26 March 2008

The Incredible Hulk

Clicking on the title of this blog will take you to the official website of this guy.

25 March 2008

Iron Man

I have to say it. Superman Returns was mediocre. X3 blew unpleasant chunks. And Spider-Man 3 lost its way. Both Fantastic Four movies were mediocre too. It shouldn't have been this way. Not at all. Marvel was on top of the world, and DC had just redefined the super-hero movie template with Batman Begins.

This summer though holds a bit of promise on the comic book movie front. Stroll over to the Iron Man movie website (click on the title of this blog for a quick link) for a preview of one the three big super-hero adventure movies of the summer. There are three different trailers for the film. Judging by the quality of those, the film does seem to have caught the essence of the Iron Man story. The effects look more than mildly hot. If you are geeky enough you might also visit the page on the movie at http://imdb.com. You may notice that Samuel L. Jackson is donning the eye-patch of one Nick Fury of S.H.I.E.L.D. (and no I don't know what the acronym stands for and cannot be bothered to look it up). This is interesting because if you then stroll over page for The Incredible Hulk you will notice a curious thing. Robert Downey Jr. is in the cast list of that movie (The Hulk) too....as Tony Stark.

For those uninitiated among you, Tony Stark is, in point of very serious fact and how could you not know this, Iron Man. Rumor has it Sam Jackson makes an eye-patched appearance in this particular Marvel Comics property as well. (An important side note for all of you who disliked the Ang Lee interpretation of The Hulk you will be happy to know the new film is a complete reboot. New actors, new direction new everything.

This can only mean one thing. I hope.
If The Incredible Hulk and Iron Man do big big box office an Avengers movie is not far behind. The Avengers as you may or may not know were originally formed to help the military handle a problem they could in no way handle. That problem was one Dr. Bruce Banner. Anyway it will be interesting to see how this all shakes out. I also recommend you try out this site for all kinds of geeky comic book news. http://www.superherohype.com (just cut and pase that url into the address bar or what ever that thing is called.

19 March 2008

The Violin

Ani had her first Violin lesson last night and seemed to love it.
She said she wants to play irish fiddle music at some point.
I'll post some pics of her playing sometime soon.
Currently this is her favorite bit of violin music.

11 March 2008

Spitzer and the Prostitutes.

(Title links to Ephron's piece)
New York's Democratic Governor Eliot Spitzer has gotten himself into a bit of a jam, or gotten into trouble over an illicit bit of jamming of others that were not his wife. He was paying big bucks to his jammees too. It seems that the governer who ran on a reformer style ticket enjoyed visiting a high end prostitution ring called The Emporer's Club. The prices involved make the name seem like an understatement. His hourly billing seems to at least have been in the hundreds of dollars. Perhaps thousands. As some one who enjoys sex no small amount, I cannot envisioning dropping a thousand dollars for an hour of it. According to the cell phone texting transcripts The governor's tastes ran toward something un-safe. The article doesn't specify what. Maybe just being a politition with a taste for other women and a willingess to pay for sex with them was the un-safe thing. This tendency, especially in one so obviously hypocritical was certainly unsafe for his, now non-existent, career.

