It's here. What I find really interesting about the whole thing is that the interviewer didn't seem to think it worth bringing up that Archbishop Tutu is currently siding with the wing of the Anglican Communion that is about to get itself thrown out of the church for being divisive and ignoring the Scripture and the church's rulings on Scripture. While that doesn't affect his ability to make political commentary, it should raise certain questions about whether or not this is someone we want to listen to about religion.
Duh. Yet another reason statistics are deceptive. Slate has a piece about comparing casualty rates in Iraq and Vietnam. Frankly, I'm not convinced this is a useful exercise, and I don't recommend the piece either way.
But I do want to something mentioned almost as an aside. Murder rates have been falling in major American urban areas for a while now. This does not necessarily mean that there is more violent crime, only that fewer people are being killed. Why? Because if someone gets shot and survives - a situation which is made dramatically more likely by adequate medical care - then murder has not occurred, by definition. So measuring murder rates by simply counting the number of bodies isn't an entirely fair way of doing things, because today if you aren't killed outright, the odds of your surviving are a lot higher than they were a dozen or more years ago.
I've been finding more and more things like his recently. Lies, damn lies, and statistics.
Susan Sontag died this morning. The cause of death has not yet been made official, but as she was 71, there isn't much that would be out of the ordinary. Historically, she has written important and well-written essays and short stories, but in more recent times she has displayed moral blindness on a truly shocking scale.
As if people like Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky weren't surreal enough in their own right, McSweeney's has a brilliant bit of "unused audio commentary" about the Fellowship of the Ring. Big hat tip to Rob for this one.
"Anytime a critic praises a director for pushing any movie -- let alone a low-budget thriller -- "into the abstract," you know you've entered the realm of the lousy-but-pretentious, which is not a particularly fun place to spend a Saturday night."
I finished my last final this morning. The most interesting problem was to come up with the equation for the largest circular cylinder that can be inscribed inside a sphere with radius R (which turns out to be (pi)(piR/2)(piR/4)^2), I think). Thank providence I remembered my trig identities.
That completes my first semester at Columbia. It was quite an adjustment, let me tell you. But things are good. And tomorrow I go home for Christmas.
I also turn 23 in two days. Weird.
What I don't get is why there's all this fuss about privatization. I mean, no one really believes that Social Security, as it is currently funded and administrated, can last for more than a decade, two at best. Or, at least, no one is suggesting that things are fine. So when Bush offers up some kind of solution, why is the Left's response "No, we have to keep things the way they are"? This is really mystifying to me. Something needs to be done, and the Left has no ideas at all about what to do about this. Except, when pressed, tax increases. Which never work anyway.
I'd say that the number one thing to do, privatization aside, would be to stop using Social Security revenues to fund other projects. I mean, seriously: if we don't have enough money for Social Security, it might be a good idea to use Social Security taxes to pay Social Security benefits, don't you think? Second, switch to something like private investment accounts instead of the massive Ponzi scheme that we've got at the moment. Third, kick up the retirement age to 70 or 75, instead of the current cutoff, which assumes an average life expectency of around 65.
Some or all of these things are going to need to happen, or Social Security will default. That would probably not cause the entire world to come to a screeching halt, though we might not be able to tell the difference what with all the yelling that would go on.
You are William Safire! You're ruthless and
cunning, and a conservative demigod. You used
to write speeches for Nixon. Now you write
another column on the English language which
has made you the world's most popular
etymologist. You hate media deregulation, but
love the Bush administration. If only you
weren't such a brilliant writer. You bastard.
Which New York Times Op-Ed Columnist Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla
I don't know what else to call this night and the night before it. It is deathly cold in New York right now. It's 12F right now, and will probably touch single digits in a few hours. My heart goes out to those who have no place warm to stay. I would be surprised if less than a thousand people died from exposure-related causes in the 48 hours surrounding this one.
You know all the media noise about the rise in obesity? It's a problem, right? Perhaps not quite as much as was originally thought. Dr. David Williamson, a researcher at the CDC, says that the rise in obesity is likely the result of a drop in smoking. Which makes some since, as most people tend to gain a few pounds when they quit smoking, and the number of people who smoke has fallen by almost a third in the past 20 years.
