Monday, August 24, 2009

Whale Wars Season 2

Mercifully, the second season of the Animal Planet program Whale Wars has come to an end without anyone dying, despite the great efforts of eco-terrorist Paul Watson, the captain of the Sea Shepherd ship the Steve Irwin.

This show has been a frequent topic for discussion here and like with a train wreck, I just can’t seem to stop myself from watching. As always, I’ll start with the obvious. I fully support legitimate operations like Greenpeace who work within the law to do their part against illegal whaling. I am anti-whaling. I cannot, however, condone what Paul Watson and his Sea Shepherds do. How he continually gets these people to drink the Kool-aid is beyond me.

Sea Shepherd, an organization started when Watson was kicked out of Greenpeace, uses non-peaceful tactics to try to accomplish the goal of ending whaling by Japanese whalers in the Arctic. And let’s be honest here, the Japanese whalers exploit a loophole in the laws that outlaw whaling in order to kill, sell and eat an endangered species. What they do is wrong. But, as my dear mommy used to tell me when I was a boy, two wrongs don’t make a right and it seems that’s what the Sea Shepherds ignore. They don’t fight the system, they fight the source and they use tactics that cannot be called anything but terrorist in nature.

The arrogance, idiocy and delusions of grandeur that “captain” Paul Watson constantly displays are astounding. His lack of knowledge of basic seamanship and his ship’s capabilities leave you with open mouth and a sore neck from repeatedly shaking your head. Watson almost seems driven to get himself or someone from his crew killed in what his eyes, would be a great publicity move.

So it is that Season 2 begins and after the pestering that Watson’s crew accomplished in the previous year and the publicity it got, the Japanese whalers stepped their game up in defending their ships. Sadly, knowing full well what those evil people were doing, I couldn’t help but root for them as they—with intelligence, strategic planning and well thought out defenses—constantly repelled the—wing it and hope for the best—strategies of the Sea Shepherd crew.

It was like watching Star Wars and rooting for the Empire, but it couldn’t be helped. The Japanese whalers equipped themselves with anti-pirate/terrorist devices like water cannons, protective netting and LRAD systems, which are acoustic weapons that attack a person’s nervous system and often render them unable to move or properly function. The Sea Shepherds, not anticipating any of this and not being prepared for or intelligent enough to counter the strategies, spent the entire season floundering.

Instead of creating sympathy for his cause and helping the whales, Watson succeeds only in almost getting him and his crew killed or hurt. He is such a buffoon and so obviously overmatched in tactics and seamanship that he only succeeds at being laughed at and not taken seriously.

Finally, frustrated failure after failure and the seemingly mocking way that the Japanese whalers start killing and processing whales right before his eyes, with reckless abandon and zero regard for the safety of his crew, Watson rams one of the Japanese vessels and sustains a hull breach that fortunately for him, was above his water line or he and his crew would now be dead and frozen in the frigid waters.

I won’t lie, I hope the charges filed against him for ramming the Japanese ship don’t stick because I certainly want to see a third season of this show. Of course it would be much more safe for the Kool-aid-drinking crew, Watson himself and the Japanese fleet if he was tried and convicted.

It’s nice to have something you believe in so strongly that you’re prepared to die for it. Just ask al-Qaeda. I just can’t help but wonder how much more trouble the Sea Shepherds could have caused by using all the money it takes to make these recapture your youth, pirate, eco-terrorist adventures and spent it on changing the laws and policies of the countries involved?

Be prepared. Sooner or later Watson is going to get someone killed. It’s going to be big news when he does. He’ll be smiling behind his crocodile tears though, because this fanatical man is counting on that death. There’s a big difference between being prepared to die for something you believe in, and seeking that death out. And like a train wreck—or a ship crash—I just can’t look away.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Let God. Let Go.

This morning, Scotland released the terminally ill man who was convicted and serving a life sentence for the death of 270 innocent people in the 1988 bombing of a Pan-American flight that crashed in Lockerbie. Abdel Basset al-Megrahi is a free man and he will return to his native Libya where he is expected to die in less than three months.

Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, the man responsible for his release noted that al-Megrahi had not shown compassion to his victims but that he was motivated by Scottish values to show mercy.

