now. I think Mike handles it very well."
Krzyzewski's greatest strength may be his ability to make failure work for him: to learn from it and grow from it. Just before his players got off the bus Wednesday, he showed them a tape of great players and coaches talking about winning championships and what it means. "I showed them this tape before practice yesterday," he said. "They didn't respond to it at all. I want to give them another chance."
A couple of hours later, they jumped to a 15-2 lead and never slowed down. When the buzzer sounded, no one had left in spite of the score. Mike Dement, the UNC Greensboro coach who was a volunteer assistant for Krzyzewski in his third season at Duke, walked over to offer congratulations.
The two men were standing on almost the exact same spot where Krzyzewski and Smith first shook hands at the end of a game a little more than 30 years ago in the old, early-season Big Four Tournament. North Carolina was about to win, 78-76. The Duke fans were cheering that night, too - glad the game had been close.
With his players inbounding with one second on the clock, Smith, who always believed in fast postgame exits, walked briskly to shake Krzyzewski's hand. Looking at the clock, Krzyzewski angrily said, "The game's not over, Dean."
As it turned out, in the grand scheme of things, he was right. The game was just beginning.
For more from the author, visit www.feinsteinonthebrink.com.
Thursday, December 30, 2010
By Jonah Goldberg
December 29, 2010 12:00 A.M.
The cast of "Modern Family" gathers 'round the table together in this shot for Emmy magazine's Issue No. 3.
So now openly gay soldiers get to fight and die in neocon-imperialist wars too?
David Brooks saw such ironic progressive victories coming. In his book Bobos in Paradise, he wrote that everything “transgressive” gets “digested by the mainstream bourgeois order, and all the cultural weapons that once were used to undermine middle-class morality . . . are drained of their subversive content.”
Two decades ago, the gay Left wanted to smash the bourgeois prisons of monogamy, capitalistic enterprise, and patriotic values and bask in the warm sun of bohemian “free love” and avant-garde values. In this, they were simply picking up the torch from the straight Left of the 1960s and 1970s, who had sought to throw off the sexual hang-ups of their parents’ generation along with their gray flannel suits.
As a sexual-lifestyle experiment, they failed pretty miserably, the greatest proof being that the affluent and educated children (and grandchildren) of the baby boomers have re-embraced the bourgeois notion of marriage as an essential part of a successful life. Sadly, it’s the lower-middle class that increasingly sees marriage as an out-of-reach luxury. The irony is that such bourgeois values — monogamy, hard work, etc. — are the best guarantors of success and happiness.
Of course, the lunacy of the bohemian free-love shtick should have been obvious from the get-go. For instance, when Michael Lerner, a member of the anti–Vietnam War “Seattle Seven,” did marry, in 1971, the couple exchanged rings made from the fuselage of a U.S. aircraft downed over Vietnam and cut into a cake inscribed in icing with a Weatherman catchphrase, “Smash Monogamy.”
Today Lerner is a (divorced and remarried) somewhat preposterous, prosperous progressive rabbi who officiates at all kinds of marriages — gay and straight — and, like pretty much the entire Left, loves the idea of open gays becoming cogs in the military-industrial complex.
The gay experiment with open bohemianism was arguably shorter. Of course, AIDS played an obvious and tragic role in focusing attention on the downside of promiscuity. But even so, the sweeping embrace of bourgeois lifestyles by the gay community has been stunning.
ABC’s “Modern Family” characters Cam (Eric Stonestreet) and Mitchell (Jesse Tyler Ferguson)
Nowhere is this more evident — and perhaps exaggerated — than in popular culture. Watch ABC’s Modern Family. The sitcom is supposed to be “subversive” in part because it features a gay couple with an adopted daughter from Asia. And you can see why both liberal proponents and conservative opponents of gay marriage see it that way. But imagine you hate the institution of marriage and then watch Modern Family’s hardworking bourgeois gay couple through those eyes. What’s being subverted? Traditional marriage, or some bohemian identity-politics fantasy of homosexuality?
By the way, according to a recent study, Modern Family is the No. 1 sitcom among Republicans (and the third show overall behind Glenn Beck and The Amazing Race) but not even in the top 15 among Democrats, who prefer darker shows like Showtime’s Dexter, about a serial killer trying to balance work and family between murders.
