Sunday, January 29, 2012

Another Afghanistan Documentary

A new (2009) American documentary on the Afghan experience is ringing the chimes at 'indie' movie festivals this year. "To Hell and Back Again", a film by embedded reporter Dafung Dennis, tells the story of a 'surge' Marine fighting in the Arghandab valley of Afghanistan, in the heart of  "Taliban territory". The Marine, Sgt. Nathan Harris, a 'career' Marine of some 6 years experience and mulitiple deployments, is wounded just before the end of his deployment and part of the film deals with the struggle he and his wife undergo with his recovery and the growing awareness his Marine days are, quite possibly, over.

The action parts are the typical dusty experiences of young western men trying to figure out what makes an asiatic society tick, while fighting those asiatics to save them. It is remarkable how many times these young Americans tell the 'terp' to relay to the Afghans that  they're "there to help them". And yet they don't answer the Afghans' questions about helping them by going away, or not shooting at them. Noteworthy, too, how 'promises' to respect their homes give way to military necessity without evidence of the attacks that would engender that necessity. These peoples' homes get entered and 'tossed' without a care.

The war is real. The first casualty falls during a 'firefight' shortly after the Marines arrive. He goes home in a bag with no indication of who he was. And Afghan 'ally' is deafened in an IED or rocket blast and another is, later, tossed a couple of hundred feet into a field - a rag doll created by an IED explosion. The Afghans are visibly affected, the Marine grunts take his death as 'the cost of doing business'.

The business of war, as depicted here, seems to consist of pouring massive amounts of gun projectiles onto a point or points where somebody thinks a Taliban to be in residence. The Afghans say of the Taliban that they shoot once or twice and run away. That would seem eminently sensible considering that to stay in place has to get somebody hurt, or that holding a position is a death sentence. We don't see a lot of dead Afghans, but there is a mini-fuss at one point, with villagers, because three observed to be wounded have 'disappeared'.

Which brings us back to the other part of the story. Sgt.  Harris does not 'return' with his unit but rather is a patient in hospital when they come home. We first meet him, at home, after his recovery has begun. The wound he received is not life threatening, but it certainly is life-changing - smashing a hip joint and removing a sizeable piece if tibia. Sgt Harris has steel rods in his leg and painful exercises to maintain flexibility and motion in his joints. To assist with this, he is on an array of medications, which, as  we see in the film, when combined with the slowness of recovery and the pain, plunge him into some very dark places. 'Stoned', or 'out of it',  the war in Afghanistan has done little, or no, good for citizen Harris. Given his apparent love affair with a glock pistol, it gives one pause to consider that he, or his wife, or both, may not make it through this. He has the support of individuals in the community and the VA medicos and, perhaps, even his Marine brothers, but he doesn't seem to have a family looking out for him, or his wife.

In one of the 'support' scenes he is invited to a remembrance ceremony for the dead members of the unit. A Marine Chaplain gets all choked-up remembering how the 'Betsy Ross' version of the Stars and Stripes that he'd taken with him to Afghanistan, reminded him of the 'circle of the 13 dead (in the credits 15)  'brothers' united forever in a circle of patriotism. Needless to say, the unhurt Marines got to take an emotional farewell of comrades most of them probably never knew. The Sargent just looked like he was in a lot of pain.

It makes you wonder, when you see his suffering, what happened to those three wounded Afghans? Where's their disability pay? Where's their VA?  Medication and rehab?  We know their 'community support' is under direct threat. And it makes you wonder, too, given the circumstances under which he received his wound, if he might not have fallen victim to that creed of  'fire superiority' and received his wound courtesy of his fellow Marines or an Afghan ally.  Being out front of a Marine firing line, couldn't be healthy for anybody.

This movie just leaves you wondering.

Newt, Mitt, Rick, Erl, Ronnie and the Zombas

The Republican primaries stagger into the home stretches (Florida this week and Utah or somewhere else conservative next week) and it's looking like Milt Rummy is taking the lead. But this race has more in common with a 'keystone kops' scenario than anything politically significant. For it keeps on swinging between farce and just plain slapsick. It's hard to believe that the leader, chosen from this field of nags, just might actually poll the ballots of half the Americans who vote. And that an 'electoral machine' that can get out more voters than the other side, might actually gain control of America for at least the next 4 years.

At least Americans are guaranteed four more years like the last four years no matter who wins.  The incumbent couldn't  do  much worse than he has done. America won't be 'moving ahead' anytime soon.

So if it isn't politics, what is important to Americans? Well first there's 'ennertainment'. This is the close of the football season and the Superbowl is right around the corner. So a day of massive consumption of fast/junk food and large quantities of toilet-flushing water  are in order. As well as that the Bachelor is coming to a climax and every female in America is enthralled with the consideration of  which plastic tart Opie the human sheepdog might select as his 'breeding mate'. But what crap! The only way somebody could desensitize an intellect enough to watch this pap is by training on "Survivor' - which, by the way is almost ready to go, again. I'd like to see them go somewhere cold or with mosquitoes  this time.

