Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Laughs Abound

Washington DC — Supreme Court Rules on Children

In a move to placate activists who want to control children of illegal aliens, the Supreme Court ruled on a wide range of issues that change the status of children.

The activists wanted a decision that changed the status of children born in the country to illegal aliens. Like most civilized countries, the US has held through the 14th Amendment that children born in the country were citizens. However, the activists wanted to focus on the word illegal that described the parent.

To widen the scope, the court ruled that all children would have to change their heritage. From the end of this year, new born Asian-Americans would be classified as Africans. Those born from African-Americans would be called Latinos. Those of European decent would be characterized as Asians.

“This isn’t what we wanted,” said a spokesman from Keep the A in America, a group that feared losing some of the letters of the name of the country. “We just wanted to bar citizenship from those who had illegal parents.”

The court has acted to answer some of those demands. In the future, children who have a parent convicted of speeding will not be able to drive cars. “Those foreign cars are just flooding the borders,” said Manny Fold. “If the Federal Government doesn’t stop all of this illegal activity, we’ll spot check each car to make sure it’s a Detroit make.”

The court has also declared that a child from law breakers will not have the right to buy food in a supermarket. “Those kids are taking food away from decent law abiding citizens,” said the leader of the group, Keep American Food Safe. “Our shelves are lined with too much of that fancy Italian cheese anyway. Who needs all that greasy olive oil that spills on your hands?”

Local police forces are now instructed to forget about follow up with homicide and burglary cases. Rather they will have to check the pockets of children who leave supermarkets to make sure that they have legal parents.

“This should help the country make more local products,” said the leader. “It’s about time the police monitored the illegal import of those foreign sauces.”

Another item covered by the court bars children who have parents convicted in ponzi schemes from carrying money. “We don’t want those future adults threatening us with more ponzi gimmicks,” said Green Back. “These rules help keep money in the country and next year, we’ll go after all those people who carry around Euros and Yuans.”

- Tom Pope

Image courtesy of Congressofhope.com

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Worlds Meet

Let The Fear Mongering Continue...

The good folks at CNN have decided to give Republican nominee for NY governor, Rick Lazio a platform to express his views about the funding of the mosque and cultural center slated to be built two blocks away from Ground Zero. I was a bit surprised that CNN would give a political figure like Lazio, who also happens to be running for a state office, a platform to express his political views and in essence, further help his campaign to become governor of New York State. But it wasn’t just the fact that CNN allowed Lazio a pulpit from which to preach, it was what Lazio was being allowed to say that was somewhat troubling and concerning. As I was reading Lazio’s “commentary”, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the fear mongering days of the Bush Jr. administration, and I wondered why a “serious” news organization like CNN would agree to promote this type of attitude.

On CNN.com, Lazio declared that he believes that the proposed mosque scheduled to be built two blocks away from Ground Zero (called Park 51) should be halted until a full investigation into the motivations of one of the project’s co-founders, an imam named Feisal Abdul Rauf, be looked into strictly on the pretense that he is Muslim.

Unfortunately, in Lazio’s world, all Muslims are nefarious, evil doers and Park 51 is just a front so that Rauf and his cohorts can wage their jihad against an innocent, unsuspecting public. This is somewhat humorous considering that Rauf has been outspoken in his views against terrorism and terrorist behavior.
Heaven forbid if there might be a non-radical Muslim or group of Muslims out there that doesn’t support terrorism or groups like al-Qaeda or Hamas. There may even be Muslims that support Hamas but don’t advocate violence or radical behavior against the United States or any of its allies.

What Lazio and his fellow neo-conservatives are doing is not only polarizing an ethnic group, but perpetuating the stereotype that that all Muslims are dirty, out to get us, and are ready to strap a bomb to their backs to blow up innocent women and children. I liken it to the way the Japanese were portrayed during World War II as sneaky, slanty-eyed mongrels with big buck teeth.

It’s unfortunate that after all these years, that we as a nation are still driven by the same paranoia as we were years ago and susceptible to the same internal scare tactics. It’s unfortunate that we can’t look upon the mosque that is being built next to Ground Zero as a symbol of healing rather than hate. It’s a shame that we can’t realize that many Muslims and Muslim-Americans despise terrorist groups like al-Qaeda or Hamas for what they stand for, and feel that these organizations have only made it more difficult for them to be accepted into mainstream American society.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg had a moment of clarity when he opposed Lazio’s demands by saying, “Government should never — never — be in the business of telling people how they should pray, or where they can pray. We want to make sure that everybody from around the world feels comfortable coming here, living here and praying the way they want to pray.” President Obama also weighed in with his approval but then sadly felt the need to backtrack when he felt pushback from Republicans and other opposition groups.

That’s the real message we should be supporting and pushing. Media outlets like Fox News and now CNN, have chosen to harp upon the same archaic fear mongering tactics that promote separation rather than unity and ignorance rather intelligence. If Lazio is allowed to express his opinions, why isn’t CNN allowing an opposing viewpoint to be heard? There are millions of Arab-Americans living in our country who want to be accepted into mainstream American society and want to help contribute to the United States’ success. Instead of giving a few radical fundamentalists their moment in the sun and the opportunity to further their agendas, shouldn’t we giving those Muslims who have struggled to achieve the American dream and who have played by the rules, a moment to shine?

We should, but sadly we won’t as long as “fear” sells papers and generates hits to websites.

