An Alaskan journalist's perspective on local and national issues

Archive for June, 2012

Obamacare Lives, and CNN and Fox News FAIL

Yeah, there are a lot of things to talk about, and we thought we would break it down one by one.  The first part is that the Health Care Reform Act, aka. Obamacare, passed.  In a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court upheld the law.  One of the big names who was not expected to vote for the side of this bill was the swing vote they needed.  Justice John Roberts, a man who all the conservatives were sure was going to be against this, since he is a very conservative man, voted in favor of the Health Care Reform Act.  He chose to look at the law for what it is, and be impartial.  As one can imagine, the conservatives are up in arms about that.

Now, there are some issues that I personally have with the Health Care Reform Act. For one thing, the insurance mandate part is totally useless without a public option.  In fact, I do think that it does harm.  But, for what I have to look at, I will say, the liberal community should feel some pride.  I think we should have universal health care, but this is at least a step in the right direction, which is more than Obama has been able to do for the bulk of his presidency.  Of course, if he had actually fought for it, we might have the public option, but that is neither here nor there.

However, when the news broke about the ruling, there was a bit of a mix-up of information, and the source is a couple that you might not expect.  Fox News and CNN, when this ruling news broke, reported it wrong.  They reported that a 5-4 vote was in favor of it not passing.  That they ruled against it.  That’s a HUGE gaff for a news company to make.

Source Fed, a news organization who is both fun and informative about some oddball issues and some very hard news, had a very good point to make about this.  While this most certainly makes Fox News and CNN look stupid and like bad journalists, the problem of this does come from our culture of immediacy.  Granted, one can be quick and be thorough, which NBC poked fun at in a response from their PR person.  But when people want the information right then, at that moment, and not have to wait, there is a good point to be made that mistakes are going to be made.

The field of journalism is trying to find a place to exist in this new world, but perhaps the public does have some accountability to be had in regards to massive mistakes like this being made.

This is a huge issue, and a lot of people are celebrating, as they should be.  But this isn’t over.  This Reform Act is not good enough.  There needs to be more battle with this culture for universal health care.  Since I have no faith in the corrupt and bureaucratic politicians who could give a damn about the public, we have to push for this as a community.  Liberals must end their timidity and stand tall, demanding universal health care, something that will save America money, along with families money.

But given how absolutely dumb this country’s culture is, that might be dreaming a little bit beyond my ken.

“Nessie” Disproves Evolution?

There aren’t enough hands to do enough facepalms for this one.  It is kind of poetic that this story takes place in Louisiana.  America’s south is becoming the great icon of stupidity in this country.  A new textbook, published by ACE (Accelerated Christian Education) has a rather interesting take on the theory of evolution.

Are dinosaurs alive today? Scientists are becoming more convinced of their existence. Have you heard of the `Loch Ness Monster’ in Scotland? `Nessie,’ for short has been recorded on sonar from a small submarine, described by eyewitnesses, and photographed by others. Nessie appears to be a plesiosaur.

Could a fish have developed into a dinosaur? As astonishing as it may seem, many evolutionists theorize that fish evolved into amphibians and amphibians into reptiles. This gradual change from fish to reptiles has no scientific basis. No transitional fossils have been or ever will be discovered because God created each type of fish, amphibian, and reptile as separate, unique animals. Any similarities that exist among them are due to the fact that one Master Craftsmen fashioned them all.

Ugh.  One can almost feel the stupid just leaping off the screen, can’t you?  People wonder why the rest of the world thinks that we’re stupid.  Well, now you have your reason why.  And this isn’t the only example.  This textbook also contends that the concept of Godzilla actually came from the when Japanese whaling boats supposedly caught a dinosaur.

First, let’s address the obvious – that these arguments are beyond ridiculous.  Apparently, ACE never heard of the concept of shame or intellectual integrity.  Hopefully they are also not stupid enough to think that a sharp kid with access to the internet is going to be able to blow holes in this a mile wide.

