Monday, January 30, 2006
That's what makes Munich so disappointing.
What makes List and Ryan compelling films is that they take a moral point of view.
Munich is a swirl of moral confusion.
I knew the film was in trouble when it began with the words, "Inspired by Real Events". I think this is shorthand for: This film bears a vague resemblance to happenings in this plane of reality involving homo sapiens.
What follows is a dreary and morose mission impossible, exciting at times but burdened with layer upon layer of moral conundrums and implied legitimacy on all sides of a bloody conflict.
The problem lies in this movies disconnection with reality. It tries to portray the war between Palestinians and Israelis as a cycle of violence between two peoples simply fighting for their homes. By killing the killers of the Munich Olympics, Israel is simply selling it's moral soul in return for a dehumanizing descent into this cycle of death and futility. By implication, it seems, Spielberg is passing judgment on all such attempts at using violent means to fight terrorism.
The final scene occurs in the early seventies in the shadow of the World Trade Center Towers in New York. Apparently Spielberg is trying to show the failure of fighting terror as it has been fought in the film. Obviously little has changed, after all the fighting that has occurred, that would prevent terrorism.
It is this scene that illustrates Munich's failure as a film and a political statement. Never in the film is there any explicit mention of Islamic Fascism and it's aims. Never is there mention of overt anti-Semitism on part of the Palestinians. They are simply fighting for their home. In the real world, the Twin Towers fell not because of a cycle of violence between peoples fighting for their home, but because of a religious desire to make the world submit to a strict religious code. Spielberg's film is absolutely silent on the question of how to deal with such ideology because it is never mentioned. I'm not sure why he would use the iconography of the Twin Towers without even addressing the stated reasons of the murderers who brought them down.
Also, unlike Spielberg's other films, this war has no real anti-Semites. In the real world Israel and the US have to deal with people who would be happy if every Jew perished. By not mentioning this problem in his film, the whole posture of moral instruction here misses the mark of real life value. It seems that the "Saving Private Ryan" approach of killing those who would kill the Jews has become distasteful to Spielberg or at least no longer to be celebrated but lamented.
I wait to see any big screen depiction of Islamic terrorists that is close to how they talk and act in the real world.
My Rating: Rentable
The Hostess With the Mostess
Last week this appalling exchange occurred between PBS personality Tavis Smiley and actress Rachel Weisz:
Smiley: I should start by saying congratulations.
Weisz: Thank you.
Smiley: On a couple of different things. . . . First the nomination. And then the baby.
Weisz: The baby, yeah. It's--
Smiley: So you just announced the other day you're pregnant.
Weisz: Yeah, I'm five months now, so it's kind of safe to say out loud.
Smiley: Five months now, yeah. It's your first baby?
Weisz: First time.
Smiley: All right, so how's this feeling for you?
Weisz: Feel, right now, I'm in a good phase. The first three months were a little more tricky. You get morning sickness and a little tired, but I'm feeling quite good now. You, in the second trimester, I think you start to feel like anything is possible. Yeah.
Smiley: So this is, you're gonna stop working for a little bit, obviously, to be a mommy for a minute.
Stop right there! Baby? Mommy? What is this, "The 700 Club"?
Earlier this week we attended a debate on abortion, sponsored jointly by the Federalist Society and the left-wing American Constitution Society. From the pro-abortion debater we learned the correct terminology for a pregnant woman and her--um, how do we say this? Her--uh, hmm--well, you know what we mean, that "thing" in her tummy. Anyway, you're not supposed to say she's a "mommy" with a "baby." That is disrespectful to women. You're supposed to say she's a "host" with a "fetus."
Wednesday, January 25, 2006
Yahoo! News: "NEW YORK -
Bill Clinton said he felt others' pain. But a new brain-scanning study suggests that when guys see a cheater get a mild electric shock, they don't feel his pain much at all. In fact, they rather enjoy it.
In contrast, women's brains showed they do empathize with the cheater's pain and don't get a kick out it.
It's not clear whether this difference in schadenfreude — enjoyment of another's misfortune — results from basic biology or sex roles learned during life, researchers say. But it could help explain why men have historically taken charge of punishing criminals and others who violate societal rules, said researcher Dr. Klaas Stephan."
Punishing children too, except for Eddie Murphy's mom and her shoe.
Sunday, January 22, 2006
I think books like the one below and Intellectuals by Paul Johnson prove that hypocrisy is a human problem, afflicting members of all parties, tribes and nations; regardless of what you might see on TV or in the newspaper. Clearly there are hypocrits on the right politically and among the Christian community. It's just that the word hypocrit is almost never used in modern parlance for any of the folks mentioned below. Why is that?
