‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’ trailer begs the question: How can Joss Whedon not direct ‘Avengers 3’? 6

Ultron no strings on meBy now the entire world has seen the teaser trailer for Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron. There really is only one word to describe it: awesome. The first movie made over $1.5 billion worldwide. It seems fair to say that $2 billion this time around is a distinct possibility. However, if director Joss Whedon delivers the goods — and all signs point to ‘yes’ — then it begs the question: How can he walk away from a climatic Avengers 3?

Over the past few weeks it’s been rumored that Marvel wants Joe and Anthony Russo to sign on for the 3rd and 4th Avengers movies, but it feels as though everything is building to Avengers 3. Only Marvel knows if that is the case, but I can’t help but feel as though walking away before completing an Avengers trilogy would be a bizarre move on Mr. Whedon’s part.

Directing a movie on as big of a scale as The Avengers must be physically and mentally exhausting. The time away from family and the pressure it puts on the director must be unbearable. However, if Mr. Whedon has set the stage for the superhero movie of all superhero movies to be Avengers 3, then passing on the job would be like the quarterback who leads his team down the field at the end of the big game, only to walk off the field on the opponent’s 20-yard line.

Regardless, for those who were too dazzled by the visuals of the teaser trailer to pay attention to the narration, it appears as though Whedon is going Empire Strikes Back-dark with this installment.

Ultron: “I’m going to show you something beautiful — everyone … screaming for mercy. You want to protect the world, but you don’t want it to change. You’re all puppets tangled in strings. String. But now I’m free. There are no strings on me.”

Then there is this exchange between Tony Stark and Natasha Romanoff:

Tony Stark: “It’s the end. The end of the path I started us on.”

Natasha Romanoff: “Nothing last forever.”

Meanwhile, an eerie rendition of “I’ve Got No Strings” from Disney’s Pinocchio plays in the background. (The merger between Marvel and Disney continues to pay off in interesting ways.)

Avengers Age of Ultron teaserIt’s hard to see how Marvel can continue to keep this momentum going. The Black Widow is right: “Nothing lasts forever.” Eventually, Marvel will create a movie that implodes under its own weight. Eventually, all waves crash against the shore. Regardless, when that happens it will be hard not acknowledge that it was one wild ride.

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Watch more TV to create an abbreviated version of yourself; read more to realize your full potential Reply

I was recently having dinner with a friend, and the conversation drifted into the amount of time I allotted to television, movies, and YouTube videos each week. It is my firm belief that if a man wants to become an abbreviated version of his true self, then he will watch a lot of television. If he wants to realize his full potential, then he will slide the scale in favor of reading.

A 2011 report conducted by Nielsen found:

The average American watched 34 hours 39 minutes of TV per week in Q4 2010, a year-over-year increase of two minutes. The heaviest users of traditional TV are adults 65+ (47 hours 33 minutes per week), followed by adults 50-64 (43 hours per week). Trailing all other age groups, teens age 12-17 watch the least amount of TV (23 hours 41 minutes per week). …

143.9 million Americans viewed video online in January 2011, spending an average of 4 hours 39 minutes viewing video on PCs/laptops.

When it comes to statistics on books, organizations like Pew typically set the bar pretty low these days, asking people if they read at least one book — just one — per year. And even then, listening to audio books is lumped in with statistics on reading books. They are in fact not the same thing. Each decision affects the mind in different ways.

Pew reported in 2014:

As of January 2014, some 76% of American adults ages 18 and older said that they read at least one book in the past year. Almost seven in ten adults (69%) read a book in print in the past 12 months, while 28% read an e-book, and 14% listened to an audiobook.

Think of the best television programming out there. Say you watched Discovery or History most of the time. Even if you filled your mind with the highest quality products television has to offer, then you would still be getting a truncated version of the actual subject that the station is covering.

Now think about the television that you do watch. Think about what reality television, cable news, and typical daytime television beams into your brain. All of that affects you on a subconscious level, and the vast majority of it is more akin to sugary snacks and fatty foods than fruit and vegetables.

At least once a month someone says to me in person, in email, or via one of my social media pages that the movie ‘Idiocracy’ seems to have been prophetic. Why is that? The reason is because we’ve been trained to look into glowing screens geared towards providing us with intellectual opiates instead of boot camp calisthenics.