The Oscars are upcoming, too. But before that, there is a plethora of 'lesser' and 'almost as good' awards  to be red-carpetted and media-rated. If you haven't gotten your annual dose of Hollywood's 'aristocracy', this is the season for you. And the films - why it's 'old' Hollywood vs 'new' Hollywood. The old Hollywood dating back to the hoary days of the new millenium and the new Hollywood consisting mostly of talented foreigners. And most of the nominees 'suck' or 'blow', or  do both. I think somebody has learned a lot from 'The Hurt Locker' in terms of how to make 'boffo' boxoffice from lawsuits on any given 'stinkaroo'.

Speaking of 'Pipa' and 'Popover' the recent pieces of legislation, entered into both governing  Houses in the States,  to curb internet piracy, what happened there? Obviously the lobbyists of BIG music and movies had done their work convincing the legislators that some 'strong medecine' was needed to stop granny and the teenagers from robbing them blind, (or festooning the earth with kiddie-porn pictures). But something went amiss when the troglodytes of the internet rose up and signed petitions which, mirabile dictu, some pols actually might have read. The legislation has been 'withdrawn, for tweaking and,  like a famous generalissimo, they will return. For this is about stealing braces outta the mouths of babes, see?

Is Roller Derby making a comeback yet?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Whaddi Miss?

It's been some time since last I blogged and some aquavit has flown under the bridge.

Life took a little diversion after a toothache this summer. The tooth resulted in a sinus problem, which resulted in an ultrasound examination (go figure), the discovery an abdominal aneurysm and the consequent 'zipper job' which is keeping me under the radar at present. The last time I blogged was in September, the operation was at the end of November and there's a lot of stuff that has happened.

In 4 months the world isn't much changed, unless you're a Greek or other south European. The northern Europeans are seeing changes too, but more slowly and more civilized. The Euro zone remains on tenterhooks, and, with it, a significant chunk of the NA bond market, too. Things don't look much better in the future.

The autumn brought its annual round of natural disasters. The central US had a nasty tornado season. Hurricane season this year was largely a bust. There were, and still are, notable floods in parts of Asia and bonnie Scotland got two weeks of an Atlantic storm of the century. Not to worry though, the countries that count don't think this has anything to do with CO2 pollution.

Kyoto saved itself by the skin of its second and third world teeth after the Chinese said they would look into it. Canada was represented by our environmental point-person, the former talking head Peter 'the newsman' Kent. He dummied-up for the conference, but his master had him announce the official divorce between Canada and Kyoto when he got back to Ottawa. Kyoto has just been an idea in Canada since Maurice Strong, the chairman of Ontario Hydro started buying up rainforest an eon ago. That's all we've ever really done. And now, with the yankees extracting their oil from our Tar Sands, we can hardly afford to do anything else.

My other big favourite, the annual AIDs  conference passed uncommented. President Obama made noises like America was 'getting serious' about AIDs ( $11 million over 6 years - they're busted ya know?), but it ain't up to 'war on' status yet. As for the rest, the standard reports of  'promising' vaccines, the dearth of life-saving treatment in third world countries and the regular report of  'only' another 15 percent increased transmissions. The pandemic continues.

The gallant little war in Libya was concluded. Ghaddfi got a lethal gunshot, or three (we're not sure) from his disgruntled countrymen. Shortly after that, the ragtag national militia took the last strong points and the war was declared 'over'. Now the 'national government' is trying to figure out what to do with the ragtag militia, and the eastern part of the country (Cyrenaica) has already threatened to revolt and seperate. No doubt there's lots of work for 'mercs' and free agents, training-up a government army and police force to restore order. And to get the remaining Ghaddafis to safety. Some Canucks - Garda International? (not bad for a couple of TO flatfeet) - surprisingly 'large on the ground', supporting Ghaddafi (and our oil interests?) were involved trying to get one of the Ghaddafi boys to a little hacienda in Mexico, without benefit of proper immigration clearance. The same lad, Saaf al Islam is reputed to be the proud owner of a rooftop condo in sparkling  'Tronna'. Our PM says we should confiscate that.

Things are looking interesting as 'Old Man 2011' lumbers off into the sunset and  baby Dick Clark cleans his dentures for the New Year. There's a election coming up and America's got primaries! Canada's Libs are due to 'rehead' themselves so we'll have to see how that goes. If little Mr. Achmedinejad doesn't upset the world applecart fiirst - there's peril in the Gulf. dontcha no?  Maybe it's all related to that Mayan profitsy, eh?

More on those topics in the near future.