It's worth asking.
Power Line: Buy This Book!: "It's a good point. And yet...when you read Do As I Say, what mostly comes through it the sheer, jaw-dropping hypocrisy of the left. I would have said that my opinion of most leading liberals couldn't get much lower. But that was before I knew that Noam Chomsky has gotten rich on Pentagon contracts; that Nancy Pelosi, recipient of the Cesar Chavez Award for her work on behalf of unions, owns a non-union vineyard and several non-union hotels; that Ralph Nader is not only a union-buster, but a frenetic stock trader who benefits from his own selective attacks on corporate America; and Ted Kennedy squashed an environmentally friendly wind-energy project, not because he would be able to see it from his home, but because it might affect his view when sailing his yacht."
Wednesday, January 18, 2006
The Speculist: "All of which leads us, at last, to the Biblical story of the Tower of Babel, found in the book of Genesis. Here's the story:
A fellow named Nimrod establishes what sounds like the world's first empire in the land of Shinar, which includes Babel, where the tower is built. Nimrod is described as a "mighty hunter," a powerful and charismatic leader. People begin to settle in Shinar, which is something of a prototypical silicon valley, with a charismatic entrepreneur at the helm and a booming technology (brick making) driving a whole new culture (based on progress and unhindered communication; this story occurs at a time when all people speak the same language.) The people of Shinar declare that they're going to build a city with a tower reaching to heavens and "make a name for themselves." God looks at what they're doing and comments as follows:
"If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other."
So he confounds their language and scatters them out over the world.
Why does he do it? The traditional interpretation is that God acts primarily out of retribution for the arrogance and blasphemy of the people building the tower. There is no question that their self-aggrandizing behavior would be displeasing to him. So is his action here comparable to that of Zeus smiting the disobedient Prometheus?
Personally, I had always read it that way. But recently, a friend offered me a different interpretation -- drawing attention to what it is that God specifically says before acting. He does not refer to the pride or arrogance of the people of Babel. He expresses concern about allowing their upward spiral of progress to continue unabated.
"Nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them."
So what? Nothing they do represents a threat to him. It is much more likely that their actions may represent a threat to the people themselves. And note that these sinners are not killed as the people were in the story of the Flood. They are merely scattered.
In the story of the Tower of Babel, God does not seem primarily interested in punishing spiritual hubris, but rather in preventing the devastating consequences of practical hubris. He is not Zeus chaining Prometheus to a rock, he is a very forceful Bill Joy protecting people from the unforeseen consequences of their actions.So the Tower of Babel is, indeed, a cautionary tale for Singularitarians, believers and non-believers alike. We would all be well advised to pay close attention to it. But it is not primarily a story about the consequences of violating the divine order; that's what the story of Adam & Eve is all about. It is about the need to tread lightly when setting out on a path of rapid development of knowledge and power, especially when so many of the consequences of that path must be unforeseen."
This is a discussion of a book that I just bought and plan to read soon: The Singularity is Near
I believe that it is important to be conversant on these issues of humanity, technology, morality and ultimately eschatology.
Monday, January 16, 2006
It appears that the Times, once-upon-a-time regarded as the last word in reliability when it comes to checking before publishing (which makes them so much better than blogs, of course), has run a fake photo on the home page of its website. The photo has since been removed from the home page, but still can be seen here. "
Telegraph | Opinion | The origins of the Great War of 2007 - and how it could have been prevented:
"The first underlying cause of the war was the increase in the region's relative importance as a source of petroleum. On the one hand, the rest of the world's oil reserves were being rapidly exhausted. On the other, the breakneck growth of the Asian economies had caused a huge surge in global demand for energy. It is hard to believe today, but for most of the 1990s the price of oil had averaged less than $20 a barrel.
A second precondition of war was demographic. While European fertility had fallen below the natural replacement rate in the 1970s, the decline in the Islamic world had been much slower. By the late 1990s the fertility rate in the eight Muslim countries to the south and east of the European Union was two and half times higher than the European figure.
This tendency was especially pronounced in Iran, where the social conservatism of the 1979 Revolution - which had lowered the age of marriage and prohibited contraception - combined with the high mortality of the Iran-Iraq War and the subsequent baby boom to produce, by the first decade of the new century, a quite extraordinary surplus of young men. More than two fifths of the population of Iran in 1995 had been aged 14 or younger. This was the generation that was ready to fight in 2007.