Generally speaking, there is nothing wrong with watching movies, playing video games and and enjoying a good TV show, but like all other things it should be done in moderation. As a guy who reviews movies on a regular basis, it would be strange to tell people to cast off television completely. However, it seems as though fair-minded individuals can see how watching an average of 34 hours of television per week — in addition to however many hours are spent playing video games and watching silly videos on cellphones or laptops — is a recipe for brain atrophy.

Think of it this way: Would the average American be better served by reading Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, or by watching “In The Heart of the Sea,” directed by Ron Howard? My guess is that Mr. Howard has made a terrific movie, but will it engage the mind like Melville?

“They were one man, not thirty. For as the one ship that held them all; though it was put together of all contrasting things — oak, and maple, and pine wood; iron, and pitch, and hemp — yet all these ran into each other in the one concrete hull, which shot its way, both balanced and directed by the long central keel; even so, all the individualities of the crew, this man’s valor, that man’s fear; guilt and guiltlessness, all varieties were wedded into oneness, and were all directed to that fatal goal which Ahab their one lord and keel did point to.”

I challenge you for one year to cut the amount of television viewing you currently engage in by half, and then to fill that time by reading books like Moby Dick. Then, after one year, look back at who you were and who you’ve become and let me know how your perceptions on media consumption have changed. My guess is that you will be a completely different person, with no intention of going back to your old habits.

And yes, I will be reviewing In The Heart of The Sea shortly after it comes out March 13, 2015. Between now and then I also plan on writing a review for Moby Dick.

Neil Gaiman is right: ‘People talk about books that write themselves, and it’s a lie’ 13

My wife is reading Neil Gaiman’s “Smoke and Mirrors: Short Fictions and Illusions.” As she was doing so this past weekend she read the following out loud, knowing that it would make me smile:

“People talk about books that write themselves, and it’s a lie. Books don’t write themselves. It takes thought and research and backache and notes and more time and more work than you’d believe.”

In some sense, this is a good thing. Writing that is worth reading often seems effortless, but it can be a double-edged sword. When a consumer reads something that looks “easy” to create, they then expect the writer to churn out content as if it were rumbling down an automotive assembly line. It doesn’t work that way.

Readers of this blog know that I’ve been chipping away at my own book for perhaps eight months whenever time permits. If one were to liken writing a book to building a house, then I would say that I successfully laid the foundation and then realized that I wasn’t a very good plumber. Do I build a house with crappy plumbing and hope to sell it to people who aren’t too concerned about water pressure, or do I take the time to learn how to lay pipes?

For my own book, there is a character who is a former Army Special Forces team member. I found myself saying during the writing process, “Okay, I have infantry friends who have been deployed overseas, but wouldn’t it be better to actually talk to some guys who are Special Forces operators?” I’m now in the process of taking care of that task. That sort of thing takes time, which is something that friends and family and coworkers are usually in the dark about.

Likewise, all of my characters are men of faith (to different degrees). Months ago I found myself saying, “Wow, this is really hard because I’m not nearly as well-versed in my own faith as I thought I was!” What followed was three months of devouring the best and brightest work put forth by religious men that I could get my hands on. Again, that takes time (especially with a full-time job and a blog to keep fresh), but how do you explain that to friends who ask, “How is the book coming along?”

The answer: you don’t.

Unless you’re talking with fellow writers about the creative process, then I would suggest not discussing your book with friends and family and instead concentrating on writing in isolation. If you are a blogger, then I would also suggest refraining from talking about your book unless you plan to have open and honest discussions about the writing process.

Personally, I feel as though I would be done with my own project by now if I could tear myself away from this blog for more than a few days at a time, but my readers are like the mob — every time I think I’m out, you guys pull me back in!

If you’re a writing a book of any kind, then feel free to let me know what you do to stay focused. Or, if you have a question you think I might be able to help you with, then ask away. I’d be happy to give it my best shot in the comments section below.

Poem: ‘To my wife’ 14

HopperTo my wife

I see the unseen, unchanging
Invisible you
Shining eternal.
Such celestial gifts impart a heavy price —
I’m perpetually reminded that one day
I will steal my last kiss while you sleep,
I will fold your nightgown one last time,
And I will whisper one final ‘I love you’
Before the veil is lifted.

I will carry you to bed
And I will wash your feet
When the seasons have humbled your bones,
But no amount of time
Can prepare me for your passing.

I’m not a selfish spirit — God knows
I’m aware of what is rightfully His.
Regardless, I cannot help but pray
That when you shed your earthly self
He’ll call me soon thereafter.

