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Stuff I read and stuff
- The game theory of the ‘fiscal cliff’. Gives me a headache. Just go over it and see what happens! (I bet, not much.)
- See, to his ‘credit’ (I guess), Matthew Yglesias is being consistently pop-Keynesian in his approach to this ‘cliff’ stuff: spending is ipso facto good because it is ‘stimulus’ and that ipso facto helps the economy; tax revenue is a means to this good-economy-helping-spending; etc. If you too are a pop-Keynesian then sure you should be all hugely worried about this ‘cliff’ stuff and insist that some ‘deal’ be sorted out. Why (R)s would fall into that trap is beyond me, but I guess they aren’t called the stupid party for nothing.
- TSA and statist pricks
- I usually agree with Steve Sailer more than it’s possible to admit in polite company, but I will never understand why he is so obsessed with steroids in baseball and has so much trouble separating the purpose/goals/function of statistical analysis from that of hey-they’re-on-steroids! analysis.
- I recognize that the ‘if you don’t legalize gay marriage, we lesbians will marry your boyfriends’ video is a joke, but actually, I don’t see what would be so wrong with any of that. Lesbians should totally marry dudes if they wanna. Historically, I’m pretty sure that went on all the time and was a fine arrangement. This is why I have always insisted that ‘gay marriage’ is and has always been perfectly legal: sure, gay people, get married. Be my guest. Gays always have! What’s the prob?
- Some stubborn people are still not buying the Benghazi story. Hey, remember that? Way back when?
- Basel III will incentivize banks to hold more short duration securities and less Treasuries/MBS. Because, uh, that’s what we want of banks. I mean, surely someone thought all this out and the Basel approach to capital isn’t just a matter of flinging a model against the wall and seeing which incentives pop out. Right?
- Obamacare is starting to happen to people, it would appear.
- Falkenstein explains the perils of winding down. I wish this were more understood by decisionmakers. At the margin, it means that in practice there will be cases where winding-down a business is more costly than not doing so. “Let’s just wind it down!” is an easy, lazy, utopian option that can do more harm than good. It often means the person making the decision hasn’t and doesn’t wanna dig into the details: easier just to (they think) instantaneously turn that part of the report into a bunch of 0s. Problem solved! Only, not really.
- I’m greeting the news/speculation of more Star Wars ‘Episodes’ and/or spinoffs with a mixture of excitement and dread. I want to like the idea of more movies, but there are just so many ways they can be screwed up. And from everything I’ve ever seen/heard of Star Wars’s ‘expanded universe’, the novels, Luke’s kids, Han’s kids, etc., it all sounds supremely cartoonish. I do not need to see movies about cartoonish video-game characters “Kyle Katarn” or “Mara Jade”. I could write more (endlessly) about this, but basically, cartoonishness is exactly where Star Wars started to go wrong (not just the prequels, but Return of the Jedi as well). Worse, this ‘spinoff’ idea just screams ‘the origin story of some cartoonish Jedi with a weird head’, or, ‘the early adventures of Boba Fett’. Just no. ACTUAL HUMAN CHARACTERS PLEASE. Do people still not get what went wrong with the prequels?
- Feel the power of The Dark Enlightenment.
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The Innkeepers is one of those horror movies I really like because it’s about something. Most reviewers I saw seem to have either coincidentally – or not-so-coincidentally, because it was prompted by savvy marketing? – decided it has a Clerks-meets-Shining vibe. So is it about aimless twentysomethings in The Bad Economy™? Sort of, but not exactly: there’s more to it than just that. What it’s really about, more specifically, is demographic collapse.
Guy and Girl work as hotel clerks at the ‘Yankee Pedlar’ (=American Capitalism?). The hotel, although it looks to be in fine shape and have plenty of charm, is closing (due to ‘the economy’, we suppose) while the absentee owner vacations in Barbados (presumably because the screenwriter wanted to send him somewhere as absentee-sounding as possible). It also has a ghost-story legend behind it. Something about a bride abandoned there on her honeymoon, killing herself, and the then-owners hiding her body for three days to try to avoid the ‘bad for business’ publicity. So the two clerks, in between catering to the last few guests, are determined to do some ghost-hunting during the hotel’s final weekend. Of course, things go wrong, as things have a way of doing.
