Friday, November 16, 2007
Friday Comic Book Blogging: War -- "Civil" & "Sinestro"
But there is often a strong (if unintended) neoconservative subtext even in stories by left-leaning authors.
The "Civil War" storyline may provide the clearest illustration of this. The Superhero Registration Act is a straightforward analogue of the USA PATRIOT Act; the rhetoric of its opponents could have been cribbed from an ACLU brief. But under scrutiny, their civil libertarian arguments turn out to hold very little water in the fictional context. The "liberty" the act infringes is the right of well-meaning masked vigilantes, many wielding incredible destructive power, to operate unaccountably, outside the law -- a right no sane society recognizes. In one uneasy scene, an anti-registration hero points out that the law would subject heroes to lawsuits filed by those they apprehend. In another, registered hero Wonder Man is forced to wait several whole minutes for approval before barging into a warehouse full of armed spies from Atlantis. Protests about the law's threat to privacy ring a bit hollow coming from heroes accustomed to breaking into buildings, reading minds, or peering through walls without bothering to obtain search warrants. Captain America bristles at the thought of "Washington … telling us who the supervillains are," but his insistence that heroes must be "above" politics amounts to the claim that messy democratic deliberation can only hamper the good guys' efforts to protect America. The putative dissident suddenly sounds suspiciously like Director of National Intelligence [Michael] McConnell defending warrantless spying.
On the other hand, the leader of the "pro-registration" forces is Iron Man, AKA Tony Stark -- former secretary of defense; given that registered heroes MUST become members of the uber-CIA/NSA hybrid SHIELD, this is enforced, targeted, conscription. It's one thing for government to pass a law that either bans the use of "superpowers" (as, say, the use of arms beyond basic handguns or rifles) -- or brings back a nationwide draft. But even in the "real" world, one can understand why Americans would bristle at a draft of just some people. Thus, the "liberty" that the anti-registration forces fight for has legitimate real-world cognates.
Furthermore, in Marvel world, the pro-order/pro-registration forces "win" because Captain America chooses to stop fighting rather than endanger ordinary citizens. His "reward" for this is to be assassinated as he is being marched into court. (The post-murder storyline is still playing out in Captain America's own title -- which is arguably much better since the title character was killed off.) The registration goes forward: Most superheroes are now part of the federal security apparatus. Sanchez suggests that that is better than allowing them to be rogue free agents. Those concerned about the concentration of government power might think differently.
Unfortunately, Sanchez didn't have the time to read (or didn't know about), the current "war" storyline going on in DC Comics. He might have noted how the real-world politics are playing out in similar ways as their Marvel rivals. That involves DC's oldest standing paramilitary organization -- the Green Lantern Corps, an interstellar police force wielding energy manipulating power rings.
The "Sinestro Corps War" involves long-time GL archfoe Sinestro creating an evil version of the GL Corps -- all using yellow power rings. The aim -- to take control of the "multiverse" (that would be Earth and all its parallel universe counterparts). The Green Lantern mythos has always been based on whether courage can overcome fear. Sinestro powers his rings through fear. Why, because, a former Green Lantern himself, Sinestro believes that the universe can better organized than the way his former masters the Guardians of the Universe have managed: "I want that universe controlled with order. And I want all to realize that control comes not out of love, compassion or hope -- but out of fear."
A talented YouTuber creates a great "Sinestro Corps War" trailer:
The Guardians, meanwhile, to take on Sinestro, lift their long-standing ban on Green Lanterns using lethal force -- an obvious parallel to the real-world debate on how much the U.S. should abide by Geneva Convention rules on such topics as torture. The final chapter of the Sinestro War comes out in three weeks, but there are already many hints that the Green Lanterns will undergo as dynamic a moral and organizational transformation in the DC Universe as have the heroes in the Marvel Universe.
If that turns out to be the case, there will be little doubt that the bleaker real-world war-time perspective has become the dominant cultural paradigm in what used to be called the "funny book" world. (As the "Sinestro" arc plays out, DC is moving toward its next epic storyline -- beginning next spring -- "Final Crisis." With any luck, the real world won't have come to an end by then.)
I Think Therefore IM
Perhaps the lines would be something like these:
"No longer will you have to wait minutes, hours or possibly an entire weekend to get a message response!"
"Combined voice and auditory interaction -- immediately."
"Real-time instant conversation!"
"No more constantly having to type as you communicate."
Losing By Winning?