Or look at the decision to let gays openly serve in the military through the eyes of a principled hater of all things military. From that perspective, gays have just been co-opted by The Man. Meanwhile, the folks who used Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell as an excuse to keep the military from recruiting on campuses just saw their argument go up in flames.
Personally, I have always felt that gay marriage was an inevitability, for good or ill (most likely both). I do not think that the arguments against gay marriage are all grounded in bigotry, and I find some of the arguments persuasive. But I also find it cruel and absurd to tell gays that living the free-love lifestyle is abominable while at the same time telling them that their committed relationships are illegitimate too.
Many of my conservative friends — who oppose both civil unions and gay marriage and object to rampant promiscuity — often act as if there’s some grand alternative lifestyle for gays. But there isn’t. And given that open homosexuality is simply a fact of life, the rise of the HoBos — the homosexual bourgeoisie — strikes me as good news.
— Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online and a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. © 2010 Tribune Media Services, Inc.
New York Post
December 30, 2010
If 2010 was the year America finally woke up to political Islam's ne farious reach on US soil, with luck 2011 will be the year we launch an offensive against it. One way to begin that process is through hearings that Rep. Peter King (R-NY), the new chair of the House Homeland Security Committee, plans to hold on American Muslim radicalization.
Attention to this issue offers an opportunity for American Muslims to confront the radicalization problem and provide solutions -- as only they can.
My group, the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, believes these hearings will shed light on the diversity of American Muslims, giving our community a chance to step from behind the veil of Muslim victimization and address head-on the need for long-overdue ideological reforms.
Peter King: Will hold hearings on "homegrown radicals."
Alas, the announcement of the hearings has triggered heated denunciations by groups like ISNA, CAIR and MPAC, which try to deny and obfuscate the connection between "political Islam," or Islamism, and terror.
This year, the debate on the development of the Ground Zero mosque brought the discussion of political Islam to the front page of every newspaper. While raucous at times, it provided an opportunity for Muslims who don't toe the line of American Islamist organizations to present an alternative vision for American Muslims -- one based in American values and Muslim reform.
Unfortunately, political correctness still too often dominates incidents involving Islamists. This year, the Pentagon released a report on Maj. Nidal Hasan's Fort Hood attack, titled "Protecting the Force: Lessons from Fort Hood." The report was intended to convey to military commanders whatever lessons were learned from the incident, so as to prevent similar attacks in the future. Yet it never mentioned the word Islam or Muslim. Nowhere to be found was any dissection of Hasan's slide into militant Islamism or of his relationship with his homegrown jihadist mentor, Imam Anwar Al-Awlaki.
Meanwhile, President Obama and Mayor Bloomberg used the Ground Zero mosque controversy to tell the more than 70 percent of Americans who oppose the mosque that they were either wrong or confused. Discourse over recent arrests of jihadists in Portland and Baltimore focused on Islamist claims of FBI entrapment, rather than overdue introspection and calls for reform. Worries of Muslim victimization still rule the day.
Our national inability to discuss religious issues honestly is keeping American Muslims from having to accept the reforms needed to defeat political Islam and bring our faith into modernity. The victimization mantra feeds more Muslim isolation and radicalization.
A recent global study by the Pew Research Center showed that Muslims are aligning themselves more and more with Islamism. Of course, most major American Muslim groups, such ISNA, CAIR and MPAC, were built on some strand of that ideology. But knowing where most American Muslims fall in the spectrum of Islamism-vs.-liberalism, as King hopes to find out in his hearings, would be a key step toward counterradicalization.
The fact is, we can't go into 2011 without a discernable strategy on how to defeat Islamist radicalization. House hearings on Muslim radicalization would only be the first step toward finally crafting a US offensive against political Islam.
Again, only liberty-minded Muslims working from within Muslim communities can counter the narrative of Muslim victimization. But America needs to be unashamed of taking the side of those Muslims who advocate reform against political Islam.
In 2011, more Americans need to understand that jihadism is a natural by-product of a political Islam that is incompatible with Western secular democracies based in liberty. America is at war with theocratic Muslim despots who seek the imposition of sharia and don't believe in the equality of all before the law, blind to faith. They detest the association of religious freedom with liberty.
We need a coordinated national strategy of offense that gives Muslim youth an Islamic counternarrative, that defends liberty and that separates mosque and state.
The idea of the Islamic state must be left for history. It is time to help usher in a modern era for Islam and Muslims. Our national security depends on it.
