Backtracking, But Keeping That High Ground For Future Use

One aspect of the Boehner bill the House passed that I will be happy to criticize is the apparent late inclusion of a provision forcing a balanced budget amendment within such-and-such time, or else (something happens, I didn’t read far enough to learn what).

In fact, I’ll go so far as to say I think a ‘balanced budget amendment’ (which I think generally (R)s tend to favor more than (D)s? is that right?) is an inherently stupid idea. Not because the idea of balancing the budget is stupid, mind you. But because even if we had a ‘balanced budget amendment’, DC would inevitably just use accounting gimmicks to get around it (the same way that if you link capital requirements to AAA-ratings then Wall Street will gin up stuff like “CDOs” to synthesize phony AAA securities).

This seems likely to create a government more fiscally irresponsible than the present situation, because Congress would still do whatever it wanted, but its trickery would be harder to identify/explain, and meanwhile you’d have this illusion of automated-budget-balancing so the political will for the public to pay attention to fiscal problems would be dissipated (‘didn’t we solve that back with the Balanced Budget Amendment? i don’t wanna pay attention to this anymore’).

In fact, I’ve almost convinced myself that loading this bill with a provision requiring a balanced-budget-amendment was so dumb and counterproductive that the Senate was perfectly reasonable in voting it down, that I was wrong to criticize them for it, and indeed that Xamuel was right to raise the possibility of the onerously unacceptable provision.

To get even more high-ground-esque here, a lot of the news I’ve reading late yesterday and early today coming out of the negotiations makes it sound like a perfectly reasonable compromise provision that should be amenable to both (D)s and (R)s is on its way, and if the result is anything like what’s being described, (R)s in both houses should sign onto it, and if they don’t I’ll criticize them.

How ya like them high-ground apples, BITCHES!!

Um. Yeah. Anyway, the one face-saving aspect of this post is that (I’m pretty sure) the (D)s will go on to do something stupid in their own right, at which time I can unload on them both-barrels using this valuable High Ground™ I’ve just banked in this here post. In fact, the opportunity may come as early as this afternoon. Stay tuned!

UPDATE: I’ve been reading some lefty commentary on BBA (read: Yglesias). It’s made me realize the reason I don’t favor a BBA has nothing to do with theirs. Lefties nowadays seem to actually believe their own Keynesian gobbledygook that ‘in a downturn’, the government ‘needs to step in’ and spend a lot of money. They oppose BBA because they believe/assume/pretend to believe that a BBA would prevent the government from doing this. I oppose a BBA because, essentially, I don’t believe a BBA would prevent the government from doing this.

Debt Ceiling: High Ground Is A B**ch

For the last couple weeks, I have been hearing:

  • the debt ceiling needs to be raised, or the U.S. will ‘default’
  • if it’s not raised, we risk plunging ‘back’ into ‘another’ recession (because of course the economy’s just fine right now)
  • only stupid people would oppose raising it
  • only crazy Tea Partiers would oppose raising it
  • people not for raising the debt ceiling are putting politics over what’s for the good of the country

Thankfully, on Friday, the House of Representatives passed a bill to raise the debt ceiling. Crisis averted!

Oh. Wait. The Senate, led by Democrats, rejected it, voting it down two hours later.

Surely all the above complaints I have been hearing above will now be directed exclusively towards Harry Reid and the Democratic Senate? For putting politics above what’s good for the country? For threatening to bring on ‘another’ recession? For edging us closer to the brink of economic crisis? For being stupid?

The beauty of this observation is that I have the high ground. Last week, I criticized those conservatives who were against raising the debt ceiling and advocated passage.

What about all you lefties who criticized Republicans for the same thing, but are silent and nonplussed as the Senate mindlessly – with no debate – votes down a measure that (supposedly) is necessary to save the country if not the entire world economic system? Where’s your fucking high ground now, bitches?

I grow impatient playing these games and pretending all these ‘political arguments’ are serious and sincere. All you fucking lefties fucking care about is (D)s being after the name of your politicians (since that’s ‘your team’), and the only (non-sex-related) policy you care about is other peoples’ taxes being raised, all the fucking time. At least if you’d just fucking admit it I could respect you for honesty, an option unavailable to me at this time.