This not only gave Islamic societies a youthful energy that contrasted markedly with the slothful senescence of Europe. It also signified a profound shift in the balance of world population. In 1950, there had three times as many people in Britain as in Iran. By 1995, the population of Iran had overtaken that of Britain and was forecast to be 50 per cent higher by 2050.
Yet people in the West struggled to grasp the implications of this shift. Subliminally, they still thought of the Middle East as a region they could lord it over, as they had in the mid-20th century.
The third and perhaps most important precondition for war was cultural. Since 1979, not just Iran but the greater part of the Muslim world had been swept by a wave of religious fervour, the very opposite of the process of secularisation that was emptying Europe's churches.
Although few countries followed Iran down the road to full-blown theocracy, there was a transformation in politics everywhere. From Morocco to Pakistan, the feudal dynasties or military strongmen who had dominated Islamic politics since the 1950s came under intense pressure from religious radicals.
The ideological cocktail that produced 'Islamism' was as potent as either of the extreme ideologies the West had produced in the previous century, communism and fascism. Islamism was anti-Western, anti-capitalist and anti-Semitic. A seminal moment was the Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's intemperate attack on Israel in December 2005, when he called the Holocaust a 'myth'. The state of Israel was a 'disgraceful blot', he had previously declared, to be wiped 'off the map'.
Prior to 2007, the Islamists had seen no alternative but to wage war against their enemies by means of terrorism. From the Gaza to Manhattan, the hero of 2001 was the suicide bomber. Yet Ahmadinejad, a veteran of the Iran-Iraq War, craved a more serious weapon than strapped-on explosives. His decision to accelerate Iran's nuclear weapons programme was intended to give Iran the kind of power North Korea already wielded in East Asia: the power to defy the United States; the power to obliterate America's closest regional ally.
Under different circumstances, it would not have been difficult to thwart Ahmadinejad's ambitions. The Israelis had shown themselves capable of pre-emptive air strikes against Iraq's nuclear facilities in 1981. Similar strikes against Iran's were urged on President Bush by neo-conservative commentators throughout 2006. The United States, they argued, was perfectly placed to carry out such strikes. It had the bases in neighbouring Iraq and Afghanistan. It had the intelligence proving Iran's contravention of the Non-Proliferation Treaty.
But the President was advised by his Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, to opt instead for diplomacy. Not just European opinion but American opinion was strongly opposed to an attack on Iran. The invasion of Iraq in 2003 had been discredited by the failure to find the weapons of mass destruction Saddam Hussein had supposedly possessed and by the failure of the US-led coalition to quell a bloody insurgency.
Americans did not want to increase their military commitments overseas; they wanted to reduce them. Europeans did not want to hear that Iran was about to build its own WMD. Even if Ahmad-inejad had broadcast a nuclear test live on CNN, liberals would have said it was a CIA con-trick.
So history repeated itself. As in the 1930s, an anti-Semitic demagogue broke his country's treaty obligations and armed for war. Having first tried appeasement, offering the Iranians economic incentives to desist, the West appealed to international agencies - the International Atomic Energy Agency and the United Nations Security Council. Thanks to China's veto, however, the UN produced nothing but empty resolutions and ineffectual sanctions, like the exclusion of Iran from the 2006 World Cup finals.
Only one man might have stiffened President Bush's resolve in the crisis: not Tony Blair, he had wrecked his domestic credibility over Iraq and was in any case on the point of retirement - Ariel Sharon. Yet he had been struck down by a stroke as the Iranian crisis came to a head. With Israel leaderless, Ahmadinejad had a free hand.
As in the 1930s, too, the West fell back on wishful thinking. Perhaps, some said, Ahmadinejad was only sabre-rattling because his domestic position was so weak. Perhaps his political rivals in the Iranian clergy were on the point of getting rid of him. In that case, the last thing the West should do was to take a tough line; that would only bolster Ahmadinejad by inflaming Iranian popular feeling. So in Washington and in London people crossed their fingers, hoping for the deus ex machina of a home-grown regime change in Teheran.
This gave the Iranians all the time they needed to produce weapons-grade enriched uranium at Natanz. The dream of nuclear non-proliferation, already interrupted by Israel, Pakistan and India, was definitively shattered. Now Teheran had a nuclear missile pointed at Tel-Aviv. And the new Israeli government of Benjamin Netanyahu had a missile pointed right back at Teheran.
The optimists argued that the Cuban Missile Crisis would replay itself in the Middle East. Both sides would threaten war - and then both sides would blink. That was Secretary Rice's hope - indeed, her prayer - as she shuttled between the capitals. But it was not to be.