M. Zuhdi Jasser, a physician and a former US Navy lieutenant commander, is the founder and president of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy. firstname.lastname@example.org
Read more: http://www.nypost.com/p/news/opinion/opedcolumnists/why_muslims_must_look_in_the_mirror_g6HY8SYPEtYo8gHubxnNhI#ixzz19bHafmlQ
Meet the New Batman: An Algerian Muslim Who Saves France from Nazis and Communists
by Warner Todd Huston
December 27, 2010
Reality isn’t always very fun. Because of that many people turn to comic books for a little escapism. But there’s escapism and PC indoctrination. Sadly, it appears that DC Comics’ Batman is angling for the latter and not the former. You see, Batman has decided to hire a Muslim to “save France.”
First the reality. The country of France is having serious domestic problems between its immigrant Muslim community and those natural-born, European Frenchmen. Immigrants have been rampaging across the country for several years now. Clashes between police and large groups of rioting Muslim youth have wreaked havoc on the Gallic nation. Violence is all too common — it is woefully common for hundreds of cars to be lit afire in these riots and dozens of arrests to be made. It has the country split and frightened.
It has gotten so bad in France that in some parts of its cities, those parts controlled by marauding gangs of Muslim youths, whites never enter for fear of their lives. Not only that but not even police dare enter these areas. This dangerous situation does not seem anywhere near being solved. In fact, it’s just getting worse.
Now for the fantasy: enter The Batman.
DC Comics recently launched a series called “Batman Incorporated.” Essentially, Bruce Wayne (well-known as Batman’s alter ego to comics fans) is cruising the world setting up a “Batman” for major cities across the globe. These Batman figures, though, will not be vigilantes. They will be sanctioned by whatever local police force is in charge of the area in which the new Batman is operating. In the case of Detective Comics number 12 (Part one) and Batman Annual number 28 (Part two), Bruce Wayne has come to Paris, France to find a “French savior.”
The story reveals to us a cult-like group that is assassinating France’s fringe political figures. The cult’s goal is to cause unrest and riots to be led by the murdered political figure’s followers. This group hypnotizes its members to kill and then to commit suicide so that the cult cannot be discovered.
First a “popular” French union activist “with ties to the French Communist Party” is murdered. Next the leader of a “break-away Neo-Nazi Party” is killed. Then Batman discovers that a “minor diplomat” from Saudi Arabia is targeted. Batman tries to stop the assassination but is too late.
Batman turns to a man that he helped police arrest earlier in part one. When first encountered the young man was dressed in a skin-tight, black costume and sported a face mask. Batman arrested him when this man tried to involve himself in some rioting. Batman didn’t know the young masked man was actually trying to stop the riot but later learns of his good intentions. Consequently the Dark Knight decides to put this man to work to help stop the cult that is assassinating French political figures and causing riots.
In the course of this story Batman, aka Bruce Wayne, decides that this man should become the French representative of Batman Incorporated. As Wayne styles the man, he’ll be the “French savior.” He ends up calling himself Nightrunner.
So what’s wrong with all this? Only that it is completely absurd and so badly misleads people from any understanding of why riots are really going on in France that it almost qualifies as a crime itself.
You see, DC Comics has decided that the “French savior,” the French Batman is to be a Muslim immigrant. The character’s name is Bilal Asselah and he is an Algerian Sunni Muslim and an immigrant that is physically fit and adept at gymnastic sport Parkour. Apparently Batman couldn’t find any actual Frenchman to be the “French savior.”
The whole situation is a misreading of what ails France. The truth is, neither communist Union members nor “Neo-Nazi” Parties are causing riots in France. Muslims are. Yet DC Comics is absurdly making a Muslim immigrant the “French savior”? This is PCism at its worst. Not only that but it is pretty condescending to France, too. France is a proud nation. Yet DC Comics has made a foreigner the “French savior.” This will not sit well with many Frenchmen, for sure. Nor should it.
As DC told the tale of this character’s origin, it badly downplays the seriousness of the actual racial tension in France. In essence, all you get from the story is that “they hate us, and we hate them.” There is no attempt at all to explain the real underlying problem. The true cause of the riots and violence between Frenchmen of European stock and that of immigrant Muslim stock is glossed over as if it doesn’t even exist. DC Comics makes the whole problem as simplistic as mere racism as if that is all there is to it ignoring the fact that Islam is the single most important factor in the strife.