My first reaction was one of outrage. Many of the passengers on that plane were American college students flying home to New York for Christmas. This man obviously deserves to die, not comfortably, treated like a hero by his fellow countrymen, but in a cold, hard, hospital prison. This man doesn’t deserve our compassion.

Theories are already abound regarding the “real” reasons why al-Megrahi was released, most involving the interests of British Petroleum in Libya and Moammar Gadhafi’s hard lobby for his release. Many see this as nothing more than a wheel greasing gesture. MacAskill explains it a bit differently though. He says, “Some hurts can never heal, some scars can never fade. Those who have been bereaved cannot be expected to forget, let alone forgive... However, Mr. al-Megrahi now faces a sentence imposed by a higher power."

It was that last sentence that turned me. Or, at least, made me step back and face my hypocrisy for a moment. I’m still not sure I’m turned. I’m not convinced the right thing is being done, but I also don’t know that mercy, even on the unrepentant can be so easily condemned, at least not by a Christian man like myself.

It’s so easy to hate someone who, in the name of another god, mercilessly killed so many innocents. It’s easy to pass my judgment on him. It’s easy to want him dead or for him to suffer until he dies. It’s easy to hate the man who released him. It’s easy to feel anger and resentment, knowing that this murderer will go home to a country that will treat him like a king for his last few months of life. Those emotions, anger, hatred, resentment, they are all easy and quick and they feel so right.

They are also contrary to every single Christian teaching. It is the Old Testament that teaches and eye for an eye. The New Testament teaches us to turn the other cheek, to judge not lest we be judged. It teaches us to have mercy, to show compassion. “Blessed are the merciful; for they shall be shown mercy.”

How does one who professes to be a Christian stand opposed to an act of mercy? This man will die in three months or less. Before that death, he has experienced the mercy that he did not have for others. Whether he appreciates it or not, he has experienced that which his life has obviously been devoid of—mercy, compassion, love, the very pillars of the Christian Faith. How can that be wrong?

Of course, it’s naïve to think for a moment that mercy, compassion and love are the real reasons for this release. With BP having such a large interest in Libyan oil and Gadhafi lobbying so hard for his release, it’s very hard to see this as anything other than an act of appeasement for financial gain. But if you put that obvious factor aside, can we truly be outraged over mercy and if we are, what does that say about us?

I’ll admit. I struggle against my faith here. The very idea of this murderer receiving a heroes greeting by his people, being able to die in peace and comfort in his home land and getting to do so without ever having shown remorse for his actions simply boils my blood. I want him to suffer. I want him to hurt. When he breaths his last and faces his Creator, I want him to do so alone and afraid. What does that say about me?

There is another Beatitude, this one about justice and I’d be lying if I said that in this case, I felt justice was being served. That makes me wonder if I understand the concept of justice as it was meant though. I think about what I believe and how my Lord suffered for me, how He endured pain and hatred, anger, resentment and even death when, had He chosen to, His justice could have been swift and powerful and unyielding. He chose mercy instead.It makes me feel like a hypocrite. Politics and reasons beneath the surface aside, how can mercy ever be wrong? How can a believer ever question mercy? It’s not easy. It’s not supposed to be. Let God. Let go.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Use Your Illusion

Change, as President Obama is finding out, is just an illusion in a two-party political system. It’s especially an illusion in a two party political system where most of the elected officials are representing various lobbyists and special interest groups instead of their constituency. The honeymoon is over for Obama and he’s learning that the platform he ran on and is trying to implement is a pipedream.

On one hand he has the Republicans. In the absence of a single, intelligent, well-spoken, sensible spokesperson to stand as the probable candidate to run against Obama in 2012, they’ve chosen the tried and true Republican tactic of making the people afraid. The theory is that if they can make the people fearful enough, it won’t matter who they trot out in 2012, that person will have a chance.

Fear Socialism! Fear neo-Nazism! Fear loss of the Bill of Rights! Fear the Mexicans! Fear the terrorists! Just make sure you’re very, very afraid! Because if there is one thing we’ve learned in our history, turning our country into a socialist, neo-nazi, Mexican utopia can happen in the blink of an eye. Our government is famous for making quick changes right?

But that’s how they make it seem. I’ve yet to hear a good argument about how socialized healthcare can be bad when socialized education is an ideal in terms of the use of our tax dollars. Government run education was something all of our founding fathers believed in and something we support without even thinking about it today. Why is our health less important than our intelligence?