No doubt for some this will be further evidence that democrats are not good in areas of cost effiency as the governor could easily have had something "un-safe" for twenty dollars on various street corners all around New York. But maybe others will see a commitment to quality in the spending. I imagine a thousand bucks an hour buys a client a fair bit of piece of mind. Over at Arianna Huffington's website (www.huffingtonpost.com) you can find articles that say the scandal helps Obama and hurts Clinton, or articles that say the converse. No doubt the Democratic party is hurt by the scandals as a whole because we allowed ourselves to play the same tried and true Republican tune. Namely one of our guys acted the self-righteous moron (he gleefully prosecuted prostitution rings and was quite adament about the evils of such endeavors) while partaking of the very evil he railed against. It seems likely that Spitzer will resign. Nobody likes a hypocrit. Not even a little bit. Had he been a smarter candidate he might have looked at his self-righteous stance on prostitution a bit more critically given his own proclivities. Had he been, he might now sail through the scandal. Worse than this is the fact the only lesson that will be drawn from it is the political one. People will ask the same boring and as it happens stupid questions. "Why did he do it?" "What was he thinking?" "Does he feel like a hypocrit?" "How does Mrs. Spitzer feel?" None us of us need an IQ other than that of average to offer likely answers to the first and second, offer a shoulder shrug on the third and posit a definate answer on the fourth. No doubt the non importance of those questions, and in general of this whole story, will not dawn on the 24 hour newscyle anytime soon. Yes Democrats can be just as hypocritical as Republicans, and that indeed might be worth commenting on. But just as worth commenting on, no more worth commenting on is the whole strange dishonest way our culture behaves in when it comes to that most human of past-times: sex.

I think lurking in this non-story (Man Pays for Sex with beautiful Women) is a deeper issue and one worth talking about. It is strange that at the Huffpo only one columnist, Nora Ephron-a writer/director of formulaic romantic comedies-has had the insight to see it. But perhaps not. While she has made many a formulaic piece, in her defence she did craft the formula. Even as insightful as her piece is, it doesn't go as far as it ought.

Prostitution like blasephemy is a victimless crime. Or at least it should be. There are currently any number of horrible things occuring to prostitutes in states that make the practive illeagal. That isn't the fault of women and men who decide to use their bodies to make money. That is the fault of prohibition of prostitution. It seems strange that we cannot learn the lesson of the prohibition era and is failed war on alcohol. When you make an item many people want a black market item you creat a lot of negative black market accompaniments, like crime, poor product control, and oodles of violence to control markets. So when you prohibit something that most adults think they are quite old enough to decide to use or not use on their own some one-usually disreputable-will try to fill that need. And since black markets have no recourse to the law, or arbitration violence is often the method of choice in settling disputes.

Prostitution could and should be decriminalized in the US as a whole. Remove the black market effects and give the power to the sex worker and much of the abuse that we see in places that are not Nevada and Rhode Island. Nevada has prohibitions against street solicitation and laws concerning condom use and constant sex worker clinical examination. Legalized prostitution is good for women who engage in the act. Since 1986, when mandatory testing began, not a single brothel prostitute has ever tested positive for HIV. The mandatory condom law was passed in 1988. A study conducted in 1995 in two brothels found that condom use in the brothels was consistent and sexually transmitted diseases were accordingly absent. The study also found that few of the prostitutes used condoms in their private lives.(^ A E Albert, D L Warner and R A Hatcher (1998), "Facilitating condom use with clients during commercial sex in Nevada's legal brothels.", American Journal of Public Health, Vol. 88, Issue 4 643-646) Think of the situtaion in other states. Clearly not as good. Not even remotely close. Women have to go underground where prostitution is illeagal and thus have to resort to, or be exposed to all the negatives that come with such work. Pimps, dangerous clients, less power and autonomy and no regulation and oversite.
It is strange that no such underage sex worker scandals have occured in the Nevada brothel system. Also it is unique that not a single Nevada prostitute has contracted HIV since the legalization of prostitution. And yet the connection between legalization and decriminalization is not made.

People make fortunes on their bodies now. Models, actors and athletes all sell their bodies in some way. Why is it wrong for prostitutes to do the same? Isn't what they sell just different by degree from models and actors and atheletes? Perhaps the oldest profession would seem a little safer if it were legal. Almost instantly that removes the majority of the criminal element, and empowers the actual bodies doing the selling. States could have licenses, and make various suitable regulations, inspections etc. Hell it provides new tax revenue and reduces hypocrisy in politicians. And while it does that legalizing the oldest profession might just provided safer conditions for the workers, and the clients are not going to go away.
Part I

Part II

Part III

08 March 2008

Christopher Hitchen's saying something...uh provocative

Sometimes I think I am quite clever and think deeply about matters, but then....I see something like this and I wonder at what an ametuer I really am at this intellectual game.