Is obesity bad for you? Yep. But smoking is orders of magnitude worse. The former is merely unhealthy. The latter involves ingesting poison on a regular basis. You figure it out.
By now, everyone should realize that the federal government is headed for some kind of fiscal crisis. Tax cuts may be a good thing, but combine that with bloated spending increases and the looming implosion of both Social Security and the Mediplans, and well, things just aren't good.
Progressives, roundly trounced in the last election cycle (yay!), have started to regroup a bit, and one Gar Alperovitz has an essay (Google cache HTML version of this pdf) suggesting that the solution is the direct taxation of wealth.
I, obviously, think this is a Bad Thing.
I will freely admit that Alperovitz's suggestions would probably create the kind of revenue he's talking about, at least until the American gentry learn to move their assets overseas.
But long-term, this is a very, very bad idea. There are several reasons for this. First, we've already got a system that targets the "rich". It's called income tax. The top 5% of income earners pay 56% of all income taxes. So when you talk about any kind of tax cut, of course it's going to benefit the rich "more" than the poor. The rich are really the only ones paying taxes, with the top 1% paying more combined income taxes than the lowest 100 million filers. If that isn't a massively unfair yet suitably progressive tax structure, I don't know what is. We're already penalizing income generation. Do we really want to penalize savings as well? The savings rate is already negative, so I don't know why we should discourage it any more than we already are.
Second, when the 16th amendment legalizing income taxes was passed in the early twentieth century, everyone said, "Oh, don't worry. It'll never come to more than 1%." Yeah. Right. Try 35% and more. For just income taxes. Payroll taxes add another 10% or more. So, if you make a lot of money, something like half of your paycheck goes to the government. Alperovitz says that all we'd need is a 1% asset tax, and we'd get all the money we need. This conveniently ignores the indeniable fact that all governments expand to fill all available space and use all available funds. Let them start taxing wealth and you'll soon see tax rates skyrocket, just like the income tax rates have.
Third, this would make the acquisition of wealth all but impossible. This, as it turns out, is a really, really bad thing. It would be literally dipping into capital. The reason our government has as much money as it does is because the rich essentially pay for it out of pocket. But do you really think that a person who files a tax return with $1 million in income is actually earning over $400 an hour? Most likely not. Most likely a significant portion of that income comes from assets. Wealth begets wealth. Wealth is used to create income, which is taxed. When you start taxing wealth, you do get a short-term increase in government revenues, but this reduces the amount of wealth that will be used to create further income down the road. It's literally killing the goose that lays the golden eggs.
Okay, let's make this simple. Say you win the lottery and wind up with $5 million in the bank after taxes. Once it's there, you can treat it in one of two ways: as wealth or as income. Spend it all, and you'll have nothing left. But wisely invest it, and you'll never have to work a day in your life. You won't be able to go on a $5 million spending-spree, but you'll have a guaranteed $150,000 or more in income forever, provided you don't touch the $5 million. But if the government taxes the $5 million as well as the income it generates, you have to divert some of that money back into capital just to preserve your current income, let alone increase your pile. This makes it harder for the rich to do business, and since they're the ones who are actually paying for the government to operate, this means that there's less government revenue.
So please, for pity's sake, don't tax wealth. It's bad for everybody. The only income redistribution pattern that works long term is for everyone to be poor.
Looks like the Spring '05 concert season is starting to materialize. We've got Colin Meloy of The Decemberists playing solo at Fez on 1/22, and The Arcade Fire playing at the Bowery Ballroom on 2/1 and at Irving Plaza on 2/2. Later that week Low will be headlining with Pedro the Lion opening, but as I've never listened to the former and can't get particularly excited about the latter, we'll just have to see.
Other venues and acts haven't started to put their schedule together yet. I know for certain that both Crooked Fingers and The Decemberists will be back to push their albums coming out in a few months, and there's rumors of a U2 tour sometime next year. Though they'd probably charge at least four times what I'm used to paying for shows.
Being home, and not having brought much besides calculus and chemistry as reading material, I picked up the latest issue of World Magazine. World has significant connections with my alma mater by means of individuals holding positions of influence at both places (I'm pretty sure Olasky is on the board, but I could be wrong, and the Belz family are scions).