Worse than the Republicans though are Obama’s fellow Democrats. Welcome to reality President Obama. Now that all the hangers on have gotten a good sniff and browned their noses up sufficiently, your own peeps are leaving you hang out to dry. It was naïve and foolish to think that these people, so many of them, not unlike their Republican counterparts, in the pockets of the big insurance companies would rally behind you.

You have to give Obama credit for trying to do the very things he promised he would during the election. He’s trying to implement the very platform on which he ran. I think this crazy strategy has fooled his peers. It was all fine and well to say the things he needed to say to win the election, but to actually go through with them? Who will pay for the Senator’s trips to the Bahamas if not the healthcare lobby? Who will slip the House members free Viagra? It was one thing to stand proudly next to him while he was talking about healthcare reform on the campaign trail, but it’s a whole different thing now that they’ve found out he really meant that stuff!

And in typical Democrat Party fashion, the in-fighting has begun. Give the Republican’s credit, they can at least stay on point and to a man, spew out the pre-approved buzz words and catch phrases the powers that be instruct them to use. The Democrats are all over the place. The Dems have gotten so used to just talking about change that they have no idea how to solidify and actually make it happen.

And this is where the problem becomes a little more obvious. Our country is being run, not by the three branches of government, created to check and balance one and other. Our country is being run by two petulant groups who struggle for power over one and other. It’s a very American idea to stand opposed, to conquer an opponent, and that very struggle has become what our political system is at it’s very core. The two-party political system may be the most un-American thing—EVER.

I fail to understand how someone can align themselves, unquestionably in all matters with one team or the other. I fail to understand how we the people can pick and choose teams like our lives are a fantasy football league. How can there ever be change in a system that fights against independent thought? We have two teams. One is the “You’re Either With Us, or Against Us Team.” The other is the “Me, Me, Me Team.” In every area of life, business, personal, financial, people work together and make compromises for the greater benefit. In politics, we just pick sides and fight.

Sometimes one side gets an upper hand and steer the ship back their way. Sometimes the other side steers it back. No progress is made because progress is the enemy. It doesn’t matter what you think about government-run healthcare, any person of even moderate intelligence can see that our healthcare system is broken. Any person of even moderate intelligence can see that money is being squandered, wasted, hoarded and stolen in the current system.

Does American stand up, show the spirit of our founders and work together to fix the problem? No. We fight about it. There is no talk of compromise. There is fear and in-fighting and foolishness and nothing gets fixed. How can we maintain that we live in the greatest country in the world if we can’t offer our people the opportunity to get necessary medical treatment? Regardless of what you believe the answer is, how can we sleep at night knowing that kids will die while we sleep because their parents couldn’t afford to get them treated?

How great can a country be when we’re more concerned with being right than we are with fixing the things that are wrong? If you judge a team by it’s weakest link, how can we maintain that we are strong? How can we be proud of our country when our health care for the poor is no different than that of a third world country? How does the American dream live when small businesses are unable to operate because they cannot offer health insurance to employees and for themselves?

How are we anything but sheep when we line up on one side or the other and refuse to budge? We the people suffer. We have the power to shake things up, but we the sheep are too foolish to use it. Our country gets weaker and weaker and we do nothing to stop it because we’d rather be right than make it better. If the people we’ve elected are unable or unwilling to make our lives better, then we need to remove each and every one of them. Screw partisan voting—we need vote based on results. We need to mandate the betterment of our country to our politicians. They need to know that they can either work together to make things better or we’ll try someone else next time. We need to let them know we won’t forget their failures.

They’ll never budge from party lines unless we make them. But we won’t. We’re sheep. We tune into one cable new network or the other. We repeat the things we’re told there. We repeat the propaganda we learn. Our side is right. The other side is out to screw us. We stand opposed. Nothing gets done. Children die. Politicians get rich. The very perpetrators of the broken health care system get rich. A hard-working person who got laid off and couldn’t afford health care dies and sends his family into debt because they can’t pay his hospital bills. That is his legacy. How is that any less murder than abortion?