Unfortunately, readers of Batman will not be helped to understand what troubles are really besetting France. In this age when Muslim youths are terrorizing the entire country, heck in this age of international Muslim terrorism assaulting the whole world, Batman’s readers will be confused by what is really going on in the world. Through it all DC makes a Muslim in France a hero when French Muslims are at the center of some of the worst violence in the country’s recent memory.
But it isn’t surprising for DC, a comic book company that has a character whose creator based it on “corporate greed.” Nor is it surprising in an industry where tea party members are made the enemy of super heroes. For the character based on “corporate greed” look up DC’s Larfleeze character and see the Marvel comic Captain America issue 602 where The Captain makes Tea Partiers into an enemy to America (Marvel later apologized). For that matter, check out the words of the director of the new 2011 Captain America movie who said that his Captain America won’t be a big “flag waver.” Imagine that. Captain America not being that into America.
These few examples aren’t the only ones, either. Among many other instances, last April the venerable Archie Comics announced they were adding a gay character and back in 2007 movie makers announced that they intended to remove all mentions of the U.S. military from G.I. Joe (they later relented to a degree).
It all adds up to a PCing of the American comic book industry that has been going on for far too long.
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
By Larry Bell, 12.27.10, 10:00 AM ET
As 2010 draws to a close, do you remember hearing any good news from the mainstream media about climate? Like maybe a headline proclaiming "Record Low 2009 and 2010 Cyclonic Activity Reported: Global Warming Theorists Perplexed"? Or "NASA Studies Report Oceans Entering New Cooling Phase: Alarmists Fear Climate Science Budgets in Peril"? Or even anything bad that isn't blamed on anthropogenic (man-made) global warming--of course other than what is attributed to George W. Bush? (Conveniently, the term "AGW" covers both.)
Remember all the media brouhaha about global warming causing hurricanes that commenced following the devastating U.S. 2004 season? Opportunities to capitalize on those disasters were certainly not lost on some U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change officials. A special press conference called by IPCC spokesman Kevin Trenberth announced "Experts warn global warming likely to continue spurring more outbreaks of intense activity."
But there was a problem. Christopher Landsea, a top U.S. expert on the subject, repeatedly notified the IPCC that no research had been conducted to support that claim--not in the Atlantic basin, or in any other basin. After receiving no replies, he publicly resigned from all IPCC activities. And while the press conference received tumultuous global media coverage, Mother Nature didn't pay much attention. Subsequent hurricane seasons returned to average patterns noted historically over the past 150 years, before exhibiting recent record lows with no 2010 U.S. landfalls.
Much global warming alarm centers upon concerns that melting glaciers will cause a disastrous sea level rise. A globally viewed December 2005 BBC feature alarmingly reported that two massive glaciers in eastern Greenland, Kangderlugssuaq and Helheim, were melting, with water "racing to the sea." Commentators urgently warned that continued recession would be catastrophic.
Helheim's "erratic" behavior reported then was recently recounted again in a dramatic Nov. 13 New York Times article titled "As Glaciers Melt, Science Seeks Data on Rising Seas." Reporters somehow failed to notice that only 18 months later, and despite slightly warmer temperatures, the melting rate of both glaciers not only slowed down and stopped, but actually reversed. Satellite images revealed that by August 2006 Helheim had advanced beyond its 1933 boundary.
According to two separate NASA studies, one conducted by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and the other by the Langley Research Center, the oceans now appear to be heading into another natural periodic cooling phase within a typical 55- to 70-year dipolar warm/cool pattern. Although Greenland has recently been experiencing a slight warming trend, satellite measurements show that the ice cap has been accumulating snow growth at a rate of about 2.1 inches per year. Temperatures only recently began to exceed those of the 1930s and 1940s when many glaciers were probably smaller than now. (We can't be certain, because satellites didn't exist to measure them.)
A recent study conducted by U.S. and Dutch scientists that appeared in the journal Nature Geoscience concluded that previous estimates of Greenland and West Antarctica ice melt rate losses may have been exaggerated by double. Earlier projections apparently failed to account for rebounding changes in the Earth's crust following the last Ice Age (referred to as "glacial isostatic adjustment").
