Sunday, December 19, 2010

Being a Disciple of Christ in the Christmas Season

The following is the written version of a sermon I gave earlier today at church and is my personal Christmas message to everyone this year:

I was asked to speak on what it means to be a disciple of Christ during the Christmas season.

As a child, I couldn’t wait for Christmas to come along. It was a time of family gathering together, cookies, games, television specials, and the best thing of all: unwrapping gifts to reveal all the toys I’d be playing with for the next year! It was almost too much to handle – all that waiting for the goodies I’d been coveting. Of course, I had to endure getting things like clothes from mother and hand knit slippers from a grandmother who didn’t understand what Christmas was about. They clearly didn’t have a clue! Oh how the years have gone by since then and oh how much I’d like a pair of new slippers knitted by my grandmother to keep my feet warm – especially during this bitterly cold winter we are having.

Age and the knowledge acquired over those years have changed my perspective mightily. A greater understanding of what is truly important in life makes for a very different feeling about Christmas time. While it is still much about family, the holiday season doesn’t fill me with anticipation the way it once did. Of course, being raised in a secular household that had no spirituality or faith made it more of a material holiday back then. Having found faith in Jesus Christ, it has different meaning to me now. Sadly, many I see are still caught in the material trappings of the season that have little to do with the Savior. We must not forget Him in the midst of all the blinking lights, frenzied shopping, distractions, even decorations and trimmings of a very commercialized and ever more secular holiday.

To be a true disciple of Christ, first one must understand what a disciple is. In the Bible dictionary, a disciple is defined as the following: “A pupil or learner; a name used to denote (1) the twelve, also called apostles, (2) all followers of Jesus Christ.” Most people think of the Apostles when ‘disciple’ is used, but the word applies to all of us who take on the name of Christ and follow in his path. In Acts 11: 26, we read “And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.” So Christian is another word for disciple. But there is more to it than that.

There are things that followers of Christ must do. In D&C 41: 5, it says “he who does the law is the Lord’s disciple.” We also read, “But my disciples shall stand in holy places, and shall not be moved;” in D&C 45: 32. Moving to section 84 of D&C, the Lord proclaimed, “Whoso receiveth you receiveth me; and the same will feed you, and clothe you, and give you money. And he who feeds you, or clothes you, or gives you money, shall in nowise lose his reward. And he that doeth not these things is not my disciple; by this you may know my disciples.”

Much is asked of those who would be disciples of Jesus Christ. It isn’t meant to be easy and I found the following scripture interesting. When the Lord visited the remnants of Israel in the Americas he set apart apostles there as he had in Israel. “And now it came to pass that when Jesus had spoken these words, he said unto those twelve whom he had chosen: Ye are my disciples; and ye are a blight unto this people, who are a remnant of the house of Joseph.” 3 Ne. 15: 11-12. Being a blight on others sounds harsh, doesn’t it? But those who make a stand for that which is right, good, and holy are something of a pain to those who don’t. It pricks them deeply, but shouldn’t stop us from doing what’s right.

We are asked to be obedient in Matthew 10: 24-25, “The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord. It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord.” We are asked to sacrifice in Luke 14: 33, “So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.” Most of all, we are to love others. In John 13:34-35 the Savior declared, “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” Love. To me, love is at the heart of being a true disciple of Christ.

We live in a materialistic world, where things often have more value than people do. To me, no time of year more embodies this than the holiday season. Perhaps my saying this disturbs you, but I’ve watched the incredible amount commercialization take over Christmas more every year. The constant sales pitches, the people running around and even fighting with each other to buy the latest and greatest time killing toy, for child or adult, seems to me to have nothing to do with the true love of Christ. By that, I am speaking of charity, of course.

There are so many who need love and help, especially in this often lonely time of year. While we need to strive to be true disciples every day of the year, the expectations and stresses of this increasingly frenetic holiday season are a sore trial for those who have little and even those who have much. No matter what part of society we inhabit, we should remember that all people are our brothers and sisters, all children of God. That includes our family members, a known source of stress – well, at least in my experience.

Charity takes many forms and while we are often mindful of the physical needs of others around Christmas time, there are other ways to show Christ like love. My words are utterly inadequate, so I will quote from President Thomas S. Monson’s address to the General Relief Society Meeting earlier this year. The sisters will be familiar with it but I think it applies to the brethren as well:

“I consider charity--or "the pure love of Christ"--to be the opposite of criticism and judging. In speaking of charity, I do not at this moment have in mind the relief of the suffering through the giving of our substance. That, of course, is necessary and proper. Tonight, however, I have in mind the charity that manifests itself when we are tolerant of others and lenient toward their actions, the kind of charity that forgives, the kind of charity that is patient.

I have in mind the charity that impels us to be sympathetic, compassionate, and merciful, not only in times of sickness and affliction and distress but also in times of weakness or error on the part of others.

There is a serious need for the charity that gives attention to those who are unnoticed, hope to those who are discouraged, aid to those who are afflicted. True charity is love in action. The need for charity is everywhere.

Needed is the charity which refuses to find satisfaction in hearing or in repeating the reports of misfortunes that come to others, unless by so doing, the unfortunate one may be benefited. The American educator and politician Horace Mann once said, "To pity distress is but human; to relieve it is godlike."

Charity is having patience with someone who has let us down. It is resisting the impulse to become offended easily. It is accepting weaknesses and shortcomings. It is accepting people as they truly are. It is looking beyond physical appearances to attributes that will not dim through time. It is resisting the impulse to categorize others.

In a hundred small ways, all of you wear the mantle of charity. Life is perfect for none of us. Rather than being judgmental and critical of each other, may we have the pure love of Christ for our fellow travelers in this journey through life. May we recognize that each one is doing her best to deal with the challenges which come her way, and may we strive to do our best to help out.

Charity has been defined as "the highest, noblest, strongest kind of love," the "pure love of Christ . . . ; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with [her]."

"Charity never faileth." May this long-enduring Relief Society motto, this timeless truth, guide you in everything you do. May it permeate your very souls and find expression in all your thoughts and actions.”

It is my hope that we will find ways to show charity to others this season and to also find ways to be better disciples of Christ during it – and beyond. As we go forth into this final week leading to Christmas, may we remember to love one another and express it often. Let us never forget the love of the Savior and what Christmas is truly about during the whirling madness going on about us.

Christ loved us so much He went through the unimaginable pain of performing the Atonement. Our Father in Heaven loved us so much He sent His most beloved son to be sacrificed so that we would be able to come back home to Him. We should remember this charity shown us during the season celebrating the birth of the Savior. I testify of this love and end this talk in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1

Time to review the movie as I promised to earlier. 

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was a large book packed with far too many events to wedge into one movie, which was a problem with some of the previous films. Thankfully, Warner Bros decided to split the book into two movies and even then there is barely room for most of the story.  Interestingly, I’ve been reading reviews claiming that the magic has gone out of the Harry Potter movies.  I disagree and the review will explain why.

First, The Deathly Hallows is about Harry and his friends being forced to grow up.  They end up alone in a bleak, frightening, and apparently hopeless world where Voldemort has taken over the Ministry of Magic and is terrorizing the magical world.  Keep an eye out for propaganda that resembles that of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union; the movie isn’t subtle about those references.  This isn’t a kiddie story anymore, instead it is about the beginnings of a war that doesn’t look winnable.