The girl is cute but unkempt, immature and seemingly sexless. The guy, older, is a standard-issue GenX beta porn-addicted loser who feigns apathy/pessimism as a shield and obviously has a crush on her. She would certainly be out of his league if they were the same age i.e. both in school together. But since she too has dropped out of school and become an aimless loser – ‘stuck’ in the hotel, like the ghost-bride of the legend – and even becomes interested in his loser nerd interests, he actually has a chance. By all rights, they really should be getting it on. And they aren’t.
The movie is mostly about that failure, and is in that sense a straightforward tragedy. Why do they fail? Because he is a weak beta who can’t man up and/or attract her despite his obvious interest, and because she is apathetic and antisocial and obsessed with trivia (in particular, the ‘ghost’ of the hotel) but meanwhile all too happy to string him along as a fawning sidekick. Her fate as the main character is portrayed by the movie as inevitable, something intrinsic to her; his plays itself out in a character arc in which, to his credit, he comes to realize his own weakness and that weakness’s role in the tragedy. This doomed coupling, doomed courtship, and (therefore) doomed species-perpetuation plays itself out metaphorically in the form of the ghost-story that is the movie’s nominal plot.
I notice that although it got some decent reviews, a sizable contingent of horror-movie fans really didn’t like this movie. Its IMDB score is rather low, perhaps due to a bimodal distribution (many gave it 6-10 but also a sizable minority gave it a 1). Understandable. The nominal ghost-story plot is conventional and ‘nothing happens’ for long stretches of it – but of course, that’s when everything important is happening. It’s certainly not a ‘horror movie’ in the vein of Saw/Hostel and anyone who likes/expects that sort of thing will clearly be disappointed. But it’s also not a hugely ‘scary’ ghost story with lots of ghost type stuff always going on, not as such; the treatment of the horror elements is at times even somewhat self-parodic, with a knowing wink. Any conventional horror movie relies on jump-scares, for example, and this movie is no exception – but in true ‘ironic’ GenX fashion it also inoculates itself by making fun of jump-scares.
But a movie like this isn’t about the scares as ends in themselves, it’s about the buildup and whether the scenario gets under your skin, and thus how well the scare payoffs are setup. And what’s interesting here is how, in a horror movie ostensibly framed around a generic theme of economic decline and what could have easily turned into hackneyed commentary on McJobs, the screenwriter ended up (whether intentionally or subconsciously) drifting toward the far more specific and interesting themes of broken couplings and demographic collapse. All the important details in the movie point in this direction of stunted fertility.
Let’s just look at the (so sparse as to feel almost post-apocalyptic) cast of characters. Aside from a little boy, a creepy old man near the end, and some no-name cleanup policemen in the final scene, there are no males in this movie except for the Beta Clerk. (Tellingly, the absentee hotel owner, presumably male, is never shown.) Men are either scared little children who want their mommy (this basically applies to the main Guy as well – asked to name pretty girls he first cites his mother and his sister), or so ancient and past-obsessed and as to be virtual ghosts.
Meanwhile, aside from the Protagonist Girl there are 3 (alive) female characters shown, perhaps representing 3 different stages of stunted/frustrated/diverted fertility: 1. an annoying twentysomething who works at the coffee shop next door and yaps complaints about her immature and unloving boyfriend (played by an actress who I decided was an ‘uglier version of Lena Dunham’, of Obama-is-our-national-boyfriend fame, but on later inspection turned out to actually just be Lena Dunham); 2. an irritating and demanding wife/mother staying in the hotel who has taken the kid and moved out on her husband for the weekend to ‘show him how much he needs her'; 3. a pathetic aging actress (played by an unrecognizable Kelly McGillis) who has become some sort of maybe-phony/maybe-not spiritual-medium as a way to ‘try to stay relevant’. As perceived by the actress/medium, ghosts – or spirits – can come from the past or future and all can exist simultaneously. At some point A Christmas Carol, which also has 3 important ghosts from different times, plays on someone’s TV. So perhaps these 3 women portray, well, Shrewness in its various stages of life – they are ghosts of Shrewness past, present, and future. (It’s a wonder to me the director/writer wasn’t more often accused of misogyny by some of the more perceptively-PC critics, but of course, he is equally-hard on the men – well, the ‘man’ – in his movie.)