Holy. Crap. I found precisely one piece in the entire magazine that was worth more than the printing costs. The rest were downright awful. A review... No, wait, that would be too generous. A smear of Sideways, the primary beef having nothing to do with, say scripting, or dialog, or characterization, or cinematography, but, wait for it... cussing. Yeah, that's right. The characters cuss too much. Thank you, World, for your brilliant and incisive cultural analysis. The music analysis isn't much better. Now where's that airsickness bag I had...
The news briefs were depressingly out of date, though I must say that as I rarely of ever go to print sources for news anymore, this may just be a fact of the medium.
Gene Edward Veith's piece on Kinsey was as predicted: drivel. It is a textbook example of taking one's audience for granted as an excuse for not actually coming up with analysis. Protestations of "serious intellectual conversation" aside, this is anything but that. His review of I am Charlotte Simmons, Tom Wolfe's new novel, as glaringly out of pace with the way the book has been received elsewhere. The review, embedded in a section entitled "Conformity on campus", which does address some issues that are important to me, even if it does so thoughtlessly, takes seriously what everyone else I've come across - in person or in print - thinks is overblown and inaccurate.
On the whole, the magazine is the most biased thing I've read in months, and as you can tell by reading my archives, I read a lot of biased stuff. But the tone of self-righteousness and arrogance I get from World is just nauseating. Suffice it to say that I won't make the mistake of picking it up again.
The UN hosted a seminar on "Islamophobia" recently. As expected, the events contained therein were sufficiently surreal as to make Dali seem photorealistic. More here.
Columbia, along with several other major universities in Manhattan, has started to make use of the hundreds of miles of dark fiber currently lying unused beneath the streets of the island. Dark fiber is fiber optic cabling that was probably laid down during the heydays of the Internet bubble, but that no one ever got around to actually using.
This will double Columbia's bandwidth from 155Mbps to over 300Mbps. Awesome.
Well, I'm back in PA. I caught a train at 7:00 this morning, and made it home by around 11:00. Not bad. And a lot more pleasant than Greyhound, believe you me.
As it turns out, this wasn't actually bad time to bug out for a few days, because the water outage at my apartment that started yesterday is apparently continuing today. They're doing pretty massive work on Manhattan Ave. still, and now they're messing with my water. Great. Hopefully it'll be done by Saturday, when I go back.
Yeah, I'm going back to New York on Saturday. I've got finals on Monday and Wednesday, but nothing to do until then, so I came home.
Doing some quick calculations, I figured out that it would probably be a good bit cheaper for me to live with my parents in central PA and commute three hours one-way to New York twice a week than it would be to live where I am now. Conclusion: market forces of supply and demand only produce rational results when the amount of supply/demand is itself rational. Sub-conclusion: high taxes are self-perpetuating.
A photo essay about Chicago and the changes it's undergone in the last 50 odd years. Pictures taken of various Chicago locations in the 1940s-50s were re-shot last year, and you can really see how the city has changed. Lots more trees, for one thing.
Now this is just genius. Joe Heath and Andrew Potter, both philosophy professors at Canadian universities, have published The Rebel Sell (available through Amazon.ca here), and their thesis is as follows:
"[T]he counterculture is not a threat to the "system," it is the system."
The analysis is brilliant, and the takedown of hipsters (browse through the discussion, you'll see what I mean) is spot on. Someone get me this book.
Red Stripe has been advertising in New York theaters recently. Their ad campaign is pretty funny. Currently they're showing the "Dance!" ad before just about every movie, but the rest on their site are at least as good.
"[B]ased on federal law, a Medicare patient who requests an assistant surgeon during a cataract operation is participating in an illegal act, even if he is willing to pay out of pocket for the service. Medicare has a blanket prohibition against payments to assistant cataract surgeons (Section 1842(k)), and the patient who desires the extra security of another person in attendance is simply out of luck. The request would be perfectly legal one day before age 65, but once one is on Medicare that right is lost — unless, that is, the patient is willing to give up all other Medicare benefits..."
"[If a physician has] voluntarily excluded himself [from Medicare], neither he nor his patients can submit bills to Medicare for his services, even if only to partially reimburse the patient. In addition, the doctor is not allowed to work for anyone who does any business with Medicare. Thus, he cannot legally help out in the emergency room of the nearby hospital to relieve a severe shortage of er doctors, as he would like, even though he has earned board certification in internal medicine and emergency medicine. Opting out makes a doctor virtually unemployable."