Deaths occur from the very beginning of the movie, which gets to fast start depicting the preparations by Harry and Hermione for the coming war.  Emma Watson has really grown as an actress and her scene with Hermione erasing herself from the memories of her muggle parents is well played.   Daniel Radcliffe’s Harry seems more uncertain and stubborn than ever, even as events start spiraling out of his control.  His wandering through the now vacated Dursely home is as symbolic as Hermione’s of having to leave home and become an adult.

There are moments of the humor so present in the previous movies, but it is clear this is a grimmer affair as the ending to the first action piece demonstrates. Blood is shed, characters die, and a momentary lull for a wedding doesn’t last long.  Quickly, Harry, Hermione, and Ron Weasely are on the run for their lives while trying to finish the late Dumbledore’s quest to find and destroy fragments of Lord Voldemort’s soul – the horcruxes.

One complaint will be made by many and that is the extended time in the wilderness being boring. Once again, I’ll disagree as this gave the young trio of actors wonderful character moments and conveys that they can’t count on older people to bail them out of trouble.  Rupert Grint as Ron shines brightest during these events as he has the greatest trouble adapting to the hardship. Ron always did lag behind the other two in maturity and it becomes painfully apparent that he has the most growing up to do.  This leads to conflict and a splitting of the trio as jealousies explode into the open. 

Along the way to the tragic ending of the movie, we are treated to an animated sequence that recounts what the Deathly Hallows are.  That part is pure magic, no pun intended.  It is a brief respite before the darkness comes and heroism fails.  The magic isn’t gone, but it has grown up.

The ending I liked, because it was a perfect place to split the material and because it reminds me a little of how Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back ended – except with less hope.  It left the audience I was with wanting more.

Was this the best of the films? No, but it was one of the best.  Seeing the change from school days to early adulthood in the main characters is something that added depth to the Harry Potter series and I appreciated seeing that greatly.  Harry, Ron, and Hermione are now having to make adult decisions and fend for themselves and in the end, that is what this movie is about.  Of course it is all set up for Part 2 as well.

There is blood, gore, and one “romance” scene that definitely makes this movie not for young kids.  The pervasive gloom of the story is punctuated by frightening battles and attacks, so expect lots of tears for nights to come if you make the mistake of taking a young child to it.

As a footnote, I have to say the special effects are the best by far in the series.  Watching it in digital HD, I was stunned by the effects involving a certain house elf.  The CGI masters have come a long way since Gollum!

If you are a Harry Potter fan, this is a must see film. 

Harry Potter Midnight Screening

The last thing I expected to be doing today was going to the midnight opening of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1.  Okay, it was the second to last thing I expected.  The last thing would have to be going to it in the small town of Spring Grove, Minnesota. 

But this, in fact, is how my day ended.  Assisting my father in an aborted microwave installation in the afore mentioned town resulted in our passing the local state of the art movie theater several times. The first time I did a double take at what was on the marquee – after all, they don’t show first run movies, much less something this popular.  Upon returning home, a check on the Spring Grove Cinema’s home page verified that I hadn’t been hallucinating and that they would be showing it every night for two weeks.  An email reservation was required and on a lark I sent it in, the catch being that you have to show up fifteen minutes before show time or your seats might be sold.

The crowd wasn’t huge but along the numbers I’d seen at The Lord of the Rings midnight showings in a much larger city of La Crosse, Wisconsin.  It was a cheerful crowd that skewed young and the mood was good.  At six dollars a ticket it was more than a bargain.

So how was the movie, you wonder? 

A full review will wait until I’ve had some sleep, but this was one of the best entries in the series.  Fans of the book should be pleased at how faithful it was.  The performances were the best yet from the cast and there was a palpable feeling of dread throughout the film.  Also, it is not for small kids as there are deaths and gory maiming's in it, so please don’t think about taking them to it.

Somewhat off topic:

Two trailers stood out for me and they were for Tron: Legacy and Green Lantern.  Having seen both on the Web, only Tron had impressed me and Green Lantern disappointed on the small screen.  I’ve changed my mind about the latter after seeing it on the big screen and it looks dazzling.  Still not happy with the humorous bits that ring hollow, but the more serious parts look very good indeed.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

A Memorable and Unpredictable Election

Since I was up until 3:00 A.M., I’m hoping I have some semblance of coherency writing this post.  My father and I spent the evening with our State Representative Greg Davids with other supporters of his (kudos to Bonnie for being such a great hostess).  We’ve been doing this since election night in 2006, which unfolded like a horror movie  as the Democratic tsunami took Greg and most of the other state Republicans out of office.   I imagine that was the feeling in many a DFL victory party last night that turned into funerals when both the state house and senate went from veto proof majorities for them to Republican majorities.

I refused to make any solid predictions this year when asked by friends and political activists because at some point I realized none of the data coming in fit anything I’d seen before.  Combined that with a very strange atmosphere of smoldering resentment toward all politicians that I found amongst the average citizen of the area and I concluded this was going to be a strange election.  Even the political activists didn’t have much passion, aside from some of the Tea Partiers.   I knew the Republicans would win and win big nationally, but Minnesota looked bad.

Thanks to Mark Ritchie’s incompetence (or is it something more sinister?)  at managing the Secretary of State office, results for our local counties of Fillmore and Houston trickled in very slowly if at all on the SoS website.  That meant phone calls and trips to the local county courthouses to find out what was going on.  Houston County was forced to email results in because the line for the counting machines to the state capitol was dead.  That made for a long evening watching national and statewide races seesaw back and forth.

In the end, we saw the voters of the United States punish the Democratic Party for their ignoring the will of the people and following an extreme left wing agenda. That agenda is over, even though Republicans only took the U.S. House.  The gains in the U.S. Senate were large enough to make things very difficult for certain Democrat Senators to toe the party line when they are looking to get re-elected in 2012. 

The bigger news is that many state legislatures and governorships flipped to the GOP.  Why is this bigger news?  2010 is a census year and that means federal and state redistricting of voting districts.  With their penchant for gerrymandering, the Democrats had to hold on to everything they had to keep those districts or tamper with Republican dominated ones. Now Republican dominated legislatures will control the redistricting in many critical states and Minnesota.  Never thought I’d see that!

I’m pleased to say Houston County went completely red this election.

On to some specific races:

Greg Davids won HD-31B outright despite having two opponents. Steve Kemp (DFL) and Al Hein (Ind) split the liberal vote but even that didn’t matter as Greg won 53% of the vote for a clear knock out.  Surprising, I thought it would be tighter.

Rhett Zenke put up a good fight but Gene Pelowski HD-31A will never be knocked out as he is the last of the conservative Democrat breed.  At least Rhett won in Houston County and I hope he sticks around after redistricting.

Jeremy Miller upset Sharon Ropes in SD-31 which surprised many. This one didn’t surprise me, I knew Miller would win a close race and it was very close.  Congratulations on winning and securing the state senate for us, Jeremy!

Randy Demmer made it close against Tim Walz in CD-1, but enough people buy into Walz’s phony moderate act to keep him in office.  There was a poisoned atmosphere the unfairly hurt Randy that originated in the 2006 endorsement campaign that I think affected things. But the biggest problem is that unless we find a multimillionaire to self finance, Walz will always have a ridiculous money advantage. The union money borders on the infinite there.

The governor’s race is going into automatic recount with Emmer trailing Dayton by half a percent.  This race went bad because “moderate” Republicans decided to go out and get Horner elected.  His 12 % didn’t come from Dayton like some activists insisted, but mostly from Emmer.  But this gets uglier.  Hennepin County managed to have 180,000 more ballots cast than there are registered voters when there was only 58% turnout statewide.  This stinks of voter fraud and I predict the recounts will get ugly.

Those 180,000 votes would be enough to change the outcomes of the state constitutional offices as well.   As it stands, they all remain in the hands of the DFL.