Rich Lowry, however, points out that the attacks from John Edwards and Barack Obama may have a long-term effect on Mrs. Clinton when it comes to the general election. What was once portrayed as a "right-wing" critique of the Clinton style -- unprincipled and power-hungry -- has now been legitimized within the Democratic primary process. In short, the "character" issue is back (or "the politics of personal destruction," as the Clintons loved to call it) is back.
And this time, Democrats put it back on the table.
The Best NFL Quarterback Playing
To make a long story short, it comes down to Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, or Brett Favre. You will have to read it to see who I picked, but feel free to comment here.
1) Bonds In The Dock. As Filip Bondy points out, "It's always the cover-up that gets them." Ironically, Bonds would have made it to the Hall of Fame before his plunge into Steroid World in 2000. Now, it is far likelier that he will be, like Pete Rose, be walking in baseball limbo -- when he's not in jail.
2) A-Rod returns. Whether this cause for curses or celebration in the Bronx won't be known for many years. It's also interesting to note that despite all the recriminations against A-Rod for opting out of his previous contract, the numbers that are bandying about -- especially talk of a bonus if he breaks the all-time home run mark (with or without steroids is un-'clear') -- are pretty close to the 10-year/$300 million goal that Rodirguez and his agent Scott Boras were throwing around at the beginning of the season.
3) After everything that has bedeviled Eliot Spitzer in recent days, weeks and months, is it really smart to be seen going after Derek Jeter for tax evasion? Yeah, yeah, the state might be right on the law, but it still seems politically dumb.
Thursday, November 15, 2007
Imus Fallout Goes International
Because it's supposedly offensive to women.
Apparently, for similar reasons, non-Aussie writers are prohibited from using the phrase "down under."
Pigskin Pick'em - NFL Week 11 Picks
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Atlanta Falcons: Remember the good old days when the Bucs used to have Mike Vick's number? Now they can have the whole Atlanta phone book.
Cleveland Browns at Baltimore Ravens: What a difference a year makes. Last year, the Ravens would have been a lock to win this game. This year, with the disappearance of the Ravens offense, plus their struggling defense, and the arrival of football to Cleveland, the Brownies are the lock.
Arizona Cardinals at Cincinnati Bengals: Neither of these teams are who we thought they were. Expect the unexpected, and take the Cards.
New York Giants at Detroit Lions: The Lions have a tendency to flop the weekend before their Thanksgiving game. Playing the Giants doesn't help them in this regard.
Carolina Panthers at Green Bay Packers: Hey Brett Favre! Don't think of this as an easy game. Think of this as a job tryout for when you become the Panthers quarterback in a few years.
New Orleans Saints at Houston Texans: With both Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson back, the Texans should be too much for the Saints.
Kansas City Chiefs at Indianapolis Colts: I bet the Chefs would like some payback for last year's playoff loss to the Colts. Too bad they won't get it.
San Diego Chargers at Jacksonville Jaguars: Don't expect this one to be pretty.
Oakland Raiders at Minnesota Vikings: The Vikes will be crying "Adrian!" after this one. Or just crying.
Miami Dolphins at Philadelphia Eagles: I hear fish are good for the heart. There should be a lot of warm hearts in Philly after this one.
Pittsburgh Steelers at New York Jets: Ugly.
Washington Redskins at Dallas Cowboys: The most storied rivalry in NFL history continues. Even though I am picking the Boys, I won't be surprised by anything in this one.
St. Louis Rams at San Francisco 49ers: The Rams got their win out of the way last week.
Chicago Bears at Seattle Seahawks: Rex Redux! And Hawks usually beat ducks, so...
New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills: You don't even have to ask on this one.
Tennessee Titans at Denver Broncos: This actually looks like a fun Monday night matchup.
Pigskin Pick'em Rules:
1. Pick the straight-up winners of all this weeks NFL games (excluding any Thursday games). Picks will be accepted in the comments section of the following websites: Politics and Pigskins, Ragged Thots, and American Legends. All picks must be posted by 1 pm Eastern Time on Sunday (otherwise known as "The Barker Rule"), or by the kickoff of the first NFL Saturday game on weeks when that happens.
2. The winner gets...bragging rights! (you weren't expecting money, were you?)
3. And new for this year: I will be keeping a running tally for the season, so the person who gets the most picks correct for the whole season, including the playoffs, gets...even BIGGER bragging rights! (and still no money)
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Spitzer Drive-In Cave-In
Perhaps fittingly, Spitzer announced that he was dropping the plan -- not in New York -- but in Washington, DC, surrounded by members of the state congressional delegation. Notably, neither senator, Chuch Schumer or Hillary Rodham Clinton were present.