The devastating nuclear exchange of August 2007 represented not only the failure of diplomacy, it marked the end of the oil age. Some even said it marked the twilight of the West. Certainly, that was one way of interpreting the subsequent spread of the conflict as Iraq's Shi'ite population overran the remaining American bases in their country and the Chinese threatened to intervene on the side of Teheran.
Yet the historian is bound to ask whether or not the true significance of the 2007-2011 war was to vindicate the Bush administration's original principle of pre-emption. For, if that principle had been adhered to in 2006, Iran's nuclear bid might have been thwarted at minimal cost. And the Great Gulf War might never have happened."
First, JT LeRoy, a novelist who claimed to be a transgendered young man suffering from HIV, was revealed to be a fortysomething mother and housewife. This shocked some of his fans, and those who thought they were his friends, but by week's end the scandal was already fading. Novelists sometimes can get away with such things, being licensed liars and all.
A day later, a second kingpin of bestsellerdom was revealed to be even more of a fraud. James Frey, the author of A Million Little Pieces, the rollicking, readable memoir of addiction and recovery, admitted he exaggerated and invented significant parts of his story."
It isn't just the prospect of the decisions themselves that so alarms the left, I think, but also their fear of being totally and completely routed when it comes to persuasive argument.
The trumped up charge that a new SCOTUS majority will go hunting for occasions on which to impose their natural law driven jurisprudence is absurd.
But the prospect of tightly argued opinions in defense of majoritarian choices within our constituional framework which honor the traditional morality of the vast majority of Americans --well, that is something to look forward to if you are not a member of an elite who is certain that your views, while not widely shared, are nevertheless preferable to those of the unwashed masses."
Saturday, January 14, 2006
It goes without saying that selling anti-Christian iconography to European fashionistas is a brave an act as reducing the food pellet allotment to your pet hamster; a true act of bravery would be yanking the dead wildebeest out of a lion’s mouth. Or selling jeans that have the international cross-and-bar NO symbol over the crescent of Islam. They don’t dare do that – partly because they are deeply suffused in the very racism they decry, and regard the inhabitants of their tall dead Corbu-inspired concrete ghettos as brown rabble beneath contempt and therefore irrelevant to relevant discussion, and partly because they have a nagging fear of editorials, hate-speech laws, tut-tuts from the thinking class, and the occasional unhinged fellow with a knife. But Christianity? Didn’t that die in a muddy hole in Ypres? "
Chocolat shows how wretched Christianity was. Good Night and Good Luck shows how wretched Republicans were. The Da Vinci Code shows us how wretched Roman Catholics were?
Friday, January 13, 2006
Seldom Wrong, Never in Doubt: Why NSA Datamining and "Wiretaps" Are Needed: "Who recently arrested three Algerians plotting a bigger terrorist attack than 9/11?
Where were the attacks to take place?
The United States.
How did the Italians find the bad guys?
How do we know?
The story was covered by European media.
Who hasn't covered the story?
Speculation is that the story would support the activities of the NSA over which the President is being so heavily criticized.
Where can you read all about it?
The PowerLine ueberblog, what SWNID wishes we could grow up to become."
newsalert: Successful Democratic Blogger Can't Afford Blue State: "Markos Moulitsas Zúniga the man that runs the most successful political blog in America can't afford the Blue state of California:
So I'm getting a little frustrated with the Bay Area real estate market, and for the first time in years I'm casting about the rest of the nation to see if there's anywhere else where I could possibly live.
How ironic,a guy who supports a party that promotes Fannie Mae,Freddie Mac,land-use restrictions,zoning,open space laws,and unions is unable to buy a house in the very Blue area of Northern California.All this from a guy who's got a law degree.What is it about Blue America that hates people that aren't rich??? Attention Markos Moulitsas Zúniga :did it ever occur to many in Blue state America that Houston(that doesn't have zoning) is a lot more affordable than let's say Berkeley,California.Also,Houston residents don't have a state income tax that they are paying.It appears Kos can't afford the very values he promotes,which is regulation of markets which leads to artificially high real estate prices."
...not as I do.
Thursday, January 12, 2006
CBC News: DNA test confirms Virginia man's guilt: "A DNA test done in Toronto has dealt a blow to Americans opposed to the death penalty.Imagine that, a guilty man on death row.
The test by the Centre of Forensic Sciences proves that Roger Coleman was guilty of the 1981 rape and murder of his sister-in-law, Virginia Gov. Mark Warner said Thursday.
Coleman was executed for killing Wanda Fay McCoy in 1992, but insisted he was innocent."
WN: Wired News: "Forget planting trees to negate your SUV's contribution to global warming -- according to Stanford University atmospheric scientist Ken Caldeira, forests in the wrong location can actually make the Earth hotter."Oops. I guess it's harder to be environmentally responsible than once thought.