What else. The old actress gained fame on some TV show called Like Mother, Like Son – which certainly applies to the aforementioned unmanly Beta. The Beta, of course, is into internet porn, which the Girl sees in his browser history, turning her off; she makes fun of him. The Girl sees the Beta in his underwear, which further turns her off; later he sees her in her underwear, of course with the opposite reaction. They get drunk and he pours his heart out to her in an impotently pedestalizing way about how much he ‘likes’ her and how she’s so ‘cool’ and how much he ‘appreciates’ that she ‘takes him seriously’ (i.e. his website on the supernatural and other nerdy hobbies) – which of course, only cements the fact that she won’t be taking him seriously, not as a romantic partner anyway. Then at the crucial moment, when he should be ready to make his move, she spontaneously suggests they go to the basement to do…more super-creepy ghost-hunting. No time for romance or love – especially not with you – when there are graves to be dug and historical trivia about other women to unearth (i.e. when there’s Feminist Theory to study?).
It turns out that he had just made-up all his supernatural experiences, presumably as a means of keeping her interested in him. It worked, all too well. As a result, she becomes lost in the dead world of ghosts, while he is left to gape in horror at the monsters he created. He tries to break through to her, but isn’t strong enough – his words – and she sees only ghosts. Her one possible means of escape is a door she had pre-emptively locked – tubes tied? – earlier in the film. He never gets to her. Life has been short-circuited and cut off, and as the actress/medium says, nothing could have changed that.
At the end of the film the hotel is empty. There are only ghosts. Demographic collapse is complete, and everyone is to blame. It takes two, after all.
P.S. For a great analysis (aside from mine, of course :-) ) of this great movie, not exactly the same as but largely consonant with my take I think, and a great movie analysis site in general, see The Fine Art Diner.
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Wait, is he dead or not? I hate cliffhangers.
UPDATE: Any minute now the Internet Police are gonna bust down my door and tell me this is “old” and they have to take my blogging license away. BUT THEY’LL NEVER TAKE ME ALIVE.
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So, Kickstarter. It’s basically just begging right? I had assumed it was some kind of way to micro-invest in peoples’ cutesy web projects. But really you’re just giving them money? Cuz they asked?
So it’s a begging website. Or did I miss something?
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I asked this deep in some comment, but am bringing it up here just in case there’s an actual answer:
Why is raising taxes even on the table? Has someone made a rational argument for raising taxes and I missed it? Who? Where?
Note, I understand the power-politics reason why raising taxes is on the table. Raising taxes is on the table because the (D) party has the Senate and the Presidency and made gains in the House, so they will try to push their POV, which is, always and perennially, Let’s raise taxes! (Fun medical fact: you can tap a lefty on the knee with a doctor’s hammer, and he’ll blurt out “Let’s raise taxes!”)
There is also a very circumstantial reason why raising taxes is on the table, i.e., because the “Bush tax cuts”™ are expiring, and so, if Something Isn’t Done, then some taxes will go up automatically.
I get all that but that’s not what I’m asking. What I’m asking is: why do the (D)s want to raise taxes? Or let me clarify (because perhaps the answer to that is psychological, and that’s not what I’m going for): what is their rational argument for raising taxes?
In other words, pretend I’m a simpleton. (I know, it’s hard.) And I ask a lefty, innocently: “Wait, so why should any taxes be raised? At all? On anyone?” Their verbal answer (even if it’s not their actual, subconscious motivating answer) will be “Because _______”. I’m wondering what goes in the blank space there.