02 March 2008

Taking the piss in the name of Religious Tolerance

It would appear that our friends over the water are finding themselves in a multi-cultural morass. Whether it is Sikhs shutting down a play because it is too critical of the culture in the United Kingdom, an angry muslim killing a film-maker in the Netherlands, or angry Christian's opposing a play it would appear that European citizens are slowly losing their rights of free speech. This is not yet a serious problem in the US, at least not a litigious one but it could be if our own opinion of hate speech continues to imitate our European friends. Further it will be a problem when we allow any further inculcation of religion into our political life, and federal and state run institutions and practices.

Britain is curently reviewing the idea of strengthening its blasphemy laws because people can be offended by words that hurt their dieties. A huge problem with the British approach is that it has a state religion and its people are by and large giving and liberal. So when new communities defined by their faith come in demanding the same kind of state dispensations the Brits of course can see no reason not to invite these other religionists in.

This is one of the great lessons about why liberal democracies would be wise indeed to follow the lead illustrated in the US constitution and not allow any such state religion. If you do, and you are a suitably liberal democracy, you are faced with two equally unpalatable choices. Firstly, you could hypocritically say no and take the just our religion is the one that deserves respect by the state approach. Or you can start inviting all the faith communities to the trough. This second option would appear to be the one many in Britain want to follow. It would be hard to get the Anglican church off the dole and many people like the tradition of it. People realize though you cannot allow the one and deny the others.

Better to respect them all by giving people the opportunity to practice their faiths (so long has such practice doesn't violate human rights, or democracy etc) and respect none by official government action.

This will prevent idiots like Rowan Williams the Archbishop of Canterbury from making slyly self-serving proposals like allowing Sharia law into British jurisprudence. It would prevent the adoption of special treatments like protection from critique and ridicule through hate speech law and blasphemy laws. All such protection means is the following. I have no arguments against your position or ridicule, nor reasons to change you stance of hate toward my doctrine, so I will now whine and go hide behind a law or two that absolves me of having to do any serious intellectual work.
No one has the right to not be offended, or their favorite ideas not challenged. No one has the right to have their opposition silenced by law provided that opposition isn't violent. At least they shouldn't have such rights. It is inimical to honest discussion, thought, debate and free inquiry.

But if you think I am wrong and you favor more religious practice in government, more concern for religious sentiment in our politics, and more protection from critique, satire, etc limited by some silly law that decides for you what you are allowed to read, hear, see and ultimately say then watch the following.

"I think its about people afraid to lose their power."
Actress in a play cancelled by Sik violence.
Pay very close attention to Dolores Umbridge, whoops I mean Fiona Mactaggart MP, Minister for Race Equality and what it is she is actually saying.

Part I of dispatches, Offensive

Part II


Part IV

Part V

An Alum takes issue with the counter-recruitment II

For those who haven't seen the version of my critique of counter-recruitment as it was presented in The Earlham Word here it is. I urge everyone to look at the comments post on the on-line version below for the current state of my own thoughts and Mr. Murray's. I hope that Stephanie Scheurich and Mica Whitney will post their thoughts here and further elucidate their position on the comments page. Perhaps I will just have to wait for responses from in The Word.