Nils-Axel Morner, head of the Paleogeophysics and Geodynamics department at Stockholm University in Sweden, argues that any concerns regarding rising sea levels are unfounded. "So all this talk that sea level rising, this comes from the computer modeling, not from observations. ... The new level, which has been stable, has not changed in the last 35 years. ... But they [IPCC] need a rise, because if there is no rise, there is no death threat ... if you want a grant for a research project in climatology, it is written into the document that there 'must' be a focus on global warming. ... That is really bad, because you start asking for the answer you want to get."
Studies by the International Union for Quaternary Research conclude that some ocean levels have even fallen in recent decades. The Indian Ocean, for example, was higher between 1900 and 1970 than it has been since.
Other world climate alarm bells chimed when it was reported in the media that September 2007 satellite images revealed that the Northwest Passage--a sea route between the U.K. and Asia across the top of the Arctic Circle--had opened up for the first time in recorded history. (This "recorded history" dates back only to 1979 when satellite monitoring first began, and it should also be noted that the sea route froze again just a few months later (winter 2007-2008).
The Northwest Passage has certainly opened up before. Diary entries of a sailor named Roald Amundson confirm clear passage in 1903, as do those of a Royal Canadian Mounted Police Arctic patrol crew that made regular trips through there in the early 1940s. And in February 2009 it was discovered that scientists had previously been underestimating the re-growth of Arctic sea ice by an area larger than the state of California (twice as large as New Zealand). The errors were attributed to faulty sensors on the ice.
But these aren't the sorts of observations that most people generally receive from the media. Instead, they present sensational statements and dramatic images that leave lasting impressions of calving glaciers, drowning polar bears and all manner of other man-caused climate calamities.
Many intentionally target impressionable young minds and sensitive big hearts with messages of fear and guilt. Take, for example, a children's book called The North Pole Was Here, authored by New York Times reporter Andrew Revkin. It warns kids that some day it may be "easier to sail than stand on the North Pole in summer." Imagine such images through their visualization: How warm it must be to melt that pole way up north. Poor Santa! And Rudolph! Of course it's mostly their parents' fault because of the nasty CO2 they produce driving them to school in SUVs.
Lots of grown-ups are sensitive people with big hearts too. Don't we all deserve more from the seemingly infinite media echo chamber of alarmism than those windy speculations, snow jobs and projections established on theoretical thin ice?
Weekly columnist Larry Bell is a professor at the University of Houston and author of Climate of Corruption: Politics and Power Behind the Global Warming Hoax, which will be released on Jan. 1, 2011. It can be previewed at: www.climateofcorruption.com..
Monday, December 27, 2010
April 01, 2010 5:55 p.m.
It’s no surprise to learn that back in Ireland, young Kenneth Branagh — who would grow up to direct film adaptations of “Hamlet,” “Much Ado About Nothing” and “Henry V” — fell under the spell of tales about royal family intrigue, ancient rivalry and clanging battlefields. What is unexpected, though, is that epic of obsession was by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, not William Shakespeare.
“Growing up, my single comic book passion was Thor,” says the 49-year-old actor and filmmaker who surprised many industry observers by taking on the director’s job on the big-budget adaptation of the Marvel Comics thunder god. “From my time in Belfast as a kid, that’s the first time I came across that comic, really, exclusively, I don’t know why, but it struck a chord. I was drawn to it. I liked all the dynastic drama.”
For the uninitiated, the Marvel character Thor first appeared in the August 1962 issue of “Journey into Mystery” (it was a big summer for Marvel — the first Spider-Man comic book hits stands that same month) as an odd mix of Norse myth and Marvel’s distinctive brand of wildly kinetic cosmic melodrama.
With his winged helmet, magic hammer and odd old English diction, he fought evil aliens, ancient wizards and costumed crooks and even teamed up with Hercules in Marvel’s no-borders brand of mythology.
“Thor,” due in 2011, is filming now in Santa Fe, N.M., and stars newcomer Chris Hemsworth (who played the doomed father of James T. Kirk in last year’s “Star Trek“) will carry the magical hammer of Thor in the film, with Natalie Portman playing his mortal love, Jane Foster. Anthony Hopkins is Odin, Thor’s father, and Tom Hiddleston plays the thunder god’s duplicitous brother, Loki.
For both Branagh and upstart Marvel Studios (which arrived with a splash in Hollywood in 2008 with “Iron Man”) the cinematic mash-up of Viking deity and 21st century do-gooder will be a singular challenge in Hollywood’s crowded superhero sector.