Is it ‘the deficit’? But that can’t be right. No lefty that I have seen anywhere in any recent memory gives a rat’s ass about the deficit. Actually even that is overstating things. No lefty gives a flying fuck about the deficit. Correction: no lefty gives a flying rat’s fucked ass about the deficit. Lefties want Stimulus! More Stimulus is better! However much Stimulus was done isn’t enough! ‘The deficit’ is not a consideration at all. We should spend X and if we do spend X then X wasn’t enough because we should really spend 2X. For all X. ‘Deficit’ schmeficit. This is crystal clear from basically all lefty commentary from anywhere.
So it can’t be ‘the deficit’.
Perhaps it’s ‘fairness’? Because, like, it’s ‘unfair’ if so-and-so pays X while whatshisface pays Y? But that’s not an argument for raising anyone’s taxes either, per se. You could always just reduce the taxes paid by so-and-so till the discrepancy becomes ‘fair’, whatever you think that means. (If that makes so-and-so’s taxes go negative, i.e. they get an EITC or whatever, so be it! After all, whatever’s ‘fair’.)
What’s that? Lefties reject that approach because it would make ‘the deficit’ bigger and they totally care about that?
Seriously, what am I missing? Where is the actual argument?
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Paul Waldman endeavors to explain Why Obama Won’t Be the One to End the War on Drugs. Its conclusion:
As the first president who admits to being an enthusiastic pot smoker in his youth (and of course the first black president), he’ll be the last person to begin the dismantling of the War on Drugs.
Huh? This is one of those just-so, non sequitur explanations that only makes sense if you look at it through one side of the prism. After all, I could just as easily write:
As the first president who admits to being an enthusiastic pot smoker in his youth (and of course the first black president), he’s exactly the right person to begin the dismantling of the War on Drugs.
Why isn’t my explanation just as persuasive and appealing, if not more so?
The answer is: because that would imply bad things about President Obama not dismantling the War on Drugs. And Paul Waldman likes President Obama. So he doesn’t want to have to think bad things about President Obama. So, he likes his explanation better.
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As everyone knows by now, the racist disapproval of Susan Rice traces primarily to her comments about Benghazi. The memos have now been sent out and the official line is that her comments about Benghazi were totally justified because – even though they were false – they were “talking points” that were written by…someone…else…and so yeah. So shut up.
After all, Susan Rice’s current job is (apparently) just to uncritically and unthinkingly read whatever “talking points” are written up by…whoever. Those “talking points” came directly from the official assessment of…someone…in the intelligence community. The entire intelligence community of the United States apparently Officially thought that the attack on the…mysteriously non-embassy-like but technically somewhat consul-type place (house?) in Benghazi was a spontaneous outcry over a Youtube video nobody’d ever heard of. So we can’t blame her in the slightest for saying as much and thereby totally misleading the people of the United States – that would be ‘shameless’. For more along these lines, you really should be reading Kevin Drum. Shameless!
None of this, of course, is to be contrasted with the issue of WMDs in Iraq a few years ago. As you’ll recall, the Official assessment of…someone…in the intelligence community was that Iraq had active WMD programs and whatnot. Big containers and cylinders marked ‘WMD’ and the like. Stacked in giant pyramids. In a big warehouse like the one where they put the Ark after they took it from Indy. All indications are, that’s what the official intelligence community officially thought. And so when Team Bush passed along that assessment, what did that make them?
LIARS. Mendacious liars of mendacity from Mendacia.
But the one thing just has nothing to do with the other so don’t think about this any further. Team Bush were LIARS for passing along incorrect and misleading intelligence-community offical talking-points but Susan Rice is so totally justified in doing so that it’s shameless (and of course, racist) to even suggest she should have done anything else. That’s just the way things are and I think we all understand that by now. Even me.