Second, while this is one the stupidest documents we have seen in a long time, and also a textbook, this textbook isn’t going to public schools.  It is going to private school.  The children who attend these institutions, which apparently don’t care that they are teaching them outright lies, are there because their parents paid for them to be there.  If the parents want their kids to be taught outright lies and completely nonfactual information, then they get what they paid for.  I guess they want their kids to be stupid, which is fine.

Third, it is good for the rest of us that these people are doing this.  The rest of America, those of us who went to public school, are being taught real science, with real evidence, and real data to back it up.  We have been taught to think critically. We need these kinds of people so that we can not only have stupid people to laugh at, but also to have people that can continually drive the pursuit of knowledge.  Disproving ignorance is a great drive to improve the quality of our science education.

But there are some more serious aspect of this document to examine.  Other parts of this textbook say that the Ku Klux Klan was a very influential organization that is trying to –

be a means of reform, fighting the decline in morality and using the symbol of the cross … In some communities it achieved a certain respectability as it worked with politicians.

Yeah, they also killed people and brutalized a community simply because they didn’t like them.  They were such peaches, weren’t they?

Recap: Accelerated Christian Education has no shame, nor any amount of integrity to print this garbage, and children being sent to private schools are learning complete falsehood.  And this is proof like no other that people who argue for the privatization of education isn’t the answer.

Actual science has never looked so good.

Gaming Consoles are Dead?

Yeah, this question was posed in a video that was recently uploaded to YouTube.  The video talked about how mobile gaming is quickly replacing typical gaming.  In a very quick response to him – what are you talking about?

The consoles that we know of right now are starting to show their age a little, but the fact is that console gaming completely and utterly dominates the gaming world.  Online games are a global phenomenon.  Most gaming companies try to have some online component to all of their games, because the fact is that the young and adult all over the world now want to link up and play games with their friends.

The guy in the video linked above seemed incredibly naive.  He believes that the young culture is all about being mobile.  To some extent, he is right.  Mobile apps are for everything nowadays.  You can upload to your Facebook page on your mobile phone.  You can control all of your devices together, and in some cases control stuff in your house through the mobile phone, but here’s the thing – it’s a long time coming for this to be applicable to gaming as well.

The next generation of consoles are looking to make their debut very soon.  It’s cool because gaming companies want to make games that have the hardware to show off their new tech.  This means that better performance, better graphics, and more save space are just around the corner.  All kinds of possibilities are going to be available for gaming very soon.

To say that the consoles are dead seems incredibly ignorant, and perhaps this fellow should have done his research.  The modern consoles show their age, but the by-product is that there are incredible games being made.  The latest generation of games (the good ones, anyway) have great stories, many on par with good film.  New games are even getting A-list actors into their production.  The game Beyond: Two Souls stars and has a rendering of Ellen Paige.  That is no small feat.

Not only that, but the speaker of the video said that mobile games are the way to go because of the fact that it is mobile.  Mobility doesn’t increase playability.  The maker of an Assassin’s Creed game wouldn’t get very far putting it on an iPhone.  The reality is that these kind of games, while being a very good diversion, are nothing more than standing in the shadow of the gaming consoles.

Saying that traditional consoles are dead is a lot like saying that traditional pets are dead.  It is blatantly not true.  This guy was giving bad advice, and it needs to be made example of, because there were people there at this lecture who thought that they were learning something.

Young people do like being on the go, but those who like games like games that are playable.  There has to be some value to the gaming experience, and while playing Angry Birds or Fruit Ninja can be fun, they in no way are looking to replace the high-quality games that serious gamers are expecting from the consoles or online.  That’s a fact.

I love video games.  This is an art medium that I have grown up with, and I am seeing it mature.  No longer are the plots non-existent or simple.  We now have nuance, subtlety, catharsis, and beauty.  This medium is coming into its own, and when games can get people like Haley Joel Osment and Ellen Paige to be a part of them, you know that you are doing something right.

Sorry, guy, but you are dead wrong.  Remember that.

