Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas

I could write a long and philosophical post about religion or the true meaning of Christmas or keeping spirits up even in these gloomy times, but it's been done by better folks than I far too many times.

So, I'll just wish you all a very Merry Christmas, and here's hoping you get all the gifts worth getting.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Dances With Cats in the Uncanny Valley

One thing I've been meaning to do for a long time with this blog is to talk about movies because this dinosaur has always been a big fan of them. Tonight I have the time to post and the memory of a new movie fresh in my mind in the form of James Cameron's Avatar. If you'd like to skip my full discussion below, my entire review can be boiled down into the word "meh." Otherwise, go ahead and click the link to see the full post.

So let's get the basics out of the way first. Avatar is about a human corporation that is working to mine the moon of an alien gas giant approximately six cryo-sleep years away for a mineral the movie calls "unobtanium", which is apparently very valuable for reasons never discussed. (Since that's what they call the substance that allows heat and pressure to be converted into electricity in the abysmal movie The Core, I guess that's what it does here too.) Unfortunately for the humans, there is a race of sentient 10' tall cat people living in a giant tree sitting right on top of the biggest and best deposit of the stuff. Oh, and the planet is full of hostile animals, supposedly. All of which are apparently connected through some kind of biological God-mind thing.

Enter the Avatars, which are essentially home grown clones of the cat people (mixed with a little human DNA to make them genetically compatible) into which our main characters can temporarily download their consciousnesses so that they can operate the bodies. Ostensibly, it's an attempt for the humans to find a diplomatic solution with the cat people (called the Na'vi.) Of course, humans are greedy evil people, so conflict ensues anyway.

There are many problems with Avatar, but to start, I'll explain part one of the title of my post. Avatar's plot is pretty much a straight ripoff of Dances With Wolves in a more SciFi setting. Moreover, the characters are completely 1-dimensional gingerbread cookie stereotypes. The head of the military is a thickheaded war mongerer. The corporate overseer is a profit-driven wuss. The head scientist is snarky but secretly good-hearted. The main character is a broken soldier, but still has his moral compass. And of course, he falls in love with the princess of the alien tribe of "savages" who talk to the Earth and worship their pagan tree.

Thus, in three hours of movie, I never learned to care about any of them. I knew everything they would do hours before they did it, and most of the time what they were going to say before they said it. It is the complete opposite of the movie Up in that way, as Up manages to nearly make even a stone-hearted person like me cry in under 15 minutes. Avatar tries real hard to make the viewer feel for the characters a few times near the end, but it's so contrived and so obvious that it's nearly insulting.

Really, we learn almost nothing about these characters because there is nothing to learn. Cameron's focus is clearly wasted along with his money on his CGI, which brings me to the second part of my title.

The "Uncanny Valley" is a term used to describe a gap between where animation and computer generated imagery is fake enough that a person's imagination can take over to handle the details, and actually looking real. What happens is that as CGI gets closer and closer to looking real, the minor details and subtleties of things that are missing start to become really noticeable, and thus everything looks wrong somehow, even more "wrong" than it would look if it were obviously not real.

Cameron manages to avoid much of this, not because his CGI is that much better than what the average video-gamer will see nowadays, but because most of his CGI is used on an alien planet with alien life forms. Since the Na'vi are giant blue cat people, it doesn't have to look all that real. There are some great body parts, like the teeth, tongue, and to some degree, eyes, but for the most part even the Na'vi do not really seem tangible. Almost none of the alien animals feel "real", something which the short movie, Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children accomplished with its Bahamut creature years ago. The fact that most of the stuff glows in the dark in some way does not help either.

The other half of the CGI is really stuff that has already been more or less perfected. Backgrounds, war machines, fire, explosions, foilage, mountains, waterfalls...basically all of the things that get inserted into movies when it costs too much to do it for real. With Avatar, it's good enough to never truly distract the viewer, but it's not "Wow. That looks real!" or "Damn, look at the detail on that!" Moreover, the quality varies wildly between convincing and nearly cartoony. Cameron also doesn't spend a terrible amount of time zoomed in on it, so unlike Advent Children which would frequently showcase tiny details like the stiching on clothing or reflections on swords, Avatar tends to stick to the panoramic stuff.

That brings me to camera work. What is it with Hollywood and shakey-cam? I have never felt as though having the camera rocking and bouncing while the on screen action is zipping and swinging and zooming around succeeds in heightening suspense. The shakey-cam calms down a bit in the final action sequence, but it manages to thoroughly obscure all of that fancy CGI Cameron paid for in the first 3/4 of the movie. The rest of the time, the camera is clearly influenced by Cameron's documentary work as it seems bland and clinical, almost as if this movie were studying the Na'vi rather than living amongst them.

Similarly, the score is less about emphasizing everything on the screen and more about being there when it's supposed to be. There's very little that's memorable it and no real unique and recognizeable theme to walk out of the theater humming.

Lastly, I would be remiss if I didn't discuss the stupidity of some of the plot elements and wasted themes. For one, the Na'vi have bows, arrows, and spears, ride on animals and live in the forest. They have no firearms of any kind (except for the Avatar folk) and yet their spears manage to pierce the glass (?) of cockpits of the human flying ships and giant walking mecha. Speaking of the mecha, what a fantastic design that is almost entirely wasted. For the most part, they stand there blasting away at the foolish Na'vi charging at them. There is one, count it, one scene in the movie that makes the mecha look truly badass.

More importantly, this company has spent an untold fortune creating these Avatars to talk to the Na'vi to find a diplomatic solution, and at no time does anyone indicate that somebody actually mentioned to the Na'vi why the humans are there. It doesn't seem that anyone ever actually ASKED the Na'vi about getting at the valuable stuff under the tree. Not only that, the entire planet is implied to be one giant interconnected, sentient life form that the Avatar can connect to, and nobody asks the stupid planet if IT will trade with them. Moreover, at no time do they explain WHY the stuff is valuable. Just that it is. So basically, the military jerk ends up slaughtering most of a sentient alien race and pissing off the rest of it for no particularly good reason.