Obama now linked to ‘Operation Inherent Resolve’ — or was that ‘Inherently Flawed’? 28

Obama APThe Obama administration has, at long last, a name for U.S. airstrikes against the Islamic State group: Operation Inherent Resolve. It needed to come kicking and screaming to the table, but the name now stands.

The Associated Press reported Wednesday:

WASHINGTON (AP) — It’s less punchy than previous nicknames for U.S. conflicts in the Middle East — remember Operation Desert Storm and its thunderous attacks against Saddam Hussein? — but the Pentagon has finally named its fight against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria: Operation Inherent Resolve.

The naming, which took weeks of deliberation behind closed doors at U.S. Central Command and at the Pentagon, is part of an effort to organize a long-term military campaign.

Personally, I was hoping the White House would go with Operation Kobe Bryant, but that didn’t happen.

Just days ago I said: “The logic seems to be that if President Obama can just eek out two years without naming operations in Iraq and Syria, then perhaps the never-ending mudslide of time will have an easier job of washing it all away…” Little did I know that the Wall Street Journal talked to military officials on Oct. 3, who conveyed that very same message.

Here is what the Journal’s Julian E. Barnes found out while writing ‘Operation Name-That-Mission: The Hunt for Military Monikers':

“The delay over naming the Iraq and Syria mission has led some to suggest politics is at play. The latest war, some officials said, is one the Obama administration didn’t seek or eagerly embrace. ‘If you name it, you own it,’ said a defense official. “And they don’t want to own it.”

The Obama administration now owns “it” — whatever that “it” is. For months now the non-strategy of a strategy has seemed to be “No boots on the ground!”, which may be why U.S. officials are trying to spin Islamic State’s push towards Baghdad into “strategic momentum” for its coalition.

Politico reported Tuesday:

The terrorists of the Islamic State have “tactical momentum on several fronts,” but the U.S. and its allies believe they have “strategic momentum,” the nations’ defense chiefs agreed Tuesday.

Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey and 21 of his senior counterparts from the coalition fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant also agreed that ISIL has been dangerously effective in its propaganda war, a military official said, and the allies must do more to counter it.

When one reads the news they must always be on the lookout for strange euphemisms, diplo-babble, and legerdemain lexical wizardry from officials. The use of “strategic momentum” certainly qualifies when they speak on operations against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. When one wants to hear what is really going on, that individual should pay more attention to guys like Gen. Ray Odierno, who are regarded as straight shooters.

The Hill reported Monday:

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno said Monday he is “somewhat” confident that the Iraqi army can defend Baghdad from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

“I believe the capability is there to defend Baghdad. … But we’ll have to see what plays out over the coming days,” he told reporters at the Association of the United States Army on Monday.

Defense officials are urging patience with the U.S. strategy against ISIS, even as the group makes gains in western Iraq and on the Syrian border town of Kobani.

ISIS appears to be advancing closer and closer to Baghdad, however, where at least several hundred American troops and civilians are stationed.

If the U.S. is only “somewhat” confident in the 60,000 Iraqi troops tasked with protecting Baghdad, then it is hard to see how officials can say the coalition has any kind of momentum. Regardless, it is clear that the Obama administration is going to need an extraordinary level of “resolve” to make Operation Inherent Resolve a success. Right now, however, it appears to think that dropping bombs for a couple years will buy it enough time to pass the baton to the next president.

Remember: The more a U.S. official sounds like he’s been getting his talking points from the Ministry of Truth, the more closely you have to pay attention to what he is saying. Then, and only then, will you have a chance at discerning what he honestly believes.

Robert Downey Jr. ready for ‘Captain America 3′: Marvel’s Iron Man better read ‘Civil War’ script closely 33

Chris Evans Robert Downey Jr Iron ManMarvel’s Iron Man is apparently suiting up for Captain America 3, which is great news, but someone better tell Robert Downey Jr. to read the script very closely. If he’s not careful, then there’s a good chance Marvel will use the big screen adaptation of “Civil War” to make a fool out of his character, just like it did in the comics.

Comingsoon.net reported Oct. 13:

Marking a major twist to the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s “Phase Three,” Variety is reporting that Robert Downey Jr. is close to joining the cast of Captain America 3 as Tony Stark and that the film will launch elements of the hit comic book crossover event, “Civil War” in the MCU!

The news comes on the heels of an announcement from Marvel this morning that a new “Civil War” comic book is on the way next summer.