"Traditionally, when an emergency room in the hospital, for example, was losing money, that loss might be made up in the laboratory. Something similar occurred with physicians. Extra time for complicated patients, time in the library and for other continuing education, care given at inconvenient times as well as to non-paying patients — all were subsidized by more lucrative activities such as comprehensive examinations (annual physicals) and diagnostic tests... Currently, insurers and government seek the lowest price for every service. There have been drastic cuts of two-thirds or more for electrocardiograms, breathing and hearing tests, and blood and urine analysis. This is the supermarket equivalent of putting every item on sale at the same time — highly unusual and probably unsustainable. Moreover, hmos and some ppos restrict physicians from performing any lab work (and sometimes other diagnostic testing) on patients they cover."
"After 1991, Medicare actually reduced physician fees four times, causing them to fall 14 percent below practice cost inflation. Commercial insurers found it advantageous to follow suit and, with both the private and governmental insurance sectors cutting back to arbitrary take-it-or-leave-it fee schedules, American medicine fell under the sway of third-party payers."
"The wrangling over the $400 billion Medicare outpatient drug benefit of 2003 is illustrative. Intense lobbying by drug manufacturers has won a Medicare payment increase for more than 100 drugs used in hospital outpatient procedures while Medicare physician fees were scheduled to decrease by 4.2 percent in 2004. A failure to keep up with rising practice expenses, now subject to political horse-trading, will disproportionately affect primary care. That is because its many low-dollar services still require expensive administration and are provided at the physician’s own expense in the office rather than at the hospital."
There's an essay over at Policy Review about the connection between current popular music and the broken homes in which the seeming majority of people under 30 grew up. There's nothing very interesting in the way of new insights, and one gets the feeling that the author is very pleased with herself for being able to accurately mention contemporary rock/rap stars, but on the whole it's a solid, if basic, piece. A good reference anyway.
..which I've already got in my router, is PeerGuardian, an IP banning tool. It's got a range of IP addresses - mostly known media industry, advertising, and law enforcement addresses - and bans them. This means fewer banner ads, fewer popups, with no P2P interference (tried it) and a much lower profile. Kind of hard for the RIAA to detect you sharing files if they can't connect to your computer at all. Takes up almost no clock cycles or RAM too, which is good. And it's got a decent log function, which means you can enjoy watching MSN ad servers get blocked 90 times in 11 seconds.
If this doesn't make me a geek, I don't know what does.
Josiah, you should consider installing something like this for chattablogs.
A few days ago when I linked to that article about crime a few days ago, I was really looking for this. It's an essay by Robert Kaplan in Policy Review, and it's really good. It describes differing approaches to power and its use in Europe and America. It was brilliantly insightful last year, and it's still brilliantly insightful this year.
The question on everybody's mind at this point would be "Is it as good as his other movies?" So I'll answer that right off and then get into more detail. It's not his best film, but it's not his worst, and I wasn't disappointed.
What, then, is Aquatic about? Well, fathers and sons, for one thing. That should be at least partially clear from the trailer. This ties into the larger human desire for looking up to people and being looked up to in return. The sense of wanting to look up to people is balanced by wanting to look up to the right people, as well as the nervous that happens when one's role model turns out to be, well, just another guy. The desire for respect is coupled with the desire to deserve that respect, and the anguish of awareness that comes from realizing one's own shortcomings.
It's also about projects and careers, especially ones that are winding down. Steve spends a goodly amount of the picture wondering if it's all been worth it. His best friend is dead, his marriage is on the rocks, he hasn't made a hit documentary in a decade, and some stranger is introducing himself as his son. Sounds like it's time for a little introspection.
Concerning performances, the only one I was really impressed by was Cate Blanchett. Murray and Wilson were good, obviously, but I've seen them do better, especially in Anderson's other films. Murray's performance in Lost in Translation was heartrending, whilst his performance in Aquatic is merely excellent. Willem Defoe is also quite good as a pathologically insecure German. "Thanks. Thanks for... for not picking me."