This all goes back to the wasted themes. The best SciFi examines humanity as it is or as it could be and confronts us with that image. Many people complain Avatar is some liberal eco-friendly, war=bad, profit=evil themed movie, but mostly that's just due to the cookie cutter "we're going to take the Indians' land because we want it" plot. Cameron wastes a great opportunity to do something with a human seeing his own people literally through another sentient race's eyes. He could have at least made the corporation full of people caught between a need for a critical material and their moral desire not to harm another sentient race, much like we are caught between our need for security and our desire not to be at war and not to harm civilians.

But all is not entirely lost for you Cameron fans. Despite being ridiculously long (something like 3 hours), Avatar is not a slog-fest. It doesn't feel like it will never end, and it is mostly entertaining. Some of the creatures and glowy stuff is genuinely interesting and pretty. The final battle sequence is reasonably engaging and since it stops with most of the shakey-cam, you can actually see it. There is also that one cool mecha-moment. And to be fair to the CGI, I did not see Avatar in "3D" or IMAX, so it's possible the detail pops a little more there.

Ultimately though, if you've got a Blu-ray player and a decent sized TV, I'd say wait for the DVD.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Why KSM Must Now Go Free

Attorney General Eric Holder has decided that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and several other terrorists captured by the United States, will now be tried in criminal court in New York City. This decision is appalling on many levels, but none more so than the fact that this will tear apart the very fabric of the United States criminal justice system. This trial will be little more than a farce, a show trial designed to have the appearance of justice but with the verdict signed, sealed, and delivered before the proceedings even begin. There is no way on this Earth that the Obama Administration would ever allow KSM or his co-defendants to go free, regardless of any criminal court giving them their freedom based on legal technicality or acquittal. As such, this trial will mean nothing, and true justice shall not be served, as the defendants never had a chance to go free.

Even if that were not the case, if they are tried in civilian court, it must respect all the rights and privileges that belong to any defendant enshrined in our Constitution, and all of which have been violated by our treatment of them. They have not been given due process. They have been held without trial for years. They have been "tortured" and interrogated with means that will easily violate every standard required of law enforcement. The chain of evidence against them will involve multiple countries and jurisdictions that can barely be trusted, some of which may even have been obtained illegally if one were to argue against the various methodologies conducted by the Bush Administration. Further, it will be nigh impossible to find a jury of their "peers" in New York City, or perhaps anywhere in the United States, that can render an unbiased verdict. They will not even be afforded the most basic right of every defendant in this country: presumption of innocence.

Any one of these would be sufficient to get a dismissal or mistrial, or raise reasonable doubt as to the guilt of these men, and thus any one of these would require any judge worth his robes to release these men. Any truly objective jury would have no choice but to render a verdict of "not guilty" based on the rampant prosecutorial misconduct.

If we try and convict these men in civilian court we will undermine every principle and value we hold dear, and we will destroy our justice system by setting a precedent wherein the US Government can try and convict anyone regardless of how badly it violates the defendant’s rights. How could any defendant following this "trial" expect to be fairly and justly judged after this travesty? What reason do they have to believe the government has not simply rigged the game? How long will it take well-meaning prosecutors to prove the system is rigged by using these precedents to wiggle out of Miranda violations and police brutalities and evidence custody violations?

This is the "justice" of Stalin and Mao and Hitler and every cutthroat, bloodthirsty dictatorship in the history of the human race that has sent men and women to the gallows, not because justice was done, but because they needed the propaganda for their own citizenry. If we convict these men in a civilian court, we will tear the blindfold from Justice's eyes and throw her scales in the Hudson to forever rot in its disgusting, polluted waters.

Thus, as much as I am loathe to write it, as much as it pains me to even consider it, the Obama Administration has forced me to say: KSM must go free. Mr. Holder has now put us all in an untenable position: Either KSM is acquitted and released, damaging our national security and the ability of our military and intelligence agencies to protect us, or he is convicted, damaging the very liberty they are protecting. Unless a judge rules that these men are not eligible to be tried in a civilian court because the proper venue is, as demanded by the Geneva Conventions, a military tribunal, or by some miracle Mr. Holder changes his mind, we must release one of the worst war criminals ever encountered by the United States because Mr. Holder has decided to treat him like a common serial killer.

This author implores those lawyers out there reading this to get started on amicus briefs to effect that change of venue immediately, and save our justice system from this no-win scenario.


Many thanks to The Monster from www.e3gazette.com for his editorial assistance.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Hollywood Survivor

Much has been made of Roman Polanski this past week as his wandering into Switzerland gave law enforcement the opportunity to finally drag him back to the US to be sentenced for drugging and raping a 13 year old girl when he was already a dirty old man some 30 years ago.

Naturally, the response from Hollywood has been mostly in Polanski's favor, with some even going so far as to suggest that Hollywood has superior moral bearings because it "has compassion", and thus its judgment should be trusted. One assumes they're referring to the fact that movie stars and directors give tons of money to charity and champion various charitable pet projects the world over.

But the thing is, Hollywood doesn't support charity out of some moral clarity given to them through their observance and interpretation of the human condition. Hollywood supports charity because they collectively have survivor's guilt.

Consider the millions of actors, directors, and writers who descend upon California searching for their shot at being the next big thing. Each of them is probably the prettiest or the most talented human being anyone from their little town ever met, and all of them have embraced the dream of becoming a superstar.

Unfortunately, when they reach Hollywood, they find out all too quickly that, while they were the star back home, there are hundreds of thousands of other people just like them all competing the same exact job. Now they have two problems: earning enough money to stay in Hollywood and distinguishing themselves from this crowd. For a few lucky ones, it's a simple matter of turning around and heading back home. For the rest, it's a series of moral and ethical compromises that will permanently scar them.