An Alum takes issue with
“Counter-recruitment” and its heroes
It was with great disappointment (if not great surprise) that the lead story in the February 15th edition of The Earlham Word should be a negative one about the military. Specifically that it should be about that mythical and evil beast, the military recruiter, is even less surprising.
The maligning of military recruiters is one of the older maneuvers of the anti-war movement. It is such a stand-by I suppose that the heroes of Bennett Murray’s article, Stephanie Scheurich and Mica Whitney, are permitted to present the most negative opinions as if they are facts. “Recruiters are allowed to say anything,” for instance slides by Murray with nary even “an according to.” While it is certainly true that recruiters are salespersons for the military one might look deeper into their biases toward the institution than the Michael Moore style of analysis adopted by Murray Bennett, Stephanie Scheurcih and Mica Whitney. In any event recruiters are not “paid to lie” and, as anyone who has visited MEPS (Military Enlistment and Processing Service) will tell you, recruiters can find themselves in quite a lot of trouble for having done so. It isn’t that recruiting isn’t high pressure, or that recruiters aren’t salesmen. It is and they are. The problem with the Murray article and the analysis of Scheurich and Whitney is that it is shallow and at least as biased as they claim recruiters are.
Adding to their credibility woes is the fact that the article rather disingenuously represents the motivations of the Scheurich and Whitney and as such has them talking out of both sides of their mouths. At times “they want to represent the other side” (of what I wonder), and “provide them with information about other scholarship programs…so they can get money for things other than killing people.” In the next paragraph they accuse recruiters of exaggerating and misrepresenting the educational and vocational benefits of the military and engage the in very same exaggerating about AmeriCorps and these “other scholarships.” Later the article tries demonstrate balance by noting that Scheurich “never actually took a stance against enlistment. ‘It’s OK for people to go into the military.” Never mind, I guess, that this is categorically not what the counter-recruiting organizations claim to be about. The AFSC’s Youth and Militarism (www.afsc.org/youthmil/counter-recruitment/default.htm) and the D.C. based Counter-Recruitment (www.counter-recruitment.org) are both openly and simply anti-war. It will not be lost on you that being “OK” with joining the military and being part of the established anti-war movement is either an example of extra-ordinary cognitive dissonance or a calculated obfuscation of the truth. It’s possible Whitney and Scheurich are creating their own counter-recruitment movement but it would be hard to tell since they seem to spout the same bromides.
What is really infuriating about the piece is the level of condescension and hypocrisy exhibited toward the poor by not just Whitney and Scheurich but by the entirety of the counter-recruitment movement. They accuse the military of disproportionately targeting the poor while they themselves cravenly use the poor to garner sympathy for their case and their cause. No one could miss the unstated implication either. Poor people are obviously too stupid to figure out the scam. Their concern for poor of Wayne County couldn’t possibly contain more condescension or shallowness. They naievely toss around ideas like AmeriCorps, and college scholarships as if that will solve the problems of people who may have squandered high school, have no skills or need health insurance and good pay right out of high school. The military appeals to poor people because it trains and pays modestly well while providing a host of benefits. It should be no surprise that recruiters have success with poor people.
The hollow pretense of the anti-war movement’s concern for poor people is itself a deeply depressing joke. The movement is biased enough to force continued poverty on the poor to further its own morally bankrupt pacifism from the comforts of largely middle, and upper middle class digs. It is easy to find military faults from such safe vantages. It is easier still to find fault when looking through the myopic lens of a wooly-headed ideology.
Max Driffill II
Earlham College 2003
(In the interest of full disclosure, I am currently awaiting the results of my physical and have run the enlistment gauntlet that so concerns Scheurich and Whitney. I am against the engagement in Iraq, and for the engagement in Afghanistan. I am not “pro-war.” For a fuller review of my thoughts on this Word piece by Murray Bennett visit www.maxiitheblindwatchmaker.blogspot.com)

01 March 2008

Responses to the Article

First off, I just figured out how to use the add URL tool on this blogger so...I have provided the Earlham Word link here
. Eventually both Bennett's article and mine will be posted up on the online version. Here are two Counter-recruitment links
. These both seem representative of the movement to me, but then again I am not in it.

Secondly if you want to email me directly don't bother using the flammulatedninja@sbcglobal.net. Either use my earlham account or beltopurple@gmail.com. I remember the passwords to those accounts!

Thirdly. I'd like to thank Bennett and Isaac (sorry about your formatting woes) for taking the time to respond. It is appreciated and has certainly been a useful thing for me. Hopefully it has been for you too.