But I don’t want to pile on Susan Rice too much. Racist though I am, I actually don’t have that negative an opinion of her. How could I? I so barely know who she is that I just figured out this morning that she’s black. No, what I wanted to gripe about on this day is how the way we discuss these matters has become so totally retarded that I think it doesn’t bode well for…well, for democracy.
Let’s just back up for a second. Some kind of installation of the U.S. was assaulted and our ambassador was assassinated. Objectively, that’s a bad thing. But it does happen. As you’ll recall, I certainly wasn’t inclined to blame the administration for it or anything. I mean, bad stuff happens, and in anything like this there is a fog-of-warry problem. I understand that and reacted accordingly, even somewhat soberly (especially for me!) – see paragraphs near the end here.
But all of that presupposed not being outright lied to about what was going on. Serious question: Why doesn’t the left care about outright being lied to? Shouldn’t outright lying be – at the very least – well, you know, criticized by the self-proclaimed ‘Reality-Based Community’? Shouldn’t they evince at least some nonzero disapproval of the administration going around telling everyone that it was a ‘protest’ over a ‘Youtube video’? And of Obama giving some speech at the UN or wherever braying about how the future must not be won by the haters or whatever? When the whole concept was all based on a big fat slimy bag of lies in the first place?
For example, the ‘defense’ of Susan Rice being pushed now basically boils down to saying that her lies were Officially-Certified-By-Someone-Else-As-OK Lies. So…what? So it’s okay?? Huh? Is that really where the inquiry and curiosity ends for the ‘Reality-Based Community’™?
I think this is where a tribal defensiveness kicks in and that’s the problem. Obviously a big part of this is that there was an election coming up. But come on, Kevin Drums of the world. Now that the election’s over and your Biracial Angel is safely ensconced for another four, show at least SOME goddamned interest in actual facts and truth. Is that too much to ask?
The premise of a democracy is that informed, intelligent citizens will correct the errors of leaders and hold them accountable. But how can anyone be held accountable for anything in this environment of knee-jerk wagon-circling?
And I think a big part of the problem is the concept of impeachment. Because inevitably, in any such discussion that touches on critique of an incumbent President, his wagon-circling tribe retreats immediately toward their line in the sand: “But that’s not ‘impeachable’!” Having thus established that the offense – whatever it is – isn’t ‘impeachable’, the issue is deemed settled. I mean after all, if it’s not ‘impeachable’, what’s left to discuss? Let’s just Move On™.
As a result, there’s no middle ground between ‘what the people in power did is totally fine’ and ‘the people in power should be impeached’. There’s no room for critical thinking – for rational discussion of governors’ actions, for criticism of those actions, for correction of those actions. It’s all-or-nothing: prove ‘impeachable’, or shut up.
And obviously, that’s not a recipe for democratic accountability at all.
The comedy/tragedy of it is, I’m totally willing to stipulate that ‘impeachment’ is off the table here. Seriously! I would immediately sign a document metaphysically promising that President Obama won’t be ‘impeached’ over these events, if it would at least lead to an actual critical discussion and inquiry of them for God’s sake. And why would I do that?
Because – and this is where the comedy comes in – can we just get real here: no President is ever going to be impeached and removed from office. Ever again. For anything. It is never going to happen. That card was played and neutralized for good on 2/12/1999 when the Senate failed to convict President Clinton. When that completely politicized acquittal came down, ‘impeachment’ as a tool of checks/balances over the executive branch was removed from the national toolkit once and for all. Due to that act, whatever power ‘impeachment’ may once have had as a corrective/restraining force over an executive branch has now been neutralized. Effectively, for all intents and purposes, the Constitution has been amended, and ‘impeaching’ has been removed.
So all these bootlicking Obama-defenders circling the wagons around him are actually being hyper-defensive over nothing. There is, literally, nothing to worry about in the ‘impeachment’ department. Not going to happen. Never going to happen. You can rest easy. You can stop worrying about it.
So can we actually talk about Presidential actions now? And criticize them when warranted? For real?