Smart People Behavior Captured In The Field

This video has made the rounds already, so chances are it is not new to you:

This is a very valuable social document to file under Smart People Behavior. Smart-People anthropologists will be studying it for years to come.

As the video illustrates, this woman, a Smart Person, believes there is a clear link between

a) how “educated” (i.e., Smart) she is, and

b) how she may behave and comport herself in public.

Most Smart People believe this deep down, but conceal the attitude more successfully. Like a rare tropical bird’s mating ritual, it is quite rare indeed to capture the attitude demonstrated openly on film.

This video is a tremendous achievement; we in the Smart People Anthropology community need to keep this momentum going. To build on and delve into this subculture further, I humbly suggest a Jane Goodall-style immersion research project, some courageous researcher goes into the ‘wild’ to live amongst Smart People as one of their for years, perhaps decades, collects what data he/she can, and then reports back his/her findings. I’d volunteer for the task myself, but I’d probably have a hard time enduring it. In fact I think I’d rather go live among a bunch of apes or something.

Why Do Some Conservatives Oppose The Boehner Bill?

This may be the most sincere post/question I have written here. I have now read a little bit about the Boehner debt plan. Here is a summary and an excellent argument in favor from Keith Hennessey.

Having read up on it, the one thing I now can’t figure out is why conservatives would be opposed to passage of the plan that Boehner is hawking. I suppose I could understand being less than enthused, or finding it insufficient – but actually opposing it, and wanting your Congressman to vote no on it? I can’t envision why that would be any conservative’s position. (Of course this is more evidence of terminology flipping; here ‘conservatives’ are being highly non-conservative.)

I even tried turning to Google to answer my question (“why conservatives oppose the boehner bill”). Inconclusive.

Here are some things that are clear. The government has ongoing costs of operations. The government has always increased its debt issuance over time. Increasing this debt ceiling is business-as-usual. And, last but not least, the U.S. can borrow money quite easily in this market: the world appears willing to lend money to it and get piddly interest in return. Well hey, why not take them up on it?

I understand wanting to cut spending and all. But Republicans only hold one house here. Massive spending cuts are simply not in the cards anytime soon, and thinking this is a lever that can get them seems folly to me. If you want that I sympathize, but conservatives will need to actually win more elections. In the meantime, assuming you don’t want a crisis or at least a media-drummed-up crisis-theater that (obviously, inevitably, in either case) will be blamed on conservatives, you would presumably want a bill that raises the debt ceiling and does nothing obviously bad. Boehner’s bill is clearly such a bill (isn’t it?), so what’s the problem? Why actually oppose it?

Someone help me out?

Dumb Stuff I Think People Think, Part I

Morgan Freeberg likes my idea for a Dumb Stuff I Think People Think list and wants it written; he and others have contributed some inaugural candidate entries. I wanted to set some ground rules here though, since I had something pretty specific in mind by that.

First, a DSITPT is not meant to be simply some political view that others hold that you think is dumb (e.g. “President Obama is a good President”), or more generally, an opinion you happen to disagree with. That would be too easy, and anyway, to first order almost all internet writing (especially blogs) consists of DSITPT lists in that sense already. Doesn’t really qualify as a good DSITPT; the key is illogic or dumb errors in underlying thinking, and most political views themselves are too subjective and deeply-represented (intelligent folks can be found on either side) to illustrate illogic all on their own.

By the same token this does mean that if (I Think) people come to a political view via dumb reasoning , it could count, but it would be the reasoning, not so much the political view itself, going on the list. Similarly, DSITPT can include thinking that seems to lead to the right outcome (or an outcome not obviously dumb), but for the wrong reason.

Here’s an example of both: the widely (if implicitly) held, oft-stated circa 2003-2009 view that from now on, any war the U.S. participates in anywhere must involve both the approval and participation of the nation-state of France. We heard, literally for years, that France not approving of a war we were fighting elsewhere (neither in nor near France, N.B.) was somehow automatically a problem that required discussing and rectifying. Hence, France’s disapproval was in effect cited as a reason in and of itself not to wage that war.