The rest continue to claw their way towards stardom. The ones that succeed, the ones that go on to light up our movie screens, are the ones who don't get duped into becoming porn stars, who survive their encounters with being drugged up and propositioned on casting couches, who manage to beg, borrow, and steal their way along until at last they earned their big break.

And suddenly, they're multi-millionaires. They're making millions of dollars to do what most of us would happily do for free. But their souls have been tarnished by what they had to do to get there, and they still have the memories of those who fell by the wayside throughout their journey to haunt them. The psychological burden of that is no different than survivors of other cataclysms and atrocities. Wracked by guilt for actually making it out alive, they seek to cleanse those sins by "helping" their fellow man, and more often than not, only succeed in once again being taken advantage of by yet another shark.

Similarly, it's no surprise they are not shocked and outraged by Roman Polanski's behavior. That kind of activity is standard fare in their world. Like some city-sized frat house, it's a tradition for the big shots to use and abuse the new talent, and for the talent, it's a tradition to silently take that abuse. To allow Polanski to be punished would be to betray the brotherhood, and more importantly, to throw open the closet doors and let their own skeletons tumble out.

So the next time some pretty face gets all misty talking about the starving children she's saving in Africa, consider that maybe her eyes are misting not because of her compassion for them, but in response to the memory of that first time she sat on a casting couch, nervously baring her charms to some man who said he'd make her a star.

Monday, September 28, 2009

MM Mm Good!

Here's a little something I did up today. If you're not familiar with the reference, back in February there were a few schools that decided to have their children sing songs of praise to President Obama as a part of Black History Month. It's creepy in its own right, but the rhythmic chorus of "Mmm mm mm, Barack Hussein Obama" was just too good to pass up.

Parents and other citizens alike are naturally outraged, and the school's defense was that the whole thing wasn't supposed to be taped, as if that somehow makes it ok that we have young children singing songs of praise to Dear Leader. Getting kids to effusively praise their head of state through song and dance is a hallmark of almost every dictatorship in human history and a critical step in convincing the population that the dictator is something more than human. Then again, if the people running that school went through the public education system, it's highly likely they never learned about anything other than the white people slaughtering Indians and enslaving blacks.

In the end, this will be just another creepy thing about the Obama Administration that shall be ignored until it fades away, but let's keep it going just a little longer:


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

NEA Advertising Agency



Sarjex serves up another illustration for us this week. This time she tackles two topics in one.

Recently, audio has surfaced of a meeting between a representative of the Obama White House and the National Endowment for the Arts or NEA for short. In that meeting, the White House pushed for the NEA to do projects in support of the various causes the administration has been working on, such as health care and environmentalism. Since the NEA is funded with our tax dollars, this is almost as egregious as ACORN getting tax money to help prostitutes evade paying taxes and bring in child sex slaves.

Meanwhile, everyone who disagrees with the administration has been getting slapped with the ye ole "racist!!!!!!" label, although the Obama Administration continues to disavow those who put that out there. Obama has played that card before though, so one is left to wonder if they're just looking for plausible deniability...

Monday, September 14, 2009

ACORN Helps People

This powerful image from a friend of mine who wishes to remain anonymous via her online alias of "Sarjex" illustrates the sad irony of African-American women at ACORN assisting the white undercover reporters from BigGovernment.com in purchasing a house and evading taxes for a business that they flat-out say will be used in the trafficking of underage sex "workers" from El Salvador.


The ACORN employees not only fail to throw the two out or call the police, they actually tell the "prostitute" that she should re-classify herself as a "performing artist" to avoid suspicion. They even go so far as telling the two to claim the underage sex slaves...er..."workers" as dependents and to teach them to keep silent!

Thus, she and I are forced to wonder, if a man came in looking for a mortgage for his plantation, what would they say?

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Racist Lack of Decorum

For those who have not heard, during President Obama's address to Congress this week, at one point Republican Joe Wilson shouted out "You lie!" in response to the President's assertion that illegal immigrants would not be covered under his health care plan. He quickly apologized after the address, and the President accepted that apology.

In response, the pundits and the progressive bloggers have demonstrated all kinds of outrage at the breach of decorum. Not only that, they claim the outburst was motivated by some kind of latent racism in Wilson. On CNN, I watched as a host and his guest bantered back and forth the idea that if Obama had looked more like his mother, Wilson would never have had the temerity to speak out like that.

Thanks to a conversation with a friend of mine, I have come to the conclusion that these people simply do not know what a racist breaking decorum looks like. I, fortunately, have an image for them. It looks like this:

...



That is a depiction of an incident in the US Senate that occurred on May 22nd, 1856. That day, Senator Preston Brooks (D-SC) strode into the Senate Chamber leaning on his gold-tipped gutta percha cane, which he needed to walk due to having been wounded in a duel. He came up to the desk of Senator Charles Sumner (R-MA) and proceeded to wail on the man with his cane.

Sumner was a fierce abolitionist who days earlier had issued a speech against slavery which included viscious personal (verbal) attacks on Brooks' uncle, Senator Butler also from SC. Brooks, a proponent of slavery, found the insults to his uncle and his state completely unacceptable and decided to punish Sumner.

Thus, in the very model of decorum, Senator Brooks beat Senator Sumner over the head with his cane IN the Senate Chamber until the cane broke and he was eventually dragged away.

So, to those who think Rep. Wilson is racist who broke decorum, take a look at that picture and see the difference. With tensions as high as they are in this debate, we are lucky that our Senators at least have the restraint not to try to beat each other to death on the floor of the Senate, even if they aren't reading the legislation.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Because It Bears Repeating

On a day like today, it bears repeating:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Term Paper Act of 2009

The incomplete House version of the health care bill is already over 1000 pages. It's not done, the amendments haven't all been tacked on yet, and it's already over 1000 pages. If it were a work of fiction (no jokes please), it would rank up there with War and Peace as one of the longest novels ever written.

It is also written in legalese, so to read it, a person needs to speak that language. Translating it into English would probably triple the page count. It is also not the first bill to fit this criterion. The Stimulus bill passed several months ago was also this way. The same was true of Cap 'n Trade. This means that the average citizen has no hope of reading, understanding, and having productive dialogue about the legislation.