In The Royal Tennenbaums, Rushmore, and Bottle Rocket, the characters - oddballs, all of them, to be sure - were engaged in activities with which most people living in the US or Europe can identify. The movies are about school, family, art, work, friends, and even if the specifics of the circumstances are different - I've never knocked over a bookstore, contrary to popular belief, and I don't think most the rest of you have either - the majority of the audience can be thinking "I've done something just like that." This isn't quite as clear in The Life Aquatic, and the film is the weaker for it. I didn't experience the same kind of immediate identification with the characters as I did in the previous films, and that had a lot more to do with the over-the-top nature of the plot than the characters themselves. I haven't been a middle-aged manufacturing magnate any more than I've been a middle-aged washed-up oceanographer, but somehow the previous character seemed more real to me.
Though all of Anderson's films contain violence - in the strictest sense, anyway - up until now, the violence therein is the kind that all of us have either already participated in or can reasonably expect to do so sometime in our lives. We've all thrown things at people, or gotten in a minor scuffle with a friend who's pissing us off, and even if we haven't, it's something that could enter the realm of our experience pretty easily. But Aquatic contains Anderson's first forays into what would most properly be considered "combat". We're talking automatic weapons, dynomite, and grenades. But it's all pretty tongue-in-cheek. Anderson is obviously goofing off, and while it's entertaining to watch, seeing him move this direction is a little disappointing. If I want a decent action/adventure flick, I just watched House of Flying Daggers (which is pretty good, in case you were wondering), and that really isn't what I'm looking for in an Anderson film. It's good to see that he isn't so caught up in his own routine that he can't do anything different - stagnation is unpleasant in any director - but the emotional impact of his films is always better served by the quiet scenes than the busy ones. I don't think this is ultimately as effective as much of his previous material, I am glad to him branch out a bit. But Wes, please don't try to make a real action flick. We've got plenty of those already, but no one is doing what you're doing.
Is this a step backward for Anderson? I wouldn't say so. If you're expecting an emotional sucker-punch on the level of Tennenbaums, you're going to be disappointed, but I wasn't entirely expecting that, so I wasn't all that bothered by it. The plot, however, is a lot less coherent than any of his other films, and definitely costs some points. Anderson movies to tend to be a little on the random side, but only as random as life. Aquatic doesn't seem to flow in any particular direction. The relationships do, just as in his other work, but the actual chain of events is kind of weak.
Definitely go see the film when it comes to your area (gotta love NYC). I'm going at least twice more. The music is great - as always - and a lot of David Bowie tracks have been translated into Portugese by Seu Jorge, one of the cast members, and performed by him on solo acoustic guitar. It's unbelievably good. The claymation is also really amusing. So, "Have you found what you're looking for, out here with me? I hope so." Maybe, maybe not, but what we have found is pretty decent.
It seems that in the UK, if someone breaks into your home, your attacker has more legal rights than you do. At least, that's what Dr. Ian Stephen of Glasgow Caledonian University says in this article. He encourages victims of burglary to assume a state of "active passivity", or, barring that, outright passiveness.
I think this sheds light on a lot of other things as well. If we take this as characteristic of the European mindset - which, for entertainment's sake I'm going to - we see a culture that is not only scared of defending itself, but has actually set up their legal system such that the burglars are better protected than homeowners. If this isn't an anti-civilization mentality, I don't know what is. In many states in the US (especially the South and Midwest/Mountain states) if someone breaks into your home, most of the time you can kill them. Heck, in certain Mountain states, even mere trespassing is grounds for justifiable homicide.
But in Europe? No, not really. You've got to be sure to not give the burglar any problems and hand over your valuables right quick, and please, please don't provoke the poor, terrified criminal into doing something he hadn't planned on doing, like using the weapon he's brought with him. No, don't do that, whatever you do. And don't even think about trying to defend your life, family, and property by going after him, because then you'll really be in trouble. Like Tony Martin, who went to jail for three years after shooting the teenaged burglars who broke into his isolated farmhouse. But don't worry. We've got excellent psychological care set up to help victims deal with the blow to their self-esteem.
I think the foreign policy applications of this mentality are obvious to the point that I don't even need to spell them out.