But not only that, we continually heard that a thing we should really care about doing while waging that war we were fighting was to “get troops from” France (or more generally Western Europe, but this mostly seemed to mean France). Commentators critiqued our then-President for not doing so; challenger candidates (including our current President) campaigned heavily – at times almost exclusively – on their supposed preternatural ability to do so, to “get troops from France”. The participation of French troops on our side, it seemed clear to all Smart People, was an imperative without which the U.S. waging any war anywhere was unthinkable. In other words, we simultaneously weren’t supposed to wage the war (because France didn’t like it) and were supposed to campaign or convince or cajole or seduce France into ‘giving’ (?) us some of her soldiers to fight and die alongside ours (in that war we shouldn’t have been waging and they didn’t agree with). This was widely accepted and considered highly Smart thinking, from what I can tell.

Now, that was sure some Dumb Stuff I Think People Thought. But note, its dumbness is separate and distinct from the issue of whether going before the UN, or campaigning for French troop contributions to our forces, were in and of themselves ok ideas. I guess that they were. It’s not like I think they were crazy. So, it’s not the resulting views that were dumb so much as the apparent reasoning that (I Think) they betrayed, if taken seriously.

The final note is that the “I Think” part is important: this is dumb stuff I Think people think. In part this makes it clear that it’s my best guess, my straightforward internal approximation, of others’ thinking. In putting it forth this way, I’m intentionally leaving myself open to be called out for beating on straw-men and hearing reasoned defenses of the views I’m lampooning. Feel free. That’s all part of what makes such a list so fun to compile :-)

Anyhow so with those ground rules in mind then, here’s a starter list just off the top of my head:

Dumb stuff I think people think:

(And by the way, yes I mean it, I literally sincerely think that people believe these things)

  • Flatbread doesn’t really count as bread/carbs/starch, on account of the flat shape.
  • The U.S. can’t or shouldn’t wage war without the approval and participation of France; it is metaphysically and/or morally unthinkable.
  • Scandinavian socialism must be a good model to follow, because just look at how sexy Scandinavians are.
  • Carbon emissions have made a macroscopic impact on the entire earth’s climate and will lead to runaway feedback-driven global warming, yet gestures such as unplugging the coffee pot will help measurably. (Courtesy Morgan Freeberg, slightly rephrased)
  • Muslim radicals must be our natural allies as progressives, because they tend to be nonwhite.
  • Some food is organic, while other food is inorganic. (inspired by Gerard van der Leun comment)
  • As a conservative politician hated by media and opinion makers, I will win over some voters if I go on a late night comedy TV show, since that’s what my opponent did.
  • Things that are brown (paper, sugar, CD cases, eggs, etc.) are more natural and earth-friendly.

Far from a complete list, of course, but that should be a start to give a flavor. Will add to it as/when I think of more DSITPT.

Why I Don’t Give A Rat’s Ass If, Or When, There’s A “Recession”

I haven’t commented much on the ‘debt ceiling’ kabuki dance, but there is one hand-wringing commentary-tic that I can’t let pass by unnoticed. It’s the spectre that if the debt ceiling isn’t raised, etc., then the economy “could plunge back into a recession”.

I said this before the “recession”, then I said it when the “recession” was declared, and…well I think I forgot to say it when the “recession” was declared to be over (was it?), but:

Guys, “recession” is just a made-up label they slap on the economic state of affairs. It has no tangible meaning in and of itself per se. In other words, “recession”, as such, is just not something to fear; the tangible economic facts (that could/would bring forth the “recession” label from NBER) are what one could understandably fear.

Facts such as what? Well, such as unemployment. Where is unemployment now? Is it low, because we’re not in an officially-NBER-declared “recession”?

No. it. is. not. It is hella high!

Isn’t that a bad thing, right now, already that ought to be rectified? More to the point, it’s a tangible thing, that affects peoples’ lives. 9+% unemployment = tangible effect. 9+% unemployment + (the NBER declares a “RECESSION”) = the same fucking state of affairs.

Why are people in love with this spurious label? What are the benefits of paying attention to it, exactly? What is the downside of ignoring it?

