March 7, 2010
I BLAME RACISM: Less Stimulus Money For U.S. Minorities.
I BLAME RACISM: Less Stimulus Money For U.S. Minorities.
RAND PAUL polling surprisingly well in Kentucky.
MARKDOWNS on videogames.
CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR: Political extremism: Not so easy to categorize. “Both sides in the political debate have tried to label the IRS suicide pilot and the Pentagon shooter. But the truth here is way beyond such facile political analysis.”
You mean like Patrick Grier’s facile analysis for the CSM? More on Grier’s piece from Eugene Volokh. “Is there some item I’m missing in the Monitor article that does support the suggestions in the headline, and the plain statement in the lead paragraph?”
THE HILL: Unrest in Democratic Party plays out in Emanuel controversy. “There are people in the White House who are trying to get rid of Rahm, and they are leaking everything they can.”
NIKKI FINKE: “WORST OSCARS EVER!”
UPDATE: “Here’s how you determine who’ll win Best Documentary: the environmental pic wins unless there’s a Holocaust contender. Cynical but true.”
ANOTHER UPDATE: Ann Althouse: “I’m recording this with my DVR and pausing, then fast-forwarding. Otherwise it would be intolerable. Right now there’s a dance routine (that’s supposed to showcase the scores). It’s ghastly. I watched a second, sped ahead, watched a second, cursed, paused, and am now waiting for enough time to pass for more fast-forwarding. Why must they waste our time with this musical crap?”
KRAUTHAMMER for President?
WRONG ON EVERY COUNT: Paul Ehrlich’s lifetime of hot air. And rewards therefor.
FROM STEPHEN GREEN, it’s The Week In Blogs.
MORE IN DEFENSE OF Electronic Throttle Control.
PRACTICING illegal circumcision.
MICHAEL BARONE: Low-tax Texas Beats Big-government California.
HOW OLD IS TOO OLD TO GO BRALESS? For Carla Bruni, braless is fine, and the complainers should shut up.
From the comments: “If I saw Hillary Clinton or Nancy Pelosi without a bra, different story.” Absolutely.
UPDATE: Reader Kevin Greene writes: “This right here is why the media is doomed. Here you have a fabulously beautiful woman in a fantastic dress and the media runs one low-resolution picture? If ever there was a reason for a high-definition slideshow, is it not Carla Bruni in a hot dress?”
ANOTHER UPDATE: Better media performance here.
THIS WEEK’S big book news.
MICKEY KAUS FOR SENATE: “The Time Is Right.”
CALIFORNIA UPDATE: Billions in red ink drowning California’s cities, schools and counties, too. I heard my state’s Finance Commissioner on George Korda’s talk radio show, and it’s clear that he regards California’s situation as a cautionary tale. I hope that other states are taking the same lesson.
UPDATE: Related thoughts from Don Surber: “I blame incrementalism. Some sob sister story creates a new program for only pennies a day that quickly becomes an expensive bureaucracy. And well, here we are.”
HENRY VIII, KING ARTHUR, whatever.
TIM CAVANAUGH: “One of the horribly fascinating things about following the real estate market from 2006 until, well, today actually, has been watching how long the body managed to keep running and twitching after the head was blown clean off.”
HOW TO BEAT THE LONDON COPS on a terrorism stop. But the real fun is in the comments.
MICHAEL YON: Moving Heaven And Earth.
IN THE MAIL: Caliphate, from Tom Kratman.
TAXES ARE FOR THE LITTLE PEOPLE (CONT’D): Newly anointed House Ways and Means Chairman Sander Levin (D-Mich.) repaid a Maryland property-tax credit Friday that he should not have received, his office confirmed. “Levin repaid the credit Friday, Chambers said, after being contacted by Roll Call.”
SEXUAL HARASSMENT CLAIMS FROM MEN: On The Rise.
GRIM REALITY and the newspaper business.
ASSOCIATED PRESS: Congressional Estimates Show Grim Deficit Picture. “The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office predicts that Obama’s budget plans would generate deficits over the upcoming decade that would total $9.8 trillion. That’s $1.2 trillion more than predicted by the administration.”