Since this administration complains constantly about its opponents not putting forth solutions, here is a solution to this problem: The Term Paper Act of 2009.

The TPA is inspired by requirements for term papers and other major written projects in high school and college, which always come with strict requirements for length, font, and style. The TPA will place the following restrictions on all legislation in the US Congress.

1. The combined length of any piece of legislation and its attachments including amendments thereto, with the exception of one yearly budget, shall not exceed 10, single-sided, 8.5 x 11" sized sheets of paper in a size 12 Times New Roman font, single-spaced, with half-inch margins on all sides.

2. A final, printed copy fitting the requirements cited in Section 1 must be present on the floor no less than four hours prior to the vote.

3. Prior to the vote in the House of Representatives, the final, printed copy cited in Section 1 must be read by the Speaker of the House on the floor. This reading must take place no earlier than one hour prior to the vote.
a. If the Speaker of the House is unavailable, a member of the House in good standing shall be selected by the members on the floor to read the bill.

4. Prior to the vote in the Senate, the final, printed copy cited in Section 1 must be read by the President of the Senate on the floor. This reading must take place no earlier than one hour prior to the vote.
b. If the President of the Senate is unavailable, the Senate Majority Leader shall read the bill.
c. If both the President of the Senate and Senate Majority Leader are unavailable, a member of the Senate in good standing shall be selected by the members on the floor to read the bill.

Sign below if you would like to join the petition to have this bill translated into legalese and brought to Congress immediately, or propose your own amendment to this bill.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Euthanasia

Palin did not say Obama would be euthanizing old people. She pointed out quite simply that rationing is an inevitability with government health care, and that somebody in the government will have to decide who gets what.

That's it. Get over it.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Health Care Banks

President Obama said:

Our reform will prohibit insurance companies from denying coverage because of your medical history. Nor will they be allowed to drop your coverage if you get sick. They will not be able to water down your coverage when you need it most. They will no longer be able to place some arbitrary cap on the amount of coverage you can receive in a given year or in a lifetime. And we will place a limit on how much you can be charged for out-of-pocket expenses. No one in America should go broke because they get sick.



It seems that the President does not understand what insurance is. Insurance is, at its core, essentially gambling. The insured gamble that they will need more money at some point than they will have given the insurance company. The insurers gamble that the insured will never need the money back.

It is no different than going to a casino in Vegas and playing every month, hoping to eventually hit the jackpot. The casinos naturally attempt to minimize their losses by throwing out cheats, card counters, and dice throwers. Since a person actually wants to hit the jackpot in Vegas, no one seriously complains about it. They'll pump quarters all day into a machine that only pays out 10% of the time. They'll throw dice that will fall in the casino's favor 70% of the time. If they're really smart, they'll sit down at the Black Jack table and hope that a little skill and 50/50 odds will give them a shot to win.

Like the casinos, an insurance company does everything it can to reduce the risk that it will have to pay out. Thus, the insurance company is not going to cover someone who has an increased likelihood of getting sick. The insurance company is going to tier their plans to maximize the intake while minimizing the payout.

It seems that President Obama is looking for an alternative for insurance that does not involve gambling. He is looking for a place where people can pay in small amounts and then get a large lump sum back later, possibly with a little extra return on the investment. He is looking for a place where they can be advanced a sizable amount of money and then make payments on it afterwards.

Fortunately for the President, such a place does exist. It is called a "bank." A bank allows people to specify each individual payment they will make to it. The bank will then hold that money for them, and in exchange for the free use of that money, pay them an additional percentage on top of what they have deposited. The same bank then uses some of the money given to it to advance money to people who need it, and then ask for that money back afterwards in what is called a "loan."

Therefore, if the President wants to eliminate the gambling part of health care, he should take one of the banks the US government bought with the TARP money and turn it into a health care bank. Then all of these issues with premiums and pre-existing conditions will vanish, and the long national nightmare of health care reform will be over.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Godzilla Award (8/16/09)

The Godzilla Award was founded in honor of my cousin from Japan, who unfortunately took his own life in 1998 after he was tricked into starring alongside Matthew Broderick in one of the worst American films ever made.

One of Godzilla's most famous traits was his ability to do massive damage with just the power of his breath, and so we dinosaurs have created an award that recognizes the biggest blowhards we can find.

This week's winner is...

Senator Arlen Specter (D-PA)! Senator Specter wins for complaining about having to use his precious time to answer to his constituents, especially since they've been foaming at the mouth as a result of the health care debate.

Senator Specter said:





"I’m encouraging constitutional rights. I’m encouraging constitutional rights by coming to Lebanon to talk to my constituents. I could be somewhere else. I don’t get any extra pay — I don’t have any requirement to be here. But for somebody –"



Naturally, Senator Specter is cut off by the crowd profusely apologizing for having wasted his time. Although, they could also be shouting that he works for them and that he reports to them, but it's difficult to tell.

Clearly Senator Specter has gotten so old that he has developed a common disease among politicians called "Occupational Alzheimer's", wherein a person has worked at a place so long that they have entirely forgotten their job description. Senator Specter had even forgotten what party he was in, and had to switch.

As a friendly reminder Senator Specter, you don't get extra pay for town halls because talking to your constituents is part of your original job description, which is why the setup of and transportation to and from these events is covered by those very same taxpayers.

For rumbling down upon your constituents as though they were your peasant servants, we bestow upon you this week's Godzilla Award.

Congratulations Senator Specter!

Thanks to HotAir.com for reporting the story.

Previous Winners:
Linda Douglass
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi

Do you think you know someone who has enough hot air in their belly to destroy a city? If so, you can nominate them for a Godzilla Award by sending their name and a link to their most recent episode to: crankytrex@gmail.com

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Medieval Medicine

Medical treatment has had a long history of evolution, and for quite a bit of it, going to a doctor was often worse than simply dying. With little to no understanding of how the body worked or the microscopic organisms that could poison it, doctors often relied on religion and superstition to discern treatment.