Of course, if politicians and commentators were forced to speak in tangible terms, such as, for example: “if you don’t increase the debt-ceiling, then the unemployment rate might become hella high, like, um, 9+%, you know, like it already is” just wouldn’t make for the same sort of scary demagoguery. And then the crisis-driven argument for Doing Something! would slip through their fingers.

And we can’t have that; they love their crises, and Doing Something.

‘Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra’, The Prosecutor’s Complaint Alleged

Um, what?

The mayhem count in the written complaint also alleged they “did cut and disable the tongue, and put out an eye,” but district attorney spokeswoman Sandi Gibbons said that was legal language and that Stow had not had his eye or tongue taken out.

Emphasis mine. So, you see my confusion.

Could some lawyer explain this? Are criminal complaints really written – ‘legal language’ – in some sort of metaphor or perhaps allegory not meant to be taken literally? Was Tamarian declared the official language of the California court system while I wasn’t looking?

I Thought This Sort Of Thing Had Been Outlawed

Doctor as renegade — accepts cash, checks, eggs or pie, not insurance

How bizarre.  If I’m reading this story correctly, the doctor described here is providing services for people in exchange for money that they themselves give her.

Is that sort of transaction even legal?

I must not be reading the article correctly.

HT Carpe Diem

P.S. Even Homer Simpson’s brain was smart enough to understand this:

(Homer finds $20 under the couch) “Twenty dollars? I wanted a peanut!”

Brain: “Twenty dollars can buy many peanuts.”

Homer: “Explain.”

Brain: “Money can be exchanged for goods and services.”

Homer: “Woohoo!”

As for what that says about people who equate ‘health care’ with ‘insurance’ or ‘health plan’, and think one cannot have the former without the latter, and whose every policy prescription points toward making the latter the primary/only way anyone receives health care services – well, I’ll leave that as an exercise for the reader.

RWCG: The Crib’s Notes Version

Let’s say you’re sitting there studying for your 2012 Rhymes With Cars And Girls AP Exam. Okay maybe that’s a bit far-fetched. Your great-grandchildren then. Decades from now, when your great-grandchildren are taking their Rhymes With Cars And Girls AP Exam, they will likely come across a question like the following:

List and describe three (3) main themes of the now-classic blog, Rhymes With Cars And Girls. Compare and contrast. Use all available space.

This post is for them. Consider it my gift to your legacy. Because, though it’s been observed that my blog covers a wide variety of subjects, I have to admit that there are a few recurring themes that do emerge. Here they are, annotated with key posts, for your great-grandchildrens’ last-minute-cramming convenience:

  1. All Large Calculations Are Wrong. I do not want to be governed or compelled by the results of someone else’s large, centralized calculation. I fundamentally do not trust – more importantly, don’t think I should be implicitly forced to trust – calculations I have not verified myself (and I have worked on large calculations). Too often, the ‘reality-based’, ‘technocratic’ claim that these or those purportedly ‘scientific’ findings of such ‘expert‘ calculations ought to hold sway over society really amount to little more than a power grab that would overrule/deny normal democratic politics and enshrine – even if this is not the conscious intent (but sometimes it is) – the (actual and signalled) wealth, comfort, privilege, and social status of a credentialed, technocratic elite – the Smart People. This is scientism and/or rent-seeking; it is not science and in some cases may even be anti-science.  To the extent possible, policy should aim towards allowing individuals such as myself to calculate for ourselves, as transparently as possible, what our best options in life are.
  2. ‘Progressivism’, Or The Left, Is A Coalition Of The Poor/Weak And Wealthy/Strong Against the Middle.   ‘Progressive’ policies harm most non-elite individuals in many ways; in particular, they work in concert with Smart People to make informed individual choices more difficult, for example by distorting the price mechanism, regulating away choices, etc. In short they centralize decisions that cannot and should not be pre-calculated and doled out either by well-meaning ‘progressives’ or by omniscient ‘experts’.  Thus, Pigouvian taxes on so-called ‘externalities‘ are folly and hubris, a sin many ‘technocrat’ ‘progressives’ are guilty of; most prominent regulation, such as financial but not only, is pointless if not counterproductive, sometimes warping the free market to the point where it’s more aptly labeled financial socialism.   Any small subset of society fundamentally lacks and can never have the knowledge necessary to unravel all the factors needed to make the choices they arrogate to themselves. This is the main lesson we should have learned from the fall of communism but evidently did not. Communism was, after all, an attempt at (among other things) calculating the perfect distribution of goods within a large society. But all large calculations are wrong.
  3. High School Never Really Ended. Politics is a continuation of the same social-climbing, posturing, conformism, mindless namecalling, sex-obsessed and sex-motivated, popularity-driven, tribal thinking we are all familiar with from high school. The attempt mentioned above to permanently ensconce technocratic elites – Smart People – as our ruling overclass is one, but not the only one. Another large bloc is the ‘coolin-crowd, all grown up. Political language is heavily laden with euphemisms, dishonesty, posturing, faddish memes endlessly echoed but never really believed used only for cheerleading purposes, and sheer self-contradiction if not naked hypocrisy to hide the embarrassingly ignorant, self-serving, and juvenile motivations behind the stances people take. People are generally in denial about their political and economic actions and beliefs.  Though everyone recognizes and reminisces that these motivations and social patterns were present in high school, few notice that high school never really ended.
  4. Sloan Is The Best Canadian Rock Band Since Rush. Self-explanatory.
  5. For Some Reason, The Writings Of Lefty Blogger Matthew Yglesias Both Fascinate And Repel Me.  My favorite lefty blogger, I guess I should say.  Well, by default, that is.
  6. The World Is Biased Against Introverts and the Left Seeks to Make it More So. I am an introvert, which among other things means people make me tired, and I am bad at small talk.   These properties of introversion have political and social implications. “Fun” things non-introverts like to do make no sense to introverts; more politically, familiar ‘progressive’ arguments for the importance and goodness of such things as cities, dense housing, social programs, etc., often ignore introvert priorities in favor of extravert ones that are given more weight. Some of the preceding themes – i.e. the ongoing movement (which includes credentialism and too much schooling) to empower a technocratic upper class to rule society, the continued indulging in and reinforcing of high school politics, as well as the ongoing project to shift wealth and (thus) decision-making away from individuals and towards government to distribute back to them via ‘programs’ – disproportionately disfavor introverts who by nature are less well equipped to navigate the resulting landscape. For example, a new regulation means more bureaucracy to navigate, which is by nature more difficult for introverts; if you take $100 from me but (supposedly) give me $100 back in a ‘social program’, I might never claim – thus receive – it. Etc. Just let me use my own fucking money thanks. And, just pay me with money, not with something else (such as with health care plan). The form of technocracy and economics sought by many ‘progressives’ also has the effect of making social connections and networking – or what could just quaintly be called outright corruption and back-scratching – more important to success than need be or should be. This tilts the rules of the road towards social-butterfly extraverts, even those with less or no merit – explaining why they like the idea – but tilts it away from introverts, even those who may have more. I fundamentally object to a politics that does me disproportionate harm and alters the rules of the game based on who I am – as anyone would.

Obviously, the AP test-taker may only have to remember 3 of these, but in such matters it’s best to study all of these, one assumes, as some may come to mind more readily than others.

The really interesting thing here is that I seem to have stumbled upon the central theme of RWCG, without realizing I would (anyone notice?), so you may be able to answer more questions than just this one. Get ready for that 5 score on the RWCG AP exam!

And, you’re welcome.

Going By Shape

I get a chuckle out of the rise of ‘flatbreads’. “I want something light; I’ll have my sandwich on flatbread.” Essentially a whole generation has gotten the idea that if the bread they eat is smooshed flat instead of puffy because it rose, it doesn’t count as bread.

Because of the shape.

Now sure, I guess it could be true on average that if someone eats a ‘wrap’ instead of a sandwich on French bread, that average eater does indeed end up eating less starches. I don’t really know, I haven’t gotten out the calipers and the calorie/carb counts. But neither have most of the people who eat ‘flatbread’.

They’re literally just going by shape.