Who Cares about Jerry Sandusky?

Well, the big issue that is now floating around the media zeitgeist is the Jerry Sandusky trial.  Just like the trial of that mother who killed her kids not too long ago, everybody seems to want to talk about this, and to make it out to be this giant issue, when the truth is that this issue is unbelievably small.

Yeah, you can disagree all you want, but think about this – the economy is heading in the wrong direction again.  Our infrastructure is falling apart.  Congress can’t seem to get anything done because they are too busy fighting amongst themselves to notice what is happening outside of their $2,000 suits.  There are still wars that we are fighting over in the Middle East.  We are still waging a pointless and futile war against drugs that is ultimately costing money that this country could be saving.  Billions and billions of dollars that we could have in our banks, and instead we have to have going nowhere.

In the world of the problems that are facing this country, where do I put Jerry Sandusky and the horrible things that he has done to young boys?  I put it right at the bottom.  Here’s the real truth – what Sandusky did was awful.  He deserves to have the book thrown at him for this.  There is no argument that he should go to jail and find out what happens to a child molester in a typical American prison.  But here’s the thing – how is this a national issue?

Are we going to look at this as a larger concept and talk about how trusted adult figures like Catholic priests and coaches could be raping our children, and how we should be working to stop stuff like this (especially with the Catholic church, and make them pay for their crimes, finally)?  Obviously no.  For starters, the Catholic church would never allow this government to have a really hardcore look into their own corruption.  They are openly controlling the way of the conversation about their crimes.

And nobody is going to take a hard look at coaches.  For those self-righteous people who are now making a huge issue out of Sandusky’s trial, let’s not forget that when he was first arrested, a HUGE group of people came out of the woodwork and defended him.  They acted like this was all a lie.  They didn’t want to believe it, and why?  Because he was a good coach, and Penn. State University didn’t want to lose him.

To be able to keep winning sports games, these people were willing to close their eyes and ignore this, pretending like it wasn’t true.  You don’t think that that is worth taking note of?  You don’t think that something like this is worth talking about?

That brings us to the final point that the real thing that nobody will talk about is the absolute failure of the American people.  All of our political and cultural problems that we suffer from now can be traced back to the weak-kneed and cowardly American people who are too pathetic to actually stand up and do something about the real problems.  They are content to simply get rid of the symptoms of the diseases of corruption and ignorance that afflict society, not to go after the root cause.

The Vatican will never be put on trial.  Coaches will always be the good guys because America loves its sports.  And the American people will never answer for their part in what gets us here because they don’t want to have a light shined on their failures.  Liberals and conservatives will come on here and say that I am dead wrong and that this isn’t an American thing, but the truth is that until we do, people like Sandusky will come back, and this whole tragedy will repeat itself again and again.

That’s America for you.  We’re a diaper nation, cleaning our mess after it’s made, as if we could have stopped it from being made.

Liberals and Obama in the 2012 Election

With the 2012 Presidential elections just around the corner, it has been fascinating to sit back and watch the liberal and conservative voices, both in the media and in person, talk.  I have been content not to join the choir, because honestly, this was all too interesting.  The conservative line is boring.  There is the endless schtick about Obama and the liberals.  You just learn to ignore that after a while.  Their war on women’s rights is far more pressing.

However, the real voice to pay attention to is the liberal perspective.  Truly, the left has been the far more engaging of political debates.  Now, just to get something clear, I am a far-left political idealist, more in line with socialism than liberal or progressive ways of thinking.  I, however, am not a supporter of President Obama.  Nor am I a supporter of Mitt Romney.  I believe voting is useless, because the system is rigged either way.

It seems that a lot of liberals think otherwise.  There are three fundamental arguments that I am hearing from the left about President Obama.  The first is that he is a good President who tried, but that he was continually obstructed by Republicans, and that is why he failed on so many of his campaign promises, or, well, doing anything substantially productive.  They seem to forget that the President not only continued Bush’s foreign policy, but expanded it.  He has more or less franchised GITMO, even though he promised that he would close it.  He has expanded the powers of the Patriot Act, even going so far as to bring the policy into effect allowing this government to outright call for the murder of a person without trial or charge or anything.  Just saying that they are a suspected terrorist, so we should kill them.