The good news for Iron Man fans is that Anthony and Joe Russo will be at the helm for Captain America 3. The bad news is that a.) They’ll still have to traverse Marvel’s “Civil War” material from 2006, which often made Tony Stark look like a buffoon, and b.) Tony will most-likely be seen as a villain instead of a man with incredibly-astute observations about civil liberties in a world populated by superheroes.

For those unfamiliar with the storyline, it centers around the Superhero Registration Act, which originally was supposed to require those with superpowers to simply disclose their abilities to the federal government. It soon morphed into a weird recruitment tool by the State to force individuals to sign on as living weapons.

Marvel’s tortured allegory for the Patriot Act could have been a great read if the writers handled both sides of the debate with the intellectual respect each deserved. Instead, Tony Stark became a symbol for Marvel’s interpretation of the conservative worldview and was made to look like an unhinged war-monger. Captain America, meanwhile, fought for the so-called privacy rights for men and women who could destroy entire cities, possibly warp time and space, etc.

Consider this: In the Marvel Universe, it’s apparently okay for the federal government to require an ID to vote, get a driver’s license, open a bank account, and a whole host of other actions — but it was somehow an invasion of civil liberties in 2006 to have a man register with the federal government if he had telepathic abilities.

Here is how ridiculous it became: Captain America, for all intents and purposes, fought for the “rights” of a super-villain who could do all sorts of dastardly things to his neighbor’s wife and kids, mind-wipe the whole family so they couldn’t remember what took place, and then do it over and over and over again for years on end. And yet, Tony Stark was the “bad” guy for proposing that some sort of legislation be put in place to get a handle of it all.

Again, it’s important to note that Anthony and Joe Russo did a wonderful job with Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Given the way they successfully navigated political minefields with its script, one would have to assume they would give moviegoers the best possible version of a cinematic “Civil War.”

But it isn’t them the fans should be worried about — it’s Marvel. If the company pushes them to use too many elements from the 2006-2007 event, then Tony Stark will come off looking ridiculous. If they allow the Russo brothers to just pick and chose the elements they like, then fans are likely to get a really cool film.

Robert Downey Jr. probably guaranteed himself a massive paycheck for Captain America 3, and that is wonderful for him. However, Iron Man fans better hope that he also had his lawyers secure him some clout with the script-writing process. If they didn’t, then he may have to deliver some embarrassing lines for what will still undoubtedly be a summer blockbuster.

If you’re a fan of Marvel Comics, then let me know what you thought of 2006’s Civil War in the comments below, as well as the company’s decision to visit the storyline again for summer, 2015.

Marvel Civil War 2015Related: ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’ keeps the Marvel movie train rolling full steam ahead

Americans need to read more Saint Augustine and listen to less Mike Huckabee 16

Saint_Augustine Philippe de ChampaigneFormer Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee is once again threatening to leave the Republican Party if its leadership refuses to be outspoken critics of gay marriage. He made similar threats in March of 2013, which indicates he’s all bark and no bite. Regardless, every time I hear someone like Mr. Huckabee imply that the cultural decline of America begins and ends with a half-hearted rhetorical war with gay people, I cringe. Afterward, I think about how much better of a place America would be if those who believed in God spent less time listening to Mike Huckabee’s radio show and more time reading the works of Saint Augustine — “Confessions” in particular.

As hard is it might be for some Americans to believe, they could learn a lot from guys born over 1,600 years ago. Saint Augustine is one of them.

“Confessions” is a must-read for anyone who cares about preserving the intellectual brick and mortar of Western Civilization, but it’s also an amazing blueprint for Christians looking to share the faith. It may sound counter-intuitive, but in order to expand you must, on many levels, travel inward. Instead of pointing angry fingers at “You! And you! And you! And you! And you!” — we must take serious stock of our own spiritual shortcomings.

Take note of how Saint Augustine analyzes the time he sneaked into another man’s orchard to steal pears:

“Those pears were truly pleasant to the sight, but it was not for them that my miserable soul lusted, for I had an abundance of better pears. I stole those simply that I might steal, for having stolen them, I threw them away. My sole gratification in them was my own sin, which I was pleased to enjoy; for, if any one of these pears entered my mouth, the only good flavor it had was my sin in eating it. …

Covetousness desires to possess much; but you are already the possessor of all things. Envy contends that its aim is for excellence; but what is so excellent as you? Anger seeks revenge; but who avenges more justly than you?