Consider the Dark Ages, wherein disease was considered caused by evil spirits. The Cure? Prayer. Blood-letting. Drilling holes in the skull to let the demon out.
That kind of thought persisted well into the 19th century. Even by the American Civil War, doctors were still often little more than butchers and charlatans. A soldier who took a bullet in a limb could reasonably expect to have his limb hacked off with a dull blade that just came out of the leg of someone with gangrene and no anesthesia to speak of. The lucky ones got a sip of tequila or some other hard liquor.

Many so-called doctors even traveled the country prescribing a variety of chemicals for ailments that ranged from completely ineffective to downright lethal.

Then in the 20th century a general shift towards the scientific method and repeated technological booms created medical technologies that have all but eliminated the risk of death from former killers such as broken bones and mild lacerations. Even simple habits such as washing one's hands when they get dirty have drastically reduced the risk of disease and death...

Thus, it is quite perplexing when President Obama implies that doctors still think the ideal medical solution is to hack a limb off rather than prescribe medication. He argues it's because a doctor can collect more money for the limb.

The President said:
If a family care physician works with his or her patient to help them lose weight, modify diet, monitors whether they're taking their medications in a timely fashion, they might get reimbursed a pittance. But if that same diabetic ends up getting their foot amputated, that's 30,000, 40, $50,000 immediately the surgeon is reimbursed. But why not make sure that we're also reimbursing the care that prevents the amputation? Right? That will save us money.


This is clearly not as straightforward as the famous Tonsil Quote, wherein the President discussed doctors going for tonsil operations instead of antibiotics because they could be better reimbursed, but it also demonstrates a pattern of thought, a pattern that indicates the President either still believes the United States has medieval medical care or doctors are greedy mad scientists looking to make a quick buck.

Further, it may explain why there has been little to no mention of tort reform in the raging health care debate happening in Congress. Any person who knows anything about providing medical care knows that a patient can sue a doctor for almost anything in this day and age, whereas back in the day they would gladly pay a doctor to do his level best to kill their loved one without even realizing it. With no penalty for frivolously filing and the cost of an actual trial significantly higher than a settlement, the doctor is very likely to end up paying in that event. Thus, it makes virtually no sense for any doctor to risk surgery when not absolutely necessary.

So, if the President thinks the tort law in this country is so lax that a doctor could run around amputating limbs and organs for a quick buck, it makes perfect sense that there's no discussion of tort reform of any kind in his health care plans. Unfortunately, time machines do not yet exist. Otherwise the President could take a trip back a hundred years and see that truly, the American health care system is not nearly as limb-hungry as he thinks.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

American Exceptionalism

The phrase "American Exceptionalism" is often used to describe the United States' meteoric rise to military and economic superstardom. Within 200 years, the USA had evolved from a loose collection of colonial states to the preeminent superpower on the planet, and historians will no doubt spend years attempting to discern just what collection of properties and events came together to cause this to occur.

Perhaps it was due to the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans insulating America from most direct attacks. Perhaps it was due to the wide variety of resources and climates spanned by the United States. Yet, Canada and Mexico both shared these advantages and neither went on to become as economically or militarily powerful. Certainly these things helped the Soviet Union emerge from the ashes of World War II into a superpower of its own and yet its power waned as rapidly as America's grew.

Ultimately, there is one thing that separated the United States from the rest of the world: it embraced natural selection. Natural selection is essentially the Theory of Evolution. Its creator, Charles Darwin, realized that members of a species with advantageous traits survive to breed more often and thus an entire species adapts. Species that adapt quickly to changes, survive. Species that do not adapt, die out...

Whether consciously or unconsciously, the Founding Fathers of the United States built a nation built upon that very principle. They decided that the government would be as small as possible, and that the individuals under its umbrella would have to make it or break it on their own. As a result, Americans learned to be the best at everything, to scorn even second place, and to fear and loathe failure. This is often confused with arrogance or pretentiousness, but really it is simply that Americans believe winning is living, and losing is dying.

Of course, other nations throughout history have embraced similar thinking. The thing that separates the United States is that those cultures took it one step too far into the realm of eugenics. Spartans, for instance, killed children that had disabilities at birth. In so doing, they removed one of the key elements of evolution: random chance. Some traits often seem useless to a species, but then one day the climate changes and that trait is perfect, and so selective breeding results in almost certain destruction because those random traits have been bred out.

Instead the United States embraced that randomness. It does not believe in eugenics, but in making the most of everything, and using the ingenuity and curiosity inherent in human beings to create artificial means to adapt if necessary. Thus, it encourages each citizen to act as a microcosm for the entire species by self-evolving.

Now, why is this important? It is important because the culture in America has changed. In the name of compassion, Americans have forgotten this lesson. They choose instead to not simply help the weak, but to actively discourage adaptation. This is why a debate even exists as to whether or not the government should provide health care and whether or not health care is a right. Such a thing would be confusing and unthinkable to the Founding Fathers, who believed each of us had both the responsibility and the power to take on our own challenges, and as a result, the society would evolve and grow resilient.

Instead, the child who fails is now coddled and kept from feeling the weight of failure with participation trophies. The adult who stupidly burns himself with a hot coffee cup is awarded millions of dollars. The immigrant who has not educated himself to the common language of the culture is babied with documents in their own. The crazy lady who intentionally impregnates herself with no support system for her children is given a reality show.

This cannot continue if America wishes to remain a world power. If it does not turn back from this kind of thought, it will stagnate and die. The words of a wise primate of my era best sum up what Americans must relearn lest they vanish into extinction:
"Win and live. Lose and die. Rule of life. No change rule."
-Ayla from Chrono Trigger

Sunday, August 9, 2009

The Godzilla Award (8/9/09)

The Godzilla Award was founded in honor of my cousin from Japan, who unfortunately took his own life in 1998 after he was tricked into starring alongside Matthew Broderick in one of the worst American films ever made.