The story is split between Asgard, the majestic and eternal home of the Norse gods, and the modern world, which Branagh says he views more as an opportunity than a challenge.
“Inspired by the comic book world both pictorially and compositionally at once, we’ve tried to find a way to make a virtue and a celebration of the distinction between the worlds that exist in the film but absolutely make them live in the same world,” Branagh said. “It’s about finding the framing style, the color palette, finding the texture and the amount of camera movement that helps celebrate and express the differences and the distinctions in those worlds. If it succeeds, it will mark this film as different…. The combination of the primitive and the sophisticated, the ancient and the modern, I think that potentially is the exciting fusion, the exciting tension in the film.”
It was a different sort of tension that put the film in headlines this week. Gatecrasher, a report in the New York Daily News gossip column, quoted unnamed sources that painted a picture of a sour movie set, with Hopkins making it clear to the crew that he thinks little of 26-year-old Hemsworth’s acting skills and Branagh growing frustrated with the Oscar-winning elder’s pessimism and complaints.
Hopkins was said to be outraged by the report. The 72-year-old Welsh actor issued this statement: “I am having the time of my life making Thor with Ken and Chris. They have made every day immensely fun and collaborative, and we’re all puzzled that someone would fabricate a story suggesting otherwise. I’m proud to say that Thor has been one of the great experiences of my career.”
Branagh, meanwhile, went on at length about the esprit de corps of his cast, which also includes Rene Russo, Kat Dennings, Ray Stevenson and Stellan Skarsgård.
There will also be elements that will move forward with Marvel Studios unprecedented plan to create a unified universe of heroes and stories that spreads across films, including the upcoming Captain America movie in 2011 and “Iron Man 2,” which arrives May 7 as one of the most anticipated movies of 2010.
“It’s going very, very well,” Branagh said Wednesday. “We’re in New Mexico now where we have a contemporary Earth part of our story. I guess we’re two-thirds of the way through the story and at this stage of the game what’s surprising and delighting me is the way the cast, the ensemble, has fused together. It’s kind of an interesting combination of very young and very experienced people and the double-up of that, it seems to me, is there is a lot of fire in the movie. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, it doesn’t try to be too solemn.”
Branagh made a point to praise Hopkins as ”an extraordinary actor with his Celtic passion and incredible technique” and said he has been a binding force for the film on the set and will do the same on the screen. The cast that plays Asgard’s royal family are “people who can embody larger-than-life characters but retain at the center a natural, recognizable, human dynamic … and these people run the universe.”
To read the rest of Geoff Boucher's article click on the link below:
Kenneth Branagh: ‘Thor’ required a ‘different kind of dance’ than ‘Iron Man’
Sept. 16, 2010 12:24 p.m.
“Thor” director Kenneth Branagh is a big fan of the “Iron Man” tandem of director Jon Favreau and star Robert Downey Jr., but he says his entry into the ever-expanding cinema of the Marvel Universe will be quite different in tone and construction.
The “Iron Man” films, the box-office jewel of Marvel Studios, were filmed with an emphasis on bottling the on-set lightning of star Downey, and the actor’s improvisation work kept the harried writing team busy throughout the production as they tweaked and twisted the script to connect the dots between the star’s ad-lib riffs. That approach worked for a franchise that found its axis in the mercurial charm of Tony Stark, but Branagh said Thor’s tale of gods and monsters would not have benefited from a fast-and-loose approach.
“It’s a different story, and also, in that regard, Jon is a bit of a genius when it comes to that orchestration and getting the max out of another genius in Downey,” Branagh said.
“It’s how you dance pretty close to the edge to get the sort of modernity and the edge that ‘Iron Man’ has and the real sharp comic sensibility of those two men,” he said. “So it’s a different kind of dance.
“I think ‘Thor’ comes from a different place story-wise and character-wise. We have both Norse histories for Thor, hundreds of myths and fables told in many different ways, in addition to what Marvel has pillaged for the past 40 years or so to come up with their version of things, which sits in very strong structure, a really strong narrative structure.”
To read the rest of Geoff Boucher's article click on the link below:
Saturday, December 25, 2010
Pope Benedict XVI and Monsignor Guido Marini
While it is hard to explain to outsiders, one of the most fascinating battles in the American Catholic church today is the one that pits the kneelers vs. the non-kneelers. I refer, of course, to the issue of whether bishops should — bowing to the modernization of ancient rites — attempt to prevent the faithful from kneeling before the altar as they receive Holy Communion during the Mass.