That leads me to point out a problem that Minnesota has – we don’t have clean elections and haven’t for some time. The corruption and fraud in the Twin Cities has spilled out to affect smaller cities in the state as well.  Voter fraud is extremely hard to prove because there are very few safeguards against it in the system.  Voter ID is desperately needed here and would prevent it up front.

Finally, a comment on two races that gained national attention.  In Nevada, Harry Reid won when he shouldn’t have.  In Delaware, Coons destroyed O’Donnell easily.  Both those candidates were poor choices and in O’Donnell’s case, became a litmus test for purity amongst some conservatives.  Those who pointed out her Grand Canyon sized flaws were shouted down and accused of being RINO’s.  Quality of character matters and should matter to those of use who are conservatives.  Just because someone says things we want to hear doesn’t make them a good candidate or trustworthy.  That lesson needs to be driven home before November 2012 comes around.

Why?  Because the American public hates Republicans almost as much as they hate Democrats.  Republicans have to come through on fiscal issues or else they will be dumped out of office too. I expect the electorate to fragment over the next few years and there will be growing instability if the GOP screws up again.   Hostility toward the federal government is growing in proportion to the expansion of it.  Big government has been rejected along with Barack Obama’s radical agenda.  All newly elected Republicans better keep that in mind because the public is watching.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Good Guidance

Last weekend, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints held one of its twice a year General Conference’s. These are weekend long multiple session events where our leaders speak to us and give us spiritual guidance.  The wonderful sermons cover a wide assortment of topics and the wisdom is given humbly, but profoundly in many cases.

This October’s General Conference was no different, but I will steer everyone toward the incredible Priesthood Session.  The talks there were fantastic, especially the ones by Elder Juan A. Uceda and President Dieter F. Uchtdorf.  The newly revamped General Conference section has all of the proceedings in video and audio formats to watch or download.

I challenged two of my home teaching families to watch and take notes then select the one talk that spoke to each of them directly.  Because of that, I had to do the same.  That’s what I get for making a challenge.  It turned out to be much harder than usual this time.  That’s how good the talks were.  But in the end, President Uchtdorf’s Pride and the Priesthood stood out by a hair.  I can’t wait to find out what my home teachee’s are.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Another Potential Candidate for President

Representative Mike Pence (R-IN) made waves by winning the Value Voters Summit straw poll last week.  He’d been on the outer edges of my radar but this speech on the Presidency at Hillsdale College has really gotten my attention. He is someone to watch now.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Freedom of Speech in Peril… From the Media?

As previous posts on ACTA have shown, I’m not a huge fan of Intellectual Property rights as they are currently handled.  While there needs to be a way to make money for ideas, those ideas shouldn’t be perpetual money machines – that inevitably leads to a decrease in new inventions and works. A little while back I read about a problem with Righthaven, a group suing bloggers for daring to quote from their clients’ publications.  Quoting small amounts from articles is covered by Fair Use, or should be. 

Now it has turned into a big business for the lawyers of Righthaven and they are going after bloogers big and small including ones who don’t even make money from their blogs.

For a glimpse of what is going on that involves some heavy irony, please read this thread at Broadband/DSL Reports.  The discussion is interesting and takes quite a turn on page two.  Yes, Righthaven is suing over content posted by a user on the forums, not content put up on the website.

So now we have media companies shaking down everyone and anyone in an effort to get money.  Free speech isn’t even considered as these intellectually bankrupt corporations look to hoover every last cent out of somebody else’s pocket.  What’s worse is that it is working. They are making serious money with these take down and lawsuit threats.

The explosion in blogs and forums has allowed more information to be shared than ever before in history.  While it often seems the Internet is a cesspool of the pornographic and the trivial, information that actually matters has proliferated changing much.  From politics to economics to wrong doings of totalitarian regimes, people have been able to get their messages out. 

It is appalling to think that the United States of America, a country founded on freedom and inalienable rights, would become the home to persecutors of opinions using quotes to back their arguments.  This along with the ACTA treaty show that things have gotten very out of hand.

The O'Donnell Victory

In the above missive, Jonah Goldberg captures most of how I feel about what has happened in Delaware. But I'm going to criticize the mindless viciousness of her supporters because they are turning things into identity politics the way the Democrats do. From the women blindly supporting O'Donnell thinking that she was attacked for daring to be a woman to the ad hominem profanity directed at principled conservatives objecting to a fraud and a liar becoming the candidate (though in truth those descriptions apply to Castle as well), the attitudes remind me of how Obama's camp tore down Hillary Clinton in 2008. There was very little rationality involved and a great deal of emoting due to the desire to get rid of a RINO.

I've got news for people. Just because someone says all the things you want to hear from them doesn't make them the real deal. Anybody who made rent payments from their campaign contributions is not someone you want going to Washington to live off the taxpayer. Opposing a person like that doesn't make you a RINO or a puppet of the Republican establishment. Look deeper into the actions of those who say all the right things before opposing or supporting them. With the Republic itself dangling by a thread, this is not the time to be stupid and start a civil war amongst conservatives.

The consequences could be dire, for with a public sick of the Democratic and Republican parties, hating another party such as the Tea Party will be very easy. All it will take is getting the wrong people in and their screwing up. There is no patience in the electorate right now. As the Democrats have found, the anger that can sweep you into power can just as quickly sweep you out. People advocating a third party will find that it will fare no differently.

As for me, I wish a real conservative had been in the Delaware primary. I consider neither Castle or O'Donnell to be the real deal.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Smallville: Absolute Justice Review Part 2

The Justice Society of America is being stalked by a killer.  Will they survive or will they bring down the younger heroes with them?

Continued from Part 1.


Absolute Justice, Episode 2

Part two begins with Clark Kent awakening to find himself back in the museum owned by Carter Hall, aka Hawkman.  Alone, he removes the sheets from the cases and discovers exhibits of the gear belonging to the mystery group.  In the cases are items that thrilled the old comic book fan in me.  There was the Flash’s winged Mercury helmet,  Hourman’s hourglass, Dr. Midnite’s doctor bag, and Green Lantern’s ring with the railroad lantern shaped power battery. 


But the one relic of the old team that stood out was when Clark uncovered the case with Hawkgirl’s helmet in it. The lingering shot revealed that a horrific wound had been inflicted across one eye socket – the kind of wound someone couldn’t survive.  A pervasive sense of loss is further conveyed when the round table is uncovered that has the very patriotic logo of the Justice Society of America emblazoned on the marble.  Drawn to the painting on the wall, Clark uncovers it and surveys the team.  As he does, we see longer flashes from the archival film, this time in color serving as a recap from the first episode.


What follows is an argument filled gathering of the old and new heroes with Green Arrow once again being on the losing end of a fight with Hawkman.  Comic book fans are used to this as the characters traditionally don’t get along. A reluctant Hawkman agrees to an alliance but is vocal about his unhappiness with the incompetent newer heroes.

So now we have our lineup to face off against the Icicle:  The Blur aka Clark Kent, Green Arrow, the depowered Martian Manhunter, Hawkman, Dr. Fate, and Stargirl. That seems like a lot of firepower, but the killer is a professional and is hunting them.  One thing is certain, he is no joke like Mr. Freeze.

But the plot is about to get a great deal more complicated as Lois Lane (Erica Durance) enters the picture.  Someone sends her a package filled with information on how a group of vigilantes were framed for crimes they didn’t commit.  Her boss, Lex Luthor’s former protégé, Tess Mercer seems to recognize the checkerboard pattern on the package and acts strangely.