It's time to actually use the words "encouraging" and "MoveOn.org" in the same sentence. Why? Because Chris Suellentrop of Slate has a really encouraging piece about MoveOn. What's so great about it? What could possibly be encouraging about a group of semi-organized moonbats? How about the fact that they're almost entirely ineffectual. I, personally, find that quite reassuring.
The conventional wisdom is that the Muslim world hates us because America is pro-Israel. But what if that's backwards? What if they hate Israel because Israel is pro-America? Amir Taheri of Benador Associates, which appears to be a combination think-tank/PR-firm, has a really interesting article that points out all the conflicts in which Muslims play a significant role - Cyprus, Thailand, Chechnya, Bosnia, Kashmir, etc. - about which the Muslim world doesn't really seem to care. The economic and political elites are absolutely obsessed with Palestine, but the reasons for this aren't entirely clear. Worse things are happening elsewhere.
This is definitely worth the short read.
...but at least the Israelis are getting paid as a result.
I have little to no sympathy for the Palestinian cause, but I do think it's wise to enable the farce of an authority structure to continue to exist. I'd rather deal with an ineffectual puppet than a mob. It may be a joke, but on the scale of international politics, $20 million is really nothing more than a gesture. And now that Arafat (a thousand plagues upon him) is dead, it's probably a good idea to give the PLO the benefit of the doubt. I'm expecting the new leadership to be just as bad as the old leadership, but there's room for hope, if not cause.
It looks as if Ukraine's opposition leader, Yushchenko, has been poisoned. I've always been a little ambivalent about the whole Ukraine mess - how would the US react if Russia alledged that Mexico's elections had been rigged? - but this takes things to a new low, and will probably only solidify the opposition.
Well, for starters, make a movie that only has four characters. That right there makes for a very tightly focused film. Mike Nichols' Closer, was adapted for the screen by Patrick Marber's play of the same name, and it shows. The film is the story of Dan, Anna, Alice, and Larry, and their twisted web of relationships, but the titular question, screamed by Larry during a rather provokative scene, could easily be seen as the thrust of the whole thing.
The first thing that I noticed about the film is the dialog. Though the characters are distinct, this has far more to do with the actors than the writing, as four characters only have one voice between them. Were it not for outright brilliant performances by Owen and Portman, the film would have seemed utterly lifeless.
In theme - the messy facts of intimate relationships - it resembles this spring's Eternal Sunshine, but all that went into making that film a deeply human story is absent from Closer. At one point Alice says "I'm a block of ice!", as she tries to warm up, but it could easily have been said of the characters themselves. Owen's Larry is the only one who shows anything like real emotion, and the only one who demonstrates a genuine, heartfelt interest in honesty. He is the only person in the film who seems to have any knowledge of his own brokenness, and even if he ultimately can't rise above it.
Closer is, in essence, a textbook on how not to treat those you love. E.g., don't secretly have an affair, don't use forgiveness as a weapon, and certainly don't use sex that way. I would not want to know or be close to any of the characters portrayed in the film.
The ultimate thesis Nichols seems to be getting at is that "without forgiveness we're animals", and that letting someone forgive you is at least as hard as doing the forgiving yourself. Also, there's self-gratification disguised as forgiveness, and then there's genuine forgiveness. Dan thinks he's forgiven Alice - in truth, he needs to repent far more than she does - but hasn't. Larry, on the other hand, may be a bastard about it at first, but does genuinely wind up forgiving Anna.
When the credits started to roll, I was shocked by just how deeply the film was able to hold my attention. I was genuinely surprised to find myself in a movie theater and needing to walk to 72nd street to catch the C train home. I had completely forgotten that I was out to see a movie.
For a movie that is entirely about sex, Closer has no sex scene, and though Portman plays a stripper in the scene where Larry asks what it takes to get a little intimacy (okay, so subtlety isn't the movie's strong suit), neither she nor any of the other actors are ever naked. But for anyone who believes that true intimacy is not caused by sexuality, this film is some pretty good evidence. The brutality of emotions are pretty clear, even if the dialog is stilted. Even so, the quality of the insights offered by Nichols don't go nearly far enough to earn him the right to use the kind of content that he does. Fanboys everywhere will rejoice at getting to see so much of Portman, but it felt pretty heavy handed to me.