Ann Althouse comments: “The number is utterly incomprehensible. If you think it is not, I’m going to assume it is because your brain has less, not more, capacity than mine. Please don’t stumble embarrassingly over yourself trying to prove otherwise.”
And, from the comments: “I think the number will be higher. There will be ‘emergencies’ and ‘unforeseen circumstances’. Plus, there’s the dead-weight loss from the new energy taxes he’s proposing and the forced spending on health insurance, that are bound to dramatically shrink the economy.”
UPDATE: A hedge-fund reader disagrees with Althouse: “The deficit numbers are perfectly understandable when viewed as a fraction of GDP, and compared to parallel historic episodes. Obama is simply racing the US toward the insolvency tipping point.”
JOHN FUND ON RICK PERRY’S VICTORY AND THE TEA PARTY MOVEMENT:
The late House Speaker Tip O’Neill once said “all politics is local.” Texas Governor Rick Perry won last night’s GOP primary by standing that adage on its head and nationalizing the race. He pounded his main rival, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, as a Washington insider and tagged her as “Kay Bailout” for her support of the 2008 rescue of major financial institutions.
Mr. Perry said the results were a triumph for conservative principles: “Texas voters said ‘no.” They said ‘no’ to Washington bureaucrats making decisions that state leaders and citizens should be making for themselves.” He won 51% of the vote, with Tea Party activist Debra Medina pulling in another 18% of the vote. By avoiding a runoff, Mr. Perry put himself in a good position to take on former Houston Mayor Bill White in the fall.
Some Tea Partiers supported Debra Medina, but — as with Scott Brown — more seemed focused on supporting a candidate who could win.
UPDATE: Reader Scott Hanshaw writes:
An opinion on the Texas Tea Party and Rick Perry: Rick Perry was an early Tea Party adopter. He was at the April 15, 2009, Tea Party in Austin, and gave a rather spirited defense of states’ rights, even raising the possibility of secession, kinda, sorta. At least, it was reported as such. Was Medina the Tea Party candidate? She certainly tried to pick up the mantle, but the fact is that Perry is as much a Tea Partier as Medina. I would put Medina in the category of self-anointed Tea Party candidate. I suspect we will see more people pronouncing themselves as such.
Yes, and some will be false-flag plants. And “kinda-sorta” is putting it mildly. I mean, it wasn’t like Vermont or anything.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Austin reader Audrey Baum writes to remind us that Perry was initially booed at his 4/15/2009 appearance:
…but he is a very skilled politician and had the audience cheering him by the end of his speech. John Cornyn was also there but was booed off and on during his entire speech and finished quickly. The crowd was definitely anti-establishment but Perry was able to turn the crowd around. He reads his audience very well.
I voted for Perry in the primary only because a vote for Medina would possibly cause a run-off and waste money better spent on defeating the Democrat. I also felt that we need a dependable “No” vote on Obamacare and we are better served with Hutchison staying in the Senate for now. Perry is a slick, good-ol’-boy but at least he has kept the state running reasonably well (don’t get me started on his obsession with toll roads).
That’s the kind of pragmatic thinking I’m talking about.
LEARNING TO speak microbe.
ASSOCIATED PRESS: Obama’s health care pitch to Democrats: Trust me.
WHAT’S in a name?
ROBERT SHILLER ON the housing crisis. “American mortgage institutions encourage people to take a leveraged position in the real estate market, which is quite risky because home prices can and do decline, as we have learned so painfully. Leverage a risky investment 10 to 1 and you can expect trouble — and we have plenty of it today.”
FROM POPULAR MECHANICS: How To Handle Sudden Unintended Acceleration.
ROGER SIMON: Academy Awards? There Goes the Neighborhood!
GOVERNMENT HEALTHCARE: Neglected by ‘lazy’ nurses, man, 22, dying of thirst rang the police to beg for water. “A man of 22 died in agony of dehydration after three days in a leading teaching hospital. Kane Gorny was so desperate for a drink that he rang police to beg for their help. They arrived on the ward only to be told by doctors that everything was under control. The next day his mother Rita Cronin found him delirious and he died within hours.”