One of Godzilla's most famous traits was his ability to do massive damage with just the power of his breath, and so we dinosaurs have created an award that recognizes the biggest blowhards we can find.

With all of the Congress critters running around calling protestors angry mobs and nazis, it was a tough pick this week and a very close vote. But, in the end, one nomination stood above the rest.

This week's winner is...

Linda Douglass! Ms. Douglass wins for telling everyone not to believe their lying eyes.




“Hi. I’m Linda Douglass. I’m the communications director for the White House Office of Health Reform, and one of my jobs is to keep track of all the disinformation that’s out there about health-insurance reform. And there are a lot of very deceiving headlines out there right now, such as this one — take a look at this one. This one says, ‘Uncovered Video: Obama Explains How His Health Care Plan Will Eliminate PRIVATE Insurance.’

“Well, nothing can be farther from the truth. You know the people who always try to SCARE people whenever you try to bring them health-insurance reform are at it again. And they’re taking sentences and phrases out of context, and they’re cobbling them together to leave a VERY false impression. The truth is that the president has been talking to the American people a LOT about health-insurance reform and what is at
stake for them.

“So what happens is that because he’s talking to the American people so much, there are people out there with a computer and a lot of free time, and they take a phrase here and there — they simply cherry-pick and put it together, and make it sound like he’s saying something that he didn’t really say.”



Not only does Ms. Douglass claim that what Obama said wasn't what he said, she goes so far as to claim it's engineered by a bunch of bored folks with nothing better to do then mess with their administration.

Such bluster would be worthy of the mutant lizard himself in its own right, but this also carries with it the acidic taste of hypocrisy coming from a woman who once called herself a journalist.

For that, we bestow upon you this week's Godzilla Award.

Congratulations Ms. Douglass!

Previous Winners:
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi

Do you think you know someone who has enough hot air in their belly to destroy a city? If so, you can nominate them for a Godzilla Award by sending their name and a link to their most recent episode to: crankytrex@gmail.com

Friday, August 7, 2009

But...but...Bush did it!

Is anyone else tired of hearing how their opinion doesn't matter because Bush did something similar to something Obama is doing? As if that somehow enters the equation?

Here's a typical exchange:
"Obama's defecit spending is ridiculous. He's going to bankrupt our country this way!"
"Well, where were you when Bush was spending?"

First of all, what does that matter? Do I have to complain about Andrew Jackson every time somebody assaults a Native American to have a valid opinion of that being wrong? Further, how does anyone know whether or not somebody complained about Bush?

Second, with regard to spending specifically, Obama's spending in the last six months is more than Bush's entire term. So it's not even comparable.

And third, if Bush was a fool/jackass/evil for spending a whole bunch of money or any of the other ridiculous things he did, should that not make Obama equal if not worse in that regard? Should not all these people answering criticisms of Obama with "But Bush did it!" be twice as pissed off for having voted for Obama? They voted for what they thought was the polar opposite of Bush, and yet they're getting Bush x10.

This is how the exchange should go:
"Obama's defecit spending is ridiculous. He's going to bankrupt our country this way!"
"Yeah! Welcome aboard! I've been complaining about this since Bush!"

Maybe people just don't want to admit their buyer's remorse. Maybe people don't want to give those of us who took one look at Obama and went "oh hell no" the satisfaction of saying "I told you so." And maybe they're just still too enamoured with Obama to admit his failings. Either way, this dino hopes one of these days they'll wake up and smell what's cooking: them.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Chicago Way

Having been a big movie and television star, it comes as no shock to this giant lizard that movies and television shows often serve as fantastic metaphors for current events.

In the classic movie, The Untouchables, Sean Connery's character Jim Malone catches a member of the Italian mob sneaking up on him with a knife in an assassination attempt. Malone, being a smart Irish beat cop, pulls a gun on him and remarks, "Isn't that just like a wop? Brings a knife to a gun fight. " Unfortunately for Malone, the knife is a setup and the assassin just a lure. He is tempted outside where one of Capone's men opens up on him with a tommy gun.

This classic movie moment is the perfect metaphor for what has happened across the country for the last two weeks. President Obama and the Congress pulled out their knives to carve up the health care system, and the American people said, "wait just a minute there." They have showed up in droves to tell their local representatives that their attempts to rush through a ridiculously expensive health care takeover (or "reform" as they call it), would be met with career-killing force...

..and yet, the story does not end. Instead, those people who exercise what is not only their right, but their duty, to speak up and get involved in ensuring they are properly represented have been met with their own tommy gun. They have been repeatedly fired upon with demonizations and dismissals that they are "angry mobs" and "astro turfers" and "right-wing zealots." Never mind that they are Democrats, Republicans, and Independents. Never mind that they spout perfectly legitimate questions like, "how can a government that can't run Cash for Clunkers run health care?" or shout entirely legitimate requests like "read the bill!"

The Untouchables once again gives us the answer to this. The sage Malone tells Kevin Costner's Eliot Ness:


They pull a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue. *That's* the *Chicago* way!

The President knows The Chicago Way well, being as that is his home turf. For all the talk about wanting to listen to both sides of the debate, none of these people have any interest in hearing the legitimate criticism, especially not the White House. Not only that, but they will continue to do everything possible to crush any dissent. Unfortunately for them, the American people live by Eliot Ness' motto: "Never stop fighting until the fight is done."

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Dances With Wolves

Tonight, this T-Rex was watching a classic movie on AMC as he often does. In that movie, Kevin Costner's character of John Dunbar became known by the Sioux Indians as "Dances With Wolves", thus giving the film its title.

There are many things to be said of this film, be it the many Oscars it won or the stirring epic of a loaner on the prairie adapting and making friends with the local tribe, but rather than drone on about some of the more philosophical aspects of this movie that I have been dwelling on this evening, I thought it would be more interesting to create a contest of sorts instead.