Let me explain: If people are allowed to kneel, that would mean that the Latin Mass is coming back and the next thing you know the pope will be seeking draconian student-life codes on Catholic campuses that prevent student funds from being used for activities that directly attack Catholic doctrine. It would be like the reforms of the Second Vatican Council never happened (or the spirit of the council has been quenched or something like that). Horrors. Then again, I am Eastern Orthodox, so I am biased.
This liturgical war is the subject that looms behind this fascinating, but consistently shallow, Washington Post piece that ran under the headline, “Pope’s master of liturgy helps Benedict restore traditions.” 
The bad guy in this piece is Monsignor Guido Marini, the relatively young Master of Pontifical Liturgical Celebrations for Pope Benedict XVI. The good guy is Archbishop Piero Marini, who held this post for two decades. The young man is into all (or most) things ancient. The older man is into all (or most) things modern and progressive.
The battle ground? The sights, sounds, smells and rubrics of the rites celebrated by the man who sites in the throne of St. Peter. Why does this matter? Change the words and the rites and you eventually change the doctrines. Both Marinis know that. Using the most loaded of images, the Post even suggests that the young liturgist is, with this pope, attempting a “counter-reformation.” Is that with our without a large “R”?
Here’s a sample of the warfare:
Since the Marini II era began in October 2007, the papal Masses clearly have a stronger traditional element. Guido Marini, who has degrees in canon and civil law and a doctorate in the psychology of communication, caused considerable consternation among some progressive Catholics in January when he talked to English-speaking priests about a “reform of the reform.”
In an interview Thursday, he argued that the changes should not be seen as a liturgical backlash to modernity but as a “harmonious development” in a “continuum” that takes full advantage of the church’s rich history and is not subject to what he has called “sporadic modifications.” Liturgical progressives, like Bishop Donald Trautman of Erie, Pa., are concerned that Marini considers the reforms of the 1960s ecumenical council known as Vatican II as being among those sporadic modifications.
At most papal Masses, a large crucifix flanked by tall candles is now displayed on the altar, even though many progressives say the ornaments block the view of the priest and the bread and wine. They argue that this obstructs the accessibility urged by liturgical reforms associated with the Second Vatican Council. Marini responds by saying that the crucifix reminds the faithful of who is really front and center in the Mass. He also says that the pope cannot sit in front of the altar when it bears the crucifix because “the pope can’t give his back” to sacraments on the altar.
Keep reading. It’s all here — Gregorian chants, fancy vestments, a few Latin rites, etc.
What is NOT here is the crucial third level of the drama. The story demonstrates that a battle is going on and even gives a few insights into what the battle is about. What is missing? That would be voices on the left or the right (but mainly the right) who can explain what the symbols represent. Readers are not allowed to listen to the doctrinal debates that add substance to the symbols.
In other words, what do these liturgical changes MEAN? Why are these fights packed with so much substance and emotion? Take this passage for example:
Piero Marini, who stepped down in 2007 after serving as the master of celebrations for 20 years, has championed the Vatican II reforms, including the simplification of rites that he believes facilitates active participation.
In the name of “inculturation,” or integrating church rites with local customs, the silver-haired Marini in 1998 accepted the request of local bishops to allow a troupe of scantily clad Pacific islanders in St. Peter’s Basilica to honor the pope with a dance during the opening liturgy of the Synod for Oceania. During John Paul II’s visit to Mexico City in 2002, Marini likewise granted a local bishop’s wish to let an indigenous Mexican shaman exorcise the pope during a Mass there.
Now that is a quick glimpse of true substance, a window into the third layer of the issues addressed in this news report.
Note: A practitioner of another religion — Catholic, polytheistic or some fusion of the two? — is allowed to exorcise demons from the pope, during a Mass. The Post flies right by this. Where are the voices that interpret the meaning of this extraordinary moment? Which divine power is casting out evil forces from the leader of the Catholic faith?
Methinks that the discussions behind closed Vatican doors about the theology built into that act probably lasted for more than a few moments. This was not idol chatter.
This is a great subject for a story. It contains many details linked to topics that are genuinely newsworthy. But where is the substance, other than the old theme that nasty people locked into the past still want to crush the brave voices of the new?