DA TECH GUY: Have Fedora, Will Travel.
UPDATE: Reader Duke DeLand writes: “Those who do not own a motor home probably would never know that crock pots are ideal for those of us who travel by motor home. In the morning you place the crock pot, with its contents, in the sink so it won’t tip over and plug it in…..When you finish the day on-the-road your dinner is hot and ready….and the delicious smells from the last couple of hours travel give you all the appetite you need.” I did not know that. But I’ll bet Clarence Thomas did.
SINS OF passion.
HAS OBAMA DONE IRREVERSIBLE DAMAGE YET? Neo-Neocon says “yes.” I’d say it depends.
WHATEVER HAPPENED to crazy? “Lasch’s insight about the connection between culpability and competence, and the way in which ‘therapeutic morality’ undermines self-sufficiency by negating personal responsibility, is essential to understanding the impact of a culture that fosters narcissistic personality traits. . . . Attempting to comfort people by flattering their sense of blamelessness — ‘It’s not your fault’ — therapeutic morality ultimately undermines the vital sense of agency, in effect telling people that they are neither culpable nor competent. It promotes the notion of innocent victimhood, the blameless self, and encourages people to avoid responsibility for their failures by wallowing in self-pitying rationalizations.”
SHOCKER: Sex: The Ultimate Mood Enhancer.
ICELAND’S VOTERS EXPECTED TO REJECT DEBT DEAL. “The referendum is being closely watched abroad, where the worry is that people in other financially flailing countries might be emboldened to rise up and refuse to honor financial obligations stemming from the failures of their banks.”
UPDATE: More here. “Ninety-three percent voted against the so-called Icesave bill, according to preliminary results on national broadcaster RUV.”
Related: Mark Steyn: “What’s happening in the developed world today isn’t so very hard to understand: The 20th century Bismarckian welfare state has run out of people to stick it to.” Not directly on point, but . . .
And reader C.J. Burch writes: “Our government is begging for this sort of reaction here, isn’t it?” Well, we haven’t reached Iceland’s situation yet. But if we do, I suspect that Americans will be less well-behaved than Icelanders, even though the Icelanders are being pretty rowdy by Icelandic standards. However, governmental deficits are ultimately limited by what taxpayers will put up with — and at the limits, that’s usually somewhat less than government deficit-runners think they will put up with.
MORE: Report: Only 1.5% voted “yes.” “With 83,478 votes counted following Saturday’s referendum in Iceland, 78,092 are votes to reject December’s Icesave law and 1,284 (1.5 percent) have voted to keep the law in force. 2,830 empty ballots were cast in protest.” Thanks to Andrew Morriss for the link.
SECRETS OF sex at Oxford.
The government is approaching this as timidly as possible, for it is up against monopoly unions that can really ruin a politician’s day.
Yet when we speak of “entitlements,” or more precisely, against them, the first thing we face is public sector entitlements — in Canada as in every other western or quasi-western country. The troubles the Greeks are now experiencing with their civil service, which is in a position to bring the country to a halt, is a warning for the road ahead.
And forget Greece, look at California. There one may see in clear North American daylight what a vast unspeakable public bankruptcy looks like. It was not an inevitable thing. Gentle reader need only compare, candidly, California with Texas — which is flourishing, and whose voters know why. Economic decline is a choice, not a fate, and it has everything to do with big, intrusive government.
DOES THIS HAVE CONSEQUENCES FOR THE INCANDESCENT BULB BAN? Darkness encourages selfishness.
ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER: Other states fixing pension mess, but not California.
Related: Video: Jerry Brown On Pensions.
BACK UP YOUR FILES: A 640GB external hard drive for under 85 bucks.
UPDATE: Reader Brett Deal writes: “Thank you for the heads up on the hard drive sale at Amazon. Such shopping links are much appreciated.” Yeah, it looked like a good enough deal that I ordered one myself. You can never have too many of these, at least if you’re me. . . .
ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Kenneth Mitchell writes:
Glenn, the very BEST electronics/”guy toys” store in the world is
Fry’s Electronics. You noted “BACK UP YOUR FILES: A 640GB external
hard drive for under 85 bucks.”
Today’s sale; an IOmega 1TB portable drive for $79. At that price -
I think I’ll have to!
Good grief. I wrote a column back in 2004 on the first 1TB external drive. It cost a thousand bucks. I never shop at Fry’s, though. Maybe I’ll check it out.
IS TALK OF “CYBERWAR” JUST Hype Intended to Destroy the Open Internet?
KRUGMAN THE PUNDIT vs. Krugman the economist.
PORKBUSTERS UPDATE: QUID PRO QUO. In e-mails, lobbyists perceive ties between campaign cash, earmarks.
In summer 2007, for example, senior executives at a small McLean defense firm tried to figure out which of them would buy a ticket to a wine-tasting fundraiser for Rep. James P. Moran Jr. (D-Va.), a member of the Appropriations subcommittee on defense. At the time, the company sought help from Moran’s office in securing contracts through special earmarks added to the defense bill.
In an e-mail exchange, one senior officer said he didn’t understand why he had to attend the fundraiser when he didn’t even drink wine.
“You don’t have to drink,” Innovative Concepts’ chief technology officer, Andrew Feldstein, shot back in an e-mail. “You just have to pay.”
“LOL,” responded the other officer.
Yeah, real funny. “Moran raked in $91,900 in campaign checks to his personal campaign and leadership PAC that day. He secured an $800,000 earmark for Innovative Concepts in the 2008 defense appropriations bill.”
THE PRETTIEST WAY to learn about satellites.
JONAH GOLDBERG ON David Brooks and the Tea Parties. “It was Obama who wanted a ‘new declaration of independence.’ The Tea Partiers like the old one just as it is, thank you very much. And that spells all the difference in the world.”
AND THIS WASN’T EVEN A KEEPER: The kind of fish we throw back as too small around these parts.
UNSURPRISINGLY, LITTLE SUPPORT FOR REPEALING MORTGAGE INTEREST DEDUCTION.
But see this explanation of Obama’s itemized deduction proposal.
Retired General Merrill McPeak, a former Air Force chief of staff and a prominent Obama backer in the 2008 campaign, has weighed in with a New York Times op-ed against ending the current “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. I can’t say I find his arguments terribly persuasive.
I can’t think of when I’ve ever found McPeak’s arguments especially persuasive. Certainly not this time.
PROFESSOR BAINBRIDGE on fiduciary duties for brokers.
IN THE MAIL: From Bill Bennett, A Century Turns: New Hopes, New Fears.
RAY KURZWEIL SENDS THIS ESSAY ON AVATAR.
Reflections on Avatar
March 5, 2010
I recently watched James Cameron’s Avatar in 3D. It was an enjoyable experience in some ways, but overall I left dismayed on a number of levels.
It was enjoyable to watch the lush three-dimensional animation and motion capture controlled graphics. I’m not sure that 3D will take over – as many now expect – until we get rid of the glasses (and there are emerging technologies to do that albeit, the 3D effect is not yet quite as good), but it was visually pleasing.
While I’m being positive, I was pleased to see Cameron’s positive view of science in that the scientists are “good” guys (or at least one good gal) with noble intentions on learning the wisdom of the Na’vi natives and on negotiating a diplomatic solution.
The Na’vi were not completely technology-free. They basically used the type of technology that Native Americans used hundreds of years ago – same clothing, domesticated animals, natural medicine, and bows and arrows.
They were in fact exactly like Native Americans. How likely is that? Life on this distant moon in another star system has evolved creatures that look essentially the same as earthly creatures, with very minor differences (dogs, horses, birds, rhinoceros-like animals, and so on), not to mention humanoids that are virtually the same as humans here on Earth. That’s quite a coincidence.