From there the episode moves to some strong character scenes including Chloe and Stargirl talking about the differences in the teams, Green Arrow and Hawkman insulting each other (the actors were having too much fun and it showed),  and Dr. Fate telling Clark about his destiny.  Fate can see everyone’s future but his own and his dialogue with the future Superman is positively mythic.

Oddly enough, that gets topped with a marvelous scene between Fate and Lois.  Every scene with Dr. Fate is magic, no pun intended and what could have been the hokiest character is instead the most appealing.  Not bad considering you can’t see his face.


The motivations of the Icicle and his affiliation to a secret government organization is revealed and this has repercussions still being explored in the series.  Amanda Waller (Pam Grier!) is playing both the killer and Lois in a dangerous game.  I said things were getting more complicated, but you haven’t seen anything yet.


Having gotten an idea of where they can find the killer, Dr. Fate and the Martian Manhunter bond while looking for the cryogenic hitman.  Both have tragedies scarring their lives and feel apart from the others.  What promises to be a budding friendship ends in tragedy.


In the aftermath, Carter and Ollie have a very blunt conversation and we finally find out Hawkman’s back story.  Once again, tragedy is at the core of one of the characters.  The heroes gather one more time to prepare for the final battle which is one of Smallville’s better efforts.


After the densely packed previous episode, the star of the show, Tom Welling, stepped in to direct the second with very little preparation time.  There is a definite change of approach; though the atmosphere is still dark there is a warmth to this episode that embodies what the JSA is all about. In the current version of the Justice Society of America the theme is one of family and of generations mixing so that the older hands can teach the younger rookies. Those themes are touched on repeatedly as the episode progressed and the hopeful endings really caught the essence of the JSA.  The younger heroes get the message that it is all about family at the end of the story.

Usually a special episode or story doesn’t carry over into later episodes, but Absolute Justice influenced the rest of the season and from what has leaked the last season to air starting September 24th.  The secret organization is still active and their motivations seem to cross many lines.  In fact a line at the end of Absolute Justice has turned out to be the setup for the big villain of the final season.

But did it live up to expectations?

For me, it exceeded them.  Somehow everyone involved managed to pack in an immense amount of comic book history, action, and actual character development into a good story.  No small achievement, that. I loved the episode and marvel at how emotional some of the scenes are, especially the ones with Dr. Fate. 

When iTunes put both episodes up as one download at the regular price for one, I jumped on it and purchased the HD version.  The screen captures are downsized from that and I have to say the show looks great. The effects were very good and it did have the feeling of a movie rather than a television show. 

I recommend renting the Season 9 DVDs from Netflix or your local video store/Redbox.  Smallville turned into a good show the final few seasons and the increased ratings show it.  Be aware there is some mild gore and one death in particular is rather nasty.

Some more shots from the museum featuring JSA member gear:


Wildcat’s gloves and tape.


Hourman’s hourglass.


Mr. Terrific’s belt.


Green Lantern’s ring and power battery.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Smallville: Absolute Justice Review Part 1

The Justice Society of America makes its live action debut. So how does the small screen treat the Golden Age heroes?


As a child in the 1970’s, I became a fan of the Justice Society of America (JSA) when they were revived for a run by DC Comics.  Back then, they hailed from an alternate Earth and there would be crossovers between the heroes created in the 1940’s and their modern counterparts in the Justice League of America. There was something about these old fashioned character that I immediately took too and over the years wondered why others didn’t. 

That all changed with the new century, as a revived and revised JSA became a top title in comic books.  Still, I never imagined I’d see a live action version of these heroes.  They came from an era of bright primary colors and spandex costumes.  But with the success of comic book writer Geoff Johns episode featuring the Legion of Super-Heroes in season 8 of Smallville, the producers of the show wanted him to come back.  His treatment of the JSA was so well received they expanded it from one episode into two, then ran them back to back as a special “movie” event.

Expectations ran high and I was eagerly awaiting the episode… And dreading it.

Absolute Justice: Episode 1

Things begin with resident super hero coordinator Chloe Sullivan (Allison Mack) on her cell phone leaving a message for Clark about tracking down the Kandorians (Kryptonian refugees and the main storyline of the season) while walking down a dark street.  Something begins interfering with the cell and all the lights in the street flicker before extinguishing.  Being an old pro at the whole danger thing, Chloe doesn’t hesitate to run when she spies a man holding a glowing staff on a fire escape watching her.  As she runs, a bright light follows her and then corners her in an alley.


The light dims and a scruffy man wearing a star spangled blue shirt is revealed.  He introduces himself as Sylvester Pemberton and that he shares something in common with her – they both are trying to put a team together.  Still uneasy, Chloe listens to the strange man as he explains that he knows her code name is “Watchtower” and how easy it is with modern technology to find out about people and that she is lucky that it was a friend who found out.  Not relaxing, Chloe makes a retort and notices that it is suddenly very cold.

With one hand, Pemberton picks her up like she weighs nothing and deposits her in a dumpster.  With the cover down, Chloe tries to watch through the mesh vents but only sees blinding flashes of light and sounds of violent fighting.  An icicle rams through the steel side of the dumpster as the chaotic sequence continues and eventually a scream of pain is heard.  The battle has ended.

Emerging from the iced over dumpster, the young woman finds a mortally wounded Pemberon on the ground.  With his dying words he warns her the people who came for “us” are coming for you next.  “Check…” he gasps and expires.  “Check what?!” an upset Chloe exclaims.

Cue “Save Me” by Remy Zero and the opening credits for Smallville.

You are probably wondering why I went into so much detail.  This two episode event is filled with everything but the kitchen sink and I might have seen one momentarily for that matter. Suffice it to say that watching Absolute Justice precludes doing your favorite hobby or chatting on the side.  For an old comic book fan, the references are nirvana.  But for new comers they will seem to be an organic part of the story and I really enjoyed how well that was executed.

The rollercoaster ride continues after the credits end and picks up with Chloe and Clark Kent (Tom Welling) talking in the emergency room of the local hospital.  As they discuss what happened, a blonde teenage girl shows up in tears trying to find out about Pemberton’s death.  In a moment that is very typical of Clark on the series, he tries to comfort the distraught girl.  The Daily Planet press badge catches her eye and tears turn to anger as the girl storms away.  Meanwhile, Chloe’s hacking skills are used to copy all the data from the deceased man’s cell phone.  The last call made was to a Wesley Dodds.


Cut to the apartment of Dodds.  It is cluttered with clocks of all types ticking away and Wesley is revealed sleeping in a chair.  He is dreaming the battle where his friend was killed and awakes with a weary look on his face.  Donning a strange gasmask, trenchcoat, and gun he looks in the mirror when the killer enters his apartment.  That is the last time we see The Sandman alive.

We’ve hardly begun and two members of the Golden Age JSA are dead!  While there are momentary flashes of humor in Absolute Justice, the tone is very dark.  As the story progresses, the themes of loss, regret, and sacrifice become more pronounced along with another theme that I will mention later.

Clark and Chloe separate to make investigations into what is going on with Miss Sullivan being assisted by Oliver Queen aka Green Arrow, an archery based super hero.  They find out Pemberton had a long criminal record and the teenage girl is a sophomore named Courtney Whitmore.  With Clark’s finding of Dodds’ body two further clues are discovered.  One was written by Wesley with his own blood, the letters “JSA.”  The other is found in the wounds of the victims – the melting ice has human DNA mixed in it.