The reviews of Closer are mixed, but generally positive. I'd probably have to agree. Well made, but not particularly satisfying. Every critic I've read applies the line "It's a bunch of sad strangers photographed beautifully" to the film as a whole (which fits), but I was much more affected by Larry's question. Apparently neither Nichols nor Marber has any idea about what intimacy is or how to nurture it.
Okay, we're back.
At Policy Review, Robert D. Kaplan has a lengthy discussion of the new media culture (hat tip to Mr. Sullivan). It's pretty perceptive, though there are points at which I can't tell where he's going. I think he's nailed this though:
"[S]ome of our most prestigious correspondents have occasionally remarked that the only favoritism they harbor is toward the weak or toward the victims in any crisis. That may do in church, but it does not necessarily lead to trustworthy analysis. As Musil hinted, bankers are more dependable than angels because the desire for wealth preserves critical thinking more than does the desire for love. In any case, weakness defines a power relationship, not a moral attribute. One side’s being weaker than the other — or harboring more victims — does not necessarily mean that its cause is just or even moral. Rather, it may mean that it has miscalculated militarily or adopted a more cynical policy toward its own civilians. Victims need to be humanely attended to, but it does not follow that their side in a conflict is entitled to political support by way of sympathetic news coverage."
Yeah, I'm still here. The comments outage diminished my immediate urge to post, and this weekend has been pretty interesting on the personal side of things anyways. Those who want to know more can contact me directly.
I finished my first final today. My next finals are on Dec. 20 and 22, so I've still got almost 3 weeks before the end of my semester. But things are winding down. I really only have one more day of class, so I've got plenty of time to study.
Oh, and The Life Aquatic comes out on Friday. I'm so there.
I hate patchouli...
Apparently Putin thinks the US is dictatoral.
I'm sorry, I'd like to form some kind of reasoned response to that, but I'm laughing so hard that it's hard to type.
They're right: whatever it is our country thinks its doing about drugs, it isn't working.
Peter Beinart, editor of The New Republic, what appears to be the last remaining bastion of sanity on the Left, has a brilliantly insightful essay (nasty-type registration required, I'm afraid) on where the Left has lost its way. In short, they've forgotten who their real enemies are, and are more upset with George W. Bush than they are with blood-thirsty Islamofascist terrorists that want to kill us.
Apparently, something similar almost happened around the end of World War II, as liberalism came to terms with the growing Soviet threat. A group of Democrats in the party leadership dedicated themselves and the party to defeating totalitarianism, believing that "anti-communism was the fundamental litmus test for a decent left".
There were parts of the Left who didn't recognize this, were "non-communists" as opposed to "anti-communists", and, like Michael Moore and MoveOn and their ilk, saw more danger from conservatism than from totalitarianism. This, Beinart argues, cost the Democrats the election, just as it cost them the Senate in 2002.
Money quote: "Islamist totalitarianism--like Soviet totalitarianism before it--threatens the United States and the aspirations of millions across the world. And, as long as that threat remains, defeating it must be liberalism's north star. Methods for defeating totalitarian Islam are a legitimate topic of internal liberal debate. But the centrality of the effort is not. The recognition that liberals face an external enemy more grave, and more illiberal, than George W. Bush should be the litmus test of a decent left."
You've just got to read this selection from "Sartre's Cookbook".
So the UN says that future "preventative" and "pre-emptive" strikes need their approval. Which kind of eliminates the sole benefit derived from such strikes: surprise. You know what this means, of course. It means that the US should scrap this pack of corrupt Old/Third World bureaucrats entirely, stop funding this den of thieves (we pay for 20% or more at the moment), and try something different.
Any international body that gives a permenant seat with veto power to France but not India needs some serious reconsideration, and any time Algeria has as much voice as Germany things, well...
E-prime refers to a variant of English that does not use the verb "to be" or any of its forms. The Wikipedia entry (here) contains more information. According to E-prime's proponants, "being" verbs tend towards ambiguity, misdirection, or lack of clarity by suggesting either logical equivalence or a static state, neither of which present themselves as the likely intention of the speaker.
Give it a shot. Removing it from one's vocabulary forces one to express ideas clearly and directly without relying on a frequently obscurantist semantic shortcut. I've found that writing this way also helps one avoid passive voice.
If you'll notice, I wrote this post entirely using E-prime, a more difficult feat than it likely appears.