The second argument is that they will vote for Obama because the alternative is even worse.  Basically, taking the evil that they know over the one that they don’t.  They seem to forget that Mitt Romney is not going to win this election.  Moderates make up the bulk of this country’s voting population.  Either moderate-left or moderate-right, the fact is that 80% of this country’s vote is much more toward the middle, leaning one way on some issues, another way on others.  And the fact is that nobody likes Romney.  The moderate-right Republicans are just as sick of the insanity in their party as the liberals are, and they want a serious candidate (which they know he isn’t), and the moderate-left has seen the Republican Party’s war on women, and they aren’t going to jump on board.  The fact is that Romney was dead on arrival.  All of the Republican candidates are.  NONE of the Republican majority liked any of them.  They were asking the same question that I have been asking for months – where is the sane candidate?

The third argument is one that I find the most interesting – Obama didn’t do so well, but if we give him another chance, he’ll be able to finally deliver.  Where did this argument come from?  When is the bulk of this country going to realize that NONE of the political parties care about them?  Democrat or Republican, there isn’t a single group of politicians in this country on the American people’s side.  The only side they are on is the side that keeps them in power.  Right now, it’s Wall Street.  The reality is that there is no political group who cares what happens to the people of this country.  The American people serve only as the catalyst to get them into office.  Beyond that, they might as well not exist.

America’s problem goes far deeper than what most liberals seems to want to understand.  It’s not the corporations, or the Republicans.  It is the people.  The American people, and their acceptance of mediocrity, being lied to, and being pawns.  The self-indulgent and greedy culture that we surround ourselves with.  All of these things are why this country is falling apart.  Meanwhile, the 2012 elections are going to serve no purpose other than to show that this country won’t try something different, or won’t step out of the box.  Why vote third party when you can be slaves to the two big ones and follow them blindly?  Why demand something better when it is just easier to accept?

Why challenge, when it is easier to just be a slave and obey?

The Failure of E3 and Gaming in General

This year’s E3 was very much not what people who were attending it hoped that it would be.  There were a lot of things that fell very flat, and the internet has been a buzz for weeks afterwards talking about this.  This isn’t going to be a political post, as most of my articles are, but instead a cultural one.

Video gaming has most certainly come into its own.  There is an interesting new pattern that is developing that one can follow with great accuracy – every time it is a great year for film, it is a poor year for gaming, and every time it is a great year for gaming, it is a poor year for film.  2011 was a great example.  It was an incredible year for gaming. Between Batman: Arkham City and Uncharted 3, there was a lot to love about last year.  This year is not shaping up to be so much of one.  To know the reason why, one doesn’t need to look much farther than E3.

Now don’t get me wrong, there were a lot of great demonstrations.  The new installment of Halo does show a lot of promise, giving us a new setting, new characters, and new enemies.  There is also the reboot of Tomb Raider, which looks decidedly darker than its predecessors and a lot better.  And of course, the previews for the new Assassin’s Creed game were amazing.  This most certainly is a game that looks to deliver, on all fronts.

The problem with gaming right now is that there are lot of sequels, and not a lot of IP’s.  Worse than that is that a lot of the sequels are starting to look formulaic.  Take the new Dead Space game.  Introducing a cover-based shooting system with human enemies, this game feels rushed out of the gate, borrowing from what every third-person shooter appears to be these days.  Then there is Resident Evil 6.  A lot of people, myself included, are on the fence about this game.  Resident Evil 4 brought us back to the survival horror formula.  It was a lot more action-based, but it still felt like survival horror.  Resident Evil 5, however, did not. This game was an action game, and while it was fun to play, it wasn’t a Resident Evil game.