Cameron’s conception of technology a hundred years from now was incredibly unimaginative, even by Hollywood standards. For example, the munitions that were supposed to blow up the tree of life looked like they were used in World War II (maybe even World War I). Most of the technology looked primitive, even by today’s standards. The wearable exoskeleton robotic devices were supposed to be futuristic, but these already exist, and are beginning to be deployed. The one advanced technology was the avatar technology itself. But in that sense, Avatar is like the world of the movie AI, where they had human-level cyborgs, but nothing else had changed: AI featured 1980′s cars and coffee makers. As for Avatar, are people still going to use computer screens in a hundred years? Are they going to drive vehicles?
I thought the story and script was unimaginative, one-dimensional, and derivative. The basic theme was “evil corporation rapes noble natives.” And while that is a valid theme, it was done without the least bit of subtlety, complexity, or human ambiguity. The basic story was taken right from Dances with Wolves. And how many (thousands of) times have we seen a final battle scene that comes down to a battle between the hero and the anti-hero that goes through various incredible stages — fighting on a flying airplane, in the trees, on the ground, etc? And (spoiler alert) how predictable was it that the heroine would pull herself free at the last second and save the day?
None of the creatures were especially creative. The flying battles were like Harry Potter’s Quidditch, and the flying birds were derivative of Potter creatures, including mastering flying on the back of big bird creatures. There was some concept of networked intelligence but it was not especially coherent. The philosophy was the basic Hollywood religion about the noble cycle of life.
The movie was fundamentally anti-technology. Yes, it is true, as I pointed out above, that the natives use tools, but these are not the tools we associate with modern technology. And it is true that the Sigourney Weaver character and her band of scientists intend to help the Na’vi with their human technology (much like international aid workers might do today in developing nations), but we never actually see that happen. I got the sense that Cameron was loath to show modern technology doing anything useful. So even when Weaver’s scientist becomes ill, the Na’vi attempt to heal her only with the magical life force of the tree of life.
In Cameron’s world, Nature is always wise and noble, which indeed it can be, but he fails to show its brutal side. The only thing that was brutal, crude, and immoral in the movie was the “advanced” technology. Of course, one could say that it was the user of the technology that was immoral (the evil corporation), but that is the only role for technology in the world of Avatar.
In addition to being evil, the technology of the Avatar world of over 100 years from now is also weaker than nature, so the rhinoceros-like creatures are able to defeat the tanks circa 2100. It was perhaps a satisfying spectacle to watch, but how realistic is that? The movie shows the natural creatures communicating with each other with some kind of inter-species messaging and also showed the tree of life able to remember voices. But it is actually real-world technology that can do those things right now. In the Luddite world of this movie, the natural world should and does conquer the brutish world of technology.
In my view, there is indeed a crudeness to first-industrial-revolution technology. The technology that will emerge in the decades ahead will be altogether different. It will enhance the natural world while it transcends its limitations. Indeed, it is only through the powers of exponentially growing info, bio, and nano technologies that we will be able to overcome the problems created by first-industrial-revolution technologies such as fossil fuels. This idea of technology transcending natural limitations was entirely lost in Cameron’s vision. Technology was just something crude and immoral, something to be overcome, something that Nature does succeed in overcoming.
It was visually pleasing; although even here I thought it could have been better. Some of the movement of the blue natives was not quite right and looked like the unrealistic movement one sees of characters in video games, with jumps that show poor modeling of gravity.
The ending (spoiler alert) was a complete throwaway. The Na’vi defeat the immoral machines and their masters in a big battle, but if this mineral the evil corporation was mining is indeed worth a fortune per ounce, they would presumably come back with a more capable commander. Yet we hear Jake’s voice at the end saying that the mineral is no longer needed. If that’s true, then what was the point of the entire battle?
The Na’vi are presented as the ideal society, but consider how they treat their women. The men get to “pick” their women, and Jake is offered to take his choice once he earns his place in the society. Jake makes the heroine his wife, knowing full well that his life as a Na’vi could be cut off at any moment. And what kind of child would they have? Well, perhaps these complications are too subtle for the simplistic Avatar plot.