One of these days I need to make a list of Dumb Stuff I Think People Think. This is going on it.

Actors Who Make Bad Movies Watchable

On a plane I saw Unknown starring Liam Neeson, which I liked even better this time around than when it was called Frantic and starred Harrison Ford (although I recall Frantic‘s Euro chick having been sexier, which made me think I should insert a Roman Polanski joke here, but then I did some wiki’ing and saw that he actually married this one, so. Um. Yeah. Joke kinda falls flat.)

Anyhow, sometime during the movie it occurred to me that Liam Neeson is our new Harrison Ford: ugly in a ruggedly handsome way, you stick him in a movie like this, and it’s money. Wrongfully-accused/mistaken-identity gets into some action and intrigue? Has to punch guys and whatnot? And it’s Liam Neeson? Sure, I’ll watch. Movie doesn’t even have to be that great or anything. Like there was one with Julianne Moore where Liam was the husband and Julianne Moore hired some chick to seduce him; it was a remake of a French movie that was presumably better, and not that great; but I watched it! So stupid! And why? Basically because of Liam Neeson.

It’s a known quantity, like how Michael Douglas is a known quantity. It seems to me that Michael Douglas has made about a zillion movies just like this: wealthy successful patriarch, dramatic/tragic stuff happens to him, he complains loudly and then prevails through his wits but is taken down a notch along the way. Occasionally he makes some detours into the ‘he’s a big-shot husband who seems to have it all, but the beautiful wife realizes that something isn’t quite right’ genre. Essentially none of these movies are Oscar material or even that remember-able. Yet the interesting thing is that while some of these movies (The Game) are better than others (the one where he’s a computer security hacker expert or something and his family is taken hostage? was that him?), somehow they’re all basically watchable, even the bad ones.

There’s gotta be something to this. I’m pretty sure Hollywood bigshots have already figured out that certain actors somehow, through some sort of unfathomable voodoo, attain this ‘known-quantity’ status such that you can plop them into dumb plots/scenarios, throw a stupid thriller genre pic around it, and they’ll turn it into a reasonably-watchable (and bankable) box office. I don’t know why exactly this happens – why for example Liam Neeson has it but, oh, say, Eric Roberts doesn’t – but whatever it is, it has got to be profit gold. Congrats to Neeson for having gotten this magic fairy-dust sprinkled on him at some point along the way.

P.S. Who else is in this pantheon? I would say that Denzel is there. Wouldn’t you go see the next Denzel Washington thriller? I would! A budding candidate is Edward Norton, who often shows pretenses of becoming something more Serious, but keeps coming back to the cookie-cutter thriller genre. It’s hard to say though as it’s a very select and weird group (it’s different from the group ‘the best actors’, for example), and the path there seems very haphazard. No one seeing Liam Neeson in, say, the 1992 Steve Martin vehicle Leap Of Faith as the decent but unremarkable hometown sheriff would have predicted he’d be the top-billed male-thriller action hero of the ’10s, for example. See why I find this so fascinating?

P.P.S. My foreign-language candidate for this pantheon: Vincent Cassel. I’ll watch pretty much anything with him on it. Next on my Netflix instant-watch list? Mesrine part 1 and 2. What’s it about? No real idea. But it’s Vincent Cassel. I think he’s a gangster!

Harry Potter Review

I’ll try to keep this review1 spoiler-free:

Our old familiar characters are back for one last journey together, all the ones we know and love such as whatshisname with the giant beard, and that little CGI guy, and all those other dudes we vaguely remember from one or more of the other ones. As for the plot, well basically a whole bunch of confusing swooshing stuff happens. The main guys, keep having to find and do a bunch of magic stuff for whatever reason. They go to a lot of nicely-photographed different locations in haunting, angst-ridden day-for-night shots. There’s a lot of flashing magic lights and ominous CGI dark thingies swooping in from time to time. But the main thing is, Harry and Ron and Hermione are like hanging out together and talking about all the stuff they’re doing most of the time, which is nice (except when they aren’t, which was sad). And yes, they’re still using those adorably-quaint British accents. I just love those! That was a nice touch to give the whole series some added gravitas, kudos to whoever came up with that one.