Spitzer, of course, blamed the failure of the plan on the federal government's inability to pass a comprehensive immigration plan.
New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer announced Wednesday he was abandoning a plan to issue driver's licenses to illegal immigrants, but said that the federal government had "lost control" of its borders and left states to deal with the consequences.This is, in actuality, one of the rare occasions where the public's will came through loud and clear. A poll released Tuesday was the third in the last month showing that more than two-thirds of New Yorkers opposed Spitzer's license plan. Combined with Spitzer's scandal involving using the State Police to spy on a political enemy -- and the subsequent cover-up -- this story caused Spitzer's popularity to plunge faster than any New York governor in history. Only a quarter of New Yorkers support Spitzer's re-election (he won with 69 percent of the vote a year ago).
"I have concluded that New York state cannot successfully address this problem on its own," Spitzer said at a news conference after meeting with members of the state's congressional delegation.
Whether Spitzer recovers is an open question (there's an investigation into whether his former communications director committed perjury during the initial part of the so-called "Troopergate" scandal).
However, this episode certainly underscores how much immigration may turn out to be a wild card going into the '08 campaigns.
UPDATE: And that ever-present profile-in-courage, Mrs. Clinton, proudly came out against driver's licenses for illegal immigrants -- mere hours after Spitzer dropped it. Nothing to see here, folks. Move along. Move along.
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
Pigskin Pick'em - Week 10 Results
Sorry Mark. If it is any consolation, with only 5 picks right, you still did better than me:
SoloD - 9
FunkyPundit - 7
Audio Dave - 7
bl - 6
J. Mark English - 5
David Stefanini - 5
Robert A. George - 5
Bill Barker - 5
EdMcGon - 3
Moose - 1
Fortunately, I did not lose too much ground on Stefanini, since he tanked this week too. Our year-to-date results (with weekly wins in parentheses):
David Stefanini(2) - 84
EdMcGon(1.5) - 79
Robert A. George(1.5) - 77
J. Mark English(1) - 72
bl(2) - 66
Bill Barker - 58
FunkyPundit(0.5) - 48
SoloD(1) - 37
Dave O'Leary - 21
Audio Dave(0.5) - 17
Rigel - 17
Snave - 8
Mike - 8
Moose - 1
As you may have noticed, I gave Moose credit for picking the Steelers this week. Thanks for playing Moose!
Monday, November 12, 2007
Dollars To Donuts
That's beginning to change. The New York Sun discusses it in light of an exchange from this summer between Ron Paul and Fed Chief Ben Bernanke. The Sun notes that in July Paul was using the word "crisis" with respect to the dollar. Bernanke didn't see a crisis. The paper also surmises that Paul's prescience may be an explanation for his "surprising" campaign:
[W]e're of the view that it relates to the substance. We have a lot of differences with Mr. Paul, but on monetary matters, we've been covering him since his days, in the early 1980s, as a member of the United States Gold Commission, when he coauthored, with New York's own Lewis Lehrman, a minority report favoring a return to a version of the gold standard. What can be said about Mr. Paul is that he's not only ahead of Mr. Bernanke but also of his fellow Republicans, and he will eat into their standing until they address the question of the soundness of our currency.
Clearly, Paul's principled stance against the war has a lot to do with it, but he is also the only person -- in either party -- talking about what to some is economic arcana.
On Sunday, my colleague Braden Keil addressed at length the real-world impact that the dollar imbalance is having on the New York economy -- as Europeans gobble everything up at (for them) rock-bottom prices:
While it's positive for jobs that foreign money is pouring into our restaurants, hotels, retail stores and real estate, it's also pricing us out of our own market. Everything - from rentals to luxury goods to meals - is being kept artificially high by foreign visitors. That $50 entrée? Chump change to someone who got $2 for every pound they brought through customs. And don't think that the housing dip affecting the rest of the country means you might finally be able to afford a place in Manhattan - or even Brooklyn. Europeans are snapping up the “sales."Many on the left have decried what they see as America becoming "Walmart Nation" -- meaning that the Superstore's low prices that undercut the competition is driving "Mom and Pop" stores out of business. But, one could also say that the dollar fall has created a different form of "Walmart Nation" actually turned the U.S. into one large Walmart -- "always low prices."
Given some of the dire concerns raised in another Sun column, the end result of these trends may mean that, contrary to what the conventional wisdom driving the present political debate suggests, Iraq may actually rank a distant second to the economy as the critical issue in next year's election.