JOHN STOSSEL: Keep Your Laws Off My Body.
Related: Banks scramble to raise cash after Fannie Mae cuts. “Banks scrambled to raise cash this week after U.S. mortgage finance agency Fannie Mae abruptly slashed the number of financial institutions that hold its funds, market sources said on Friday.” (Via NewsAlert.)
THE DIE IS CAST. Heh.
BEN CHERTOFF IS DEFENDING SEAN PENN. “Sean Penn can get as mad as he wants. He was down there, and there’s no doubt in my mind that he saved lives.”
WELL, GOOD: London hospital begins patient trials of genital herpes vaccine. But it’s not as great as the headline makes it sound: “A new vaccine designed to prevent people with genital herpes from passing the virus on to their sexual partners has begun its first patient trials at a London hospital.” A vaccine that keeps people from getting it in the first place is further away.
RETRO-FUN: the Magic 8-Ball.
PROF. JACOBSON: SPLC’s Democratic Party Mission. “The Southern Poverty Law Center issued a misleading and politicized report on hate groups for the purpose of smearing those who oppose Democratic Party plans to expand government. This has become an all too common SPLC tactic, and is a disgrace because there was a time when SPLC actually went after hate groups rather than simply putting the label ‘hate group’ on law-abiding political groups which happen to oppose SPLC’s fundraising base.” Back in 1995 I was on MacNeil/Lehrer with Morris Dees and had to chide him about his use of the Oklahoma City bombing to smear gun-rights activists, libertarians, etc. Alas, things haven’t improved.
PROFESSOR DONALD DOUGLAS REPORTS from the Long Beach ‘Day of Action’ Education Mobilization.
GERMANY AND GREECE go to the mattresses.
ME NORTH KOREA.
TOM BLUMER: Should the ‘Smarties’ Really Be Put in Charge of Health Care? “If leftists are so intelligent, why are we so broke?”
RETRACTO THE CORRECTION ALPACA IS STILL ON THE JOB: Correction Requests: E! Online, AOL’s PopEater, NY Daily News, FishbowlLA.
NEW YORK TIMES: Rash of Scandals Tests Democrats at Sensitive Time. “The ethical woes facing Democrats are piling up, with barely a day passing in recent weeks without headlines from Washington to New York and beyond filled with word of scandal or allegations of wrongdoing. . . . Taken together, the cases have opened the party to the same lines of criticism that Democrats, led by Representatives Nancy Pelosi, now the House speaker, and Rahm Emanuel, now White House chief of staff, used effectively against Republicans in winning control of the House and Senate four years ago.”
ARE YOU WORKING? A Slashdot employment poll.
EUGENE VOLOKH backs Matthew Berry for Congress.
UPDATE: From the comments: “Berry does seem very well qualified — and as an aside, I find it odd that it is the liberals on this site who seem fixated on Berry’s sexual orientation.”
OKAY, THE FIRMWARE IS UPGRADED IN MY COMCAST DVR, and now it won’t seem to let me skip commercials. You can fast forward, but when you go back to play, it jumps back to the commercial you were watching when you started. Bug? Or a new “advertiser feature?” If this sticks, I’m switching to somebody else.
The only other “improvement” is that it organizes my recorded shows into folders, which I could live without. Anybody else having a similar experience?
AT BIG GOVERNMENT, a look at Berkeley Riot Hypocrisy. Who knew those rioters were immigrant-haters?
TAX DOCUMENTS FROM The Tides Foundation. “A look at their 2008 tax return, 160-plus pages, reads like a directory of the New Left. I’ve pulled out the donations to ACORN groups and Big Labor’s Working America Education Fund (not many people know unions take in ostensibly charitable donations) and one theme is clear: “general support” seems to be a popular phrase. Another theme: notice that states receiving money are critical to election-year success for Democrats. And finally, notice just how much money is being thrown around.”
BIG JOURNALISM: The MSM, John Patrick Bedell, and the Gleiwitz Incident.