Thus the soul commits fornication when she is turned from you, and seeks apart from you what she cannot find pure and untainted until she returns to you. All things imitate you — but pervertedly — when they separate themselves far from you and raise themselves up against you. …

What was it then, that I loved in that theft? And how was I imitating my lord, even in a corrupted and perverted way? Did I wish, if only by gesture, to rebel against your law, even though I had no power to do so actually — so that, even as a captive, I might produce a sort of counterfeit liberty, by doing with impunity deeds that were forbidden, in a deluded sense of omnipotence? …

See, my god, the lively review of my soul’s career is laid bare before you. I would not have committed that theft alone. My pleasure in it was not what I stole but, rather, the act of stealing. Nor would I have enjoyed doing it alone — indeed I would not have done it! What an unfriendly friendship this is, and strange seduction of the soul, eager to make mischief from games and jokes, craving another’s loss without any desire for profit or revenge of mine — only so that, when they say, “Let’s go, let’s do it,” we are ashamed not to be shameless. …

I fell away from you, my god, and in my youth I wandered too far from you, my true support. And I became a wasteland to myself.”

How many more people would Mike Huckabee draw to his message if he talked about all the times he became a wasteland unto himself instead of lashing out at gay people? Would the path to God be more easily found by non-believers if the radio host spent more time talking about his gluttonous past and youthful indiscretions, or if he continued to imply that those who believe in gay marriage are the dregs of society? Has Mike Huckabee ever viewed pornography? If so, what kind? How much? And if so, how did it spiritually damage him? It seems as though Saint Augustine’s decision to bare his soul before God is a much more productive strategy for growing the flock than throwing political temper tantrums at ideological allies while spitting invective at non-believers.

The Catholic Saints were not perfect when they walked the earth. They toiled with the same temptations as you and I. They anguished over the same kind of inner demons that plague man today. They understood, however, that “the commander triumphs in victory, yet he could not have conquered if he had not fought; and the greater the peril of battle, the more the joy of the triumph.”

Saint Augustine writes: “I was so fallen and blinded that I could not discern the light of virtue and of beauty which must be embraced for its own sake, which the eye of flesh cannot see, and only the inner vision can see.

If a man makes it his life’s mission to cast aspersions on those around him, then it is much less likely that he will see what “only the inner vision can see.” The cultural road ahead for America is dark and dangerous due to years of neglect, but the path will be lighted if we first look within.

Paul Feig should have listened to his own advice on all-female ‘Ghostbusters’ and walked away 16

GhostbustersThe world is getting an all-female Ghostbusters film that apparently doesn’t even take place in the same universe as the original movies. Why is it still called Ghostbusters then? Good question. Paul Feig of Bridesmaids and The Heat fame is taking on the project, but at the end of the day he would have been wise to take his own advice…

Entertainment Weekly reported Oct. 8:

PAUL FEIG: I had been contacted by Sony and Ivan a number of months ago when I was in Budapest shooting my new movie Spy. But I was like, I don’t know if I want to take that on because the first two are such classics and just because of how do you do it? Who do you bring in now that Harold’s gone? I know that Bill didn’t want to do it and I love Dan, but it was just like I don’t know how to do it. Then I had lunch with [Sony Pictures co-chairman] Amy Pascal when I got back to town. She was just saying, gosh, nobody wants to do this. I said, yeah, it’s really hard to take that on, especially since it’s 25 years later. how do you come back into a world that’s had these ghosts and all this? It just felt too difficult. How do you do it and not screw it up?

Amy Pascal should have taken the fact that no one wanted to touch Ghostbusters as a clue that maybe it shouldn’t be done. Paul Feig’s gut told him that he shouldn’t take the project either, but then he came up with a not-so-bright idea: Let’s make a movie that isn’t anything like the original Ghostbusters, but then call it Ghostbusters so we can say that we did Ghostbusters. Genius! And if people don’t like my idea of having an all-female cast in this non-Ghostbusters movie, then we’ll just sit back and watch our friends in the media call them sexists.

As it turns out, Ernie Hudson — Winston himself — also thinks this is an odd idea.

The Telegraph reported Oct. 9:

“I heard it was going to be a total reboot, and that it would have nothing to do with the other two movies. If it has nothing to do with the other two movies, and it’s all female, then why are you calling it Ghostbusters? I love females. I hope that if they go that way at least they’ll be funny, and if they’re not funny at least hopefully it’ll be sexy. I love the idea of including women, I think that’s great. But all-female I think would be a bad idea. I don’t think the fans want to see that.”