We then get a clear look at our killer.  For some reason I immediately thought of Dieter on Sprockets, but I digress.  This is the typical serial killer going through the photos of his victims scene but well executed due to an interesting choice of lighting and sound calculated to put the viewer on edge.  Oh and a major clue is shown at the end of it.


Meanwhile, Clark and Chloe reunite in the archives of The Daily Planet where our intrepid reporter has unearthed more information about the victims.  It turns out they were part of a group of people arrested for embezzlement, extortion, and a host of other crimes but refused to testify against each other.  As they watch an old film reel (in B&W to evoke the 40’s feel though it looks to be the 70s or early 80s), Clark begins to suspect there is something fishy going on. These weren’t garden variety hoods, they were made up of CEO’s, professors, a heavyweight champion, and a woman who fed the homeless.  [That last one is Ma Hunkel, the original Red Tornado in a really obscure nod to the comics.]

Almost all the core members of the Golden Age JSA are named in their civilian identities and there is a palpable feeling of history conveyed through the use of the archaic projector.  That feeling of the past hangs over the rest of the story, adding depth to what would be just another super hero team up.  It also shows Clark demonstrating more maturity than Chloe as he evaluates what is happening.  His statement about the group’s loyalty, “This goes beyond honor” and growing suspicion shows how much the future Superman has progressed this season.


With information from Pemberton’s cell and the archives, Clark goes to the residence of Carter Hall (Michael Shanks), one of the surviving members of the group. It turns out to be a mothballed museum and Hall gives the reporter a very chilly reception. Also present is someone else from the film, Kent Nelson.  Present in body, at least, for he is shown to be a randomly muttering wreck talking to his bowling ball bag. Curious, Clark uses his x-ray vision to check the bag out.  A strange helmet is inside and to his surprise it turns in the bag to look back at him.



Hall gets rid of Mr. Kent and a discussion with Nelson follows. Shortly after that, Ollie has tracked down the glowing staff from the beginning and finds out that the cheerleader has stolen it.  Confronting her on the street doesn’t go well and Ollie is left empty handed and astounded by what just happened.  Rejoining Chloe, they find and search the car owned by Sylvester Pemberton, The Star Rocket Racer.  Old school comic books at their most charming.

It turns out he knew everything about them and the upcoming generation of heroes.  Not a good sign.  Back at the museum, Courtney has shown up and is arguing with Carter over avenging their friends’ deaths.  When guilt doesn’t work, the girl asks “What would Shayera have done?”  That stops him in his tracks.


A terrified Nelson is told by Carter that "We need him.” For a moment, he is lucid and remembers that he had a wife and a family once.  That being Dr. Fate took all that away.  Still frightened, he pulls the helmet out of the bag and it wraps itself around his head painfully.  Energy flows from the glowing helm and Nelson is transformed into Dr. Fate!


The costume is very close to the original comic book one and is surprisingly effective.  Hall approaches a wall that opens up to reveal the armor,weapons, and wings of Hawkman. “It has been a long time since I made someone bleed,” states the archeologist.


This costume isn’t quite as effective but does remain faithful to the look of the comic book if a great deal more practical. Some may knock the small wings but they went for practical effects rather than CGI and there is a limit that a man can carry while remaining on his feet!  It also hides the wire flying harness nicely.

All of this leads to a series of confrontations.  The first is between Clark and Dr. Fate in the hospital room of the father of the killer.


The second is between the now costumed Courtney (calling herself Stargirl) and Icicle.  This fight was very kinetic and one of the best in the nine years the show has been on the air.


The final confrontation is between Hawkman and Green Arrow that ends badly for Ollie.


With Clark missing and the JSA being far more capable than they realized, Chloe and Ollie decide they need reinforcements in a great little scene between the two. A phone call is made to Detective John Jones, the depowered Martian Manhunter!

So ends Episode 1 of Absolute Justice.  It was fast moving and never relented for a minute.  A sense of menace was ever present and the younger heroes seemed to be in over their heads.  So now we have the set up, will the story deliver in Part 2?

A few more goodies from this episode:


Ma Hunkel, The Red Tornado was a truly comic comic book character who wore a pot with eyeholes cut out, red longjohns, and a blue blanket for a cape while fighting crime.


Jay Garrick, the Golden Age Flash.


Alan Scott, the Golden Age Green Lantern.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Nine Years But It Feels Like Yesterday

Today is the ninth anniversary of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York City.  For me, the memories are still fresh – especially watching the second airliner hit while the chattering heads weren’t paying attention.  Their slow reaction embodied the disbelief many had about the nature of what was happening.  But the moment I saw that plane hit, I knew it was Osama bin Laden behind it and we were at war.

There is a price to be paid for being well informed and that is to watch many train wrecks move in slow motion and being unable to do anything about them. I felt that way then and I feel that way now watching the Cordoba House controversy near “Ground Zero.”  For the record, one of the landing gear from the violent intersection of airliner and tower landed on that building, which makes it in the crash radius in my opinion.

While I believe the government has no say in whether or not a mosque disguised as a “cultural center” should be built there and should butt out of it, I also believe people should understand the heavy handed symbolism of placing a mosque in a place of Islamic terrorism.  Traditionally, Muslim conquerors build mosques over churches, temples, and mandirs of newly occupied lands.  This symbolizes that the land is now and forever Muslim no matter what happens.  Naming the “cultural center” the Cordoba House is a reference to the Muslim capitol of occupied Spain centuries ago.  That’s very pointed and symbolic; something that will resonate with Islamic radicals world wide.  It is a victory monument.

Imam Rauf is the man behind it and extolled as a shining example of moderate Islam.  However, he is on record as not just supporting sharia (Islamic law) in the United States but also has blamed the U.S. for 9/11.   Rauf was also a backer of the Iranian Revolution back in 1978. that put the mullahs in power.  Dig around and you find he is another example of a “moderate Muslim” who says one thing here in the West and opposing things to his Arab audiences. 

It is a great pity the ignorance of the masses and willful wishes of the political class allows such people to operate without showing their true faces.  A lack of understanding that cultures can and often are completely different in goals and attitudes compounds this.

The mosque should be opposed using our 1st Amendment rights of free speech, but I reiterate the government should keep out of this.  Don’t get me started on the idiots wanting to burn the Koran for publicity purposes masquerading as free speech statements. Two wrongs don’t make a right.

The simple truth is that nine years ago I knew we were in a war that would last decades if not generations. That war still continues today and goes well beyond the shooting in Afghanistan.  It is a clash of incompatible cultures and those clashes never end prettily. Sometimes they never end; we have the examples of the Middle East and South Asia to illustrate that.  I don’t see an end in sight or even possible.

Monday, August 30, 2010

A Tense World

I’m going to preface this post with a bit of whining.  It is annoying that I’ve had multiple grim postings on this blog and I’d rather be writing about more positive things.  It is time for me to do another review just to break the monotony, so my next post will be a long delayed review on a Smallville episode from last season.

On to the dark and dreary…

A Latter-day Saints bishop in Fresno was murdered yesterday after services by a stranger asking to see anyone in charge at the Visalia 2nd Ward.  My prayers go out to his family and congregation.  With all the Mormon bashing ramping up because of Prop 8 and Glenn Beck’s growing popularity, I wouldn’t be surprised if this doesn’t get classified as a hate crime.  But it could easily be a suicide by police situation given the gloomy economic times.

Speaking of Glenn Beck, I’m not a fan of his.  But I thought his “Restoring Honor” rally was a very good thing and am glad it wasn’t a political rally like the left made it out to be.  It was an old fashioned revival and correctly made the point that the people of America need to get their act together if anything good is to be done.  We certainly can’t rely on governments to be moral authorities.  Predictably, the political left have savaged the event and tried to paint it as racist.  They completely missed the point and that is very sad indeed.