As "Cranky T-Rex", I essentially already have an Indian name, but what Indian names would some of our politicians have? Here are a few I thought of while I was watching Dances With Wolves:

Barack Obama: "SpendsBigMoney"
Joe Biden: "DropsWordsfromMouth"
Nancy Pelosi: "EyesThatBlinkOften"
John Kerry: "ThreePurpleHearts"
Robert Gibbs: "SpeaksWrongWords"
Chris Dodd: "GetsFreeHouses"
John McCain: "OldBrokenArms"
G. W. Bush: "WavesBigFlag" or "LooksLikeMonkey"
Dick Cheney: "ShootsFriendinFace" (Obvious, I know.)

Got a good one? Post it in the comments section.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Why So Serious?

It seems someone with an interesting sense of humor has been running around LA putting up these pictures, in a parody of the recent smash hit (yet highly overrated in this dino's opinion) The Dark Knight.

Remember the days when it was "patriotic" to make fun of the President? Back when it was one's duty to talk about ChimpyMcBushHitler's quest to conquer the world for oil, carried out by drowning blacks in New Orleans and creating a massive conspiracy to execute 9/11? When Dick Cheney was Darth Vader?

Apparently, that is no longer the case now that America is the land of Hype and Chains...excuse me, I meant Hope and Change, as several news outlets such as LA Weekly and MSNBC have decided this crosses the line.

Now, I could discuss how incredibly hypocritical it is, but Allahpundit and Ace do the job well enough.

The issue I want to address is...


...with the poster itself. The problem with this poster is that it is entirely contradictory. Socialism is on the exact opposite of the political spectrum as the Joker's philosophy of anarchy. Moreover, the Joker simply wanted to watch the world burn for his own personal amusement. Obama seems to honestly believe that socialism will be better for everyone or is simply too naive to know the consequences. The Joker was many things, but naive was not one of them.

Indeed, the poster would make much more sense if it were using Two-Face as the template. Much like Obama's quest to help everyone, Two-Face's original, "good" persona of Harvey Dent was a man of the people, out to do what was best for the public at any cost. Then, on the flip side (pardon the pun), Two-Face became petty and vindictive, which is a quality Obama demonstrates frequently when pressed or crossed. Lastly, Two-Face changes his mind on the flip of a coin. Obama has changed his mind about some very strong promises with about the same degree of effort.

So really, the poster should have used his or her Photoshop skills to create the Harvey Dent version of Obama and put that up all over the place. Then again, in this politically correct atmosphere, it would probably be considered a hate crime to show a picture of a black man with severe burns on one side of his face...

The Godzilla Award

The Godzilla Award was founded in honor of my cousin from Japan, who unfortunately took his own life in 1998 after he was tricked into starring alongside Matthew Broderick in one of the worst American films ever made.

One of Godzilla's most famous traits was his ability to do massive damage with just the power of his breath, and so we dinosaurs have created an award that recognizes the biggest blowhards we can find.

This week's winner is...

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi! The Speaker wins for this impressive rant against insurance companies brought to us by The Hill:


“They are the villains in this,” Pelosi said of private insurers. “They havebeen part of the problem in a major way. They are doing everything in their power to stop a public option from happening. And the public has to know that. They can disguise their arguments any way they want, but the fact is that they don’t want the competition.”…

“It’s almost immoral what they are doing,” added Pelosi, who stood outside her office long after her press conference ended to continue speaking to reporters, even as aides tried in vain to usher her inside. “Of course they’ve been immoral all along in how they have treated the people that they insure with pre-existing conditions, you know, the litany of it all.”



Yes, Speaker Pelosi it's all the fault of all those evil people trying to make money selling something people actually want. Neither your constant bickering amongst yourselves and utter failure to do anything productive about the economy nor the general satisfaction most Americans have with their current health care have anything to do with it.

For that, we bestow upon you this week's Godzilla Award.

Congratulations Speaker Pelosi!

Do you think you know someone who has enough hot air in their belly to destroy a city? If so, you can nominate them for a Godzilla Award by sending their name and a link to their most recent episode to: crankytrex@gmail.com

Friday, July 31, 2009

Caption Contest



"That's the promise of America - the idea that we are responsible for ourselves, but that we also rise or fall as one nation; the fundamental belief that I am my brother's keeper; I am my sister's keeper."
-Barack Obama


Apparently, that does not include helping an old man down the steps of your house.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Beer Summit


Look at this picture. Don't these three look relaxed? You'd never guess that one of them arrested one of them, one of them called the one doing the arresting a racist, and the other one called the arresting officer stupid and racist.

Now, I could get into the stuff that people have gone over all day long about what this means in terms of race or how this is getting too much coverage etc., but my question is...

...where's the urgency? After all, President Obama has declared that health care must be passed immediately or Americans will die from lack of health care and other Americans will go bankrupt from the cost. The President has already gone so far as to say the time for debate was over.

If that's the case, why does the President have time to sit around enjoying a beer with a couple of guys he doesn't know just because he needs to do a little ass-covering? His health care bill is imploding in both the House and the Senate as Democrats tear viscious chunks out of one another in an attempt to gain superiority, and his self-imposed deadline comes up tomorrow. Should not the President be rushing around twisting arms and using the power of his eloquence to get everyone pointed in the same direction? Clearly the President is so unconcerned that even Joe Biden had time to sit down and have a drink, as he was at the so-called "Beer Summit" as well, though not in this photograph.

Also related to health care, isn't it just a tad ironic that the same man demanding Americans change their routines and habits to become healthier so as to reduce health care costs suggested sharing alcoholic beverages with Gates and Crowley? Couldn't the White House kitchen rustle up some lemonade or something less damaging to the liver?

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

At Least Lie To Us

For the last six months, massive spending programs have gotten fast-tracked through Congress despite massive opposition from the average American. These bills have been thousands of loose pages paper-clipped together at 3:00 AM and voted on by the afternoon. In the case of the Cap and Trade bill, one 300 page amendment did not even have a hard copy ready in time for voting. The Congress literally voted on an unfinished bill.