As with most of the previous films, a mystery does seem to hang over the spectacle however, which is: what the hell ever happened to the school uniforms they all used to have to wear at Hogwart’s? I liked those things. To me, that was basically the only interesting thing about the first one or two of these movies. The uniforms. But then for whatever reason they stopped wearing them. Did those uniforms become ‘uncool’? (Don’t tell me I have to pack away my yearly Halloween costume??) Did some liberal reformer can the school uniform requirement at Hogwart’s? Is there no dress code whatsoever anymore? What if they started wearing gang colors? Slytherin black vs. Gryffindor…white? blue? Anyway just seems like they should have thought of that, could have averted this whole stupid misunderstanding between the two. Shake hands, brothers.

All in all, I see the whole Harry Potter series as a sort of extended hallucinatory riff on the classic 1980s TV show Webster starring Emmanuel Lewis, football legend Alex Karras, and some unfeminine lady with a harsh buzz cut: Orphaned kid is taken in by well-meaning folks, but since he was born into a different culture, he has to go on a hero’s journey to learn about and make peace with his true roots. (At least, I assume that’s a thing that happened later on in the series, say, on a very special two-part episode of Webster.) See what I mean? The same basic skeletal story framework is there. I’m not saying J.K. Rowling stole from the creators of Webster per se. Just saying. But then again, as Joseph Campbell pointed out, all these stories are the same, or something: Harry Potter, Webster, Diff’rent Strokes, etc.

Also, Hermione doesn’t quite seem to get naked, but she does come the closest she’s ever. Three stars.

1To come perfectly clean, this review is based mostly on the one I recently finished watching which was Deathly Hallows Part 1, since I haven’t gotten around to seeing the one now playing in theaters. But, I assume part 2 is more of the same, pretty much. In fact they can use that as my pull quote on the posters if they like:

“More of the same, pretty much” -Sonic Charmer, Great American Important Film Review of Films

I Guess They Just Didn’t Have John Hughes Movies Back Then

I clearly don’t know much about Zen, but I wonder if it developed in a sort of parallel way to how our culture has developed ‘teen angst’, or the more recently-developed word ‘emo’. That is, a bunch of young directionless/responsibility-free guys, moping around, thinking about stuff, turned it into a discipline.

To illustrate where I’m coming from: try pondering, will we wake up in 1000 years to discover that there is a strain of Christianity called Emo Christianity – for example. Or rather, try convincing yourself that it’s impossible. (I can’t.)

Again, to reiterate, I clearly don’t know much about Zen. Or ‘emo’ for that matter. I do know something about moping around/thinking about stuff/wanting to enshrine your own thoughts with some huge significance however, and from this distance it can be hard to tell these things apart.

The Phone Hacking Scandal

I think it’s terrible that Rupert Murdoch, or someone, hacked some peoples’s phones. But more importantly: WHY?

I guess to know the answer to that I’d actually have to have read something on The Phone Hacking Scandal. But I haven’t. To get interested enough in a story based on its headline to actually read it, I think I have to be able to at least imagine that the story which the headline signifies could be interesting.

In this case, I just can’t.

Basically, I just don’t have a vivid enough imagination to be able to complete the phrase “______’s phone was hacked by _____ because _____. _____ then used the information (s)he got from all the phone hacking – information such as _____ and _____ – in order to proceed to do _____ to ______” in any sort of interesting way.

Casey Anthony

This is my obligatory Casey Anthony post. Still haven’t figured out who that actually is, though.

Pride (In The Name Of)

Seen on billboard overtop a downtown Safeway: “We Celebrate Pride”

One struggles to envision trying to explain this sign to a time-travelling visitor from the past. Yes, that is a food market. Yes, they put a sign above their market announcing that they, the market’s proprietors, ‘celebrate’ a deadly sin. No, please don’t ask me to explain the whys and wherefores of this.

What is next though? Should Safeway ‘celebrate’ wrath, greed, sloth, lust, envy, and gluttony as well? Are these, too, now things we demand of our local food distribution centers?

Oh. Right. ‘Pride’ doesn’t mean pride anymore. It means homosexuality. Right.