Meanwhile, the West continues to be clueless as to how the Middle East actually operates.  While all cultures have difficulty understanding each other, the governments of the West perpetually assume that everyone else wants the same things we do.  Foolish is a word that barely begins to describe that assumption. Watching the jockeying in the Middle East with Iran and Turkey making a bid for dominant influence in the area is fascinating and underscores the fractured divisions weakening the Arab states.  With little Arab unity they are unable to resist their rivals influence.  Syria’s falling into Tehran's sphere of influence would have been unthinkable decades ago.  This interview of Jonathan Spyer by Michael Totten illustrates some of the problems with America and Europe’s view of the Middle East.  It is lengthy and worth every minute spent reading it.

Ever wondered what the United States looked like during the lead up to the Civil War?  A panorama of Cincinnati, Ohio’s waterfront has been scanned in from daguerreotype photos made in 1848 and put out for the public to see.  That type of photographic process is an amazing thing in itself and the detail that can be pulled from the old plates is incredible.  It makes me wonder what modern lenses combined with the old technology could do.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

It Has to Stop Raining Eventually

It has been quite some time since I last posted and that mostly has to do with my health being in a very bad down cycle. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome tends to run in cycles and this has been the worst one since I first succumbed to the illness over twenty years ago.  This was surprising because I’d thought I’d gotten good at handling the illness and had established a new bottom floor in the cycles.

But much like the large amounts of rain we’ve gotten this summer, it hasn’t shown any sign of letting up.  Locally, we are on a pace to break the seasonal rain totals set in 2007 when flooding devastated the area.  At least the last couple of days have been sunny, if humid, and the forecast only has a chance of rain tomorrow night.

Due to wearing myself out doing things on two days this past week, I ended up not getting out to church again.   I look forward to Sunday more than any other day of the week and this is aggravating.  Oh well, at least it looks like I’ll be getting out with the missionaries again later this week.

This downturn in my health has been so extended that I had to ask to be released from my calling as Ward Mission Leader.  I still insist it is the best calling a man can have as a Latter-day Saint and didn’t want to give it up.  But the Holy Ghost made it clear it needed to be thus and so at the end of June I was released.  Still a ward missionary though and that’s a relief.

So I keep hoping my health and other circumstances will improve.  My intentions are to post here more often and will probably do more movie reviews just to keep me motivated.

And at some point post about the cat who walked in the cat door and won’t leave.

Monday, June 07, 2010

A Society That Can’t Protect Itself…

… Is a society that will collapse.  That appears to be the case in the United Kingdom as the disarmed populace and police officers were in no position to stop their latest spree killer

At some point this unwillingness to defend their people has to be considered madness, one would think.  Bird was armed with a .22 rifle and a shotgun, but was able to kill as many people as the Fort Hood shooter who had a semi-automatic pistol.  With a mostly unarmed police force, the Brits failed to stop a murderer when they couldn’t shoot back.  Governments exist to protect their people from harm and instill order of some kind; that is the most basic tenet of governance. 

This makes me grateful to life in a country that has the right to bear arms and hasn’t forgotten that deadly force is needed to stop such murderers.  Well, at least for the moment.

A bill has been proposed in New York state to limit police officer to shooting to wound arms and legs.  Anyone who has fired a pistol knows it isn’t like the movies and that they aren’t that precise.  Police officers aren’t going to be in range conditions being able to take their shots slowly and methodically without any incoming lead.  Simply put, there is no way “shoot to wound” can be done!

We are living in an era of dangerous stupidity.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

A Grim Memorial Day Weekend

It’s been awhile since I posted and a lot has happened.  While I’ve been fighting my health problems, my father had hernia surgery on relatively short notice to begin the month of May.  An older friend I home taught for years died a very prolonged death this past Monday.  Then yesterday, two people from a family we know were killed in Memorial Day traffic when a trailer came loose from a pickup into their lane.  It has been a very rough month.

Started getting sick Friday night and thought I might be over it by this morning, but I’m worse again.  Some virus going around, I expect.  So no church today.  Absolutely trivial compared to what has happened and I don’t know if I can say enough prayers for the Cox family… So I’m asking everyone who reads this to pray for them.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Odds and Ends

Will be working on a post about the Tea Party in Winona last week and about the Republican Congressional District 1 endorsement convention this past Saturday to put up this week.

In the meantime, a few items that caught my eye the last two weeks:

A follow up on the couple beaten in New Orleans last week by leftwing protesters.  The Palin pin part of it has been debunked, but it is very clear this was a politically motivated attack. The mainstream media shows that they are well beyond simple bias by ignoring this one.  If conservative protesters had done this to a pair of Democrats it would be the overkill story for weeks.

Dr. Helen aka the Instawife has an interesting piece up about how psychologists are moving to social activism in their therapy.  This is damning stuff and worth checking out. The desire to control other’s lives is getting to be the hallmark of the left.

Speaking of controlling people, the FDA is going to start regulating salt in prepared foods.  This serves two goals:  controlling the population even in the most miniscule way and to inflate the number of government employees (they’ll need to hire more to administrate this, of course). Idiocy. Look for more of this under the guise of lowering the government’s cost of providing healthcare.

There is no way ObamaCare can be funded, it is simply impossible.  But the Democrats will keep trying and one way they want to raise taxes is by adding a VAT (Value Added Tax). That hasn’t worked out so well for the Europeans and is yet another way to retard the growth of an economy.  In our case, it would kill it dead. Best quote:

In 2008, the average resident of West Virginia, one of the poorest American states, had an income $2,000 a year higher than the average resident of the European Union, according to economist Mark Perry of the University of Michigan, Flint.

Oh yeah, we really need to emulate those Europeans.

Denial of reality seems to be a big part of leftwing big government.  Over in California they are doing their best to be like Europe and ignore the financial catastrophe they are in.  Entertainment comes first but the piper will have to be paid eventually.

Meanwhile, that unpronounceable volcano in Iceland is still hampering flying and a bigger eruption is possible.  But just how unsafe was it to fly?  Turns out that the grounding was based exclusively on computer models and nary a single weather balloon was sent up to get real data. The religion of computer models has already given us the fraud of man made global warming and now this is going on. Once again reality is being ignored in favor of theory.  I’m afraid science is dead.

The relationship between Israel and the United States is on life support as well.  The hostility of Obama and his cronies toward the Israelis  has been palpable of late and has generated a great deal of concern. I’ve been warning people he is slowly building a case for armed conflict with Israel and been greeted with dismissal.  Better look again, as this refusal by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to rule out shooting down Israeli planes crossing Iraqi airspace to hit Iran. The ghost of Jeremiah Wright is alive and well in the Obama administration.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

A Must Read

Read it and weep for the future.

Beware the False Flags at the Tea Parties


One of the most dangerous things that can happen to someone involved in a cause is succumbing to the belief that “the end justifies the means.”  The cause then justifies any kind of dishonest behavior and falsehood.  Having wandered the political spectrum I can say all political persuasions have people vulnerable to the philosophy.  However, the percentages are far higher in those who tilt to the political left.

Case in point is the slander directed at Tea Partiers.  The media can’t resist going profoundly negative in an effort to protect their secular messiah, Obama. But interestingly enough, it isn’t working with 40% of the people having a positive view of the Tea Party movement. Attempts to paint authentic grassroots protesters as racist/white supremacist have failed miserably as polling has shown the cultural breakdown of the groups to be nearly identical to the general population.

