Monday, July 27, 2009

A Brand New Day for James Call Expert (BND for JCE)

Wow! It's been a long time since I updated this thing, and tried switching to the podcast format, which was difficult to keep up with week after week, especially with only a handful of devoted and lovely listeners. Being stuck in the toil and drudgery of this office, I'm going back to the blog, and hopefully I'll be keeping this sunnovabitch updated daily.

The format's going to be a little different: y'all can email me questions which I will comment on, but if I don't get any questions, I'm going to plow ahead with a few default categories.

Today In Healthcare Reform

SUMMARY: People incorrectly think that the government is going to take over their individual health care, and that it's going to cost a lot of money. Both points are wrong, but that's the new conventional wisdom, and that's why health care reform is most likely doomed.

There isn't actually any new news today, Monday July 27, but in terms of "current affairs," as it were, I think you can mark healthcare reform as either "completely doomed" or "severely fucked".

Nate Silver at Five Thirty Eight thinks the August recess may actually provide a cooling down period for the news cycle, allowing it to shift to some other topic (maybe another slieugh of celebrity deaths, hopefully) and for the "the government is going to take over your healthcare" meme to die out. But as smart as Mr. Silver is, I think he may be suffering from Hopeful Democrat Syndrome, which afflicts all of us from time to time, and may be overestimating the intelligence of the American Public.

Health care reform was favored by a majority of Americans, but now, according to Rasmussen Reports (tied with Quinnipac as the nation's most reliable pollster), a narrow majority opposes health care reform, for the classic (incorrect) reason: that the government is going to "take over" health care, and take away your insurance (provided you have it, which fewer and fewer people do each year). It is irrational, but the power of Fear is greater than the power of Hope.

Let's get one thing straight: the only thing the Public Option will do for you is
lower your health care costs. It's a government-run program that competes with private plans. Your health insurance, if you have it, is not going to be "taken" from you. However, if the public plan, comparatively, kicks fucking ass compared to your expensive private insurance plan, then you might indeed switch over to the public option. And if enough people switch, that might mean the end of your insurance company.

And you know what? Fuck your insurance company.

If your insurance company wants to shape up and insure the sick as well as the healthy, and charge you a cheaper premium, well then, great. Good for them. If they're incapable of offering a better deal than the government, though, one has to ask: do they deserve to live? Isn't the spirit of capitalism that the weak and inefficient die out?

Another fallacy that's floating around and gaining credence - in fact, this is the dominant belief, even amongst seemingly intelligent people (who need to read a bit fucking more... if you have a spare half hour a day and an internet connection, the NY Times is online for FREE) - is that health care reform is really, really expensive: more expensive than doing nothing. It's going to lead to higher taxes, and, well, nobody wants that.

TRUE, except that right now your business is most likely paying for your health care. And because your business is paying for that, it is NOT giving you that money in the form of raises. Instead, you're getting health insurance. So: lift that burden from business by offering a public plan, and your business now has extra money to raise your salary. You pay more taxes, but you earn more money, as well.

Of course, really, the rich need to pay more taxes than the middle class for this to work. This, again, is anathema to a lot of folks, who fail to realize that the rich, especially the ultra-rich, are a pernicious class who should be taxed on general principle, the principle being to stop them from using their money to perpetuate a perenially stratified society. But I digress...

One benefit to the wage-tax (price) spiral outlined in the scenario above is that it is inflationary - just what the doctor ordered given our current deflationary spiral. That's another huge fallacy that's floating around and seems to have credence these days: that inflation is a huge threat. Inflation is the LAST thing we need to be worried about right now. The precise opposite is true: deflation is out of control, as people purchase fewer things, businesses have less money, which leads to them cutting jobs and wages, which leads to fewer purchases, etc.

Alright, I've already rambled on enough. The point is: Kent Conrad and Max Baucus, and the Blue Dog/"moderate" Democrat Senators in general, are your new enemies, for life, and they are the problems, not Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, no matter what the assorted dipshits of the world might tell you.

Today In Obscure Comic Books You Really Don't Have to Read

Other than Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Uncle Scrooge, I didn't really read comic books as a kid (comic strips, that's a different story). I actually got into the habit of reading Marvel comics in my early/mid-20s, aided by the notorious Dr. Damian Lanahan-Kalish. It all started innocently enough, with Brian Michael Bendis' Daredevil and a little X-Men on the side, but years later, my habit is totally out of control, as I read around 15 comics weekly, mostly stuff from Marvel (Spider-Man, the X-Men, the Hulk, etc.) and DC (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, etc.).

It's part of hipster nerd catchet to read comics, so I can do so without any outward shame, but one does have to have to draw the line somewhere, and one's knowledge of "continuity" can only go so far before one has to recognize that one has a problem. "Continuity," in comic book lingo, refers in essence to the minutiae of where a comic book character is at any point in time, what their status is, whether they're good or evil, still going by Green Latnern or perhaps Warrior, etc.