- Hamilton Maher

Images courtesy of news.yahoo.com

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Worlds Meet

The Seeker’s Nation Building

When the hero of last year’s television series, Legend of the Seeker, told his bodyguard that they had to detour from the major goal of saving the world of the living from the underworld, he thought about providing basic support for the local population. His comments could have mirrored the attempted nation building in Iraq or Afghanistan. Even if the end of the world came for the society within a day’s time, that day’s hours could be filled with suffering from hunger, roving bands of militia or torture. The Seeker’s idea focused on responsibility. Does an action only aim to counter the overwhelming obstacle, or does the action have a duty to give aid to immediate problems? The peasant about to be tortured may be one person, but his fear of death looks at the knife at his throat rather than the events of tomorrow.

Recent setbacks in Iraq have happened as the once patrolled streets in areas by local factions have stopped. The Sunni-led government has failed to pay the patrols that the US supported. In Afghanistan, US forces are seen as aiding a corrupt Kabul government. Those examples stem from a lack of nation building, or a way to build systems so local people have a say in security and progress.

Yet those issues were exactly what Richard as the Seeker saw as crucial. During a scene where the Seeker struggled to stop forces from the underworld from destroying all life, he teamed up with former enemies and discovered the aftermath of war. A former unit of the army fighting him turned to give him aid, and the fighting and torturing expert Mord’Sith — a blend of female Klingon, and ninja — became a bodyguard to protect him. But, before he resumed finding the answer to the ultimate destruction of his world, he witnessed villagers who were left without homes. Those people suffered from injuries and became filled with hate at the thought of working with anyone from another land.

The Seeker faced an option of focusing on using his new military power to claim the throne so overall destruction could have been avoided. But he told his supporters that they must first treat the locals because the results of war meant he owed a responsibility to those people.

Could that be a form of nation building? While his attempt answered a vision of being responsible, the action also set up ways to stop further chaos. Those villages would either support or oppose the future world the Seeker built. Without homes, they would live on the road, and maybe attack other villages for food or survival. Without treatment for injuries, possible plagues could threaten the area. Without trauma treatment, they might resort to a rage that stopped them from working with other villages in a common struggle.

So the Seeker was left with key tools of the military and logistical knowledge to tend to the villages. He could have used the troops just to stop creatures from preying on the villages, but that would not have solved the food shortage or calmed an anger directed at other strangers. He had other tools of logistics that allowed him to dispense justice between the villages and tools of observation about where food could be obtained. The Seeker chose to use the tools that would prolong the lives of the population over the tools of military force. The use of force is the key. Of course the Seeker swung his blade, but the purpose centered on protecting people. When a military questions whether protecting the population places its troops in danger, that military misses the real enemy. The enemy isn’t a danger to itself. The real enemy is that force that is hurting the society that the military hopes to protect.

So let’s look at the comparison. The people in Afghanistan and Iraq are struggling to regain ways to obtain food, shelter and overcome distrust. When the military is used to enforce the rules of questionable governments, disruptions often occur in the lives of the population. In Afghanistan, farmers resort to growing poppy. In both Afghanistan and Iraq, homeless people seek comfort from a warlord and the general person feels anger to the local government.

Maybe the question we dare ask is whether nation building happens only when we use the military or if it can occur by focusing on the population by making sure they have work, shelter and relief from the trauma of war.

The Seeker worried about a larger threat — that of his entire world being destroyed by the underworld. Maybe our larger threat is an underworld of terrorism and black markets.

- Tom Pope

Image courtesy of beta.moviegoods.com

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Behind The Mask

Are Comics Still A Viable Medium?

The San Diego Comic Con (SDCC) has just wrapped up and as in previous years, most of the buzz generated by Marvel and DC had focused on their gaming, animation and movie news. Whether it was the introduction by Marvel of the cast of the upcoming Avengers movie or the promotion of DC’s upcoming Green Lantern movie or its fantastic trailer for their DC Universe Online game for the PC or PS3, the focus on the surface seemed to be about all things non-comic book related. In an age where print product consumption has steadily been dropping and the shift to games, social media, digital comics, movies and online has been consistently increasing, I wonder if the comic book in its purest, print form will continue to have a voice.

While movies, animation and games certainly dominated the talk at SDCC, according to Newsarama.com, Marvel had eighteen separate announcements concerning its comic book products and DC had seventeen. While the number of comics sold is down 2 percent compared to this time last year, their sales volume is up 1 percent compared to the year before, according to the June 2010/2009 stats courtesy of comichron.com. Of course part of that increase in sales volume is due to the fact that comic book prices have also increased over the past year, but to me the difference is relatively negligible and shows that comics are still a vital part of the overall comic media market.

Comic books need to exist whether they are in print or digital form. Not only is it necessary for the exploits of so many great characters to continue, but the writing and artistry in these books serves as the blueprint for their continuing adventures in other media, including movies, animation and games. For example, there probably would not have been a Planet Hulk animated movie without Greg Pak’s epic, fifteen issue masterpiece in the pages of the Incredible Hulk comic book, for example. Hell, there may never have been a Superman, Batman or Spiderman movie made if not for the decades and decades of amazing writing and art that came before it.

There’s no doubt that TV, movies and games generate big bucks for the Marvel’s and DC’s of the world (when done properly). As such, both companies will continue to invest big money to make sure these media properties prosper and continue to prosper.

Comic book fans tend to be a loyal and hardcore lot and also enjoy the feel of a freshly printed comic in their hands. That’s why I think comic book sales have not suffered as drastically as other print products such as magazines and newspapers. As long as comic book prices do not suddenly skyrocket to obscene levels, I think that that loyalty will remain, and overall comic book sales will not drop excessively.

But, I also think that the powers-that-be should understand that in order to continue to thrive, they will always need to have the comic book in some way, shape or form as a foundation. For as long as the comic book remains, other creators, whether they are game designers, directors or animators will have a treasure trove of stories and art to pull from. This will allow them to create their own visions, and at the same time continue and expand the mythos of so many great characters.

- Hamilton Maher

SDCC image courtesy of Wikipedia.com