So what to do when the lies don’t get traction?  Start a false flag operation to frame Tea Partiers as extremists.

As reprehensible as this is, I suspect it is only the beginning.  So keep an eye out at the Tea Parties for troublemakers.  They aren’t going to be the real deal.


Further evidence of how the left is moving toward extreme behavior including violence.

Over at Gateway Pundit, Jim Hoft has two posts up today worth reading.  The first is on the AP lying about racist comments being made by Obamacare protesters.  They’ve escalated to lying about the videos (plural) out there that don’t show any evidence of epithets being flung.  The AP is aiding and abetting the lies being told by the Congressional Black Caucus by claiming it was one video that was presented by conservative and libertarian bloggers.

That’s not the worst of it though.

Violence has always been an inherent aspect of left wing politics, from the bombings in the early 1970’s to the fringe anarchists (their calls for anarchy are just a cover for hating capitalism) attacking Republicans on a bus at the 2008 National Convention. The beating of Kenneth Gladney by SEIU thugs last year got faint media attention.  Now we have this savage beating of a young couple for wearing Sarah Palin pins.

Once again you can hear crickets chirping with the media being silent.  I expect more of this as the public turns against the Democrats.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Happy Easter + Thoughts on General Conference

I hope everyone has a happy Easter and use the time to reflect on all the good things they have in life - no matter how big or small. It is a time of gratitude for me.

We celebrate Easter to remember the Lord rising and conquering death.  That glorious feat made it possible for all of us to be saved from death and be able to come back to our Heavenly Father.  There is no greater gift giver than the Savior and we should be very grateful to Him.

Life has been very difficult of late, but there are always small things to be grateful for no matter how dark the storm clouds.  These are trying times for most people, so I don’t exactly feel alone in this.

Is also has been time for General Conference for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  It is always interesting to pick out the main themes being taught in the sessions, for they are to be guidance for half the year (if not beyond).  So far, the one that seems to dominate is guiding the children of the Church correctly. A great deal of concern is being shown toward children going astray and what parents should be teaching to prevent that.

With our popular culture in a freefall of depravity and hedonism this is one of the biggest challenges facing us today.  It takes more effort to be righteous with each generation it seems and I think part of the unrest in the political sphere represents more than just economic worries.  A feeling of things slipping away is pervasive in the conversations I have with people. 

Another theme in the conference talks is about how happiness doesn’t come from the material world, but from the spiritual. I’m hoping to hear more on that today.


Another General Conference has ended and it will be six months until the next one.

Again the main theme was about teaching and raising the “rising generation” in righteousness.  Over and over the responsibility of parents and youth leaders in guiding the children in the Church was stressed.  Dealing with adversity was the secondary theme with the Atonement by Jesus Christ given equal emphasis.

My favorite talk was by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf from the Sunday morning session. “Let us love at all times,” is something I try to live by; following in the Saviors footsteps.  Counseling the members not to look down upon others due to their appearance or circumstances in life stood out to me. That instruction is something more members of the Church should listen to. It also spoke to me more than the talks on parenting – not surprising as I have no children and very little prospect of ever marrying.

I look forward to reading the talks and seeing which ones will work the best for missionary work!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Odds and Ends

The Large Hadron Collider finally did something noteworthy by colliding two protons together.  Shockingly, a black hole did not develop. I’m just glad to see the thing finally running!

Closer to home, there has been no snow in March for the first time on record.  While I’m enjoying the warmer than usual daytime temps, the lack of precipitation has me concerned.  We can only coast off the water from the snow melts for so long before it becomes an issue. 

Things are tenser than usual between North Korea and South Korea after the sinking of a Southern navy vessel.  With 46 crew unaccounted for, the emotions are running high. Probably a mine, but I doubt it was an old one.  More than likely the Norks are testing what they can get away with.  With a weak U.S. president, the little dictators are running wild.

On the home front, I’m needing to get more ammo for my Savage .17HM2 to zero it in.  We want to plant a garden and there are large amount of rabbits around here.  Never have dressed and cooked a critter before, so I plan to kill two lepus with one stone by protecting the garden. 

The .17HM2 is a necked down .22LR round with high velocity and frangibility.  Shooting flat to 100 yards it disintegrates when it hits something which makes it a safer round to use than the venerable .22LR.   It is a scope only kind of round and I need to get experience with scopes (being an iron sight kind of guy).

Friday, March 26, 2010

The Great Divider

For some time I have considered Obama to be “The Great Divider,” especially in regard to racial issues.  The Democrats have been inflaming things by making false accusations of racism and violence by Tea Partiers.  Be sure to read all the links in those posts.

These accusations are flat out lies designed to smear average Americans who don’t want to see the country turn into a socialist state or dictatorship.  Claiming a rock was thrown through a Democrat office window when the said office is on the 30th floor of a building is probably the most ludicrous of the lies.

The end result of this is that there can be no coming together, no bipartisanship, and no reconciliation (not the Senate maneuver) between the right and left in America.  It simply isn’t possible when the left plays these games and if you think things are polarized know you have no clue.  Unless Republicans take back Congress and repeal ObamaCare, I predict a civil war by no later than 2015.   We now have irreconcilable differences and a president who has no interest in building bridges or listening to the people. 

The irony of the smear tactics being used by Obama and his enablers in Congress is that they may breed that which they are lying about.  Not only are they genuinely angering conservatives and libertarians with their lies, those lies are believed by people on the left who have no clue what is really going on.  With the real tendency toward violence on the left, I will not be surprised if we start seeing violent acts against Tea Partiers.  Oh wait, we’ve already seen that with the SEIU thugs.

I think the Democrats have forgotten the important fact that every government must be afraid of the people because that’s where the real power lies.  Instead, they insist on imposing their elitist socialist views on an unhappy populace.  By fomenting anger with lies the leftists think they can control things. They will reap the whirlwind if they keep on this path and I had hoped I wouldn’t be around to see the day when the country was torn apart. Sadly, that is looking very unlikely now.

This is why it will be critical to throw the Democrats out of office in November.  If the House and Senate aren’t taken away from them, ObamaCare will be the least of our worries.  A civil war is not something to want or desire.  It makes me think of Theoden’s speech to Gandalf in the movie LoTR: The Two Towers:

“Simbelmyne. Ever has it grown on the tombs of my forebearers.  Now it shall cover the grave of my son. Alas that these evil days should be mine. The young perish and the old linger. That I should see the last days of my house.”

We need to take action now to undue the damage being done. The voters need to send a clear message in November.

Odds and Ends

So much for posting the other night!  It has been another strange week and I’m trying to recover from a trip to the Minnesota State Capitol yesterday.  My father and a mutual friend went up to visit our State Representitive Greg Davids and watch the House in action.  Having floor passes, we witnessed first hand the very messy process of law making.  I suspect that the general public would have an interesting reaction if they saw how things actually function.

Sitting in on the House Republican Caucus before hand was just as fascinating.  All of it was reminiscent of the activity in a beehive with constituents, politicians, lobbyists, pages, activists, and visiting students bussing around the hallways. I would have liked to stay longer and visit with the pols I’ve gotten to know over the few years I’ve been in politics.  But it was taking it out of me and we needed to get going on the long trip home.  There were also sliders to get at White Castle.  All in all, a good time.

Now for a few links to things that caught my interest around the world:

The Russian Bear has been stirring for awhile and the Brits have been intercepting their bombers quite a bit in the past year.  The Norwegians have been busy doing the same and I get the feeling that Obama’s weak behavior in dealing with foreign countries is getting tested.