I think I've reached my personal line in the sand with DC's now out-of-continuity but once-upon-a-time-very-important "Zero Hour".

I have almost Zero positive things to say about Zero Hour, but let me synopsize.

The whole thing starts at at Vanishing Point, which is a physical space station-esque facility at the literal end of time. Time doesn't move there (somehow). That part of the story is fine - Vanishing Point is a totally valid, cool, sci fi concept. It doesn't even matter that Rip Hunter (or some other dude named Hunter?) has been done up to look EXACTLY like Cable, who, you will see if you google, is one of the most ridiculous comic book characters of all time, or that the other protagonist present is the completely forgettable Waverider, who can ride the waves of time but still manages to never know what the hell is going on.

It's when you find out who the first villain of the piece is that the story begins to diminish in value in terms of how you, the reader, are spending your time. That villain would be Extant, who is - get this - a combination of one form of Waverider, plus the heros Hawk and Dove, but not normal, mainline Hawk, but a Hawk who knows that in the future he will become the villain Monarch, and seems just, uh, totally OK with that prospect.

Have you ever heard of Hawk and Dove? No, right? Or if you have at least heard of them, do you give two shits about them? I'm gonna guess "no" again, right? Then why in God's name would you care about a villain who is the combined, future form of both these characters? Unless you were, of course, given one, by cohesive writing. But Zero Hour doesn't bother with trivialities such as "establishing character" or "contextualizing story elements for the reader". Nope, it just plunges full steam ahead, as Extant begins destroying time, for some reason - both the past, and the future.

Of course, Extant isn't the REAL big baddie. That would be Hal Jordan in his Parallax guise. Hal Jordan, formerly Green Lantern, has gone all hella evil, and now exists in a somewhat Evil God-like state. But hey, check it out, he wants to atone for what he's done in the past by destroying the universe and recreating it as a kind of paradise. For this, he needs Extant (reason unclear).

He actually succeeds in the Destroying the Universe part of his plan, but then who shows up to stop him but Superman, Green Arrow, Green Lantern, etc.: the Good Guys. But hey, get this... the Good Guys are trying to STOP Parallax. He's already destroyed the freakin' universe, but Superman puts his foot down: "No, Jordan!!! You can't play God!!! You're not God!!!"

Hey Superman: THE UNIVERSE IS FREAKIN' DESTROYED. Hal Jordan here wants to at the vert least create -a- universe. Wouldn't that be nice? And he has the power to create one without genocides, without war, without every unnecessary death and ounce of suffering that's even gone down. But in your book, that's Wrong. Because Good Guys Don't Play God.

It is the ultimate expression of soppy, moralistic, DC superhero writing, and a big part of the reason why there are just as many Punisher and Wolverine fans as there are Superman fans these days. LET HIM RECREATE THE DAMN UNIVERSE, SUPES. Please.

Anyways, needless to say, Parallax gets taken down, and then something happens - can't remember what, and who cares - and the universe gets recreated. Mind you, before he's taken down it's quite unclear that this is at all possible. At the end of the day, everything goes back to normal, with a few small exceptions, which are now completely irrelevant, as two later Reality Altering events have occurred ("Infinite Crisis" and "Final Crisis"), rendering "Zero Hour" moot.

Oh, and the Spectre and Metron are involved.

My conclusion: don't read this, even if you're a continuity obsessed nerd, like I am. It just doesn't matter at this point to any of the characters involved, it makes little to no sense, all the characters are written in a vaguely irritating and absolutely unlikeable manner, and they dressed Rip Hunter up to look like fuckin' CABLE.

For a much more gratifying Pathetic Nerd experience, read this article on Legend of Zelda continuity.

Today's Recommended Download

Make sure you have a copy of "Chase Me" by Confunkshun in your music collection. Might I also recommend, also by the woefully underrated Confunkshun, "Ffun" and "Got to be Enough". I even have a soft spot for the incredibly syrupy "Love's Train".

Today In Last Night's Dreams

Last night I had totally crazy dreams. It started out with my looking for a new apartment, I'm pretty sure, in this mythical part of town that's supposed to be Oakland, I guess? Except it looks nothing like Oakland. In any event, I can't remember most of the dream, except that at one point the Black Widow (a Marvel character) died an especially gruesome death, eviscerated by a madman with a butcher knife. I saw the whole thing in real time, and woke up sweating and horrified.

1 comment:

Skinnyd said...

Dude I read Zero hour like three years ago before I even read Crisis on Infinite earths.

I didn't read another DC comic for like a year after that.

Isn't Captain Atom Monarch now.

.... Whatever.