Mr. Hudson is going to get himself in trouble with that “sexy” remark, but it’s hard to argue with his underlying point: Hollywood is forcing a bastardized version of Ghostbusters into existence, and Amy Pascal somehow thinks that fans of the original will be happy with that.

Should Hollywood remake Indiana Jones with Kristen Wiig as the lead just to prove that a female Indiana Jones can be successful? Should Animal House be rebooted as Animal Sorority with Melissa McCarthy leading an all-female cast, just to prove that women can be just as funny as John Belushi?

Paul Feig is obviously a talented man, but calling a film Ghostbusters that is almost completely divorced from the original is not a good way to win over its fans. If he can propel this movie to box office success, then he will deserve every penny that Sony pays him.

Gen. Dempsey looks like tired and dejected man as he talks about no-name fight against Islamic State 5

Martin Dempsey ABC screenshotIf you’re wondering why U.S. military personnel heading to West Africa to help stem the tide of Ebola are taking part in Operation United Assistance, and the troops heading to the Middle East to fight the Islamic State group are still taking part in a no-name operation, just watch ABC News’ recent interview with Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Listen to his tone. Look at his face. Take note of his delivery. You will see a tired and dejected man who wants to crawl into a corner and stay there for weeks because he knows that he has been given a task from his worst nightmares.

ABC News reported Oct. 7 on the Islamic State group’s advances into the Syrian city of Kobani:

Martha Raddatz: What are you hearing? What are you seeing?

Gen. Dempsey: Well, it may be about to fall. The ISIL fighters have been putting pressure on the outskirts of the city and in fact into the city itself. And in fact I just got off the phone with my Turkish counterpart about it.

Martha Raddatz: And what did they say?

Gen. Dempsey: Well, they are obviously tracking it just like we are. They’ve got forces on their side of the border that will prevent ISIL from making any incursions into Turkey, but of course ISIL is smart enough not to do that. I am fearful that Kobani will fall. We have been striking when we can. ISIL is a learning enemy and they know how to maneuver  and how to use populations and concealment, and so when we get a target we will take it.

Martha Raddatz: And when you talk about ISIL and ISIS blending into the population, what are you seeing? How are they doing that?

Gen. Dempsey:  They’re becoming more savvy with the use of electronic devices. They don’t fly flags and move around in large convoys the way the did. They don’t establish headquarters that are visible or identifiable. There are ways that over time we can learn about them as they adapt, but they are changing.

Martha Raddatz: How serious is it if Kobani falls? I think the Kurdish intelligence official was quoted as saying “A terrible slaughter is coming. If they take this city we should expect to have 5,000 dead within 24 or 36 hours.”

Gen. Dempsey:“We think that most of the residents have actually fled. Whether there are still 5,000 people there or not is a matter of conjecture at this point. I have no doubt that ISIL will conduct the same kind of horrific atrocities if they have the opportunity to do so.”

If you have a roach problem, and all you do is spray some insecticide on the critters every time they crawl across the kitchen floor, then you will always have a roach problem. In fact, they will continue breeding in the walls of your home. Slowly but surely they will make your home their home, and they will continue to do so until you are prepared to seriously deal with the problem. Likewise, random airstrikes on the Islamic State group each week will not root out the terrorist organization from its well-entrenched positions in Iraq and Syria.

Retired Lt. Gen. David Barno accurately explained the situation in late September:

“The effects of airstrikes and Tomahawk strikes … are not enduring: They’re transient and as soon as the last bomb falls, the enemy begins to rebuild and readjust. In many, many ways, it’s very difficult to achieve lasting effects and consolidate any kind of success without having some kind of force actually make that permanent. It doesn’t have to be American troops.”

Is it any wonder that the fight against Islamic State still does not have a name? What sort of Pentagon official — or president — would want to have their name attached to it at this point? Jimmy Carter will forever be known as the guy who ordered Operation Eagle Claw, and now the logic seems to be that if President Obama can just eek out two years without naming operations in Iraq and Syria, then perhaps the never-ending mudslide of time will have an easier job of washing it all away…

Now that Marine Cpl. Jordan Spears is officially the first military death in President Obama’s no-name operations against the Islamic State group, people will begin to ask what he died for. The price tag (roughly $1 billion for three months of airstrikes) will also put pressure on the Obama administration to name its ongoing military engagement. In time, one would think the White House would be forced to relent, but there should be no mistake as to why the foot-dragging is taking place: no one wants to name their own failures.