The economic and totalitarian fiasco that is ObamaCare will soon reap destructive results in the bond markets. Scratch that, it is already happening. Once again it is a problem magnified by Obama’s incompetence in handling foreign affairs – of course he isn’t any better at handling domestic affairs either.

Locally, we had an endorsing convention last Saturday.  Both candidates for the Republican endorsement ran good campaigns and I think Jeremy Miller will win in November.  The results weren’t a surprise but the margin of victory was.  It bodes well that all three counties went for Miller. Congratulations to Jeremy and I look forward to helping his campaign out.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Lack of Posting

I’ve been AWOL on posting here for some time now.  At the moment, I am in the midst of making changes to my life and reprioritizing to try to improve my health. As a result, some things dropped in priority and this blog is one of those things.

Starting in February, I’ve been going to pain therapy at Gunderson Clinic to learn coping techniques and relaxation meditation methods to reduce the constant pain I’m in.  The sessions are wrapping up next week and the results have been promising. I’ll be keeping up the meditation techniques on a permanent basis.

Between that, moving back into my room/cleaning house, starting weight training/walks again, and the political convention season there hasn’t been much energy to go around. 

Hopefully, I will get a post or two in later today.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

The Smell of Astroturf

Or the fumes Wafting from the Coffee Party.

Astroturfing in politics is the process of creating a a fake grassroots effort to sway public opinion or sitting politicians. David Axelrod of the Obama administration is a living legend at doing this and it is what has made him politically powerful. Much of it is centered around unions and isn’t anything close to being grassroots.

So it was interesting to see accusations against the Tea Party movement that they were astroturfed and controlled by sinister Republican interests.  Except when they were controlled by the sinister insurance companies. Or when they were controlled by Fox News.  Sorry, the conspiracy theorists/spin doctors never could make up their mind who really controlled the Tea Party rallies.

Sadly, the left are so far divorced from the people of the land that they are incapable of recognizing a true grassroots movement born of frustration with out of control government growth.  Character assassination and ranting about astroturfing have failed to dent the movement simply because it isn’t astroturfed.  That should scare them as big populist movements tend to change things.

So a change in tactics has happened and the left have formed something called the “coffee party.”  Interestingly, instead of having multiple movements with much in common springing up independently (and fighting with each other a good amount) there is one person behind the formation of this group, Annabel Park.

Ms. Park and her new group instantly received a lot of attention from The Washington Post and The New York Times.  To be expected as they are not fans of the Tea Partiers.  She has stated that they are not the opposite of the Tea Party and may have common ground. But wait, what is that smell in the air?  Smells like artificial grass to me.

Turns out that Ms. Park has a history with The New York Times and also was a big organizer for Obama’s presidential campaign. Over at Legal Insurrection, William Jacobson has presented the details on her activities including Twitter messages that are extremely hostile towards the Tea Party.  I agree with his summation that this is just a continuation of “the perpetual Obama campaign.”  I’d add that it is clear the media want something, anything to derail the Tea Party movement.

I wonder if Axelrod is involved?



Friday, February 26, 2010

If You Think U.S. Politics Are Bad…


Coming off the rather lame healthcare summit that was done for political cover, most of the coverage has dealt with the testy exchange between President Obama and Senator McCain. That was nothing compared to what goes on in other countries.  Check out this withering verbal assault on the President of the European Union.


At first it seems like a Monty Python skit, but then the tempers really begin to flare. It makes our politicians look good by comparison doesn’t it?

Back to the summit – I think that was a clear win for the Republicans as the Democrats only had pity inducing stories for ammunition.  The GOP came ready and had their A gamers at the top of their form. Obama did not help things as he gave the Democrats twice as much time to speak than the Republicans.  Then he gave himself more time that either!  If they think this will swing the public over to supporting reconciliation they are sorely mistaken.


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Can’t Trust Machines Thanks to Humans


We live in uncertain and what is starting to be unstable times, which makes us look for stability and something to believe in.  High reliance on technology and gadgets to make our lives easier requires quite a bit of faith in machines.  We even trust them with our money – notice all the ATM’s out there.

Well that trust is starting to be broken.  One of the latest forms of theft is putting card “skimmers” over the ones on ATM’s.  Over at Krebs on Security, a couple of posts reveal the trickery involved in stealing debit card information.  The first shows one skimmer in detail that was found on a Citibank ATM in California. Hard to tell that it wasn’t supposed to be part of the machine.

The follow up post shows a variety of devices that have been found on ATM’s.  To successfully capture the data needed to commit debit card fraud, two things are needed: first, the data on the magnetic strip which contains the card numbers, user name, and bank info; the second is some way of recording the PIN number.  Tiny pinhole camera’s and fake button pads are the key to the latter and sometimes the info is passed on by a cell phone.

It is an impressive show of old school hardware hacking and with about a billion dollars of ATM fraud a year we’ll be seeing more of it.  Check out the professional quality of this gear and think if you would spot it.  Most of us are too much in a hurry and I know I haven’t been looking for this kind of thing.

It isn’t just ATM’s that are being rigged this way; gas pumps in Utah have been tampered with as well. Anything that takes a debit card or credit card will be suspect at this rate.

Maybe it is time to go back to carrying cash.


Thursday, February 18, 2010

Ceding Sovereignty

AKA Joining the EU or the Greek Regret

For some time I’ve been collecting links to articles for a large post on the American economy.  Sadly, there are simply too many pieces of bad news to write a reasonably sized post. Still don’t know what to do with all those links, but in the meantime a financial crisis in Europe may be an indicator of what will happen to the USA.

Greece’s deficit percentage of their GDP has ballooned to unmanageable proportions and it has caused the money markets to be shaky.  For awhile, it looked like Germany would bail them out since that is what people in Europe expect.  That is looking highly unlikely and the economically better off EU nations have little sympathy for the Greeks despite the threat insolvency would have on the Euro.

The Greek government shows no signs of taking any real measures to deal with their debt and the Greek people have threatened strikes and riots over austerity plans.  Total paralysis of the always unstable government is where they are at. With reform opposed by people on the dole, nothing can be done. This is the sad place turning a nation into a welfare state will take you.

Thing is, they joined the European Union. That means they ceded sovereignty under certain economic conditions according to the Lisbon Treaty. So now the Greeks have been informed that they have to take drastic measures or the EU will do it for them. While I have my doubts about the ability to force the Greeks to comply; it has to be noted that there has been talk of throwing them out of the EU.

I’ll be blunt.  I have no sympathy for the Greeks as they are a socialist state that can’t keep a coherent government in place for any extended amount of time. They also foolishly voted away their ability to be an independent nation out of greed, with visions of wealth rolling in from the union.

But this crisis bears watching for it may be a predictor of what will happen in the near future for the United States.  We are currently running an insane deficit in a moronic attempt to spend ourselves out of debt. While we aren’t part of an economic union that can step in to take over our finances, we have a problem in how much of our securities are held by China, our number one creditor.

Oh wait, they sold off a huge amount of our bonds in December and Japan is now #1.   China is showing signs of getting out of our bonds. But hey, we can find plenty of buyers because of how safe our bonds are, right? Ummmmm….

Yeah, we are in trouble.  Just three years out from when the Democrats took over Congress and we are considered riskier than Kazakhstan.  At some point the debts are going to be called due, especially if economic woes get worse in China and Asia. Our creditors will be in a place to dictate to us.

Our founding fathers looked to ancient Greece and Rome for inspiration in setting up our government.  I posted earlier about Victor Davis Hanson’s argument that we have made the same economic mistakes as the Romans.  Now I have to wonder if we are also following the path of the modern Greeks.