It is interesting, and I truly mean this, how our language changes over time. I don’t think it’s an entirely dumb conjecture to suggest that, say, 150 years from now, the English word ‘pride’ will connote only homosexuality, and the one we currently know (from parades and such), let alone the one that referred to a sin, will have been entirely forgotten, or at least seen as antiquated.

All of which is part of the natural evolution of language, I suppose. The one thing I wonder though: if homosexuals are indeed so ‘proud’ of themselves, why the word-borrowing? Why the euphemism? Ironically, all this talk of ‘pride’ just goes to show that it is still – quite literally – the love that dare not speak its actual name.

Libya And Egypt

Just wondering, is Libya a Quagmire™ yet? Did President Obama ‘get us stuck’ there? Is that on account of how he doesn’t have a good education?

I was also reminiscing about the great Porn Revolution in Egypt – earlier this year, so long ago! – and how great it made everything in Egypt by changing everything in and about Egypt. Remember that? That was awesome. I’m so glad Egypt got totally changed and fixed by that revolution they did.

To quote my fifth or perhaps fourth favorite Kevin Costner movie: stuff’s gettin’ better.

A Job I Could Never Do

One thing I don’t get about mainstream/Keynesian economists is why they’re not painfully embarrassed to focus so much on and seemingly base all their reasoning on ‘aggregates’. It’s basically an admission that they’re lazy, don’t want to think about details, can’t handle mathematics more complex than taking the average of something and then plotting it against the average of some other thing over time and similar 3th-grade-science-type operations, just don’t actually have sufficient access to the data they would rationally need in order to do the job they claim to be doing, or all of the above.

It’s an embarrassment, I really mean it. I would literally be too embarrassed to write 95% of the things I see economists write that involve ‘aggregate’ statistics, oversimplified arithmetical relations such as MV=PY, and wacky homilies in which gigantic groups of people (e.g., nation-states) are analogized down to a Manhattanite couple looking for a babysitter or something.

As far as I can tell, writing such tripe and passing it off as serious thought not only without hiding one’s head in shame but while brazenly parading yourself as some sort of genius is part of the job description of a mainstream economist. I have to hand it to them; it’s a job I simply could not do.

(Inspired by this)

Memo To Hulu

I think it’s great that you have the film version of The Who’s Quadrophenia offered for online viewing. However, due to some oversight there are no subtitles available. This film is unintelligible by normal English-speakers without subtitles, as I was able to confirm in under ten minutes of viewing. Please correct the omission ASAP.

Thanks in advance,

It Is Time To Flip Our Terminology Around

I’ve often written about how those who, in our political spectrum, are called ‘liberals’ are anything but. In fact, on virtually all issues that do not involve bumping genitalia and/or narcotics, ‘liberals’ will be the ones voicing the authoritarian, statist, and just all-around illiberal position. A political inversion has taken place and this is the side I tend to focus on.

But there is another, albeit weaker, pattern which is that, on some things anyway, ‘conservatives’ – at least some sizable fraction of them – can be anything but, as well.

Take the issue of whether the United States should default on its debt. Without going too deeply into it, let’s just consider who might say ‘sure, let’s just do it and damn the consequences’. Someone saying this is more likely to be on the right. Meanwhile, those on the left will be wringing their hands terrified about all the awful armaggedonish consequences!

This was also true during The Financial Crisis™ of 2008. ‘Liberals’ lived in fear of this freezing up or that freezing up and society regressing to living in caves as a result if we didn’t engineer some massive intervention to prop up the system. ‘Conservatives’ (such as myself) were more likely to be the ones saying: let the weak links go bankrupt, clean out the dreck, and let the chips fall where they may. Shrug.

These and similar issues find mostly ‘liberals’ in desperation about how to preserve the status quo and willing to prop up existing power structures and institutions at all costs, and a sizable portion of ‘conservatives’ unafraid of change, even if major and painful, if some important principle and/or freedom is at stake. In short, these issues involve ‘liberals’ being conservative and ‘conservatives’ being…well, fairly liberal.

Perhaps it’s time to start using these terms correctly instead of the opposite of correctly.


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