Just as the Islamic State group has adjusted to changing conditions on the ground, it is possible for the Obama administration to adopt a winning strategy. Hopefully, men like Gen. Dempsey will repeatedly tell the president what he needs to hear behind the scenes until Mr. Obama listens to reason.

Ben Affleck is Batman, but he can’t even confront Bill Maher on Islam without almost crying 32

Ben Affleck angry nostril sniffWhen it was announced the Ben Affleck would be the Dark Knight in 2015’s ‘Superman vs. Batman: Dawn of Justice,’ I said that if director Zack Snyder were smart, then he would tell his new hire to stick to movie-talk. I said Mr. Affleck lives in a Hollywood bubble, where everyone thinks along the same lines and tells each other how smart they are at cocktail parties, and that he generally has a hard time discussing politics without alienating fans (e.g., When he sees a Republican actor on screen he thinks, “I probably wouldn’t like this person…”). His near-meltdown on Bill Maher’s Real Time on Oct. 3 proves nicely that Mr. Affleck doesn’t know how to deal with smart people who disagree with him.

Ben Affleck Bill MaherConsider this discussion between next summer’s Bruce Wayne, Bill Maher and author Sam Harris.

Sam Harris: Liberals have really failed on the topic of theocracy. They’ll criticize white theocracy. They’ll criticize Christians. They’ll still get agitated over the abortion clinic bombing that happened in 1984, but when you want to talk about the treatment of women and homosexuals and free thinkers and public intellectuals in the Muslim world, I would argue that liberals have failed us.

Ben Affleck: Thank God you’re here.

Sam Affleck: The crucial point of confusion is that we have been sold this meme of Islamophobia, where every criticism of the doctrine of Islam gets conflated with bigotry towards Muslims as people, and that’s intellectually ridiculous.

Ben Affleck: Are you the person who understands the officially codified doctrine of Islam? You’re the interpreter of that?

Same Harris: I’m actually well-educated on this topic.

Ben Affleck: I’m asking you. So you’re saying that Islamophobia is not a real thing?

Sam Harris: I’m not denying that certain people are bigoted against Muslims as people.

Ben Affleck: “That’s big of you.”

Bill Maher: “Why are you so hostile about this concept?”

Ben Affleck: “Because it’s gross! It’s racist! It’s like saying ‘you shifty Jew.’”

Bill Maher: You’re not listening to what we are saying.”

For almost ten minutes, Ben Affleck responded to a serious discussion about Islam by giving angry little sniffs of his nostrils, fidgeting in his chair, making sarcastic little side-comments, interrupting, waving his hands around and slamming them down on the desk in front of him. He generally gave off body language that said, “I’m Batman! I should be beating these ‘racists’ up, but I can’t because I’m in my Bruce Wayne clothes on live television…”

In short, Ben Affleck was a petulant man-boy.

Ben Affleck finger face Bill MaherFaced with actual statistics about female genital mutilation in the Middle East and Africa, the percentages of Muslims who believe a man should be killed for leaving the religion, and troublesome data regarding opinions on free speech — in Western countries — Ben Affleck’s response was to call Bill Maher a “racist,” to say he “doesn’t understand idiots,” and that “we’ve killed more Muslims than they killed us by an awful lot,” (as if George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama all just have a thing for militarily engaging Muslim countries for no other reason than to kill Muslims). Ben Affleck says that the Islamic State group couldn’t fill a “AA ballpark in West Virgina,” while ignoring the fact that it only took 19 al Qaeda terrorists to bring down the World Trade Center Towers on Sept. 11, 2011. Shall I go on?

In less than 10 minutes, the man who will play Batman next summer makes it close to impossible for millions of moviegoers to see Zack Snyder’s film with an open mind. The so-called defender of Gotham is, in real life, a man who can’t even defend his own political position without looking like he might cry on national television. He had no problem mocking Catholicism in Dogma, but yet he and his buddy Kevin Smith would probably consider it “racist” to appear in a similar film titled “Fatwa.” Telling.

Next summer I will see Superman vs. Batman, but I won’t be able to stop thinking, “Clark can end this right now. All he has to do is start talking about Islam.”

Related: Egyptian Muslims in Pew poll: We support religious freedom, but we also support killing you

Editor’s note: Hat tip KMT