This new game does look intriguing, but we are hoping, more and more, that it will go back to the survival horror genre.  This genre is on life-support, with more and more horror games being action focused.  It’s time that the franchise returns to its roots, or at least starts heading that way.

But we want new stuff.  We want a new game that challenges conventions and really tests things.  We want to be intrigued and to have something different to play.  Video gaming is supposed to be about trying new things, testing new ground, trying to reach new markets.  It doesn’t really feel that way lately.  Of course, there is some hope.  The demo for the new game Watch Dogs most certainly intrigued, turning heads with a new concept, and a rather creepy realism to it.

But the single biggest problem at E3 is this – the lack of risk-taking by gaming designers.  There seems to be a definite formula that game designers are following these days.  Not to mention the fact that it has been over two years since Microsoft has not had any large-scale exclusives for the Xbox360.  Games are sticking with what sells, but if the anticipation of games like Watch Dogs says anything, it is that people are interested in seeing new stuff, particularly stuff that works in a different way.  Time-tested formulas are getting old.

Gaming is growing, and the quality of games is growing with it, but there needs to be a definite effort on the part of game designers not to slip into formula.  Don’t do what the film and TV companies are doing.

You’re Not Special?

When I first saw the speech that will be discussed and saw the title, my reaction was similar to your own.  Calling high school students not special, that seems really harsh.  But when one watches the video, and really thinks about what is being said, there is a lot of truth to this, and it is kind of hard to look at, especially when examining America as a whole.  The speech was delivered by an English teacher, David McCullough Jr., who teaches at Wellesley High.  This school is in Boston.

It’s not a mystery that America really panders to its youth.  The “It Gets Better” campaign, the need to not make any student feel bad ever, the constant assurance that if a kid works hard, everything will be okay, and that they are just the best thing since sliced bread is all over this culture.  It’s not a mystery that Americans are force-fed this day in and day out.

But McCullough makes a lot of very good points.

Across the country no fewer than 3.2 million seniors are graduating about now from more than 37,000 high schools. That’s 37,000 valedictorians … 37,000 class presidents … 92,000 harmonizing altos … 340,000 swaggering jocks … 2,185,967 pairs of Uggs…

A good point.  These numbers add up after a while.  While America’s education system is a joke compared to the rest of the world, perhaps that irons even more the fact that so many get through the system that it takes the special away from them.  They are all given a test that in some states, like Florida, are getting stupider and stupider.

All over the country, more and more students are being told about how great they are, even when they have accomplished nothing, and aren’t looking to accomplish anything.  Graduating from and American high school is no great achievement.

But yet this gives me pause, as well.  I have conflicting feelings.  What is special?  That is an interesting question to ask McCullough.  He seems to believe that it is people who have real accomplishments.  Though he also credits those who follow their passions with all their heart.  If one is going to say that a group of people isn’t special, it only stands to reason that they have standards as to what makes on special.

There was a comment on The Young Turks YouTube video about this, stating that every accomplishment does serve a purpose.  So perhaps the better fact of this speech is that it has gotten people talking.

McCullough says that to do what one does for the purpose of passion and belief of its importance is what is truly an achievement, along with actually accomplishing something.  He calls the “relevant life” an achievement.  This, however, brings up another question – what is relevant?  Who determines it?  How can one be relevant?

A person makes an incredible new car design that saves gas and makes no emissions, we obviously would consider that an accomplishment.  What about the person who discovers a way to control your entire home with electronic interface?  What about the guy who designs a new kind of vacuum that is ten times better than the other vacuums?  Where is the line on what is relevant or not?

Perhaps the greatest thing that McCullough has done is that he has done with this column tries to do every single day – get people to think.  His mission was to get the seniors who were graduating to take a really critical look at themselves, and from most reports, he was well-received.  America does need to really look at what an entitled nation we have become.  But at the same time, don’t lose sight of the fact that there are kids who have trouble with school, and getting out is an accomplishment.  Those who aren’t lazy or stupid, just not made for the academics.

Be open to new ideas, and new thought.  That is an accomplishment, for sure.

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