But, as outrageous as that is, the Congress at least had the common decency to continue the charade that they actually do real work in Washington. It's been a game for years. Those elected to political office smile and wave at the camera, nod their heads understandingly, and tell us how they really do care about our problems. They shake our claws firmly and promise to head back to Washington and get that done for us...

...and then they get into a private jet, smoke a cigar, and fly to their summer home on Martha's Vineyard.

But no, now that facade is gone thanks to Representative John Conyers (D-MI), who has decided that reading the legislation is just not worth it:





"What good is reading the bill if it’s a thousand pages and you don’t have two days and two lawyers to find out what it means after you read the bill? "

Well John, the "good" is that it's your job. I'm a busy guy. I have to star in blockbuster movies and TV shows. I've got to pose for paintings and help get my relatives set up properly in museums. I do not have time to propose, draft, or read legislation. That is why I vote for representatives like yourself to head down to Washington to handle that on my behalf.

C'mon John, at least LIE TO ME. Has it gotten so bad down there that these people don't even think the appearance of propriety is required? Is a T-Rex going to have to chomp a Congressman?

What Are We? Pirates?

Again today I heard a commentator on the news use the phrase "blood and treasure" to describe what we have spent/lost in Iraq. I, for one, cannot stand this euphemism. It's "blood and money." "Treasure" is something for which you go hunting. "Treasure" is something you find in a sunken ship or an Egyptian burial vault.

Seriously, do American Navy captains hoist the black flag and sail about looting and plundering every merchant vessel they see? Did the Coast Guard run across one of those sunken Nazi subs full of gold meant for the Japanese? Did a subway engineer blast through the rock into the Founding Fathers' secret stash under Wall St.? Did an American soldier dig up a bunch of doubloons in the Iraqi desert? Where did all this "treasure" we spent come from?

Money does not become treasure until it's been loaded onto a Spanish Galleon and hidden away in a cave by a one-eyed pirate for a ragtag bunch of kids to find. So please folks, stop using the word "treasure" when you mean "money."

Monday, July 27, 2009

Hype and Chains: The Real Obama Administration

Hope and change: two words that came to embody the campaign of Barack Obama. It was believed that Mr. Obama would bring hope to the needy and the downtrodden, and change to the marginalized, the poor, and the pained. Of course, at the time many of us wondered if the promise of these things was quite simply: too good to be true.

Though we are only six months into his administration, it seems that our apprehensions were entirely too correct. Instead it appears that all of the talk about Obama being some sort of post-racial Messiah sent to save us from our own short-sightedness is merely an awful lot of hype. And the change promised by Obama? It weighs down the future of every man, woman, child, or business that ever believed they could become something more like a ball and chain clamped to their ankle.

The Obama Administration speaks of restoring relations with the world, and yet they continue to bungle diplomatic events with wrongly-encoded DVDs and mistranslated buttons. Obama's spent his time abroad bowing and apologizing to the other nations only to have his meager requests of them laughed off. Meanwhile, those enemies who have emulated my raptor friends from Jurassic Park in poking and prodding at our defenses have used the weakness discovered in this new administration to take swipes at our now-exposed underbelly.

Instead of helping to bring change to an Iranian people longing to be free of a corrupt and oppressive government, the Obama Administration stood with its nose upturned as though it was none of our business, despite the protestors' desperate attempts to use every means available to seek our support. In so doing, President Obama left the protestors yelping like dogs held back from their goals by their leashes.

Obama was described as a thoughtful leader who would surround himself with independent-minded, bi-partisan thinkers to solve the economic crisis. Instead, we see tax cheats, lobbyists, hyper-partisans, and radicals leading the charge on everything from the economy to health care, and unelected, never-vetted Czars in charge of major aspects of US policy.

The change he brought to our economy has come with the shackles imposed by accepting government funds. GM lost a CEO and control over their dealerships for their bailout money. Creditors lost their investments to union bosses. AIG employees lost their privacy. Even state governors have had the manacles slapped onto their wrists so that they can be force-fed the pork-fried Stimulus money.

Indeed, the Stimulus was touted as an instant solution to our economic woes, designed to "create or save" (a nonsensical euphemism if there ever was one) three to four million jobs. When unemployment continued to skyrocket and the economy failed to move in any direction but down, the administration had no choice but to walk back the hype in favor of whimpering that we all misunderstood, that the Stimulus was merely to blunt the sharp point of the recession and provide long term economic assistance.

And then there's health care. Obama has spent months on the stump trying desperately to make Americans believe that their health care is terrible, and that he and only he has the solution to their problem: a government option. President Obama is so certain of this that he believed he could drive it through Congress in a mere month, and certainly the power with which he has been embodied made this nearly believable. But, not only has he failed to meet that goal, he has lost total control of the issue as well, if he ever had it.

In the midst of his attempt to regain said control, President Obama knocked just that much more sparkle off his shiny facade by proving his post-racial identity to be merely more hype. He was quick to ally himself with the idea that the arrest of Professor Gates by Officer Crowley was both stupid and racially motivated in the same breath as his admission that he did not have all the facts.

Obama's change for Officer Crowley was to slap the cuffs of a racism accusation on the man and toss him to the rabid animals of the national media with whom not even this King Lizard would dare tangle.

So here we are, and like Jacob Marley moaning at Ebenezer Scrooge, I implore my fellow citizens to feel the weight of the links Obama is attaching to us. See through the glossy veneer of his polished exterior and realize that he is not about hope and change; he is about hype and chains.

Roar!

Welcome one and all to my domain.

Don't let the mouth full of steak knives bother you, I have established this place for us to get to know one another and for me to vent my frustrations upon something. I hope that you shall find my wisdom as the local King Lizard useful, enlightening, and amusing, and I look forward to devouring your...comments.

I expect to begin posting in earnest soon, so please return shortly to see more the of the meat and potatoes of what this blog will offer. Well...the potatoes anyway, I'm liable to eat the meat before you get here.