Mark Steyn: "There is no "population bomb." There never was. Birthrates are declining all over the world--eventually every couple on the planet may decide to opt for the Western yuppie model of one designer baby at the age of 39. But demographics is a game of last man standing. The groups that succumb to demographic apathy last will have a huge advantage. Even in 1968 Paul Ehrlich and his ilk should have understood that their so-called population explosion was really a massive population adjustment. Of the increase in global population between 1970 and 2000, the developed world accounted for under 9% of it, while the Muslim world accounted for 26%. Between 1970 and 2000, the developed world declined from just under 30% of the world's population to just over 20%, the Muslim nations increased from about 15% to 20%.
Nineteen seventy doesn't seem that long ago. If you're the age many of the chaps running the Western world today are wont to be, your pants are narrower than they were back then and your hair's less groovy, but the landscape of your life--the look of your house, the layout of your car, the shape of your kitchen appliances, the brand names of the stuff in the fridge--isn't significantly different. Aside from the Internet and the cell phone and the CD, everything in your world seems pretty much the same but slightly modified.
And yet the world is utterly altered. Just to recap those bald statistics: In 1970, the developed world had twice as big a share of the global population as the Muslim world: 30% to 15%. By 2000, they were the same: each had about 20%.
And by 2020?
So the world's people are a lot more Islamic than they were back then and a lot less "Western." Europe is significantly more Islamic, having taken in during that period some 20 million Muslims (officially)--or the equivalents of the populations of four European Union countries (Ireland, Belgium, Denmark and Estonia). Islam is the fastest-growing religion in the West: In the U.K., more Muslims than Christians attend religious services each week.
Can these trends continue for another 30 years without having consequences? Europe by the end of this century will be a continent after the neutron bomb: The grand buildings will still be standing, but the people who built them will be gone. We are living through a remarkable period: the self-extinction of the races who, for good or ill, shaped the modern world."
If you don't read the whole article, you'll be stunned by what happens in the next 20 years.
For example, a comparison of locations where 874 bodies were recovered with U.S. census tract data indicates that the victims weren't disproportionately poor. Another database of 486 Katrina victims from Orleans and St. Bernard parishes, compiled by Knight Ridder, suggests they also weren't disproportionately African American."
Read the whole thing. Do you think the truth will be as widely reported as the errors?
Wednesday, January 04, 2006
Tuesday, January 03, 2006
'People have had enough of him,' Peter Pilz, an MP in the Steiermark regional parliament, told The Guardian. 'For us, he has committed a state crime.'
Personally I have no feelings one way or another on the death penalty. But I'm strongly in favor of sovereign jurisdictions having the right to run their own criminal justice systems. Which is why I rejoice at Arnold's reaction to the 'threat' from Graz.
Writing to the mayor of his old town, Schwarzenegger noted that in the course of his gubernatorial term he'd have to make decisions on other death-row inmates, too - the next one comes up in January. So, wrote the governor, 'in order to spare the responsible politicians of the city of Graz further concern, I withdraw from them as of this day the right to use my name in association with the Liebenauer Stadium... I expect the lettering to be removed by the end of 2005' - and, given that most European municipal workers are on vacation till the second week of January, that means the mayor may have had to sub-contract the job to any obliging Albanian Muslim refugees he could round up.
'The use of my name to advertise or promote the city of Graz in any way is no longer allowed,' continued Arnold. 'Graz will not have any problems in the future with my decisions as governor of California, because officially nothing connects us any more.'
And just for good measure he returned the "Ring of Honor" he was given in 1999 for the "pride and recognition" he brought Graz...
...But mysteriously the governor's severing of ties with his home town seemed to distress them. The mayor, Siegfried Nagl, begged Arnold to reconsider, only to be told that the ring was already in the mail. It seems that, aside from Kurt Waldheim, there haven't been a lot of internationally marketable Austrians in recent years, and somehow the campaign to rename the football stadium has lost its momentum. The former Crip gang leader would certainly look very fetching on a souvenir dirndl or baggy gangsta-style lederhosen, and no doubt you could have a range of commemorative dishes on the cafeteria menu - say, a 7-Eleven schnitzel, to mark Tookie's murder of 26-year old store clerk Albert Lewis Owens, followed by a Brookhaven strudel, to honor the motel at which he murdered an elderly Taiwanese family for a hundred bucks, all washed down with a Muthaf--ka apfelsaft, named for the term he used to threaten the jurors who convicted him. Should do wonders for the Austrian tourism industry."