Change requires action. Standing opposed means inaction. Working together is the solution. They won’t do it unless we make them. So the American dream will die a little more today and a little more tomorrow and we’ll wonder why things aren’t as good as they used to be. Democrats. Republicans. Neither side is ever going to win. And we will never move forward and be all that we can be unless they learn to stop fighting and start working together. Change is illusion and the American Dream is becoming one.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

King Prince of Pop?

So. Before he died, Michael Jackson was the King of Pop. Now that he's dead, does that mean Prince is now the King and if so, who becomes the Prince?

And since we've always called Prince, Prince (except when we called him "The Artist Formerly Known As Prince" when he was that symbol for a while) what will his name be now? Will he be King Prince? And if so, does that mean he's his own father as well as that father's son? And if he is King Prince does that mean whomever becomes the new Prince has to be Prince Prince?

And where does Will Smith fit into all of this? He was, after all, the Fresh Prince. Obviously, being the Prince of Fresh is not the same as being the Prince of Pop, but I suspect that Pop and Fresh (in addition to being the name of the Pillsbury Dough Boy) are at least close to one and other in the land of Hip, right? So if the kingdom of pop doesn't have a new prince does the Fresh Prince become the Prince of Pop to assure that there is a royal to ascend to the throne should something happen to the King Prince of Pop?

It's all just very confusing and I wish the media would spend a little more time covering this part of the story because I think we have the right to know!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Thou Shalt Not Email Me!

You know what pisses me off? These people who send emails where the signature at the bottom says something like: Please consider the environment before printing this email!

What they don’t tell you is that they sent the email from their air-conditioned office, the one they got to by driving their huge S.U.V. They don’t recycle or use energy saving light bulbs, but they have no problem telling me to save a tree by not printing out their damn email?

I’m always tempted to write back: But I want to hang your inspirational words up so everyone can see them and be enriched by the genius that is you! P.S. Yes, your order will ship on schedule!

Who are these people to condescendingly “remind” me that I should be environmentally conscious? Why can’t these do-gooder greenies save the world with their bumper stickers like all the rest of their friends?

So, since I can’t keep my job if I ridicule and offend the customers, I have a policy and I think everyone should adopt it. Any time you get an email that tries to guilt you into not printing it out—print it out for the sole purpose of making a paper airplane.

People just don’t make enough paper airplanes anymore.

But the enviro-emailers aren’t the worst. While I’m not a fan, I’d rather deal with them than the self-righteous religious nut jobs who feel the need to end their business emails with scripture passage quotations.

The Lord is your shepherd, you shall not want? That’s great. How nice for you! Guess you shall not want a reply then because my religious beliefs are my personal business and I don’t need you cramming yours down my throat every time you click send!

Where do these people get the nerve anyway? Let’s say for just the tiniest of moments that I’m not really a religious person. I get an email at work from some schmuck sitting behind a desk at some other company. It includes some scripture passage. Does he really think I’m going to read it, be surrounded by some heavenly light, have angels fly out of my ass and start screaming hallelujah!?!?!?

What is the point? You’re not going to convert someone at the bottom of an email. You’re not going to save anyone’s soul. In fact, all you do is form some kind of inclusive club with those who believe what you do, and make everyone else feel excluded. I’m no Harvard MBA but I’m pretty sure that’s bad for business.

Once again, I had to come up with a personal policy to combat these religious zealots. I choose to do evil. Every time I receive an email with some religious babble in the signature line, I retaliate by putting a little wickedness into the world. I steal a co-workers stapler. I fart in an elevator. I put all the toilet paper in the bathroom just out of the reach of short people.

Nothing major. Just enough to make people shake their heads and grumble. It’s my only defense.

I don’t begrudge anyone their personal beliefs. If you’re religious, that’s great. Frame the Ten Commandments and hang them up on your cube wall. If you’re an environmentalist, that’s super. Plaster your Prius with militant environmentalist thoughts and ideas. Just don’t force me to read them at work huh?

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Happy Birthday Mr. President!

Where were you 48 years ago today? No. Seriously, where were you 48 years ago today? I know you keep throwing people off track by letting them think you may have been born in Kenya, but I know the truth. You're...

Canadian, eh?

The Canadians are coming! The Canadians are coming! God help us all the Canadians are coming!!!!! Impeach Obama now or we'll all be forced to care about hockey!!!